Drinking? Showering? What to do during a boil water advisory

Boil water advisory. (WDIV)

More than 130,000 residents in Southeast Michigan are dealing with what could be a lengthy boil water advisory after a major water main break.

Here’s what to do during a boil water advisory, according to the CDC:

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

  • Clean washable toys and surfaces with:
    Bottled water,
    Boiled water, or
    Water that has been disinfected with bleach [PDF – 1 page].

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.

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.