Week 47: Bleach

2 gallons of Bleach

After this week, you should have 2 gallons stored. This is the program goal. This is the only week we address Bleach.

When the tap water stops flowing, Regular Clorox Bleach isn't just a laundry-aid any more, it's a lifesaver. Use it to purify water and you'll have something to drink. It's the same in any natural disaster. As the shock wears off and the days wear on, the biggest demand is for drinking water. Time after time, relief crews hand out free Clorox Bleach with simple instructions: "Use to kill bacteria in your water and you'll have purified water to drink."

So while bleach may make your clothes white, we don't care much about that right now. Instead, we are suggesting bleach for water purification and as a disinfecting purposes. So if you need more bleach for other uses, then by all means, store more.

To Purify Water:

If your water supply is not known to be safe or has become polluted, it should be purified before use. Water purification is generally a two-step process. Note that filtration is different than purification.

  1. Filter:

    • Cloudy or dirty water must first be made clear. It may be passed through filter paper, fine cloth, or some other filtration method. It may even be allowed to settle and then you can carefully draw the clear water on top. Filtered or clear settled water should always be disinfected before use.

  2. Purify:

    • Boiling Method- As suggested by the EPA, vigorous boiling for at least one minute (preferably more) will kill any disease causing microorganisms present in water (at altitudes above 5000 feet above sea level, boil for three to five minutes longer). Cover the pot to shorten boiling time and conserve fuel. The flat taste of boiled water can be improved by pouring it back and forth from one container to another (called aeration), by allowing it to stand in a closed container for a few hours, or by adding a small pinch of salt for each quart of water boiled.

    • Bleach Method- While boiling is the preferred method of disinfecting water, it is not always practical. Fuel might be in short supply or you may not have the means to boil at all. In this case, chemical disinfection should be used. Most emergency experts and health officials suggest that a mixture of 8 drops of fresh liquid household chlorine bleach (usually 6% sodium hypochlorite) to a gallon of generally clear water will kill most microorganisms. Based on environment or cloudiness of the water, you may want to change the quantity of drops to 16 per gallon of cloudy or murky water. Common household bleach contains a chlorine compound that will disinfect water. The treated water should be mixed thoroughly and allowed to stand, preferably covered, for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight chlorine odor; if not, repeat the dosage and allow the water to stand for an additional 15 minutes. If the treated water has too strong a chlorine taste, it can be made more pleasing by allowing the water to stand exposed to the air for a few hours or by pouring it from one clean container to another several times. Only household bleach without thickeners, scents, or additives should be used. The use of bleach does not address toxic contamination.

For more information on water treatment methods, including the difference between filtration and purification, please refer back to our very first food storage module which was on water.

For General Disinfecting (cleaning):

If using bleach to clean, you will use a much stronger concentration, but be aware that bleach emits potentially lethal fumes, so it should never be used full-strength. When using bleach as a disinfectant, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following to disinfect hard, nonporous surfaces at home:

  1. Create a bleach solution using 1/3 cup Clorox Regular-Bleach per gallon of water

  2. Wash, wipe or rinse items/area with water, then apply solution

  3. Let stand 5 minutes

  4. Rinse thoroughly and air dry

  5. Discard any unused Solution

Chlorine bleach solution begins to lose its disinfectant power quickly when exposed to heat, sunlight, and evaporation. In order to be sure your solution is still strong enough to kill germs, you should mix a fresh batch each day and discard whatever amount you don't use at the end of the day.

So to Recap: (Rule of Thumb only)

  • To purify water: Use 8 drops of bleach per gallon of water

  • To disinfect (clean): Use 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water

Page updated: 10/27/20