How to Deal with a Boil Water Advisory

Just about any where you live has the potential to be affected by a boil water advisory — learn what they are and how to keep yourself protected from contaminated water so you and your family can stay safe during a boil order.

What is a Boil Order?

A boil water advisory, or boil order, means there could be potentially harmful contaminants in your water.  When this happens, and like its name might imply, a boil order is issued from the government or health authority — like your municipal water department —instructing residents to boil tap water before consuming. Water bureaus are constantly testing the water quality, and so as soon as an issue with water quality is detected, a boil water advisory will be issued to help protect residents.

What to Do During Boil Order

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in order to properly comply with a boil water advisory, water should be boiled at a full, rolling boil for at least one minute. If you live at altitude, or somewhere higher than 6,600 feet, water needs to be boiled for at least three minutes to make sure all bacteria, microorganisms, and other potentially-harmful contaminants are eliminated.

If you use tap water for rinsing produce, making coffee, tea, juices, ice cubes, or brushing your teeth, you’ll want to make sure you use water that has been boiled to make sure you’re fully protected from ingesting any contaminated water. Additionally, if you use a charcoal-based filter like a Brita pitcher, you’ll want to dispose of the cartridge, replace it with a brand new one, and thoroughly clean the pitcher before filling it — and make sure you use water that has been boiled, since charcoal filters are not equipped to filter out contaminants that boil orders are typically issued for.

When it comes to other activities involving water in your home, like showering or washing dishes, it is generally safe to go about your business as normal, provided you don’t ingest a lot of water during a shower. It’s safe to use your dishwasher if it has a hot or sanitize cycle, or the water temperature reaches at least 150 degrees. A good rule of thumb is to proceed normally unless there’s a chance water could be ingested, so bathing small children, for example would not be recommended since it can be hard to prevent children from ingesting bath water.

Why Do Boil Orders Occur?

Local water boards and municipalities may issue boil water advisories for a number of reasons, however the most common are loss of system pressure and sewage contamination. Sometimes water bureaus may issue boil orders out of an abundance of caution if there has been a system inconsistency, just to ensure the community’s safety.

How Long Does a Boil Water Advisory Last?

Most boil orders will last between one to two days (24-48 hours) however they could be extended depending on the reason for the boil order, and the effort involved to resolve the issue that caused it.

Your local water department will let you know when the issue has been resolved, and when it is safe to begin using your tap water normally again.

What To Do After the Boil Order is Lifted?

Water has a far-reaching impact in your home so once a boil order is lifted it’s important to make sure you’ve properly disinfected all affected areas. To do this effectively:

  • Run the dishwasher through an empty bleach or sanitizing cycle
  • Flush your water lines
  • Boil faucet screens
  • Boil water-using components and appliances including the coffeemaker, refrigerator water lines and ice maker, teakettle, and water pitcher filters.
  • Also change any water filters that may have come in contact with contaminated water like a refrigerator water filter or a pitcher filter.
  • Sanitize any other water filters or water softeners in your home.

If you have any other questions about what to do during a boil order, or how to manage your home and water appliances after, contact your local Culligan Denver for help.


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