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Cleaning & Preparing Personal Water Storage Containers

Unopened commercially bottled water is the safest and most reliable source of water in an emergency. If you do not have bottled water, you can make your water safe to drink by following the instructions listed on our Making Water Safe After an Emergency page and using clean containers to collect and store your water.

Choosing a Container

When preparing safe water, it is best to use food grade water storage containers, such as those found at surplus or camping supply stores.

If you are not able to use a food grade water storage container, be sure the container you choose:

  • Has a top that can be closed tightly
  • Is made of durable, unbreakable materials (i.e. not glass)

DO NOT USE containers that previously have been used to hold liquid or solid toxic chemicals (bleach pesticides, etc.)

A food grade water storage container is one that will not transfer noxious or toxic substances into the water it is holding. If you are uncertain whether a package type is food grade you can contact the manufacturer. Ask if that particular container is (US) FDA approved meaning that it is safe for food use.

Cleaning a Water Storage Container Before Use

Before filling with safe water, use these steps to clean and sanitize water storage containers:

  1. Wash the storage container with dishwashing soap and water and rinse completely with clean water.
  2. Sanitize the container with 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 is available already.

Storing Safe Water in a Container

  • Label container as "drinking water" and include storage date.
  • Replace stored water every six months.
  • Keep stored water in a place with a fairly constant cool temperature (50-70° F).
  • Do not store water containers in direct sunlight.
  • Do not store water containers in areas where toxic substances, such as gasoline or pesticides, are present.
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