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Ask Buck

Do I Have to Boil Water To Purify It?

I heard somewhere that it isn't necessary to bring water to a boil in order to purify it, as long as you get the temperature up to 140 degrees or more. Is this true?

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Question:

I heard somewhere that it isn’t necessary to bring water to a boil in order to purify it, as long as you get the temperature up to 140 degrees or more. Is this true?

Submitted by – Bill, White Marsh, MD

Answer:

The short answer is no. Heat kills pathogens at different rates depending on the temperature of the water and the specific germ.

Giardia, for instance, dies at 131ºF but the germs must remain at 131ºF for at least five minutes. Many viruses will die at 158ºF if held at that temp for one minute.

E. coli and some other bacteria will die if held at 144ºF for about 10 minutes. But all germs will die in water that has reached the boiling point. Therefore, bring water to the boiling point to be safe.

—Buck