Safety Sunday: Boil Water Notices & Advisories FAQ’s

Fortunately for many individuals affected by the tornados, the local water utilities were able to keep everything up to snuff eliminating the need to issue to a Boil Water Notice or Advisory. I only recall hearing about three communities / regions affected were they were issued. One of those communities is actually were my wife works and after it was lifted, the idea of this week’s Safety Sunday article was born after I had to explain what needed to be done to get her store up & running again.

What’s the difference?

A “Boil Water Advisory” means that your water may have been contaminated, which can be caused by a line break, low water pressure, or if an outbreak of sickness has occurred. A “Boil Water Notice” means bacteria or other contaminants have been found in the water via testing. There is a third & fourth notice which while rare, can still be issued; “DO NOT USE” & “DO NOT DRINK” which means exactly what it says – do not use the water for said items (even boiling won’t work in these cases and is not covered in this article).

During the Advisory / Notice & a few FAQ’s

No matter which type you receive the steps are similar; before consuming water it should be boiled for a full three minutes, poured into another container and allowed to cool. While many municipalities will simply say 1minute, others prefer 3 minutes. Having done enough back-packing, camping, and other items where the general rule is three to five minutes, I side on the three minute side. Any ice, or other items (Kool-Aid, coffee, tea, produce washed, etc…) that has been made or washed during the day in question should be tossed.

I have a filter system, this doesn’t apply does it?

In many cases, it definitely does unless you have a working UV filter as most systems are not meant to filter out bacteria. In fact after the notice is lifted, check with the manufacturer as you may have to replace or clean out the filters.

How do I shower or bathe?

Unless listed as a not recommend practice, taking a shower is fine – just don’t get the water in your mouth. For younger kids a sponge bath is recommended.


Just like above, it is not an issue unless you receive a “DO NOT USE” notice

Do I have to boil the water for cleaning purposes (counters, dishes, floors)?

This generally is not required as most bacteria’s start to die off around 140°, so heating the water up to this point (or past it) should be adequate, even though we would recommend adding a capful (tablespoon) of bleach to every gallon of water created for this. (Don’t forget to allow it to cool down a little to prevent burns)

Brushing teeth, shaving, etc…

You should either use boiled water or follow the simple practice done by many visiting Mexico and other places, use bottled water to shave or to rinse your brush & mouth out.

Boiled or bottled water for baby formula, kid’s juices, etc…?

In this case we would recommend using bottled water. As another reminder, you should never make any drinks, oatmeal or other items utilizing hot water. The reason for this is most solid materials that will not make it past the aerator on a faucet will dissolve in hot water & be introduced into said food or drink items.

How about my pets?

Make sure you trash any water used on the day in question & give them cooled down boiled water.

How much water do I need to boil a day?

As a general rule, you will need one gallon per person & depending on the size of the animal (activity level & outdoor temperature) anywhere from a quart to 2 gallons.

After the Notice /Advisory has been listed:

  • Run your water softeners through a regeneration cycle
  • Turn all your water faucets on for at least a minute (three or more minutes may be required if you have installed low flow aerators, your water meter is located more than 50’ feet from you’re house, or if you have a very large house).
  • If you have a whole house filter, check the manufacturer’s directions for cleaning or replacement advice.
  • Flush your toilets at least twice (remember the back flow issue)
  • Automatic ice makers & water dispensers – the first three batches of ice should be discarded after running & disposing of 1 gallon of water. You may also wish to change out your filter on the refrigerator as any bacteria could be caught up in it & probably overdue in most cases.
  • Drain and refill your hot water heater.
  • Turn on all the water faucets for one more minute.

  • Norfolk remodel

    Great list. Its thorough and complete. It looks to me that all questions that can be anticipated have been posted and answers provided. I thoroughly agree on the water for baby formula. We use ONLY distilled water which we buy from the supermarket. I don’t want to risk our son having stomach problems.

    • SLS Construction

      Thanks for the comments & very good point on formula and kids