Properly cleaning re-usable water jugs?

What do you eat and drink on the playa? Share ideas, recipes and advice here.

Postby diane o'thirst » Sun Feb 18, 2007 4:37 pm

I had some carboys that needed a cleaning. I just took the top shelf out of my washing machine and sent 'em through a cycle.
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Re: Properly cleaning re-usable water jugs?

Postby dianakristinahannah » Fri Jul 29, 2011 12:39 pm

Use one teaspoonful of household bleach or three teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide (the over-the-counter type works fine) per gallon of water. Swish the solution around so that it contacts all surfaces, and then fill the container with tap water. Allow the bleach solution to stand for about 5-15 minutes, the hydrogen peroxide for one hour. Then empty and rinse your container repeatedly with tap water until all odor is gone. Let air dry, then seal.
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Re: Properly cleaning re-usable water jugs?

Postby delle » Sat Jul 30, 2011 5:35 am

Eh, fuckit~ I'll revive the damned thing for her......


On the decontamination issue, one thing that never seems to be addressed is HOW TO PROPERLY RINSE.

My dad the scientist gave me a lesson on rinsing once, that included two pages of mathematical evidence to support his claim. (he was definitely one not to just give a simple answer!) Unfortunately I can't remember the specifics of it, but can remember that the magic number was around 15.

As in "it takes 15 rinses to completely irradicate ALL residue from the container". After it has been properly washed, of course. And regardless of what you used to wash it out with.

He showed me the percentage of residue left behind with each rinse, and stressed the fact that it's not the amount of water used for rinsing, but rather the number of times you rinse that is important. (i.e. less is the same as more, so don't waste your time and water using large amounts).


Just thought that might be useful.

('course it would be MORE useful if I could remember the number.... which could be 12... could be 17.... but was definitely more than 11 and less than 20)
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Re:

Postby essjay » Sat Jul 30, 2011 11:09 pm

Dork wrote: I'm hoping to never have to actually drink from them (only in a household emergency bigger than the 2.5 gallon BM leftover I have sitting around can handle) but don't want any surprises if I did.


I had 2.5 gallon bricks left over a previous year and left them in my garage. The containers did not last past 7 months. They started springing spontaneous leaks as the plastic containers deteriorated. They were never disturbed, never froze (I live in Vegas) - they just sat there. Makes me wonder how many months those are safe before the plastic is deteriorating into the water.
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Re: Properly cleaning re-usable water jugs?

Postby junglesmacks » Sun Jul 31, 2011 6:55 am

It was like.. 6am at the Okanogan Barter Fare.. Washington state.. 1996. I'm walking through the streets, still seeing patterns.. put it that way.

I walk by this camp getting ready to make lemonade for the day to sell/barter. I hear a few people talking while washing the dishes, when from out of the group comes a loud..


"Like my momma always said.. if it didn't come off in the wash, it ain't gonna come off in the Kool-Aid.."



I live by that to this day. :lol:
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Re: Re:

Postby theCryptofishist » Sun Jul 31, 2011 10:47 am

essjay wrote:
Dork wrote: I'm hoping to never have to actually drink from them (only in a household emergency bigger than the 2.5 gallon BM leftover I have sitting around can handle) but don't want any surprises if I did.


I had 2.5 gallon bricks left over a previous year and left them in my garage. The containers did not last past 7 months. They started springing spontaneous leaks as the plastic containers deteriorated. They were never disturbed, never froze (I live in Vegas) - they just sat there. Makes me wonder how many months those are safe before the plastic is deteriorating into the water.

The word is 6 months. I don't remember where that comes from.
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Re: Re:

Postby illy dilly » Wed Nov 16, 2011 1:51 pm

theCryptofishist wrote:
essjay wrote:
Dork wrote: I'm hoping to never have to actually drink from them (only in a household emergency bigger than the 2.5 gallon BM leftover I have sitting around can handle) but don't want any surprises if I did.


I had 2.5 gallon bricks left over a previous year and left them in my garage. The containers did not last past 7 months. They started springing spontaneous leaks as the plastic containers deteriorated. They were never disturbed, never froze (I live in Vegas) - they just sat there. Makes me wonder how many months those are safe before the plastic is deteriorating into the water.

The word is 6 months. I don't remember where that comes from.

Pretty sure its writen on the container.
We had some of the 'Arrowhead' bricks left over from camping one year, put them down in the basement at my folks house, forgot about them. Bought more the next summer. Then something happened not emergency just random, like water was turned off for plumbing work or something. So we went to use the 2.5 gallons to flush the toilet, went to pick up the first one, and the handle just snapped off leaving most of the container still on the ground. It worked for flushing the toilet, but had a very plastic smell to it, sorta like a new computer or electronics. So we opened the other one just to see and it had the same funky plastic sorta smell. They both worked perfectly fine for washing dishes, flushing toilets, and washing hands for a couple hours. We threw them out when the water was back on.
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Re: Properly cleaning re-usable water jugs?

Postby Casilias » Sun Jan 22, 2012 11:34 am

I'll cover as much as I can remember reading from this thread and hopefully clear up all the questions that were posed.

Someone mentioned a discrepancy between sterilization and sanitizing. The real issue here is sterilization vs. disinfection. Sterilization is the removal and/or destruction of all ORGANISMS whereas disinfection is the INACTIVATION of PATHOGENS. All we need to achieve for drinking water is disinfection.

For ease of technique and uniformity let's talk only about chlorine bleach disinfection right now--I'll cover some other disinfection practices later. Standard chlorine bleach (eg Chlorox) is Sodium Hypochlorite (NaOCl) with a free available chlorine of somewhere around 5.25%. This is slightly less than half the strength of what your municipal water purveyor is using to disinfect the drinking water if they are using NaOCl disinfection.

Disinfection does not occur immediately as your bleach is poured into your water! It is a function of the chlorine concentration multiplied by the time in which the disinfectant is in contact with the water (CT). If necessary for anyone, I can walk through this formula so that you can pinpoint your disinfection time to know exactly how little time you need with how many mg/l (or teaspoons or whatever) of bleach to disinfect to a desired log removal. However, this is really not necessary here and for this small a scale of disinfection (maybe something like a maximum of 50 gallons of water??), we're talking about very little bleach over very little time.

So let's discuss practical disinfection. As unscientifically as possible!

To disinfect your drinking containers do not take chances. An extra gallon of bleach is a helluva lot cheaper than infections from giardia, or cryptosporidium. But realistically, those are not likely as you probably are not filling your water jugs from open surface source waters.
For each gallon jug (who uses gallon jugs?! what a PITA, go at least 2.5gal) give it a good slosh of bleach straight out of the bottle. Y'know, a big ol' glug. That's probably somewhere in the ball park of 1/4 of a cup of bleach. Top off the container with drinking water from your faucet and allow to rest in the bottle for AT LEAST 24 hours. DO flush your faucet first, however. The website someone posted says at least 1 minute. That's a good rule of thumb but, realistically, if the water has not been stagnant in the lines for 6 hours or more (like when you are asleep) there is little risk of residual metals (the concern is typically lead and copper that can be leached out of your plumbing).

Now that you've returned to your bottles a day later, empty them! Rinse with tap water. Rinse again with tap water! Stick your nose in there, be disgusted that it likely still smells of bleach and rinse that beast again! A nice guideline for rinsing things in these situations is the triple rinse. rinse, rinse rinse, use. Cool?

Now that you have disinfected and ready to use drinking water containers, you are probably wondering how to keep your water safe on the playa?
Simple, fill up your container and use it! It's only a week! Or maybe you are a volunteer or artist and it's even a month out there? Still, there is really no worry. Disinfected water (yes, your tap-water) will store safely in clean, capped bottles for at least 6 months. Should you choose to boil your water first (why?) it will store up to at least one year. (Yay!)

Unsure of your tap-water? Water coming out of your faucet will have no less than 0.20 mg/l of free chlorine residual--that is, the chlorine left over in the water after disinfection has occurred. If you are uncertain of this or skeptical, there are a number of test kits available relatively cheaply that you can use. Additionally, calling your water purveyor and asking what the chlorine levels are in your neighborhood is easy to do. The receptionist won't know what the crap you are talking about or may be able to tell you that you have a detectable residual. Ask to speak with a water operator or request that one be sent out to sample and test chlorine on site or nearby your home. This is quick and easy to do and will be no cost to you. If they try to shrug you off, tell them you are having severe chlorine smells or that you have severe discoloration in your water--more than likely they will coming running--their #1 job is public safety.

Finally, if you still question your tap water, add a couple drops of bleach per gallon of water, shake well, and cap. And bring a Brita or similar charcoal, aesthetic water filter or gatorade powder to hide the flavor.

So that's bleach. There are a couple other practical disinfectants out there but none compare with the simplicity, low cost, and efficacy of bleach.

Iodine--very effective disinfectant but turns water brackish and creates flavor and odor problems. I recommend only for dire situations as iodine tablets are light weight and cheap but not really practical for something as planned out as BM. Iodine is great for back-packing trips into deep desolation.

Ultraviolet--UV is an effective disinfectant but leaves no measurable residual to ensure disinfection has occurred. Additionally, UV requires fairly clear water or long exposure times to be effective. The bulbs and apertures must remain pristine to work properly. Playa dust would negate their effectiveness.

Ozone--Not practical for small scale, personal use. Unstable and a strong oxidant.

Chlorine Dioxide--Same as ozone in regard to this purpose

Chloramines--A combination of chlorine and ammonia. NOT recommended for personal use as the the mixing ratios need to be precise and if done improperly or if accidents occur, death and serious injury occur. Chlorine and ammonia, when combined outside of a solution, create cyanide gas. DEADLY. do NOT use this method.

Filtration--There a tons of quality filters out there that can be used to create safe drinking water. Your favorite outdoor gear store will have one. Note that these are different from something like a Brita filter. Brita and its competitors use a charcoal filter (activated carbon, probably granular) that removes aesthetic complaints--tastes and odors. These charcoal filters do NOT remove pathogenic contaminants.


I hope this clears up some fuzzy areas and brings a little light to what seems to be a realm of darkness that is safe drinking water.

I suppose this requires a disclaimer for people who make stupid a habit?

Disclaimer--I do not recommend nor condone use of any of the practices or procedures discussed above. They have been shared only for the purpose of discussion and I make no claims or guarantees to their accuracy or efficacy.
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Re: Properly cleaning re-usable water jugs?

Postby unjonharley » Sun Jan 22, 2012 12:32 pm

Just fill your containers with a strong bleach,, Let stand (open) in sun light.. The sun will draw the bleach out.. Anything you have killed in the bleach water will be on the bottom of the container.. Empty the container and refill several times..

I always clean my camp coolers this way after each outing..
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Re: Properly cleaning re-usable water jugs?

Postby lemur » Sun Jan 22, 2012 12:40 pm

i dare someone to post a more informative post than the one by Casilias
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Re: Properly cleaning re-usable water jugs?

Postby Casilias » Sun Jan 22, 2012 8:56 pm

[quote="unjonharley"]Just fill your containers with a strong bleach,, Let stand (open) in sun light.. The sun will draw the bleach out.. Anything you have killed in the bleach water will be on the bottom of the container.. Empty the container and refill several times..

I always clean my camp coolers this way after each outing..[/quote]


This is not necessarily the optimal situation for disinfecting drinking water vessels. Sunlight degrades the disinfecting power of bleach in relatively short order. Leaving the containers open will allow foreign objects into the container, and is, therefore, a bad idea.

What has been killed will not necessarily be on the bottom of the container. Likely what has settled to the bottom of your containers is salts or metals that have precipitated out when the bleach mixed with the water. Sodium hypochlorite is a strong oxidant so any iron or manganese (both common in drinking water) could potentially precipitate out when exposed to high chlorine concentrations.
Additionally, water (untreated, unfiltered. not municipal water as its been treated and disinfected) has insoluble and suspended particles that, even when inactivated, may stay suspended.

As a general rule, keep lids on your containers. Pathogens don't just crawl out because the lid is off.
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Re: Properly cleaning re-usable water jugs?

Postby gyre » Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:39 pm

We have a gamma food irradiation plant here.

Can I use that?
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Re: Properly cleaning re-usable water jugs?

Postby Casilias » Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:46 am

I've never heard of anyone using ionizing radiation for water but I don't see any major problems with it except that it would be similar to ultraviolet light treatment. It may disinfect the water but you have no lasting residual disinfectant to maintain safety should errant pathogens be introduced to the water supply.

Also, I have no idea as to what that might do to you plastic containers.

I assume it has not been used in water treatment because either A) it is not safe for drinking water or B) it is not a cost effective means of treatment.
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