How to Disinfect by Boiling Water

The heat from boiling kills most harmful organisms.
The heat from boiling kills most harmful organisms. (Image: boiling water 2 image by Christopher Hall from

Whether you need safe drinking water or to disinfect an item, the boiling water method kills most germs. The heat from boiling kills all forms of bacteria, viruses, yeast and fungi, advises John Hopkins University, though there are some disease-causing organisms that may survive the process. Water begins boiling at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, but the length of time the water is boiled is just as vital as its temperature.

Things You'll Need

  • Cheesecloth
  • Pot
  • Lid

Fill a large kettle or pot with water. If there is sediment in the water, pour the water through a sheet of cheesecloth and into the pot. The cheesecloth will strain out the sediment.

Place the items that require disinfecting in the water, if applicable. Be there is enough water to cover the items with at least 1 inch of liquid.

Place the lid on top the pot. Bring the water to a rapid boil over medium-high to high heat.

Boil water for three minutes to disinfect it for drinking or cooking. Boil items in the water for 20 minutes to disinfect them.

Remove items from the water immediately--do not leave them to cool down in the water. Allow drinking water to cool to room temperature in a covered pot before using.

Tips & Warnings

  • Store the disinfected water in sterilized jugs until you are ready to use it.
  • Boiled water may taste stale. Shake the water in a closed container before drinking to help improve the flavor. Shaking reintroduces the air molecules that were lost during the boiling process.
  • Do not boil plastic or other objects that may melt or warp.

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