For Immediate Release: October 25, 2005
Contact: DOH Press Office Doc Kokol 850-245-4111
Commonly Asked Questions Regarding Boil Water
1. What is the proper way to disinfect my water so that it is
safe to drink?
The preferred method of treatment is boiling. Boiling water kills
harmful bacteria and parasites (freezing will not disinfect water).
Bring water to a full rolling boil for at least 1 minute to kill
most infectious organisms (germs). For areas without power,
disinfect the tap water by adding 8 drops, about 1/8 teaspoon, of
plain unscented household beach per gallon of water and allow the
water to stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, repeat the
procedure. Use a container that has a cap or cover for disinfecting
and storing water to be used for drinking. This will prevent
contamination. If your well was flooded, boiling the water is the
safest action, since disinfection does not kill certain parasites.
2. How should I wash my hands during a boil water advisory?
Based on the current conditions of the affected public water
supplies, vigorous hand washing with soap and your tap water is safe
for basic personal hygiene. If you are washing your hands to prepare
food, if at all possible, you should use boiled (then cooled) water,
disinfected or bottled water with hand washing soap.
3. Is potentially contaminated water (where Cryptosporidium is
not the significant contaminant) safe for washing dishes or clothes?
Yes, if you rinse hand-washed dishes for a minute in a bleach
solution (1 tablespoon bleach per gallon of water). Allow dishes to
completely air dry. Most household dishwashers do not reach the
proper temperature to sanitize dishes.
It is safe to wash clothes in tap water.
4. Is potentially contaminated water safe for bathing and
The water may be used for showering, baths, shaving and washing,
so long as care is taken not to swallow or allow water in eyes or
nose or mouth. Children and disabled individuals should have their
bath supervised to ensure water is not ingested. The time spent
bathing should be minimized. Though the risk of illness is minimal,
individuals who have recent surgical wounds, are immunosuppressed,
or have a chronic illness may want to consider using bottled or
boiled water for cleansing until the advisory is lifted.
5. How should I wash fruit and vegetables and make ice?
Fruits and vegetables should be washed with boiled (then cooled
water) or bottled water or water sanitized with 8 drops (about 1/8
teaspoon) of unscented household bleach per gallon of water. Ice
should be made with boiled water, bottled water or sanitized water.
6. What if I have already consumed potentially contaminated
Even if someone has consumed potentially contaminated water from
either a public water system or a private well before they were
aware of the boil water advisory, the likelihood of becoming ill is
low. Anyone experiencing symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea,
vomiting, abdominal cramps, with or without fever, should seek
7. What infectious organisms might be present in contaminated
Disease transmission from contaminated water occurs principally
by ingesting water. The major organisms of concern are protozoa such
as Giardia and Cryptosporidium, and bacteria, such as Shigella, E.
coli and viruses. These organisms primarily affect the
gastrointestinal system, causing diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea,
and vomiting with or without fever. Most of these illnesses are not
usually serious or life threatening except in the elderly, the very
young or those who are immunocompromised.