Anyone who has ever left a container of water lying around and forgotten about it for months at a time will know that storing water is not as simple as pouring the stuff into a bottle and leaving it there.
If you need to store water for any reason, such as an emergency, a camping trip, or even just to have a supply somewhere like an office, you need to observe proper safety rules to make sure your water is safe when you want to drink it.
Water that has been left exposed or even in a sealed container for an extended period of time may not be safe to drink. As pointed out by TimesOfIndia, even bottled water can become unsafe once it has been unsealed, especially if you have drunk directly from the bottle.
Traces of your saliva and dead skin particles will inevitably get into your water, and this makes it unsafe after a while. They will add bacteria to the water, making it unsuitable for consumption.
So, how can you store water to prevent these things from happening, and how long is water safe to drink for once it has been stored?
Table of Contents
How To Store Water Properly
There are a number of things that you need to do when storing water. Firstly, you need an appropriate and safe container that will not leach chemicals into the water.
If you are going to be storing a large amount of water, something like this WaterStorageCube Collapsible Water Container may be suitable. This is specifically designed to hold large amounts of water (just over five gallons) safely, without affecting the taste of the water at all.
- FOOD-GRADE ODORLESS GREAT TASTE: PE plastic made with highest quality USA raw material. Environmentally friendly non-toxic, No BPA PVC or DEHP, No plastic PVC odor and water taste will not be...
- LIGHT, COMPACT, PORTABLE AND REUSABLE Foldable space saving design store away easily. Remains soft and flexible even when cold yet retains shape and is easy to fill, dry, drain and reuse. Soft molded...
- WORRY-FREE AND LEAK-PROOF Custom made lid and spigot with gasketless design means no leaks or parts to replace. Good spigot water-flow. Thicker lid to withstand heavy pressure. Easy on/off spigot with...
If you want a smaller container for transporting with you on a day out, then something like the Iron Flask Sports Water Bottle will be more appropriate, as it will help to keep the water cool and it contains no BPA or other harmful chemicals. The stainless steel should not leave a taste in the water, either.
- INSULATED SPORTS WATER BOTTLE: Goodbye sweat! The double wall insulation makes the Iron Flask sweat-free! It keeps your drink COLD for up to 24 hours, and HOT for up to 12 hours. *NOTE: ONLY the 14...
- 3 LIDS: YES, Iron Flask comes with THREE different 100% LEAK PROOF lids. Carabiner Straw Lid with 2 Straws, Flip Lid, and a Stainless Steel Lid! *NOTE: The stainless steel lid is plastic from inside...
- 18/8 PREMIUM STAINLESS STEEL: The Iron Flask is made of 18/8 Stainless steel that is 100% BPA free and non-toxic. It will never leave a metal taste or rust. HAND WASH ONLY WITH SOAPY HOT WATER!
So, once you have your container, what steps should you follow to maximize the storage life and safety of your drinking water? Follow the steps below:
- Thoroughly rinse the container and discard the water used for rinsing.
- Sanitize the container. This can be done by adding a teaspoon of chlorine bleach to a quart of water and pouring it in. Screw the lid tightly onto the container and shake it well so that the whole container comes into contact with the solution.
- Allow it to stand for a minute or two, and then shake again.
- Empty the container and then rinse it again with treated tap water or allow it to completely air dry (the bleach will evaporate when left).
- Add clean water and seal the container using the proper lid.
- Do not drink directly from the container, but dispense into other containers to avoid contaminating the main source of water.
That might sound like a lot if you’re just drinking bottled water on a run, but it’s important to keep your bottle clean and avoid any chance of algae building up inside it.
If you’re the only one using the bottle, it’s fine to drink directly from the container, but be aware that you are contaminating the water and it won’t last as long if you do.
How Long Can Water Be Stored For?
If there are no external contaminants, water should last indefinitely. However, that’s unlikely in your home or general day to day life. To make your water last longer, store it in dark conditions, either by covering a container, putting it in a dark room, or using an opaque container. You should also keep it away from heat, so don’t leave a water bottle lying in the sun.
Water that is properly stored should last without a problem, but in general, if you are just storing water in your fridge or in your car, you should not be drinking it after a couple of days have passed. You can stretch that a little if it’s in the fridge, but not a lot.
Because the water isn’t sealed in, it may not be safe from bacteria and other contaminants, so you should drink it quickly. This is true whether you have purchased the water from a commercial business or bottled your own tap water.
You may not come to any harm if you drink water that has been stored for longer, but you are taking a greater risk.
How To Tell If Water Is Not Safe To Drink
There are a few signs that water isn’t safe to drink, although unfortunately most of them can occur even if water is fine. However, if in doubt, look out for things like cloudiness or discoloring. Cloudiness can be caused by air in the water, but if it’s been stored, it shouldn’t be cloudy unless there is something else in there.
Similarly, any green tinge to the water indicates that algae are growing in there. You should not drink water that is not clear. It also shouldn’t have any strong scent. Some containers might cause a residual smell in your water, and may even taint the flavor, but in general, water should be both colorless and odorless.
Sometimes water that has been stored will taste a little stale, but this should still be safe to consume. If in doubt, however, try to only drink fresh water that has not been stored for long.
Avoid These Mistakes When You Store Water
- Don’t reuse water containers without sterilizing them first.
- Don’t drink directly from water containers if you want to preserve the water.
- Don’t use ill-fitting caps for your water or contaminants could get in.
- Don’t drink water that you think may have been contaminated.
Keep Your Water Fresh & Safe to Drink!
Whether you are storing water for an emergency or storing it to keep it chilled and pleasant throughout the day, it’s a good idea to observe the safety steps above. Discard opened water after a few days to avoid any potential bacterial growth, and never drink water that smells or tastes bad.