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Boil Water Advisory - Treating Water for Handwashing and Food Preparation



Authors as Published

Renee Boyer, Professor and Extension Specialist, Food Science and Technology, Virginia Tech; and Ben Chapman, Professor and Food Safety Extension Specialist, North Carolina State University

When a fecal indicator is found in water that is an indication that the current water treatment is not effectively removing harmful waterborne microorganisms from the water. To safely use the water in your area, follow these guidelines.

Boil Water

  • Boiling water kills bacteria and other microorganisms that might be present in the water.
  • Bring all water to a boil and let it boil for one minute.
  • Boiled water can be placed in a covered container for later use

 Treat Water

  • Water can be treated with unscented bleach that has been open less than 30 days.
  • For clear water, add 1/8 teaspoon bleach per gallon. For cloudy water, add 1/4 teaspoon bleach per gallon.
  • Allow to stand for 30 minutes before drinking or using.

Preparing Food Without Safe Water

  • When possible, if preparing food, wash hands with hand soap and potable water
  • Fruits and vegetables should be washed with potable water
  • Substitute canned stocks/broths or liquids from canned fruits, vegetables for water.
  • Hand wash dishes with treated water and allow to air dry. If your dishwasher has a hot/sanitize cycle, it may be used. However, most household dishwashers do not reach the proper temperature to sanitize dishes
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Stay informed:
Updated August 26, 2020

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For more details, see Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s DrinkingWater Advisory Communication Toolbox,

For questions and specific information, contact your local Environmental Health Department

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Publication Date

September 9, 2020