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What You Can & Can't Do While Under a Boil Water Advisory

Feb. 19, 2021 - Katie McCallum

When there's a concern that your local water supply could be contaminated with bacteria or viruses, your area is placed under a boil water advisory.

This means you can no longer trust the water coming out of your tap, refrigerator or ice maker for, well, just about everything.

Bottled and distilled water are safe to drink and use without boiling, but it takes a lot of it to fulfill your everyday water needs — and that amount grows with each person and pet in your home. And, when your entire area is short on water, it's almost a certainty that your needs will exceed the amount of bottled water you can find at the store.

Fortunately, if you have power in your home, boiling the water coming out of your tap can make it safe to use.

According to the CDC, here's how to properly boil water while under a boil water advisory:

  1. Fill a pot with tap water
  2. Heat the water until it reaches a rolling boil, and continue to heat for at least 1 minute
  3. Let the water cool completely
  4. Store in a clean, airtight container

And now that you have some water boiled, here's when you absolutely need to use it.

Can you drink filtered water from your refrigerator or pitcher during a boil water advisory?

No.

Most water filters found in refrigerators and pitchers do not remove harmful bacteria or viruses.

As an alternative, drink bottled water. If you do not have bottled water, be sure to follow the water boil steps above before drinking any water that comes from your tap or household filters.

Additionally, know that your pets can get sick from the same germs as you. Be sure to provide your pets with bottled or boiled water, too.

Can you wash your hands with tap water during a boil water advisory?

Yes, in most situations.

In most cases, you can safely wash your hands using tap water. Be sure you're following all the steps needed to wash your hands properly, including, adding soap, scrubbing for 20 seconds, thoroughly rinsing and drying your hands with a clean, dry towel.

Continuing proper hand hygiene is particularly important given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. If you cannot wash your hands using soap and water, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Can you cook with tap water during a boil water advisory?

No.

You should only prepare and cook food using tap water that's first been boiled using the steps above.

This means:

  • Washing fruits and vegetables with boiled water before eating or cooking them
  • Bringing water needed to cook your meal to a full rolling boil for at least one minute prior to adding any food
  • Preparing coffee or other drinks using boiled water
  • Using boiled water to wash food prep surfaces

Can you use tap water to brush your teeth during a boil water advisory?

No.

Do not use water from your faucet to brush your teeth or rinse your mouth. Use bottled water or boiled water.

Can you shower during a boil water advisory?

Yes, being very cautious not to swallow any water.

Young children may need to be supervised to ensure that they do not inadvertently ingest any water or get excessive amount of water in their eyes. In fact, you may consider bathing young children using a sponge bath.

Can you wash your dishes when there's a boil water advisory?

Yes, with modifications if you're washing them by hand.

If you have power and ample water pressure, you can safely use your dishwasher to wash dishes as long as it has a sanitation cycle or you are sure it reaches a final rinse temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you are washing dishes by hand, you will need to use a bleach solution to ensure your dishes are adequately disinfected.

To safely hand wash dishes, follow these steps:

  1. Combine 1 teaspoon of household bleach with 1 gallon of water in a clean container and set aside
  2. Wash and rinse dishes using hot water
  3. Soak rinsed dishes in the prepared bleach solution for at least 1 minute
  4. Allow dishes to thoroughly air dry on a clean surface

Can you wash your clothes when there's a boil water advisory?

Yes.

If you have power and ample water pressure, you can safely wash clothes in your washing machine as you normally would.

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