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Why High Temperatures Kill Viruses and Bacteria

For most homeowners, having access to clean water is as simple as opening the tap. However, you may not be aware of what bacteria or impurities could be lurking. Water can be filled with bacteria and in some cases even viruses, which is why the importance of boiling water before drinking it becomes pretty clear.

Boiling water has been scientifically proven to purify water and kill these microbial pathogens. In this article, experts explain why this method has been trusted for years and how it can help protect your home in the event of water contamination.

Killing Viruses With High Temperatures

kill virusesThough the water in the United States is typically safe to drink, there are some cases where boiling water can be deemed necessary. For instance, if it has been stated that normal control measures have failed, it is better to boil the water as an extra security measure. Or in the case of natural disasters, there could be inadequate sanitation and protection of water sources.

Boiling water can kill bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli, Coxiella burnetii (resulting in Q fever), Klebsiella pneumoniae, and viruses such as hepatitis A, enteroviruses, and adenovirus 5 among others. Though different bacteria and viruses require different temperature levels to kill them, they typically range between 130 – 140°F.

Freezing Temperatures Make Viruses Dormant


Some might think that freezing temperatures would have the same effect on viruses and bacteria as boiling water. One extreme temperature is the same as the other right? If boiling water is hot enough to kill viruses, freezing water would be cold enough to kill them too.

But this is far from the truth. Freezing temperatures are not an effective way to kill germs and viruses. This is why certain illnesses like the common cold or the flu become more common in winter months. They thrive off of the colder weather.

Rather than killing viruses, freezing temperatures make them dormant, which allows them to come back at a later time. Essentially, this means that the viruses are sleeping and not currently causing any symptoms or reactions.

But once they come out of their dormant state, they can activate those symptoms that had been suppressed and continue to spread and infect other individuals. Therefore, freezing temperatures are not a real solution for eliminating viruses and their symptoms; it just prolongs the timeline of their effects.

The Best Water Temperature: 140° Fahrenheit

140 fahrenheitBoiling water is one of the best ways to kill viruses and bacteria at the source. But many people will wonder, how hot does the water really need to be? A good rule of thumb is to heat the water at a temperature of 140°F.

Bacteria and viruses, though some have similarities, are each unique in their own ways. One thing that can distinguish bacteria and viruses from one another is the water temperature that is needed to kill them.

As mentioned, this typically ranges between 130-140°. Therefore, 140°F should be a minimum temperature that is used to heat water. However, it doesn’t hurt to turn up the flames just a bit higher to get it boiling!

About Jim Wagner Plumbing, Inc.

Jim Wagner Plumbing, Inc. is a local, affordable Lombard, IL plumbing company committed to delivering comfort and peace of mind to all of its customers. Serving residential and commercial plumbing services, they are a one-stop resource for all plumbing, heating, and cooling needs.