Water Disinfection

Backpacking Green Mountain, August 2010


Liquid Chrlorine Bleach

Using Clorox® Regular-Bleach to disinfect water: When boiling water is not practical, water can be made potable by using Clorox® Regular-Bleach. Before the addition of the disinfectant, remove all suspended material by filtration or by allowing it to settle to the bottom. Decant the clarified contaminated water to a clean container and add 8 drops of Clorox® Regular-Bleach to one gallon of water (2 drops to 1 quart). Allow the treated water to stand for 30 minutes. Properly treated water should have a slight chlorine odor. If not, repeat dosage and allow water to stand an additional 15 minutes. The treated water can then be made palatable by pouring it between clean containers for several times. For cloudy water, use 16 drops of Clorox® Regular-Bleach per gallon of water (4 drops to 1 quart). If no chlorine odor is apparent after 30 minutes, repeat dosage and wait an additional 15 minutes. Do not use scented or Splash-less Clorox® Bleaches for this purpose.

Source: The Clorox website.

Disinfectants based on iodine crystals and tablets are available. These may add a noticable taste.

Tablets are also available, e.g., Redi Chlor, for chlorine disinfection.


Boiling kills most types of disease-carrying organism but does not remove particulate matter. It also consumes fuel, so unless you are using your camp fire, you'll pack estra weight to use this method.


Depending on the type of filter, filtration can remove a variety of organisms and particulate matter. There are many options available across a variety of flow rates, filtration effectiveness and price. Be prepared to carry extra weight for all but the single-serving variety.

Ultraviolet Light

Long used in industrial water disinfection, UV light has come to the campout. The SteriPEN Safe Water Pack combines filtration and UV light disinfection for purification one bottle at a time, providing one of the most expensive water purification methods yet. See the article in Boy's Life for a more complete description.


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