View Full Version : Using iodine tablets to "purify" water
11-20-2001, 11:15 AM
This looks more attractive than carring a portable filter, but does the iodine leave a funny taste? I also wonder about how pure the water is if organisms haven't really been removed, just killed or rendered impotent. Has anybody used such a product? What happens of you ingest some of the iodine crystals?
Cannot be shipped to addresses within the state of California.
Why the heck not? What does California know that the rest of us don't?
11-20-2001, 11:54 AM
You might also try Potable Aqua (http://www.rei.com/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/ProductDisplay?prmenbr=8000&prrfnbr=603)
Remember to wait a few minutes before drinking - up to twenty minutes for very cold water.
Iodine has a strong, somewhat unpleasant flavor. Use flavored drink crystals (some people use tablets of vitamin C) to mask the taste. Personally, the flavor doesn't bother me.
Iodine does not kill everything! Cryptosporidia (http://home.talkcity.com/VolunteerSt/balsamcap/Understanding_Water_Treatment.htm), for one, is highly resistant.
Exposing water to halogens such as iodine or chlorine is believed to kill bacteria and viruses, but not all protozoan cysts. Hard-shelled cryptosporidia, as mentioned previously, show strong resistance to iodine and chlorine. You should not expect halogens alone to be 100 percent effective against this cryptosporidia.
Against cryptosporidia, boiling or a hand-pumped water filter (but not all hand-pumped water filters - check the specs of each!) is the way to go.
Boiling kills everything. Bring your water to a good rolling boil for a few minutes. The disadvantage of boiling is you have to carry fuel, a stove and a pot. An then you have to wait for the water to cool off before you drink it.
11-20-2001, 02:06 PM
And if you use the Vitamin C to kill the taste, wait until after the 20 minutes is up. The Vitamin C will react with the iodine before it has a chance to act, so it won't work.
I've used Polar Pure and Potable Aqua, and I prefer PA. Just make sure you get a new bottle each year or so. After the bottles have been opened a while they absorb moisture from the air and become useless.
No idea on the California issue.
11-20-2001, 02:49 PM
If you buy Potable Aqua Plus it comes with tablets to neutralize the icky taste. Actually, I haven't tried them yet so I don't know if they actually neutralize the taste. As previously mentioned, many people just cover the taste with powdered drink mix.
11-20-2001, 02:53 PM
The tablets that come with Portable Aqua Plus are just Vitamin C. Tang works just as well and is a lot cheaper, plus you can pretend you're an astronaut.
If you use powdered drink mix, make sure it has vitamin C or the iodine taste will still come through.
11-20-2001, 03:55 PM
I use Polar Pure and it is wonderful. It is just Iodine crystals in a spill proof bottle. You recharge the little bottle after every use by just refilling it with water and letting it set for 30 minutes. 2 capfuls per quart (I think) and 30 minutes, and its ready to go. Yes the water has a bit of a taste to it, but after about 2 liters of it, you hardly notice. Id go with it, unless your REALLY picky.
11-20-2001, 03:57 PM
I use Polar Pure and it is wonderful. It is just Iodine crystals in a spill proof bottle. You recharge the little bottle after every use by just refilling it with water and letting it set for 30 minutes. 2 capfuls per quart (I think) and 30 minutes, and its ready to go. Yes the water has a bit of a taste to it, but after about 2 liters of it, you hardly notice. Id go with it, unless your REALLY picky. The bottle has a lip that the crystals can't get past. The occasional one slips by, but it wont hurt you.
11-20-2001, 04:03 PM
I have and use both the filters and the tablets. The filters give you better tasting water and removes turbidity. The iodine tablets gives you extreme light weight.
The water does take some getting used to (taste). and you ususally end up dumping any water you have and refilling the whole container instead of just topping off.
11-20-2001, 05:14 PM
Originally posted by Attrayant
I also wonder about how pure the water is if organisms haven't really been removed, just killed or rendered impotent.
It doesn't matter. If the wee beasties have been killed, your body won't notice them. You'll certainly never taste them.
11-20-2001, 05:21 PM
Originally posted by Attrayant
Cannot be shipped to addresses within the state of California.
Why the heck not? What does California know that the rest of us don't? [/QUOTE]
I've seen the "Cannot be shipped to addresses within the state of California" quite a lot. On guns, gun accessories, camping equipment, survival gear, ect.
Iodine tablets are survival gear, I suppose.
The Peoples Republic of California has deemed survivalist types (or, for that matter, regular hunters and people that like to camp out) fairly dangerous, and has made quite a lot of their "equipment" illegal.
11-20-2001, 05:48 PM
A lot depends on where you are and how long you will be treating your water.
If there are viruses, then iodine is a good thing, for some are so tiny that they slip through the best filters.
If there are bacteria, then iodine is usually not necessary if you have a really good filter to catch the wee things.
If there are cysts (e.g. beaver fever), then iodine is not useful because it has little or no effect on the the little buggers. A good filter can do the job.
Iodine will not remove chunks of stuff in which nasty beasties may be living -- only a filter will do this.
As far as metals, gasoline, pesticides and the like, there is not much you can do beyond filtering out the chunkies to which they may be attached, but certainly iodine would be useless.
If you need only occasional iodine treatment, then don't worry, but if you will be using it extensively, then look into its effect on your body, especially your thyroid.
In short, for most situations in North America (and almost all wilderness in Canada), a good filter is superior to iodine. For folks who drink urban outflow, filters which add iodine are the ticket.
For the third world, start with a good filter which adds iodine.
For emergency use, boiling for a long time is your best bet.
Here is a page on the subject which is pretty good:
11-20-2001, 05:57 PM
If you are trying to save space, and intend to use iodine only on odd ocasions when you are drinking urban outflow, then consider packing iodine paste in you first aid kit. You can find it at any drug store. Get a nasty cut? Swab on some iodine paste. Drinking out of the sewer? Squeeze in some iodine paste and wait a long while (remember to work out the paste to water ratio first). You might as well get double duty out of what you are packing along.
11-20-2001, 06:34 PM
When I'm backpacking I use chlorine bleach to disinfect my drinking water.I put one to two drops per quart.The "taste" doesn't bother me at all.Actually,I can barely taste it anyway.
I put the bleach in a visene bottle.I was sure to clearly label it,and you should too.I love carrying this lightweight little bottle rather than the bulky pumps.Remember too,pumps are mechanical,and they can break.
Kamandi's post is news to me.Thank you Kamandi.
What kind of risks do cryptosporidia present?I really never heard of them.
11-20-2001, 06:44 PM
When I'm backpacking I use chlorine bleach to disinfect my drinking water.I put one to two drops per quart.
I used to use chlorine bleach, it looks like you are using too little bleach - the concentrations should be higher for such a short contact time and you should taste it.
Have you used iodine tablets - once I switched to them I would not go back to bleach except for an emergency.
11-20-2001, 08:12 PM
Well before you all have me needing water in a cave on the third moon of Jupiter, I should say that I am mainly concerned about the water supplied by the municipal system in developing countries. I have several Vietnamese friends who, although they have been in the US for many years, warn me that I will need to boil all water in southeast Asia before it is safe to drink. And to think that they grew up there and probably have some resistance, a visiting schmoe like me would probably warning- exaggeration approaching drop dead after a few sips of city water.
A 1 micron filter would probably be best here, or even a small distilling unit. I can filter or distill a gallon or two overnight in the hotel and fill up some bottles to carry with me as I trek through the city the next day.
11-21-2001, 08:38 PM
Well, solid iodine can be easily used to make a popular and extremely unstable explosive called tri-nitrogen-iodide. Maybe iodine itself is banned in California?
11-22-2001, 04:29 AM
I've used iodine on extensive (1-2 month) backpacking trips. The taste ain't the greatest, but you get used to it. Had an emergency once where I had to drink water where there was a dead yak in the water. I did a lot of iodine in the water and didn't get sick.
The drawback I always found was that typically, you reach a water supply. Either stay there for the 20 odd minutes, drink the canteen, refill and go on your way. Usually, by the next water supply, you're out of water and thirsty. You can get dehydrated this way, especially if you are unclear where the next water supply is located. This method takes a lot of time, but it is cheap and easy to pack.
My equipment is about 7 years out of date, but the tiny Katadyne one worked quite well for me. It was real small and only a few ounces. It didn't have the iodine impregnated in it, which I'm sure is even safer. The advantage is you hit a water supply, drink your fill right then, fill up your water bottles and are on your way in 5 minutes having done a good job of rehydration.
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