Survival Skills: Treat Drinking Water With Household Items

Almost everybody knows that boiling your water for a few minutes will disinfect it, and destroy the biological contaminants that cause illness. And as unlikely as this may sound, you can also disinfect your drinking water safely and effectively with common household chemicals. Just be aware that chemical disinfection doesn’t remove salt, toxins, or fallout—it just kills the living pathogens that would make you sick.

Any water you get from a rain barrel, your pool, or a nearby creek should be considered contaminated and in need of disinfection. Water that is visibly dirty or muddy should be filtered through a coffee filter or a cloth. This won’t make it safe to drink, but it will help the following disinfection methods to work more effectively.

Chlorine Bleach
Add 2- to 4 drops of ordinary chlorine bleach per quart (or liter) of water. Use 2 drops if the water is warm and clear. Go to 4 drops if it is very cold or murky. Put the bottle cap back on and shake the container for a minute. Then turn the bottle upside down and unscrew the cap a turn or two. Let a small amount of water flow out to clean the bottle threads and cap. Screw the lid back on tight, and wipe the exterior of the bottle to get the chlorine on all surfaces. Let it sit for one hour in a dark place and it will be ready to drink.

Tincture Of Iodine
Use 5- to 10 drops of tincture of iodine 2 percent in one quart (or liter) of water. Flush the threads, wipe down the bottle, and allow it to sit in the shade one hour, as with chlorine. Use 5 drops tincture of iodine for clear, warm water, and up to 10 drops for the cold or cloudy variety of water.

Povidone Iodine
You’ll need 8- to 16 drops per quart (or liter) of water with this form of iodine. Add 8 drops for nice-looking water and 16 drops for swamp water. Clean the bottle threads, and wait an hour, as with the other methods.

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This tip, and 337 more survival tips, are in MacWelch’s new book Prepare For Anything. This latest Outdoor Life survival manual is available at Amazon.

Follow him on Twitter @timmacwelch  And check out more of MacWelch’s outdoor skills and survival articles in Outdoor Life Magazine.


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