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Water Safety

Using water at home during a boil water advisory

When there’s a boil water advisory, your tap water isn’t safe to drink or use as usual. The following information tells you how to be careful with water during an advisory and what to do when the advisory ends. See Boiling and storing water to learn how to make your water safe to drink.

​​Drinking water and preparing food

During a boil water advisory, take these precautions:

  • Don't use tap water for drinking, preparing food (including washing vegetables and cooking rice), making juice, or preparing baby formula.
  • Don’t use any ice, filtered water, drinks, or food that was made with tap water. Throw it all away.
  • Don't use a home water filter to try to make your water safe. Home water filters can’t safely treat contaminated water.
  • Don't give your pets tap water to drink.
  • Don't use tap water for a pod-style coffee maker.
  • Use a drip coffee maker only if it heats water to high temperatures.

Cleaning surfaces and washing dishes

During a boil water advisory, any surfaces that touch food—such as counters, dishes, and cutting boards—must be washed with soap and water, rinsed, and then sanitized.

To sanitize counters after you wash them, add 5 millilitres (1 teaspoon) of unscented liquid chlorine bleach (5.25%) to 1 litre of bottled or cooled boiled water. Use the mixture to spray or wipe the counter.

To sanitize dishes after washing them:

  1. Add 10 millilitres (2 teaspoons) of liquid unscented chlorine bleach (5.25%) to 5 litres of tap water in an empty sink. Don't add soap.
  2. Soak the dishes for 2 minutes.
  3. Take the dishes out of the sink and let them air dry.

It’s safe to use tap water for laundry and cleaning surfaces that don’t touch food, such as walls or floors. It’s also safe to use a dishwasher on either the high-heat setting or the sanitize cycle.

Bathing and cleaning your body

Here’s what to know about bathing and cleaning yourself during a boil water advisory:

  • Don't use tap water to brush your teeth—use bottled water or boiled water instead.
  • You can use tap water to shower and bathe. Watch small children closely to make sure they don't drink the water. But don't use tap water to fill a wading pool, play areas, or water play tables.
  • ​You can use tap water to wash your hands. Always use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol after you wash your hands with soap and tap water.

Taking precautions after the advisory ends

Here’s how to flush, clean, and sanitize areas that have contact with water after the boil water advisory ends:

  • Turn on all taps and flush water lines for at least 5 minutes (10 minutes if you live in an apartment building).
  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for flushing, cleaning, and sanitizing cisterns (containers that store drinking water), water filters, and ice and water dispensers.
  • Drain and refill hot-water tanks that are set below 45ºC.
  • Run water softeners through a regeneration cycle. Follow the instructions from the manufacturer.

​​More information

Learn more about safety during a boil water advisory from Alberta Health Services Environmental Public Health​

Current as of: July 6, 2022

Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services