Using Calcium Hypochlorite Instead of Bleach to Disinfect Water

Many outdoorsmen, 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 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

Some people 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.
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 litre 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. A bleach manufacturing 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 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.”
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 500g bag 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.

Where to Buy Calcium Hypochlorite online in the UK

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17 thoughts on “Using Calcium Hypochlorite Instead of Bleach to Disinfect Water

  1. SH says:

    I used to make sodium hypo and have a fairly extensive understanding of the mechanics of most sanitizers. Your article is right as far as it goes, but avoids some rather important things.

    1) All chlorine products are subject to degradation. Primary enemies of these are light (photodegredation) and heat (thermodegredation). The more you can reduce these, the better your Chlorine sanitizer will hold up.

    2) Cal hypo containers (particularly the plastic bags) degrade quickly, like in a year or two. In fact it destroys just about everything that isn’t glass… but that lets light in so it’s pointless. It does you no good to store such for long periods of time in the original container if that container leaks, you don’t know it, and the product hits air. If you want to store cal hypo longer, transfer it to a white plastic container with an all plastic lid (no scrim or poly liner), and then put rubber cement around the perimeter of the closed cap. Sniff it every few months or so and replace the rubber cement if you smell chlorine.

    4) The problem with regular bleach isn’t so much the degradation rate as it is the volume. In the US, traditional bleach is 5.25 sodium hypo with a 1.5-2.0% excess caustic rate to help keep it stable. That leaves the balance at about 93% water, which takes up a lot of shelf space. If you have the space, don’t worry about the degradation as I’ve tested 5 yr old bleach that has been properly stored to find out it has less than a 10% loss from its original formulation. And let’s be real. If after 5 years in survival conditions, the least of your worries is what strength your bleach might be. BTW – – there are a few off brands out there that are cheaping out by reducing the chlorine to 3.0%, so be aware. Look for the active ingredient label, and if it doesn’t have one, don’t assume.

    5) Cal hypo spillage is a real concern. If you don’t know what you are doing with it, don’t store it in your house. Where sodium hypo is roughly 5% chlorine and mostly water, cal hypo is 60-70% available chlorine and very volatile… also very deadly if it wets and releases it’s gas indoors. If bleach (sodium hypo) spills, it mostly just ruins the carpet.

    6) If you want a very stable long term and highly concentrated santizer to store, stay with the pool chemical idea, but route more towards the algaecide market. I know… algae and bacteria are different. But most algaecides are basic bio stats that will destroy just as wide a range of pathogens as bleach will (though arguably a bit slower), including the dreaded water borne pseudomonas aeruginosa and other gram negative bacterium. Chlorine can kill these, but only in high doses of about 300ppm, which is undrinkable. Keep in mind though that all algaecides are not created equal. Some have toxic levels of copper that can cause some serious biological issues for some people. When you buy algaecide for this purpose, look for the chemical name, n-alkyl dimethyl benzel ammonium chloride. In a 0.01% solution, it will kill out just about anything you can think of and it’s safe for humans. Unlike bleach, it’s also non corrosive, won’t stink, won’t bleach, and you can keep it on your shelf indefinitely without a problem. The one thing you will have to determine for yourself is the math on it because it can come in a variety of strengths from 10% to 60%. Don’t bother with the low end stuff since again, the other 90% is just water and they usually sell it by the gallon. One quart of 60% solution however, will treat about 6000 quarts of clean water. There are various answers on how many drops per quart, but the average seems to be about 18000. My brain is hurting tonight so I’ll let you pull out the ol sliderule and figure out the treatment rate.

    P.S. – as an added benefit for water bed owners, take a half tsp of algaecide and put it in your bed every 5 years. It 100% replaces that $10 bottle of “water bed conditioner” that is exactly the same thing but watered down by a rate of about 100/1. Yep, you’ve been paying for mostly water and coloring with just a few drops of algaecide in it.

    Peace

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