In Utah water and food storage are quite commonplace. We live in a state with some amazingly beautiful picturesque mountains. While majestic and beautiful they were formed from a violent earthquake. This creates a minor threat to our livelihoods and we like the comfort of feeling prepared. Not only that but I’ve personally been in a situation where the city’s main water pipe burst due to freezing and I was out of water for 3 days. This is just one simple scenario. Many homes in Utah are very susceptible to the bitter cold winter temperatures and broken wirer lines are very common. This can create a rather scary situation when it comes to having drinking water on hand. For these reasons and countless others we typically keep a few gallons of bleach lying around to resolve this situation. After doing some research on the best ways to disinfect water this actually worries me. Come to find out household bleach actually has a very short shelf life. Household bleach kills most (but not all) disease causing organisms. This is why I worry. So many people in Utah are storing bleach for a disaster when unknowingly it won’t do any good.
The Old Way Was To Use Bleach To Disinfect Water
Most people store a few gallons of bleach to disinfect water because it is so readily available at most stores for purchase. What most people do not understand is that household bleach has a pretty rapid shelf life rendering it useless after a short time. People do not typically know this and will use it to disinfect their water anyways making themselves susceptible to illness from waterborne pathogens. Here’s how you should treat water using bleach (as long as the bleach has not expired)
- Add two drops of bleach per liter of water.
- Stir the mixture well.
- Let mixture stand for 30 minutes before ingesting.
If the water you are treating is cloudy
- Filter the water as best as you can.
- double the amount of bleach used to treat each liter of water.
While doing research on bleach to disinfect water I came across this statement made by a Clorox Bleach representative that was actually pretty difficult to find.
“We recommend storing our bleach at room temperatures. It can be stored for about 6 months at temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. After this time, bleach will be begin to degrade at a rate of 20% each year until totally degraded to salt and water. Storing at temperatures much higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit could cause the bleach to lose its effectiveness and degrade more rapidly. However, if you require 6% sodium hypochlorite, you should change your supply every 3 months.” – Chlorox Bleach Representative
This was rather alarming to read, mainly because I had no idea about the shelf life of bleach either. Because of this I started researching better alternatives to consider when it comes to disinfecting water. I found that the very common swimming pool chemical Calcium Hypochlorite is more feasible, convenient, efficient and longer lasting than household bleach.
Use Calcium Hypochlorite To Disinfect Water
One of the main benefits of Calcium Hypochlorite (also known as pool shock) is the shelf life and the volume needed to disinfect water . First of all (in granular form) Calcium Chlorite has an indefinite shelf life. The second reason is that Calcium Hypochlorite will disinfect water no matter how dirty from all the waterborne pathogens that bleach does as well as some more rare forms. A 1 lb. bag of Calcium Hypochlorite will disinfect 10,000 gallons of water! Thats a lot. In fact a 1 pound bag will treat enough water to provide a family of four with one gallon each person per day for 6-7 years. The shelf life is key here, especially for a disaster situation.
Heres how to disinfect water using Calcium Hypochlorite
- You must first make a chlorine solution (DO NOT DRINK THIS) by mixing 1 healthy tablespoon of high test (78%) granular calcium hypochlorite for 2 gallons of water. About 8 liters.
- Add one part of this chlorine solution to 100 parts water.
- Wait at least 30 minutes before ingesting the newly disinfected water.
While nothing will ever compare to boiling water when it comes to disinfecting water but this is the best home remedy. Far better than common bleach and cheaper as well. Calcium Hypochlorite is only a few bucks and you can find it at swimming pool supply stores such as Deep Blue Pools and Spas . This is also referred to as pool shock. Keep in mind that when the granular calcium hypochlorite is made into the liquid chlorine solution it does have a shelf life of about 24 months. So in summary it is much easier to store a small package of Calcium hypochlorite with an indefinite shelf life rather than gallons and gallons of bleach that will go bad very quickly in order to disinfect water .