Iodine to purify water

Submitted: Sunday, Apr 05, 2009 at 18:15
ThreadID: 67557 Views:5656 Replies:9 FollowUps:2
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Years ago I used iodine to purify creek water for drinking when on extended camping trips. Trouble is, 20 years later, I can't remember how much was needed, what concentration the iodine had to be, how long it took to work (seem to remember about 30 minutes per jerry can).

Has any one used this method of water purification recently? Can you enlighten the forum as to how much, what strength etc is required to safely / acceptably purify water?

As always, any help is much appreciated.



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Reply By: Member - Tony B (Malanda FNQ) - Sunday, Apr 05, 2009 at 18:23

Sunday, Apr 05, 2009 at 18:23
Boy I used that stuff in the army - Could hardly drink the water after use. Maybe our water was tainted too much before use of the tablet though. After all it was the end of the dry in the Gulf with dead cattle in the water!
We used one tablet per water bottle - but the taste ugly! :-)

Cheers Tony
AnswerID: 358210

Reply By: Tim - Stratford (VIC) - Sunday, Apr 05, 2009 at 18:44

Sunday, Apr 05, 2009 at 18:44

Don't use the iodine - it'll make you glow in the dark!!!

I use one of these and carry it if I go bush with work. Also lives in the sidewell of the drawers in the back of the Cruiser.

It screws onto a wide-mouth drink bottle (Naglene (?) or similar) - the ceramic filter is field cleanable and has activated charcoal inside. The water it filters is like filtered/purchased water. Removes the 'standard' 99.99% of nasties - including radioactive pollution - to stop you glowing in the dark! :-)

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MSR Miniworks Water filter. (Hand operated)

AnswerID: 358213

Follow Up By: Member - Pedro the One (QLD) - Monday, Apr 06, 2009 at 01:14

Monday, Apr 06, 2009 at 01:14
Hi, Tim ....
Sounds/looks like the one for me .... presumably it will remove bits of dead pig, wallabies, etc... plus what crocs exude after eating afore-mentioned aminals, from my local rivers.

Would you be able to advise a supplier and an approx. price ?

Thanks Pedro
FollowupID: 626400

Follow Up By: Tim - Stratford (VIC) - Monday, Apr 06, 2009 at 09:48

Monday, Apr 06, 2009 at 09:48
G'day Pedro,

I got mine from Mountain Designs about four or five years ago. It was about $150 (I think).

As it is a MSR product any of the bigger outdoor shop chains should be able to order it in if they stock the MSR brand. (MSR also do the 'dragonfly' fuel stoves, cooking gear etc)

FollowupID: 626423

Reply By: Member - Andrew (QLD) - Sunday, Apr 05, 2009 at 20:08

Sunday, Apr 05, 2009 at 20:08
Depending on the brand of iodine tablets/solutions, the general rate was 1 tablet per litre of water.

You can normally neutralise the taste of the iodione by using vitamin C (ascorbic acid).

To play it safe, it is recommended to leave it for 30 minutes as colder temperatures or some organics can affect the rate of disinfection.

If you're pregnant Ben, then don't use Iodine :-)

AnswerID: 358229

Reply By: Sigmund - Sunday, Apr 05, 2009 at 20:34

Sunday, Apr 05, 2009 at 20:34
There are more modern purification tablets that have little taste. Try a bushwalking shop.

For much bigger bikkies, checkout the Steripen. Kills bugs with UV light. They're taking over from water filters for the well-heeled. Filters can have trouble dealing with viruses.
AnswerID: 358235

Reply By: obee1212 - Sunday, Apr 05, 2009 at 20:45

Sunday, Apr 05, 2009 at 20:45
I never drank the water when I was a soldier. I drank coffee and boiled the water. Come to think of it I still dont drink the stuff. (hic)

AnswerID: 358240

Reply By: BenDiD - Sunday, Apr 05, 2009 at 20:52

Sunday, Apr 05, 2009 at 20:52
Thanks for all the replies. Sounds like I would do better to try some of the newer alternatives.


AnswerID: 358241

Reply By: ian - Sunday, Apr 05, 2009 at 22:48

Sunday, Apr 05, 2009 at 22:48
boil the water or get a high quality filter.
Forget iodine
AnswerID: 358260

Reply By: Member - Rotord - Monday, Apr 06, 2009 at 13:34

Monday, Apr 06, 2009 at 13:34
Hello ALL

Iodine Solution - One of the most common methods for purifying water , but messy compared to tablets . Another downfall is that the different brands are different concentrations, but without warning. Because of this, and the makeup of the solution you usually end up consuming far more iodine than is really necessary. For a 2% solution use 5 drops per litre of water. Leave to stand for 15 minutes before drinking. If the water is very cold or cloudy then leave it for 30 minutes, or alternatively use double the amount of drops.

Seems sensible to me to use a modern purifying apparatus or boiling for normal situations , but it would also seem sensible to use iodine as the antiseptic in the First Aid kit knowing that you have a back up water purifier . Iodine would be the choice for a long walk in a survival situation to minimise weight carried .

AnswerID: 358339

Reply By: GHThommo - Monday, Apr 06, 2009 at 17:30

Monday, Apr 06, 2009 at 17:30
Hi Ben,

I spent many years evaluating different methods for disinfecting small volumes of water for drinking purposes. I found that iodine was a better disinfectant than chlorine and as such it is used by both the Australian and US military in the form of Potable Aqua tablets (available from camping stores). As has been said by others the main problem with chemical disinfection is the chemical taste and that can be remedied by the use of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or any other oxidising agent (this is why some cordial powders are also effective). Remember that the iodine must have been allowed a contact time to disinfect before the Vit C is added. Many years ago the Australian Army issued a two tablet system with a chlorine based disinfecting tablet and a different coloured detasting tablet (sodium thiosulphate). The system was withdrawn because the tablets were being either added in the wrong order or at the same time thereby rendering the chlorine ineffective.

Be careful of the ceramic filter devices. They are effective to some extent in removing larger organisms like Giardia and even bacteria but are ineffective against viruses which are much smaller than bacteria. Some have silver impregnated in the ceramic to increase their cidal effect. The ones that incorporate activated carbon or charcoal do so to remove organic material to improve the taste of the water. This activated material because of the trapped organic material becomes a breeding ground for organisms. I even found when testing some of these devices that after prolonged usage I had more bacteria coming out than I was putting in to test their effectiveness.

Someone else has already given the specifics of using tincture of iodine but this site may also be helpful.

If possible the easiest method has still to be boiling. I did evaluate a small reverse osmosis unit that was for use in life rafts and they are exceptional in that they will strip out everything, all organisms, chemicals etc so that is why they are used to desalinate sea water. But take a fair bit of effort to push the water through. Would be good with bore water.

Wikipedia gives a fairly good lay view of alternatives.

AnswerID: 358406

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