How to Boil Water for Drinking Water

In a perfect world, you would always have access to clean and safe drinking water. Sadly, this isn’t always the case and in an emergency your water source may be compromised. Let’s learn how to boil water for drinking water.

If your water is contaminated or restricted, the next best case scenario would be for you to have a supply of drinking water stored for times like these. Not everyone is prepared for survival and even the people who are prepared will eventually run out of water. This is why it is important to be well-versed in several different water purification methods.

Boiling water for drinking water

Boiling water is the most common method of water purification during an emergency. In the midst of a disaster your local or regional water source may be contaminated. This is why government agencies often recommend boiling water before using it. A boil water advisory indicates that your community’s water could have germs that might make you sick. Did you know that boiling water is equally effective for backpackers or if you’re trying to survive in the wilderness? This method is the surest way to kill microorganisms in the water and make it safe to drink.

How to boil water for drinking water step-by-step:

1- Filter your water

  • Inspect your water. If there are visible particles then filter the water as much as possible with a piece of scrap cloth or clothing. If your water is visibly clear then you may be able to surpass this step.

2- Find your heat source

  • Your heat source will vary depending on your location and the nature of the emergency. If you are camping, you can light a campfire. When indoors, you can boil a pot of water at the stove if you still have power. A gas or woodstove then you will not require electricity.
  • No matter what heat source you choose, make sure that you don’t put yourself in more danger. For example, if your home is flooded, then avoid the risk of electric shock by unplugging all of your electrical devices (including your stove.) This is a good measure to take even if the power is still on. Better safe than sorry.

3- Use a metal container to boil your water

  • Pour your water into a metal container (like a pot) and place it on the heat source. The duration will vary and depend on the altitude of your location.
  • The water will boil faster at higher altitudes because the boiling point of water is at a lower temperature at high altitudes.

Altitudes less than 6,500 feet: Bring the water to a full rolling boil for 1 minute.

Altitudes at of over 6,500 feet: Boil for 3 minutes.

Step 4- Let the water cool off

  • Once your water has boiled for 1 -3 minutes (depending on your altitude,) remove it from the heat and let it cool off.
  • After the water is cooled you can drink it then store the rest in a clean, sanitized containers with airtight covers.
  • It is wise to boil more water than you need because it can take up to 30 minutes to cool.

How does boiling purify the water?

Boiling purifies the water with heat. The heat raises the temperature of the water to about 212°F (100°C). It is a temperature that is too high to support life.

What are the advantages of boiling water?

  • Boiling water is the easiest and most straightforward method of water purification. During an emergency you may not have access to essential services or supplies including clean water.
  • It is accessible and easy. You only need a heat source and something to boil the water in.
  • Boiling purifies your water. Emergencies such as flooding can compromise the quality of your water. Thankfully, boiling kills the disease-causing microorganisms that can be present in water.

What are the disadvantages of boiling water?

  • Ongoing studies show that boiling water kills only 99% of the microorganisms.
  • These studies show that microorganisms can form a cyst around themselves when the temperature rises outside of a livable range. This adaptation allows them to survive even at boiling hot temperatures.
  • Although it kills bacteria, boiling water will not remove turbidity, taste, smells, color, or chemicals.
  • Boiling water will not remove chemicals or pollutants such as arsenic. To remove or reduce chemical contaminants, consider using a carbon-based filtration system.
  • It is not ideal to boil water that has a lot of calcium, iron, or chlorine because minerals don’t evaporate. This will leave you with concentrated mineral water that can cause kidney stones or other health problems.

Are there other options? Yes!

When heat sources aren’t available you will have to get creative and improvise.

Try the SODIS Method- Purify your water with natural sunlight

SODIS of solar water disinfection allows you to utilize the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays to purify water. To learn more, check out this in depth guide on purifying water with the SODIS Method.

Use a solar cooker

You can use a solar cooker to raise the water temperature high enough to purify it. Leave the water on the cooker for about five minutes at 140°F (60°C) or above with a solar cooker.


Failing to purify your water can be dangerous because it could result in waterborne diseases that could cause vomiting, diarrhea, or death (without proper treatment.)

According to the World Health Organization report, as of 2014, 842,000 annual deaths around the world have happened as a result of waterborne diseases.


These deaths could have been prevented with simple purification methods. There are many ways to clean and purify water and I’m glad that we are learning these methods.

Has your community ever gotten a boil water advisory? Comment below to share your experiences!

See you soon!