There are several reasons why you may be asked to boil your tap water:
- If tests show that harmful microorganisms could be present in the water
- If the water pressure drops due to equipment failure or power outages
- Due to water main breaks or repairs
- If the water source has been flooded
- Due to any other situations that warrant special action to protect consumers’ health
How will I know when it is safe to drink my tap water?
You will be notified when tests show that the tap water is safe to drink. You may be asked to run water to flush the pipes in your home before using your tap water or be given other special instructions. Until you are notified, continue to boil all tap water for one minute before use.
What should I do if I become sick?
See your family physician or healthcare provider. Your doctor may call the Virginia Department of Health - Office of Drinking Water at (804) 864-7500 for information about the boil water notice. Your doctor should notify the local health department if he or she suspects your illness was caused by microorganisms in the water.
Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants. People with weakened immune systems, such as people with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplant patients, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, some elderly, and infants can be at greater risk from infections. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers. Guidelines on ways to reduce the risk of infection from microbiological contaminants are available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800) 426-4791.
Be sure to bring your water to a full rolling boil for one minute.
Boiling the water kills microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, or protozoans that can cause disease. Boiling makes the tap water microbiologically safe.
Bring tap water to a full rolling boil, let it boil for one minute, and let it cool before using.
When boiling water on the stovetop, use manageable-sized pots and do not overfill them. Place the pot on a rear burner if there are small children in the house. Let the water cool before transferring to another container.
Yes, tap water can be boiled in the microwave in a microwave-safe container, provided that the water reaches a full rolling boil for one minute. Place a microwave-safe utensil in the container to keep the water from superheating (heating above the boiling point without forming steam or bubbles).
Boiling Water for Consumption
Yes. Boil all of the tap water you use for making coffee, tea, mixed drinks, Kool-Aid or any beverage made with water. In addition, all tap water used for making ice for consumption must be boiled.
Yes. Only use boiled tap water or bottled water for mixing formula for your baby.
All tap water used in cooking must first be boiled for one minute, unless the cooking process involves boiling for one minute or more.
Yes. Boil all of the tap water you use for washing raw vegetables.
You can boil the tap water you give to the animals in your care. Your veterinarian can tell you if this precaution is necessary.
Boiling Water for Hygiene and Cleaning
No. It is not necessary to boil the tap water used for washing hands, and no special soaps are necessary. Be sure to scrub your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and rinse them well under running water.
If soap and water are not available, you may use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
There is no need to boil water for bathing or showering. Adults, teens, and older children, can shower or bathe, though they should avoid getting water in the mouth or swallowing the water. Infants and toddlers should be sponge bathed. No special soaps are necessary.
However, care should be taken to prevent water from getting into deep open or post-surgical wounds. Consult your physician or health care provider for wound care instructions.
Yes. Any tap water that might be swallowed should be boiled before use. Alternatively, you may use bottled water.
No. Wash and rinse the dishes as you normally would using hot water. Add a tablespoon of household bleach such as Clorox to a sink full of warm tap water and soak the rinsed dishes in the water for at least one minute. Allow dishes and utensils to air dry completely before reuse.
You may wash dishes in an electric dishwasher, but be sure to use it with its heating elements turned on. If your dishwasher reaches a final rinse temperature of at least 150 degrees Fahrenheit (66 degrees Celsius) or if it has a sanitizing cycle option, it is generally safe to use. If you are unsure if your dishwasher has these features, after a washing cycle, you may rinse your dishes in a sink full of warm tap water with a tablespoon of bleach added and air dry completely for extra precaution.
You may also opt to use disposable plates, cups, and utensils instead.
No. It is safe to wash clothes as usual.
Safety of Alternatives to Boiled Tap Water
Yes. Bottled water can be used for all of the situations where boiled tap water is recommended above. Be sure that the bottled water is from a reliable source.
Yes. Devices designed to improve the taste, odor, or chemical quality of the water, such as activated carbon filters, will not remove harmful microorganisms from the tap water. Boil the tap water to make sure it is safe.
No. Do not use water from any appliance connected to your water line, such as ice and water from a refrigerator. Only boiled or bottled water should be used for consumption.
No. You should only use water from an approved, tested source. Without routinely testing the water there is no way to know if the water is safe to drink.
In an emergency, boiling is the preferred method for making sure tap water is safe to drink. The following are acceptable alternatives if you cannot boil your tap water because of a power outage or loss of gas service:
• Use bottled water.
• Use liquid household bleach to disinfect tap water. The bleach product should be recently purchased, free of additives and scents, and should contain a hypochlorite solution of at least 5.25%. If the water is clear, add 8 drops of bleach (about ¼ teaspoon) to each gallon of water. Add twice the amount of bleach (16 drops, or ½ teaspoon) to each gallon if the water is cloudy. After adding bleach, the water should be stirred and allowed to stand for at least 30 minutes before use.
• Water purification tablets may also be used to disinfect tap water by following the manufacturer’s instructions.