How Long to Boil Water for Drinking

How Long to Boil Water for Drinking

Many people don’t know how long to boiling water for drinking, but the answer may surprise you.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 90 percent of the world’s water is contaminated to some degree or another. This means that there are a variety of microscopic organisms present in water supplies which can cause serious illnesses, and even prove fatal among wilderness travelers who drink it without taking proper precautions.

Let’s say you dip your head into a cold mountain stream to take a refreshing drink. However, that could lead to an unfortunate event… There are most likely microscopic organisms in the water that could make you sick. Also, since you don’t know what is upstream, there might be harmful substances contaminating the water.

If you’re stuck in the wilderness, your best bet is to drink water from a natural spring. However, most people don’t know the source of the water or what’s in it. There are very few places where you can be certain that the water is safe to drink.

How Many Minutes

How long does it take to boil water until it’s safe to consume?

The quick answer:

Once water reaches a rolling boil, it will be safe for consumption. The CDC recommends adding an additional minute for safety purposes.

Time To Boil Drinking Water

Heating water to boiling is the most effective way to purify it, and will kill any harmful bacteria or viruses that may be present. Below are guidelines on how long to boil your water, depending on elevation.

At 0-2,000 feet: Bring water to a rolling boil for 1 minute.

At 2,001-4,000 feet: Bring water to a rolling boil for 3 minutes.

Above 4,000 feet: Bring water to a rolling boil for 5 minutes.

According to the World Health Organization, protozoa is the most common denominator for Giardia. They also state that in order to have a 99% reduction, 10 minutes at 70°C (~160 F) is necessary. However, we would ideally like to see a 4 or 5 log (99.99% to 99.999%) rather than just 2 log.

How Long to Boil Water for Drinking
How Long to Boil Water for Drinking

Caveats: Boiling Drinking Water & Safety

Here are two tips for making sure your water is clean when travelling:

1. Boil water to kill microorganisms, but remember that boiling will not remove chemical toxins.

2. Filter dirty water with a cloth or other material to remove sediments, then let it stand for awhile to allow sediments to settle – then pour off clearer water on top. A coffee filter makes for a good sediment trap, but be aware that germs can pass through it.

In conclusion, boiling water for 1-5 minutes will make your drinking water safe for consumption, depending on the elevation. However, if you want to make sure that Giardia and other parasites are destroyed from the water, boil it for 10 minutes at a temperature of 70°


In conclusion, boiling water is an effective way to purify it and make it safe for drinking. Boiling times will vary depending on altitude and the presence of contaminants such as Giardia, but generally speaking, 1-5 minutes at a rolling boil should be sufficient. For added safety, add an extra minute to the boiling time. Additionally, it is important to remember that boiling water will not remove chemical toxins, so where possible water should be filtered before it is boiled. Finally, always make sure you are drinking from a safe and clean source of water. With the right precautions, boiling your drinking water can ensure that it is safe for consumption.

Read more on How Long To Boil Water For Drinking: Water Right Group or CDC

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