A boil water advisory can be issued under a number of circumstances from natural disasters, like in the aftermath of hurricanes and winter storms, to sudden emergencies like a water main break.
The notices are issued when an area's water is, or could be, contaminated with bacteria that could make you sick.
Boiling kills disease-causing organisms, including viruses, bacteria and parasites.
You'll want to boil water before you do anything that involves human consumption, such as drinking, cooking, and brushing your teeth.
The following information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here are some common questions and answers about boil water advisories.
What should I do if a boil water advisory is in effect?
If you have bottled water available for drinking and to prepare and cook food, you can use that. But if bottled water isn't available, it's advised you:
- Bring water to a full rolling boil for 1 minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for three minutes)
- Allow the water to cool before use
- Boil tap water, even if it is filtered
- Don't 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 that's available
Note that many cities and communities surrounding the Houston area said you can boil the water for at least two minutes.
Is it safe to brush my teeth?
Only brush teeth with boiled or bottled water. Do not use untreated tap water.
What about hand washing under a boil water notice?
- In many situations, you can use tap water and soap to wash your hands. Still, follow the guidance of your local health officials.
- Make sure you scrub your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Rinse hands well under running water.
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Is it safe to bathe and shower?
You can use the water for bathing and showering, but you must be careful not to swallow it. Use extra caution when bathing babies and young children. Consider giving them a sponge bath instead.
Can I wash dishes and laundry under a boil order?
According to the CDC, it is safe to wash clothes as usual. But you'll need to follow a few more guidelines for 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 (65.55 degrees Celcius), or if the dishwasher has a sanitizing cycle
What if I need to clean?
Use bottled water, boiled water, or water that has been disinfected with bleach to clean washable toys and surfaces.
How do I care for my pets under a boil order?
Provide bottled or boiled water after it has been cooled for pets. Why? Because they can get sick by some of the same germs as people or pets can even spread germs to people.
You'll need to follow the order until your local health or city officials have deemed it safe to end it and resume consumption.