Can I Wash Clothes During a Boil Water Advisory Your Top 10 FAQs Answered

Can I Wash Clothes During a Boil Water Advisory? Your Top 10 FAQs Answered

A boil water advisory can leave you with many questions about what you can and cannot do with your home’s water. Should you wash clothes using the water supply that’s under the boil water advisory? Is the washing machine safe to use? What about washing dishes or taking showers using a water supply under the boil water advisory? This guide will answer your top 10 frequently asked questions about boil water advisories so you know exactly when to boil for at least one minute and when to allow the water to cool before use.

What is a Boil Water Advisory and Why is it Issued?

A boil water advisory also called a boil water notice, is issued by local health or environmental authorities when tests show bacterial contamination in the public water system or when conditions make contamination likely. Most boil advisories last a few days to a week until testing confirms that boiling the water for at least 1 minute makes the tap water safe again.

Boil water advisories aim to protect public health by ensuring people do not ingest water that may contain disease-causing microbes like E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, viruses, parasites, or other bacteria and infectious diseases. Contamination of the water supply can occur due to water line breaks, equipment failures at water treatment plants, flooding and heavy rains, or other issues.

During a boil notice, residents are asked to boil tap water to a full roll before use for drinking, brushing teeth, washing fruits and vegetables, preparing baby formula, making ice, or any ingestion, and allow the water to cool before use. Boiling the water for at least one minute kills bacteria and other microbes which could cause illness. Advisories also include guidance on showers, laundry, washing dishes, pets, and more.

Washing Clothes During a Boil Water Advisory: A Complete Guide

Boiling water advisory got you stumped about laundry? Fear not, for this comprehensive guide navigates the murky waters of washing clothes during these temporary sanitation hiccups. We’ll dive deep into safety considerations, alternative options, and expert tips to ensure your delicates are squeaky clean, not contaminated.

Can I Wash Clothes? The Short Answer:

Generally, yes. But a responsible rinse-and-repeat requires additional information:

Advisory Type:

  • Boil: Washing is usually safe, with precautions.
  • Do Not Use: Avoid all water contact, including laundry.


  • Bacteria/viruses: Hot water cycles (60°C+) significantly reduce risk.
  • Chemicals: Refer to specific guidance from authorities.

Safety First: Key Precautions:

  • No “Do Not Use”: If it exists, laundry goes on hold.
  • Hot Water: Choose hot water cycles whenever possible.
  • Thorough Drying: Completely dry clothes before wearing.
  • Discoloration Warning: Turbid water might stain whites. Use pre-treatments or color-safe detergents.
  • Water Conservation: If scarcity’s the issue, prioritize essentials and explore water-saving options.

Beyond the Basics: Alternative Approaches:

  • Handwashing: Use hot water and appropriate detergents. Thorough rinsing and drying are crucial.
  • Laundromats: Check if they have their water source, like wells, unaffected by the advisory.
  • Postpone Washing: If possible, wait until the advisory lifts for peace of mind.

Bonus Expert Tips:

  • Stay Informed: Follow official updates from local authorities for the latest information and specific instructions.
  • Double-Check Labels: Verify if any clothes require cold water washing, avoiding hot cycle risks.
  • Clean the Machine: After the advisory lifts, run a hot water cycle with cleaning vinegar to remove potential contaminants.

Can I Use the Washing Machine During a Boil Advisory?

Yes, you can run the washing machine even when under a boil notice, unless authorities explicitly prohibit it. The exception would be if you have a washing machine that connects directly to your home water line to fill instead of using a separate basin.

Washing clothes in a standard washing machine is considered safe because most boil water advisories focus on water used for drinking, cooking, bathing, and hygiene where ingestion may occur.

However, there are a few precautions to take:

  • Wash small loads so plenty of water remains for other essential uses
  • Avoid washing whites and light colors as tap water may discolor or stain them
  • Add a disinfectant like bleach to the wash cycle
  • Run an extra rinse cycle to remove more contaminants
  • Wash hands thoroughly after handling dirty laundry

Following these tips reduces the very low risks of exposure during laundering. Hang drying clothes is also recommended to avoid contaminating your dryer.

Should I Use Bottled Water to Wash Clothes?

Using bottled water for washing clothes is not necessary. The amount needed to handwash or run most standard washing machines would be impractical. Exceptions are for special clothing like delicates or medical scrubs requiring sterile conditions.

Tap water is fine for laundering when basic precautions are followed, like adding bleach and doing an extra rinse cycle. The wash and rinse temperatures work to kill bacteria in clothing. The only risk is potential staining from sediment, minerals, or microbes in non-boiled water. But for most laundry, this is an affordable option.

Can I Wash Dishes in the Dishwasher During a Boil Notice?

Dishwashers are generally considered safe to use during boil water advisories if you follow a few rules:

  • Ensure your dishwasher has a high heat drying or sanitizing cycle that reaches 150°F or higher
  • Use a disinfectant like bleach or sanitizer tablets
  • Make sure dishes are completely dry before removing them
  • Do not use taps connected directly to your water line; use a separate basin to fill if needed
  • Handwash non-dishwasher safe items with boiled, bottled, or disinfected water

High heat dishwasher cycles allow dishes to reach temperatures that kill bacteria. Adding bleach provides extra disinfection. Fully drying dishes prevents recontamination. Handwashing is still advised for baby bottles, cutting boards, etc. Avoid water-supplying air gap fixtures next to sinks during an advisory.

Is It Safe to Bathe, Shower, or Wash Hands During a Boil Notice?

Bathing, showering, handwashing, and other good hygiene habits should continue during a boil water advisory. Purel or antibacterial soap is also safe if water ingestion is avoided. The advisory focuses on water uses with a risk of consuming or ingesting pathogens.

To stay clean and reduce contamination risks:

  • Take quick showers instead of baths with less water swallowed
  • Keep your mouth closed while bathing and avoid swallowing water
  • Supervise small children closely to ensure they do not ingest water
  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with boiled, bottled, or disinfected water after bathing
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol

Practicing caution prevents microbes from entering your mouth and making you sick if tap water contains bacteria. Baths do pose a higher risk, especially for infants, so stick to fast showers. Disinfecting or boiling water used for handwashing kills pathogens after contact with bare skin.

Can I Use Water Filters During a Boil Advisory?

Some water filters like pitcher filters, faucet filters, refrigerator filters, and whole house filters can be used during boil water notices, but they have limitations:

  • Not all filters remove bacteria and viruses – Only certified microbiological purifiers can fully disinfect water. Other filters mainly reduce sediment, minerals, smell, taste.
  • Filters must be properly maintained – Outdated cartridges allow contaminants through. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for replacing cartridges.
  • Filtered water still needs precautions – Use filtered water only for washing hands, laundry, or bathing where boiling isn’t practical. Use boiled water for consumption.

Check with your utility or public health office about the safety of specific filtration systems in use locally. Carefully maintained filters reduce particulates for tasks like showering but don’t always kill pathogens. Boiling remains most reliable for drinking water purity.

Is It Safe to Brush Your Teeth During a Boil Advisory?

You can continue brushing your teeth carefully during a boil notice, but take steps to avoid ingesting tap water, including:

  • Use boiled or bottled water to wet your toothbrush and rinse after brushing
  • Keep your mouth closed and avoid swallowing water while brushing
  • Consider using boiled or bottled water for young children to brush teeth
  • Rinse toothbrushes with boiled or bottled water after use
  • Avoid water jet or electric toothbrushes that could aerosolize bacteria

The same bacteria causing a boil advisory can stick around on your toothbrush bristles. Take precautions boiling water for rinsing and wetting brushes. Supervise brushing carefully for kids. Standard brushes are safer than water spraying models. Practice good hygiene to limit microbes entering the mouth.

Is Tap Water Safe for Pets to Drink During Boil Notices?

No, pets should not drink unboiled tap water during boil advisories. Dogs, cats, reptiles, barnyard animals, and other pets and livestock can get sick from bacteria, parasites, viruses, or other contaminants triggering the notice.

To keep pets safe:

  • Give pets bottled water or boiled then cooled tap water for the duration of an advisory
  • Avoid adding unboiled water to a pet’s bowl throughout your home
  • Prevent pets from drinking standing tap water in sinks, tubs, or toilets
  • Monitor livestock to ensure their main water sources are not contaminated

Sickened animals can also spread illnesses through germs in their stools or saliva. Keep pets away from puddles, streams, or groundwater possibly containing pathogens too. Boiling and cooling water first kills disease-causing microbes to protect furry friends.

Can I Make Coffee, Ice Cubes, Baby Formula, etc?

Avoid any tap water ingestion, if possible, when under a boil notice. Water used for drinking, cooking, making beverages, or mixing infant formula should be boiled for 1 full minute then cooled first. This includes:

  • Coffee, tea, juice, etc. made with water
  • Soups, boiled eggs, pasta water, etc. for cooking
  • Ice cubes from ice makers or trays
    *Baby formula prepared from powder
  • Pet food made with water
  • Any other consumption of unboiled water

Remember that disease-causing organisms triggering the advisory can survive refrigerator temperatures. So follow the “boil before use” guidance carefully. Either boil your tap water for a full rolling minute first, use bottled water, or drink canned or bottled beverages until authorities give the all-clear notice.

How Should I Disinfect Fruits, Vegetables, Utensils, and Kitchen Surfaces?

Proper disinfection is key to preventing spread of contamination throughout your home during an advisory:

  • Wash all fruits and vegetables with boiled, bottled, or disinfected water
  • Use a dilute bleach solution to sanitize utensils, cutting boards, sinks, and counters
  • Let dishes fully air dry before wiping with a dry cloth to avoid recontamination
  • Soak plates, bowls, cups, etc. in a bleach bath before handwashing and allow to completely air dry

You can make a basic bleach disinfecting solution by adding 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of cool water. Soak or wipe items with this solution, then rinse thoroughly. These steps limit bacteria passing from contaminated water to surfaces to food. Take precautions until officials give the all-clear.

Can I Use Tap Water Once it Reaches a Full Boil?

Yes, allowing contaminated tap water to reach a rolling or full boil for one minute kills viruses, bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens making it safe for use after cooling.

The CDC and EPA both advise boiling is the most reliable method for homeowners to deactivate disease-causing microorganisms during any drinking water emergency or contamination event.

Simply bring water to a vigorous bubble all over the surface – a full rolling boil for 60 seconds. Then allow the boiled water to cool in sanitized containers before use for drinking, cooking, baby formula, pet water, handwashing or other essential purposes requiring disinfected water during a boil notice.

In Conclusion: Precautions for Using Water During Boil Advisories

A boil water advisory can disrupt normal household routines but following basic precautions allows you to clean, cook, bathe and wash safely during temporary outages.


  • Continue laundry, bathing, showering, and handwashing but avoid ingestion
  • Only use boiled, bottled or filtered water for drinking and cooking
  • Take care to keep pets and babies from ingesting any unboiled water
  • Disinfect surfaces, produce, and dishes properly
  • Boil contaminated water for a full minute before any consumption

Stay up-to-date on when advisories are lifted in your area so you know exactly when your water is safe for all uses again. Adhering to public health guidance protects you and your family.

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