How Long Do I Have to Boil Water to Kill Germs?

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Dear Home Ec 101:

I live in Hurricane Country and there are often boiling water advisories after a storm. How long am I supposed to boil the water before it is safe to drink?

~Avoiding the Runs in Ravenel

Heather says:

Boil water advisories are more common than you may think. They are quite common if the power is disrupted for an extended period of time, but they are also issued for line breaks, positive tests for contamination, and occasionally when maintenance is being done.

Water should be brought to a roiling boil and boiled for one minute. Begin timing when the bubbles appear. Allow it to cool and place in a clean, covered container.

These advisories also apply to more than just drinking water, it affects toothbrushing, cleaning produce, and ice making. Be sure to use boiled water for these purposes, as well.

Showering is typically safe for adults and teenagers, but young children should be given spongebaths.

Dishes can safely be washed in hot water with a small amount bleach (one tablespoon per gallon).

After the advisory has been lifted flush the pipes by running each cold water tap for one minute. If you have an automatic ice maker, discard the first three batches.

Remember most filters, such as those in a fridge are for taste and odors, not harmful bacteria.

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