Preparedness blog

Can I Use Bleach to Purify Water Storage?

By Marc from Ready Store
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At The Ready Store, we often get this question. Many believe that you can use household bleach to purify water storage. Here is the best answer we can provide. Household bleach is not manufactured with human consumption in mind. The chemicals are much higher than what would be considered safe for human consumption. Having said that, if you don't have anything else, using bleach may be better than nothing. use bleach to purify water storage

It's not recommended to use straight bleach to purify your stored water if you have better options. It would be much better to purchase a water treatment that is guaranteed not to harm you when consuming. The water treatment we and many other companies carry would purify the stored water up to 5 years so you don't need to worry about changing it out or over contaminating the water with bleach.

One option is sodium hypochlorite (bleach) but has been manufactured so that there are no impurities in it and as a result it is the only bleach product that has been approved and certified by the EPA for human consumption.

Many people use unscented household bleach to store there water. We don't recommend it because it can potentially be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. Why not use a bleach that's been certified for consumption just in case?

If you do choose to use household bleach to fill your water storage containers, please follow these steps put out by the Center for Disease Control:

1. Wash the storage container with dishwashing soap and water and rinse completely with clean water.

2. Sanitize the container by adding a solution made by mixing 1 teaspoon of unscented liquid household chlorine bleach in one quart of water.

3. Cover the container and shake it well so that the sanitizing bleach solution touches all inside surfaces of the container.

4. Wait at least 30 seconds and then pour the sanitizing solution out of the container.

5. Let the empty sanitized container air-dry before use OR rinse the empty container with clean, safe water that already is available.

The CDC only recommends using unscented common household bleach for cleaning water supplies if you don't have bottled water or boiling is impractical. They also only recommend using it in small quantities.

Check the label to see what the percentage make up of Sodium Hypochlorite is in the bottle. Here is a chart of how much bleach to add per bleach grade:

Adding Bleach to Water Storage
 
% Sodium Hypochlorite
Add Bleach/Per
 
 
1%
10 drops / qrt/ltr - 40 drops/gallon
 
 
4-6%
2 drops / qrt/ltr - 8 drops/gallon
 
 
7-10%
1 drop / qrt/ltr - 4 drops/gallon
 
 
Unknown
10 drops/ qrt/ltr – 40 drops/gallon
 
 
If the water is cloudy, murky, colored or very cold; double the amount of bleach added.
 

Let the water stand for 30 minutes before using it. Remember that water purification is vital, so stock up on water purification and water filtration systems.

 

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10 days ago
Comments
bc
12 years ago at 10:33 AM
One to two drops per quart, let stand for 2 hours. Unscented bleach only.
MSM
12 years ago at 12:30 AM
Having hiked on the AT, I ran into some people that were diluting a gallon of mountain water with about a capfull of household bleach, capfull, I guess would be about a level teaspoon. Never tried it myself, but isn't that what chlorinated water is treated with? While hiking, I was using a micro-filter.
Don
12 years ago at 12:59 AM
What would be a recommended water treatment product?
Kathy
12 years ago at 4:02 AM
You can use 1/8 tsp per gallon of water to treat your household water to store for use. However, it is recommended that you filter it or boil it before you drink it due to its high content of chlorine. I have a stand alone filter it is called a Berkey, you do not need any electricity. It is rather inexpensive when the filters will filter 1000 gallons of water. Might be worth a try. I looked for the cheapest and the best on the market.
Paul G
4 years ago at 6:57 PM
Each Berkey filter black element has a life of 3,000 gallons, 6,000 gallons for a two-filter system, 12,000 for a four filters. A 4 filter system filters water very fast.
John
12 years ago at 4:44 AM
I'd be reluctant to use bleach, unless it was all I had. A gravity fed water filtration system is an excellent way to go. There's also distillation. In the event the power's out and you can't use a distiller, there are solar distillers on the market. They may not produce a lot of water, but at least you'd have some for drinking.
Don
12 years ago at 5:27 AM
Interesting......I have been using chlorine bleach (unscented) for years to purify drinking water. Label on Clorox bottle instructs you on how to use the product for a host of purposes. As BC wrote above. Never had an issue. I keep a few gallon jugs in my emergency supply cabinet. Cheap and useful for all sorts of things besides purifying your water. Nothing wrong with pushing your products, but let's not bash a known useful product in the process.
WOW
12 years ago at 5:43 AM
Wow. Tough crowd. And you are all correct, meaning all of the folks who use bleach for water purification. It is safe in the correct amount. Follow the dosing instructions and you will be fine.
Patrick Ridler
12 years ago at 5:55 AM
To be safe, I have bought ALL my water purification supplies from "The Ready Store." Be "prepared" people! Bleach seams to be "in an emergency situation only" option. I have ALL my water containers, chemical additives, purifiers, AND freeze dried food from here!
grog
12 years ago at 6:15 AM
One important thing about using bleach, ensure there are NO additives like scent to the bleach. Another important thing is that the use of chemicals like bleach or so called water purification chemicals like iodine pills ( like the old US Military purification tablets) is that over time the same stuff that is killing the germs and other life forms in your water to avoid getting ill, will start to do the same thing in your intestinal tract. You have to have "good critters" that occur in your body to help with digestion of food. In that sense the long term use of such chemicals may in fact bee contra indicated. Thus having other methods, including the ability to boil water would be practical. Storing distilled water is not a good idea as there are no longer minerals in the water to consume, thus creating a lack of electrolytes in your body. Just like too much water in acid lead batteries that were used for years in cars, this can cause function to stop. Do not just take my word for it, (I have 21 years of military experience) check with your medical professional. Personally I have a water filter and stored water and bleach, with the means to boil water if I have to. Having another filter system is still on my get list. just my two cents.
Steve
12 years ago at 6:18 AM
I used to have a customer (now Deceased) that had been a chemist for Johnson and Johnson, and traveled world wide. He said he always used 4 drops of Clorox per gallon of water, let it set and then used it for drinking washing his hands etc. When he traveled overseas (A Lot) he did this (Pre TSA) by taking a dropper bottle with Clorox in it. He said foreign bleach was too strong and none of those had adequate production controls. I think it is a Great idea, and keep a gallon on hand in the house all the time for that emergency purpose.
Lynn
12 years ago at 7:31 AM
I would never use household bleach myself...there are safer forms of chlorine without all the added chemicals. I went to great lengths to get chlorine out of my home system water because of the effects it has on the body. Just because a municipality adds chlorine doesn't mean it is safe..many add fluoride too. It is cheap and easy.
Reid
12 years ago at 10:28 AM
The chlorox company does indeed list water purification as an intended use of their product at well as the office of Homeland security . You can also use The SOLA method of water purification . It uses no chemicals and requires only time and sunlight.
Ron
12 years ago at 6:27 PM
Ron, bleach definitely expires... it loses effectiveness the older it gets. I believe that it is starts degrading after one year.
buellfooll
12 years ago at 10:13 AM
I just have this awful feeling about using the same product for sanitizing my DRINKING water that I use for washing my underwear. UGH!! I think'll go ahead and spend a couple of bucks for a product with a label stating it's INTENDED purpose.
Dave
12 years ago at 4:44 PM
I googled this to see what the repercussions were to using bleach. I found a dead mouse in a water conditioner system, removed the system for cleansing and poured bleach in my well. I then ran all my water spigots, showers, and faucets for 45 minutes. My house smells like a swimming pool now but I assume I am better off. Monday I will take a sample to the water department but I will not drink water from my tap for at least 2 weeks. My stock don't have that option. I topped off a stock tank that contains fish to keep down the mosquito population 1 day after cleaning my system and every fish in the pond died within 10 minutes. Now I am really scared. Is there a de-clorinization method? Any suggestions?
Dan
12 years ago at 10:34 AM
Dave, I've been using Clorox, "germicidal bleach" from Lowes in my potable rainwater harvesting system for quite some time because I was not able to obtain NSF 60 certified NaClO (sodium hypochlorite), until just recently. The Texas Rainwater Harvesting manual, which you can download off the internet, provides guidelines for both shock and maintenance treating water with bleach. Until only recently, NSF 60 certified bleach was not available in small quantities and Texas recommended at least using unscented bleach. Regular laundry bleach, particularly the scented stuff, has additional chemicals not fit for human consumption, thus it doesn't have the NSF 60 stamp on it. The maintenance level for chlorinated potable water is about 0.5 ppm NaClO, which is barely detectable on a typical chlorine tester for swimming pools. Shock treating is 10 times that at 5 ppm. Swimming pools are around 2 to 4 ppm. So if your water smelled like a swimming pool you were most likely at the shock level with your chlorine and I'm not surprised your fish died. Let the water sit in the sun for a while and the chlorine level will go down. I remember as a kid you couldn't even use municipal tap water for the goldfish without letting the water sit for 24 hours. You can either test your well water with a chlorine tester from a local swimming pool supply or just wait till the chlorine is barely detectable with your nose, at which point it should be safe for drinking. I wouldn't worry too much that you didn't use NSF 60 bleach. Although all the municipal water suppliers use NSF 60 stuff, as required by law, many of the well drillers do not when shock treating wells. Heck, the drill bit and pipe is far more contaminated than the laundry bleach they pour down the hole!
Tom
8 years ago at 7:34 PM
Chuck I agree with you, the Ready Store puts out information they think will be helpful. They don't want to say anything that could lead to litigation. Everyone thinks they know it all, why don't we just stop with the harassment of the Store. Of course they are trying to sell stuff and make a decent living providing things we obviously want. So they make a plug for there products once in a while, so what? They never said they were experts on using bleach they just recommend using safe products they sell.
Stephen
6 years ago at 2:19 AM
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6 years ago at 11:09 AM
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Shawni
6 years ago at 11:12 PM
We want to store water in 5 gallon purified water jugs with lids, what is the best way to store it?
James
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Robert Fusco
3 years ago at 9:36 AM
We RV'ers have been adding bleach to our water storage tanks in our vehicles for ever! Many of the Users Manuals provide instructions for cleaning the tanks using beach and adding a measured amount of it to the water stored for use while "camping". If I had a choice I would never drink chlorinated water (I live "outback" and drink sweet unchlorinated well water). I do add chlorine to the water tanks to prevent more serious sicknesses. Good luck, Bob