Boil Water Advisory

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During the Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic, keeping hands clean is especially important to help prevent the virus from spreading. In most cases, it is safe to wash your hands with soap and tap water during a boil water advisory. Follow the guidance from your local public health officials. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.

Water Boiling on a Gas Stove, stainless pot.

If your local health officials issue a boil water advisory, you should use bottled water or boil tap water. This is because a boil water advisory means your community’s water has, or could have, germs that can make you sick.

Advisories may include information about preparing food, drinks, or ice; dishwashing; and hygiene, such as brushing teeth and bathing. Boil water advisories usually include this advice:

  • Use bottled or boiled water for drinking, and to prepare and cook food.
  • If bottled water is not available, bring water to a full rolling boil for 1 minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for 3 minutes). After boiling, allow the water to cool before use.
  • Boil tap water even if it is filtered (for example, by a home water filter or a pitcher that filters water).
  • Do not use water from any appliance connected to your water line, such as ice and water from a refrigerator.
  • Breastfeeding is the best infant feeding option. If you formula feed your child, provide ready-to-use formula, if possible.

Handwashing

  • In many cases, you can use tap water and soap to wash hands during a boil water advisory. Follow the guidance from your local public health officials.
  • Be sure to scrub your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Then, rinse them well under running water.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Bathing and showering

  • Be careful not to swallow any water when bathing or showering.
  • Use caution when bathing babies and young children. Consider giving them a sponge bath to reduce the chance of them swallowing water.

Brushing teeth

  • Brush teeth with boiled or bottled water. Do not use tap water that you have not boiled first.

Washing dishes

  • If possible, use disposable plates, cups, and utensils during a boil water advisory.
  • Household dishwashers generally are safe to use if:
    • The water reaches a final rinse temperature of at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit (66°Celsius), or
    • The dishwater has a sanitizing cycle.
  • Sanitize all baby bottles.
  • To wash dishes by hand:
    • Wash and rinse the dishes as you normally would using hot water.
    • In a separate basin, add 1 teaspoon of unscented household liquid bleach for each gallon of warm water.
    • Soak the rinsed dishes in the water for at least one minute.
    • Let the dishes air dry completely before using again.

Laundry

  • It is safe to wash clothes as usual.

Cleaning

Caring for pets

  • Pets can get sick from some of the same germs as people or spread germs to people. Give pets bottled water or boiled water that has cooled.
  • If bottled water is not available, bring water to a full rolling boil for 1 minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for 3 minutes). After boiling, allow the water to cool before use.
  • Boil tap water even if it is filtered (for example, by a home water filter or a pitcher that filters water).
  • Do not use water from any appliance connected to your water line, such as ice and water from a refrigerator.

Caring for your garden and houseplants

  • You can use tap water for household plants and gardens.
Page last reviewed: March 22, 2021
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