How to Make Water Potable (Potable Water)

How to Make Water Potable and Safe to Drink

Potable water is regarded as being safe to drink. There are times when the water supply has been contaminated, and you have to treat the water to use it. The water from the tap usually has been treated by the local municipality to make it drinkable. Non-potable water is water that hasn’t been treated and can come from lakes, rivers, groundwater or natural springs.

According to the CDC, “bottled water is the safest option for drinking and all other uses in an emergency.” You can treat tap water to make it safe to drink if you cannot get bottled water, as well as treat non-potable water if it is not potable.

Considerations for safety

Bleaching is sometimes used to create potable water. Bleach should never be mixed with ammonia, as it will produce highly hazardous chlorine gas. It is a good idea to keep them separate at all times. Bleach should be kept in a locked cabinet to keep children and pets away from it. Make sure the room is well ventilated after bleaching.

Water treatment situations sometimes affect your life in other ways as well. You might not be able to use your gas or electricity due to severe weather. It’s important to choose the right materials to keep you and your family warm and fed. For safety reasons, you should heat water outdoors using a camp stove or fire instead of inside.

Thus, you will prevent dangerous gases from building up inside your home.  To prevent the buildup of carbon monoxide, ensure there is adequate ventilation when using a space heater. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure your safety. 

Here are the Things You’ll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Pot or microwave-safe vessel
  • Heating source: microwave, stovetop element, or electric kettle
  • Clean containers (to store treated water)
  • Measuring spoons
  • Pre-filter or tightly woven cloth
  • Water purification filter
  • Ultraviolet light water purifier


  • Unscented household bleach
  • Iodine solution, tablets or crystals

Project Overview

  • Working Time: 5 mins – 1 hr
  • Total Time: 5 mins – 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner


Tap water safety intructions

1. Boil the Water

Boiling is one of the most common ways to treat water. When boiling for a long enough period of time, microbes will be destroyed and some toxic chemicals will be removed.

You can bring water to a boil using various heating methods. An electric kettle, a microwave, or a stovetop burner can be used in this way.

The water should be placed in a microwave-safe container or pot. Bring the water to a rolling boil in the container over a heat source or in the microwave. Let it cook for one minute at that temperature.

During the first minute of boiling, stir the water to make sure it has heated thoroughly. Before using the water, allow it to cool completely.

What are Toxic Chemical Contaminants?

Water can contain metals and other elements, pesticides and fertilizers, drugs, and bleach, among other chemicals. Both natural and manmade chemicals can be found in water.

2. Use Chlorine Bleach

If you cannot boil the water, you can kill bacteria with unscented household bleach. Sodium chloride, the chemical component of bleach, is used to make municipal water supplies potable (this is also called chlorinated water). It is best to filter cloudy water through a cloth before treating it.

Pour 1 gallon (16 cups) of water into a cup and add 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops) of unscented household bleach. Stir the mixture well. Drink or cook the water after letting it stand for at least 30 minutes.

The containers that you will use to store water can also be sanitized with bleach. You can sanitize your surfaces by adding one teaspoon of bleach to one quart (4 cups) of water. The solution can either be poured into the container or wiped on the inside. It should sit for 30 seconds, then be poured. It should then be left to dry or rinsed with treated water.

Note that disinfectants will not make your water drinkable if it is contaminated with chemicals.


Use just enough bleach without overdosing. An overdose of bleach can be deadly.

Check: Best Under Sink Water Filter

3. Use Iodine

On trails, hikers are sold iodine solutions, crystals, or tablets that they can easily add to their water bottles. It is easy to use, kills viruses and bacteria (but does not kill more resistant bacteria like Cryptosporidium). The only downside is that it leaves a taste in the water.

You should follow the instructions provided on the product since the amount of solution, crystals, and tablets will differ. If possible, use warm water.

Fill the container with water containing the correct amount of iodine. Be sure to mix the iodine with the water well, coating the screwcap lid and threads with some solution if using a screwcap bottle. After the iodine has dissolved fully, let the water sit for 30 minutes before using it. Wait 60 minutes before using cold water (below 40 degrees F). 

4. Use a Water Purification Filter

Bacteria and protozoa can be removed from water by water purification filters. Carbon filters remove chemicals and off-flavors from the water. Please read the instructions carefully so that you can use your water purification filter correctly and understand what it removes and what it doesn’t. It is important to avoid clogging the filter with particles in the water.

Wait several hours before filtering cloudy water. Water must be first filtered with a pre-filter or cloth, and then passed through a water purification filter.

Check: How To Install Water Filter

5. Use an Ultraviolet Light Water Purifier

Water purification lights that use ultraviolet (UV) light are effective in killing bacteria, protozoa, and viruses. This method requires filtering the water with a cloth before using; solid particles cannot be sanitized using light. If the water is cloudy, the method may not work. The most common UV light format is a battery-powered pen-shaped light. Some UV lights are built into water bottles.

Switch on the UV light and place it in a container with water. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when swishing the light in the water. Take the light out of the water after the recommended time has passed. The light can now be used. 

6. Use Bottled Water

When you do not have access to potable water, you can use commercially bottled water instead. There may be active carbon filtration in the tap water depending on the brand. UV filtration is offered by some bottled water manufacturers, claiming that bacteria has been removed, or it is reverse osmosis or distillation filtered.

Look for signs of previous opening and refilling of the bottled water container. You should check for cracks in the bottle and check the expiration date if one is present. You should boil or treat bottled water if you have any doubts about its safety.

Check: 9 Best Reverse Osmosis Under Sink Water Filters

When to Call a Professional

Occasionally, municipal tap water may contain contaminants such as metals, lead, and salt that cannot be removed using the methods listed. Consult the local water department for advice.

It is important to make sure your water is safe if you live in a rural area with multiple water sources. You have the best chance of making or keeping your tap water potable by consulting with a water technician, having your existing tap water analyzed, and following their recommendations.

To help you with this task, you can purchase various water filtration systems and products. Selecting the right filter depends on the microbes and metals present in your existing water. It is now much easier to install these filtration systems than it used to be, and they’re much more affordable. Some areas are more likely to have safe water by installing these systems.

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