Friday, September 10, 2010

Praxis: Treating drinking water with pool chlorine.

Doc set up his medical kit and supplies in the hallway, under a stairway to the roof. He placed things so he would have easy access to the wide variety ofr medicines, drugs, and supplies he had brought along. One item that surprised me was a five gallon plastic can of chlorine powder purchased from a pool supply store in northern Virginia. When I asked, Doc explained, "Chlorine is the best single thing to bring on any trip like this. We can use it to purify drinking water, keep the toilet and shower area sanitary, and put it on our feet after a shower to kill athlete's foot." "Can we really use swimming pool chlorine in our water?" I asked. "Oh, yes," said Doc, smiling. "Many towns in the United States chlorinate their public water supply. But you need only a tiny amount in the bottle to purify the water." I learned later that Doc's idea of a "tiny amount" resulted in a mixture that was strong enough to chlorinate all the swimming pools in Northern Virginia for an entire summer. -- First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan by Gary C. Schroen, p. 89.

Better than Bleach: Use Calcium Hypochlorite to Disinfect Water

Many ourdoorsmen, survivalists, and households preparing for emergency disasters rely upon common household bleach as a disinfecting agent to make water safe to drink.

Bleach will destroy most (but NOT all!) disease causing organisms (boiling water to make it safe to drink is always the best method).

What is not well known is Calcium Hypochlorite is far better for chemically disinfecting water.

Old Way: Using Bleach to Disinfect Water

I cringe to think how many people have expired bleach in their disaster emergency kits that will be used for treating polluted water.

Those of us who have emergency preparedness stocks of survival food and survival gear often keep a gallon or two of unscented household bleach on hand for making safe drinking water in large quantities. Bleach is often the chemical of choice because it is commonly available and frequently mentioned when discussing the how-to’s of drinking water.

calcium hypochlorite bleach
calcium hypochlorite - bleach

Typical fresh household chlorine bleach has about 5.35% chlorine content (be sure to read the label). To use household bleach for disinfecting water:

  1. Add two drops of bleach per quart or liter of water.
  2. Stir it well.
  3. Let the mixture stand for a half hour before drinking.

If the water is cloudy with suspended particles:

  • First filter the water as best you can.
  • Double the amount of bleach you add to the water.

Why Using Bleach to Disinfect Contaminated Water is a Problem

A little known problem with long term storage of bleach in your disaster emergency supply cache is that it degrades over time. Consulting a Chlorox bleach representative produced this statement:

“We recommend storing our bleach at room temperatures. It can be stored for about 6 months at temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. After this time, bleach will be begin to degrade at a rate of 20% each year until totally degraded to salt and water. Storing at temperatures much higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit could cause the bleach to lose its effectiveness and degrade more rapidly. However, if you require 6% sodium hypochlorite, you should change your supply every 3 months.”

I cringe to think how many people have expired bleach in their disaster emergency kits that will be used for treating polluted water. Even what are considered reliable sources of information such as the EPA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA will show you how to use bleach to disinfect water but will leave out this exceedingly important piece of information.

This is why I created Survival Topics – to give you the real information you need to survive.

So if bleach is unreliable for long term storage in emergency preparedness kits then what other commonly available chemical methods of disinfecting water are there? As it turns out a better solution is easily available.

Use Calcium Hypochlorite for Disinfect Water

A 1-pound pag of calcium hypochlorite in granular form will treat up to 10,000 gallons of drinking water

Calcium hypochlorite is one of the best chemical disinfectants for water, better than household bleach by far. It destroys a variety of disease causing organisms including bacteria, yeast, fungus, spores, and viruses.

Calcium Hypochlorite is widely available for use as swimming pool chlorine tablets or white powder that is much more stable than chlorine. This is often known as “pool shock”.

How to Disinfect Water Using Calcium Hypochlorite

Using granular calcium hypochlorite to disinfect water is a two step process.

  1. To make a stock of chlorine solution (do not drink this!) dissolve 1 heaping teaspoon (about one-quarter of an ounce) of high-test (78%) granular calcium hypochlorite for each two gallons (eight liters) of water.
  2. To disinfect water add one part of the chlorine solution to 100 parts water to be treated.
  3. Let the mixture sit for at least one-half hour before drinking.

Be sure to obtain the dry granular calcium hypochlorite since once it is made into a liquid solution it will begin to degrade and eventually become useless as a disinfecting agent. This also means you should make your treated drinking water in small batches, for example enough for a few weeks at a time at most.

Another plus for using calcium hypochlorite to disinfect water for emergency use is that a little goes a very long way. A 1-pound pag of calcium hypochlorite in granular form typically costs only a few $US dollars and can be obtained in any swimming pool supply section of your hardware store or online. This amount will treat up to 10,000 gallons of drinking water, which is enough for a family of four for some six or seven years at a gallon per day per person!

Calcium hypochlorite will store for a long period of time and remain effective as a chemical drinking water treatment. So get rid of the household bleach and buy a can of Calcium hypochlorite for your disaster emergency water disinfection needs. It lasts far longer and treats far more water than the traditional chlorine bleach water disinfection treatment.

Another how-to from">eHow.

How to Treat Cistern Drinking Water With Pool Chlorine

Using pool chlorine to disinfect water from a cistern is an easy way to make safe drinking water. This is especially true if the cistern collects rain water because rain water is already fairly clean. The best form of pool chlorine for disinfecting drinking water is granulated calcium hypochlorite, a solid chemical. This form is optimal because it is easy to work with and spills are easy to clean up. Using a liquid form of pool chlorine is much more difficult and dangerous and is not advisable.

Difficulty: Moderately Easy


Things You'll Need:

  • Two capped containers
  • Granular calcium hypochlorite
  • Measuring spoon
  1. 1

    Mix 1/8 oz. granular calcium hypochlorite per gallon of water in one of the containers. Calcium hypochlorite contains about 70 percent available chlorine by weight, making this mixture about a 500 mg/L chlorine solution. You will now have a stock chlorine solution for disinfecting drinking water.

  2. 2

    Mix the stock chlorine solution with the water to be disinfected in a different container at a 1 to 100 ratio. This is about equal to 6.5 oz. of chlorine solution for every five gallons of water you are disinfecting.

  3. 3

    Make the container safe to pour or drink from by loosening the cap enough to let a small amount of water out and turning the container upside down. Make sure the chlorinated water drips out and coats all of the threads or indentations on both the container and the cap. Let the water sit for at least 30 minutes before drinking.


Anonymous said...

Very on topic and to the point.
Thanks Dutchman!

-Bubba Man (One of the Bubbas of the Apocalypse)

Loren said...

Chlorine does leave nasties in the water--it destroys organisms, but leaves fragments of proteins and other stuff that's not what the body understands how to work with.

Best to keep a Brita pitcher or something too, for drinking. If you get one that'll take out the chlorine too, it'll improve the taste.

Bad Cyborg said...

Reading these articles makes me REALLY glad my bolthole has an artesian well. Definitely have to put back a store of calcium hypochlorite as a backup, though. Might have to use river water (Rio Grande del Norte is close by) if well develops problems.

Also have to drop link to that website in my teotwawki folder.

Thanks, Michael, and tip of the outback hat to you.

Bad Cyborg X

Mark Matis said...

Of course, those of us who do our own laundry and actually sometimes bleach our white clothes do have a rotating supply of laundry bleach on hand that is unlikely to expire in the practical future. If we do indeed go back to "caveman" days for years, then all bets are off. However, unless the human race drops below a million people, that scenario is not likely. EMP, you say? Well, that would probably take out all transistor-based electronics or anything smaller. But EMP wouldn't have done much to the post-WWII world. And they had a LOT of mechanized stuff and electronic (tube) stuff at that time. I won't necessarily miss not being able to watch The View. And I doubt that I'd be too uncomfortable in a 1950s era civilization.

Anonymous said...

I had posted this article about calcium hypoclorite and had this response;
"Don't do it. I speak from experience. Sure, there's a lot of chlorine available in a pool shock kit containing powdered calcium hypochlorite. Sure, there are recipies that tell you how to make a dilute bleach with the chlorine powder. They are written by people who don't know what they are talking about.

The powdered chlorine doesn't store worth crap. It is unstable, and dangerous. Even in a cool, dark, 50-odd degree basement, in less than a year the powdered chlorine will attack its own bag. It will get brittle and swell up as the powder decomposes. Put it in a plastic container or bag, and in a few months it will decompose enough chlorine gas to be a real hazard should you get a whiff.

I thought I was going to cough out a hunk of lung. I felt like I wanted to. Don't do it. Store a gallon or three of bleach if you want to disinfect water, and rotate it through your laundry so it never gets more than a year or two old. Leave the pool shock powdered chlorine to the fools who talk but don't know."

Flight-ER-Doc said...

Good idea. I store my pool shock chlorine in lab grade Nalgene bottles - the stuff is very reactive (a strong corrosive oxidizer) and will gas out chlorine sitting on the shelf. Keep it away from petrochemicals, acids, and other chemicals. The plastic bag it comes in is NOT a good container, and storing it in metal containers will just turn it all into a rusty mess.

The Nalgene bottles will keep it dry and away from other chemicals. The ones to use are like these: I'm not sure about the lexan bottles, but these are cheaper anyway.

You can also use smaller nalgene bottles to hold the chlorine stock solution. A grease pencil (china marker) will work on the bottles to mark the date the solution was made. Since just a little will make a LOT of chlorine to treat, a pound or two goes a long way.

Mark Matis said...

And for those of us with shallow-well sprinkler systems, a pitcher pump:
will give you all the water you want, even in case of EMP. A couple of these should keep a fairly large neighborhood supplied if you're in friendly territory. Of course, you'll definitely want to sterilize the water, but it beats dippin' out of puddles or hopin' the cistern fills, even here in Florida.

Dedicated_Dad said...

More .gov idiocy...

.gov "max" for drinking water is 14ppm.

For pool water? 3ppm

Think on that for a min...

I prefer "PUR" packets but keep the calcium hypo as well...

Kilo9 said...

Very good info. I've always used household bleach, but I'm going to the hardware store tomorrow to get some pool shock before they pack it away for the winter.

Einherjar said...

Another use for Calcium Hypochlorite is as a time delay campfire starter.

I picked up a book called "Ecodefence: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching" at a local yard sale a couple of months ago. It's a basically a training manual for Earth First type eco-terrorists. Buncha flakes.

But, just like I'll read books on tactics and techniques from military groups I personally despise, I'll throw out the propaganda and just learn the skills.

Back to the campfire starting...

If you mix approximately equal parts of Calcium Hypochlorite and a petroleum based, flammable, gel (vaseline, grease, Score hair gel, etc) the Calcium Hypochlorite will vigorously begin to oxidize the gel and eventually cause it to ignite.

Depending on the mix ratio the reaction time to get to the flame stage can be from 4-5 minutes. If the timing of the ignition is important to you you should test the timing in advance. More Calcium Hypochlorite and the faster the ignition, the more gel the longer the delay (along with the risk of poor ignition).

So back to watching "Stalag 17". I was just getting to the Frankfurt train station scene. That was a good idea Lt Dunbar had there. ;->



Chapter Twelve: Fire Attacks

There are five kinds of fire attacks:

One, burning personnel;
two, burning provisions;
three, burning equipment;
four, burning stores;
five, burning weapons.

David Hamel said...

Calcium hypochlorite is hypergolic (spontaneously ignite when they come into contact) with diethylene glycol (brake fluid.)

Time delay is approximately 30 seconds at room temperature, longer at lower temperatures.

Anonymous said...

"The powdered chlorine doesn't store worth crap. It is unstable, and dangerous. Even in a cool, dark, 50-odd degree basement, in less than a year the powdered chlorine will attack its own bag."

My *PUR* Clean Drinking Water Kit contains calcium hypoclorite. The "floc" has a three-year shelf life, if the box label can be believed.

So far, the stuff shows no inclination to "attack its own bag." It's a good thing I didn't store in in a cool, dark basement, eh? :^)


Anonymous said...

Yikes! I am wrong twice in one post.

According to the EPA, "calcium hypochlorite is highly reactive to heat and moisture, and must be stored in a cool, dry place."*

Also, floc is not a water purifier. I causes cloudy water to clear.

Now I will go put on my hair shirt and sleep in the cold, dark basement with my calcium hypochlorite. :^(


Anonymous said...

It's a poor day indeed when you don't learn at least one new thing.

Thanks, Mike, for the post.

B Woodman

Mark Matis said...

Interesting info there from David Hamel...

Bad Cyborg said...

David Hamel wrote: "Calcium hypochlorite is hypergolic (spontaneously ignite when they come into contact) with diethylene glycol (brake fluid.)"

Does the reaction require the diethelene form or does the ethelene form (antifreeze) react as well. Seems like those two could form the basis of a nice, delayed reaction incendiary device. I always liked the idea of hypergolic compounds. Worked in missile comm. for Titan II for a few years. Problem with the propellants in Titan II was that both were seriously toxic. Oxidizer was nitrogen tetroxide (red-fuming nitric acid), fuel was hydrazine/unsymmetrical dimethyl-hydrazine mix. Oxidizer was toxic at 5ppm. Fuel was toxic at .5 ppm. Sniffers on complex went off at 5 ppm. If the sniffers went off for fuel your best bet was to hold your breath and run like hell! Did I mention that the fuel was 1st cousin to NERVE GAS!? AND that it is odorless and colorless?

Bad Cyborg X

Anonymous said...

I keep one of these
in my bug-out bag...

The best form of iodine for water purification seems to be USP-grade resublimated iodine crystals. The crystals "sublime" from a solid to a gaseous state without passing through a liquid phase in between. A small pinch of iodine crystals (4-8 grams) can be re-used almost indefinitely for water purification.

Anonymous said...

I have LOTS of glass Mason jars to store my calcium hypochlorite when I get some. ANd to prevent the metal ring and lid from being attacked, I have some firm plastic I cut into circles to fit the size of the lid.

I store my table salt the same way. In the cool dry basement. No problems.

B Woodman

Unknown said...

Portable water treatment systems are sophisticated machinery which produces drinkable water, which is safe for both humans and animals