Food News

How Long Do You Actually Need to Boil Tap Water?

September 25, 2017

Ever wondered how long you needed to boil tap water in order to render it potable? How many minutes of rolling bubbles are required to kill the germs in the water from one’s faucet? Well, wonder no more, because the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has put an end to all our inquiries.

It began with a little baiting. The CDC tweeted a poll, asking its followers how long they thought water should be boiled before consumption. An overwhelming majority of poll-takers (42 percent) erred on the side of caution and shot high, assuming that water needed a hefty ten minute boil to clear it of any harmful germs.

But a response tweet by the CDC clued us in to what only a measly ten percent of poll takers expected: that water needs to be boiled for only one minute to be considered safe to drink. This doesn’t mean, however, that the whole process takes a minute. Only when the water is brought to a boil does the one minute timer begin. Thus, the whole process might take something more like five or ten minutes.

The information is particularly useful for people under boil water advisory—whose tap water might be unfit to drink due to natural or man-made disasters and disease outbreaks. And while many of us, myself included, never think twice about drinking from the faucet, the same can't be said for certain communities across the country. Just this week, parts of New Orleans were placed under boil water advisory and residents were warned to avoid drinking tap water without first treating it.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Talltexan
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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.

11 Comments

Talltexan October 27, 2021
I moved to an area where the tap water should be on constant boil alert. After trying several times over as many days, I finally gave up on tasting the tap water, and begin to boil it for making tea/coffee, and drinking. My experience now has me timing my water boil to 5 minutes full on boil. It removes all the chlorine, and turns that sewer water smell into a nice refreshing drink. (Note: I am still working on language to send to the water district here. Corrective suggestions, but to not offend. A middle of the road approach should fix both problems. Educating the water district, and getting the water more palatable.
 
amare'squest223 June 4, 2021
I left around 15-16 mins just to be safe.
 
Beto G. September 29, 2018
Just to be on the safe side, after it reaches boiling point I leave it for at least 10min, sometimes 15min.
 
Summer R. January 27, 2020
That’s very stupid.... Once it’s boiled anything in it IS DEAD.... it doesn’t need to be boiled for 10 minutes. Your just waisting electricity
 
amare'squest223 June 4, 2021
No its is perfect timing
 
BerryBaby September 29, 2017
I guess just out of habit I ususlly wait about five minutes after the water boils to add pasta or whatever. Honestly, never gave it thought. Good to know!
 
Karen H. September 28, 2017
This was the seventh boil water advisory in the twelve years since Katrina in New Orleans! It's gotta stop!
 
isw September 28, 2017
It's important to remember, if you're worried about your water because of contamination by something like a flood, that boiling only kills (most of the) live organisms. It does not purify water which could contain all sorts of other toxins, either organic or inorganic.
 
Negative N. September 26, 2017
I've been drinking tap water for years without boiling it.
 
Onyenakazi C. May 20, 2021
Have you had any issues related to typhoid since you began drinking tap water till date?
 
Negative N. May 20, 2021
Nope