Can I Use Bleach to Purify Water Storage?

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 storageIt'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
10 drops / qrt/ltr - 40 drops/gallon
2 drops / qrt/ltr - 8 drops/gallon
1 drop / qrt/ltr - 4 drops/gallon
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.

51 thoughts on “Can I Use Bleach to Purify Water Storage?”

  • bc

    One to two drops per quart, let stand for 2 hours. Unscented bleach only.

  • MSM

    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

    What would be a recommended water treatment product?

  • Thomas L Carpenter
    Thomas L Carpenter April 3, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    You are naive in your response!...Bleach (chlorine) is used by almost every water company in the country to purify the water we all drink. Whether or not it is healthy for us is open to debate but it does in fact work. Your explanative seems to want to do nothing but to promote your product to increase your sales and profits. See comment by BC above. He has the right answer. And, now that I think about it, what do you think is used to purify the water in our swimming pols?

  • Thomas L Carpenter
    Thomas L Carpenter April 3, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Oops! Sorry about the "pols" above. I do know how to spell "pool".

  • g-bah

    1. Heat (not the most econonical, but effective.
    2. Filtration (some even extract clean from salt water via reverse osmosis, but expenive).
    3. Cold filtratration (filtering direction is all directed to use).

    I don't know too many other methods, but these do exist.

    Good luck!

  • John

    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.

  • Tripp

    FEMA states it's safe:

    EPA states it's safe:

    The Red Cross states it's safe: (do a search for "water treatment" on if that URL doesn't work)

    And Clorox states it's safe. From

    Clorox® Regular-Bleach can be used to disinfect water in situations where the water supply is jeopardized by natural disasters such as: Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Floods

    To Disinfect Water: If you need to purify water during an emergency, (and don’t have the means to boil it for 3–5 minutes), you can disinfect your water using bleach:

    For clear water—add 8 drops (1/8 tsp.) of bleach per gallon of water
    For cloudy water—add 16 drops (1/4 tsp.) of bleach per gallon of water

    Mix the solution thoroughly and let it stand for about 30 minutes before using it. Properly treated water should have a slight chlorine odor. If it doesn’t, repeat dosage and allow water to stand an additional 15 minutes. The treated water can be made drinkable by pouring it between clean containers several times.

    All that said, the water preserver sold by The Ready Store and numerous other emergency preparedness offers good value in that the product is specifically labeled for water preservation and comes with exact dosing instructions for that purpose. Those factors alone eliminate confusion for consumers, which at a time of stress like an emergency, may be the difference between having clean water to drink and water overdosed with sodium hypochlorite (the ingredient in bleach, which is NOT chlorine) which could make you sick.

    For my family's emergency plans, we rely on stackable 5-gallon water storage containers and the water preserver sold by The Ready Store -- easy and economical. We also have 2 hand-held, portable water filters with replacement parts, access to a natural water source if needed, and the means to transport the water from source to home.

    • Kate

      Any bacteria will be killed once it reaches the boiling point. (212 degrees F or 100 degrees C) There is no need to boil for 3-5 minutes, and unless you have a woodstove and are heating your home as well as sterilizing your water, boiling for anything longer than a good rolling boil is pointless and consuming energy that you might not be able to waste.

  • Kathy

    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.

  • chuck lee

    Thomas was right on the money. You are not accurate and more than that, your article seems awfully self serving. If this were my first encounter with your store, it would have been my last. You lose credibility with such a response.

  • Don

    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.

  • Chuck

    Naive was too kind. This article demonstrates absolute ignorance I'm afraid. Household bleach is exactly the same material (Sodium Hypochlorite) that many, many large and small municipalities use to disinfect public water supplies across the country (the world for that matter) every day! It is fed in varying strengths (from 0.8% to 12%) with target dosages, depending on the system, such that a very small chlorine residual (about the same as what we encounter in swimming pools that are chlorinated for disinfection) is carried throughout the entire water system. The only accurate assertion in your article is that scented bleach should not be used. But then, it would be better than nothing in a pinch. I agree with chuck lee, you have lost a lot of credibility with me, a new customer. Make sure you know what the heck you are talking about when you write in the future before you put your reputation on the line in such a manner!

  • suse

    this particular "no bleach" blurb -- was attached to a "rotate your rations" (or something like that) blurb. i thought this stuff was supposed to last forever! what am i suppose to do with the ones from the back . . . eat them now? this site has a way of making you feel nervous -- you end up thinking, omg, i better order. or you worry because you didn't. i have survived hurricanes for weeks -- and stocked up knowing it was on the way -- even when the stores were empty. they know to start trucking that stuff in.

  • Philippa Alderton
    Philippa Alderton April 3, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Here's information from one of the Hurricane Katrina information sites.

    ItIS a bit annoying to discover that a company you should be able to relky on for accurate survival information is as self-serving as this article demonstrates.,

  • WOW

    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
    Patrick Ridler April 3, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    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

    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

    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.

  • Lynne

    Just remember two things. 1) Bleach or iodine or any other chemical water "purifier" is only effective against organisms. They will NOT clean water of harmful agents other than biological, ie alkali or other chemical or heavy metal poisons. A good filter is still needed, and still may not remove everything. 2) When using bleach or any other chemical, it is best to aerate the treated water before drinking. One way is to pour it several times from one container to another.

  • Lynn

    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.

  • Stuart

    Municipal water treatment uses injection of chlorine gas, bleach has other ingredients to watch out for.

  • Reid

    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.

  • Pete

    I have to say this article is really a let down. Everyone knows bleach is totally fine for water purification. If you had put that there are other alternatives then fine, but to just put lies to sell more product is very selfish.

  • Rob

    With a 20+ year background in the the water filtration industry and being a California State Certified Distribution and Treatment operator for several community water systems that use liquid chlorine, the article is correct in one regard. Clorox bleach is not approved by the FDA or NSF (national sanitation foundation) and local health departments for "REGULAR" use as a disinfection.

    The clorox bleach used for laundry comes off a fill line that is not approved for potable water products. Does this mean we can't use it? I would rather use clorox/no-name un-scented bleach than running the risk of getting sick myself in an emergency situation.

    If you notice, the article and the EPA websites above say "emergency disinfection using unscented bleach". Those of us in the water industry are not allowed to use 5-6% bleach as it doesn't have a NSF 60 rating, same thing the public pools and 99% of all water systems. We typically use 12-13% liquid chlorine, and anyone can get this from a pool supply store as well.

    here is a link to Texas reg's on disinfection and accepted type sof chlorine for regular use:

  • Rex

    1asstorisk is correct all of you should read the survival topics article. Two points: of approximately 3 months whether open or not. The article also recommends an alternative that essentially doesn't have a shelf life but you have to read the ingredients list as some of these types of products use a different chemical than chlorine and I am unsure how safe, or not, that chemical is. I found the right product at Wal-Mart.

  • Glass half full
    Glass half full April 4, 2011 at 11:56 am

    There are so many websites that will educate us on how to get prepared safely. Maybe we can all forgive The Readystore if they print an apology for "sounding" self serving. Remember folks...ALL these companies ARE trying to make money. That's the goal of most business companies. If it's not non-profit....there's profit. You get the idea. Educate yourself and shop wisely. If we do then we can discern the honest vs. deceptive wording in advertising that may be out there. The Readystore has much good information offered to us too. Knowledge is power! Maybe we can give them another chance.

  • Poppie Dave in MO
    Poppie Dave in MO April 4, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    How about a compromise? Suppose you did use bleach-safened water for the many other uses you would have need for in an emergency situation: personal hygiene, washing dishes, clothes, etc., or any other purpose where you would not necessarily ingest it, but have confidence that it would be biologically safe for that task.

    You could save your ceramic filters, fuel for boiling water, or consumption-approved treatments strictly for drinking or cooking. Where many guidelines recommend one gallon of water per person per day, doesn't that gallon usually include those other chores besides rehydration?

    Having said that, it would be best for anyone to have preparations for several options for purifying water. Using bleach or swimming pool chemicals for drinking water would seem to me to be the last-ditch effort. Just hope it never came to that.

    Perhaps using bleach may be OK after all to safen drinking water. Back in 1990, there was a prediction by Dr. Iben Browning (a mathematician who had predicted the 1989 San Fran bay area quake) that on December 3 that year, we would have a large quake on the New Madrid fault. During the weeks prior to that date, many of the "experts" on TV said that we could save our empty bleach bottles, and there would be enough residual chlorine to safen that container filled with water. Fortunately, that quake never happened, and we never actually drank any water saved in that manner.

    You are free to try any method you feel safe with, but please remember that you and your family would be the ones taking the risk. My family and I would prefer to stay with approved methods if at all possible.

  • Sandy

    I dont know why so many people are freaking out, they are saying you can use it but that there are better options out there. They didnt link 1 product directly from this blog post so for all the people on here saying they are just trying to make money on this blog post I say BS on that... from the sounds of it they get a lot of questions on it and are expressing their opinions on it.

    It is up to us to decide which manner we are going to go with to prepare for our families. From the time I have looked around on the internet there lots of options to chose from: filters, purifiers, boiling, preserver, bleach, distillers, and probably 10 more!

  • Z

    Wow guys - a couple of observations. I agree that using a jug of clorox would be a last ditch effort - berkey first, boil second, chemicals third. I'm glad that the ready store amended their original post, however this newsletter is a bit deceiving. It is treated, and accepted by many as a survival info newsletter - I know I do, but for the ready store it's used to plug products - so the information presented is done so with a slant towards what they sell and that's fine - I certainly want and hope the ready store makes a buck because that's the whole point of a business.

    However, I personally think these newsletters would be better accepted if they were done with a different approach - ie had they come out and said, "Look, we get asked this question a bunch, and while bleach is a widely accepted (provide a FEMA link or something) chemical purifier, we have a product that is pure sodium hypochlorite without the additives in household bleach that is approved by the FDA..." you get the picture - You can promote products without the obvious bias - I think that would eliminate the negative feelings that the ready store is ONLY out for sales and not there to help out people interested in preparedness. Just a suggestion.

  • Chris

    I agree with Admin. I'm not sure what some people mean when they say the site is "trying to sell a product." Of course they are but who cares? The name of the site is The Ready STORE. However, nobody is forcing you to purchase something. If you don't like the post then move on to another website. I'd be willing to bet that most people on here who are commenting have been customers in the past. I am a customer and will continue to be a customer because they have competitive prices on survival items. I've not been disappointed yet and don't imagine I will be in the future either.

  • Rex

    I think there are several good reasons why this continuing blog is generating interest. For those like me, there is an economic issue that caused me to participate earlier. Pills are fine for people thinking in terms of smaller quantities of water -- water bottles, canteens, 1 quart or gallon containers etc. I would argue that these are mostly short term camping/hiking applications. My application is the purification of stored water in 50 gallon food quality drums. You would spend a fortune purifying the water with pills (14-$20 per package). With the chlorine products mentioned above (FEMA & FDA approved); the same as is used in your drinking water from the tap), 1 ounce of grey matter and some common sense you can purify about 10,000 gallons with one package of pool treatment chemicals that cost about $4 & never worry about the shelf life of pills or bottles of bleach.

  • Art

    Only if bleach is old is it not effective. There are no expiration dates on bleach, to my knowledge, so using freshly purchased unsented bleach is best. Also, purifying at point of use is best! So you CAN store water longer than recommended. Just purify at point of use!

  • Ron

    Ron, bleach definitely expires... it loses effectiveness the older it gets. I believe that it is starts degrading after one year.

  • Healthy Food Storage
    Healthy Food Storage April 10, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Chlorine is carcinogenic, it is poisonous. Granted we have become all to comfortable with it in our daily lives, avoiding it at all costs is important. Personally I use a shower filter, so as to not inhale the vapors (the most harmful way we ingest chlorine).

    So I'd say if you use it in storing your water...when getting ready to drink; run it through a water filter that removes chlorine. Even cheap carbon filters will do this, for cheap check out those at an RV store.

  • duurty

    Liquid Clorox Bleach
    In an emergency, think of this (one gallon of Regular Clorox Bleach) as 3,800 gallons of drinking
    When the tap water stops flowing, Regular Clorox Bleach isn't just a laundry-aid, it's a lifesaver.
    Use it to purify water, and you'll have something to drink.
    It's the same in any natural disaster. As the shock wears off and the days wear on, the biggest
    demand is for drinking water. Time after time, relief crews hand out free Clorox Bleach with
    simple instructions: use it to kill bacteria in your water and you'll have purified water to drink.

    Most emergency experts and health officials suggest a mixture of 8
    drops of bleach to a gallon of generally clear water for best results. Based on environment or
    cloudiness of the water

    As suggested by the EPA, vigorous boiling for at least one minute (preferably more) will kill any
    disease causing microorganisms present in water (at altitudes above 5000 feet above sea level,
    boil for three to five minutes longer). The flat taste of boiled water can be improved by pouring it
    back and forth from one container to another (called aeration), by allowing it to stand in a closed
    container for a few hours, or by adding a small pinch of salt for each quart of water boiled. When
    boiling is not practical, chemical disinfection should be used. Common household bleach
    contains a chlorine compound that will disinfect water. The treated water should be mixed
    thoroughly and allowed to stand, preferably covered, for 30 minutes. The water should have a
    slight chlorine odor; if not, repeat the dosage and allow the water to stand for an additional 15

  • Dave W.

    It would be best if you use chlorine not house hold bleach.To treat water. The right way.
    1.Bring the water to a boil for 5 min.
    2.Add 2 parts per million of chlorine about 1/2 teaspoon to a gallon and shake well.
    3.Pore the water threw a filter to remove any hard particles.A coffee filter will do just fine.The water will be safe to drink.

  • buellfooll

    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.

  • Earlene Young

    There is a lot of truth in what most of you are saying. But,regardless of whether our city water is purified with chlorine and our pool water is purified with chlorine, and the bleach jug says it is safe, chlorine is a poison and it is not SAFE. It is just not as harmful as the microbes that would be in the water without it. The Ready Store is telling you for long term storage, you need a better source than Chlorine bleach, and they have one. The best way to purify water for short or long term is Aerobic Stablized Oxygen, or ASAP Silver Solution. Google both and get the facts. And as someone suggested, boiling, distilling, filtering are also ways to purify water and you should not have just one way.

  • Tassel Daley

    Bleach is poisonous There are many safe ways to purify water.

  • Dave

    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

    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!

  • Johnny

    People now days seem to have more of a desire to prepare themselves for the worst. Like some have stated above, it doesn't make sense to beat a proven fact of whether bleach is safe to use or not. It is! I can see the point in wanting to sell merchandise, but people need results when THEY NEED results if something were to happen and fresh drinking water wasn't being supplied. I haven't purchased anything from this site, and probably will not. This is only due to the fact that what was first stated didn't seem quite legit, it just seemed to be a marketing way to go about it. Don't get me wrong I know people are trying to make money but it is safe to use bleach within the right circumstances. You dont have to go but a filtering system if you are just wanting to be prepared when and it will...SHTF!!

  • Connie

    I am wanting to purchase the dry sodium hypochlorite . That doesn't have anything else in it. Where do I get this at.

  • Connie

    I am wanting to purchase the dry sodium hypochlorite . That doesn't have anything else in it. Where do I get this at.
    I don't have a problem with what the ready store put out there.
    Like everything I read , I always try and check out the info put out their.

    • The Ready Store

      Hey Connie, sometimes you can buy dry sodium hypochlorite with large pool supplies. When I worked as a lifeguard, we would use it to "zap" the water clean if there were an accident. I don't know about using it to treat water storage though. The bleach that we used was probably a little too powerful. People had to stay out of the pool for at least a half hour so the bleach wouldn't affect their skin. You might want to stick with a bleach that has been approved for human consumption.

  • Indy500larry

    I probably used to much bleach to clean out my 50 gal containers. I put the entire jug of bleach & some water in my 50 gal containers and swirred it around and then emptied the bleach water into the next container. I then filled each container with 50 gals of water. They do smell like bleach but not sure if it is now drinkable. Iam new at this and need some advice. It will be easy to empty the containers and fill wih new water.

  • Chuck

    From FEMA - "Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite."

    Isn't that what the writer here just said...

    I have always found the information here to be informative and helpful. I appreciate the time and effort The Ready Store puts into making us all better prepared.

    Commenters need not be so disrespectful and should offer helpful, usable info to go along with the article - not a bunch of angry static. Everyone thinks they can do better, I'm so tired of seeing people rip each other's throats out.

  • Tom

    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.


    Bath room floor tiles( light grey) are made of porcelain, after long use they became dirty with lot of stains and decolored. If I use this colorox (chlorine Bleach), will I get the tiles turned to sparkling white, removing all stains? pl answer.thanq

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