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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Health


What Does a Boil Order Mean?

Karma Metzgar, C.F.C.S., Northwest Regional Director, Nodaway County Extension Center, University of Missouri Extension


Nearly every day one can listen to the radio and hear of a community or section of a county that has been placed under a boil order. What does this mean? Usually I’m glad it’s somewhere else and doesn’t affect me; however, the City of Maryville recently experienced several days of a boil order and it did directly affect me. We were getting a lot of questions at the office.

So, you may not be under a boil order now or are not even anticipating that you will be; but, at some point, you may need to know the following information with very little notice. So, clip this article and put it where you’ll know where to find it - inside a cupboard door, in a file marked “boil order information” or add to your refrigerator décor. If you have questions, another resource is your local health department which has been a resource for information for this article.

So, why a boil order? Usually it’s a result of flooding (or other natural disaster), broken water lines, or pumping difficulties. When this happens, there is contaminated water which can cause many illnesses.

What do you do next? Boil water? Yes…but there are some specifics about handling water and other water products in your home. Here are some steps to put into action.

First, boil water vigorously for three minutes prior to use. Use only boiled water for drinking, diluting fruit juices, and all other food preparation. To improve the flavor of the flat taste of boiled water, store in the refrigerator and pour back and forth from one clean and sanitized container to another. Put a cup over your faucets as a reminder to not use untreated water - even to brush your teeth!

Water could also be disinfected rather than boiled. To disinfect water intended for drinking or cooking, add one teaspoon unscented chlorine laundry bleach for every five gallons of water. Let stand for 30 minutes before using. Be sure to use sanitized food grade containers for storing water.

To disinfect water storage containers, pour a solution of one tablespoon of unscented chlorine bleach to a gallon of water into a container. Let the solution remain in the container for 10 minutes, then pour out the solution. Rinse with purified water. Add boiled or disinfected water. Store for up to six months.

Next, dispose of ice cubes and do not use ice from a household automatic icemaker. Then, you will need to disinfect dishes and other food contact surfaces by immersion for at least one minute in water that contains one teaspoon of unscented household bleach per gallon of water. Allow surfaces to air dry. Some have asked about using a household dishwasher but there are too many variables for this to be recommended for use. Disposable tableware is an option and is much simpler.

The health department also recommends having a “sanitizing rinse” to wash hands. Again use the one teaspoon of unscented chlorine bleach per gallon of water and rinse hands frequently by pouring the rinse over the hands. Air dry or use a paper towel.

Finally, water used for bathing does not generally need to be boiled. Supervision of children is necessary while bathing or using backyard pools so water is not ingested. Persons with cuts or severe rashes may wish to consult with their physicians.

I like to be prepared and hope I don’t need my emergency “boil order” kit. So, why don’t you gather a day or two’s supply of paper tableware, including gallon size plastic bags which can be mixing and serving bowls, paper towels, and a container of unscented chlorine bleach. You might also have some bottled water that you rotate every six months so you’ll have a fresh supply if you need it.






Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009




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