Are Pool Chemicals Useful For Disinfection Of Drinking Water?

I get asked a lot if it is possible to use pool chemicals to disinfect drinking water in an emergency situation. The answer is not a simple one and you will have to make the choice for yourself.

Swimming pool chemicals are various types of disinfectants and sanitizers which work to control the growth of algae and bacteria in the water. The “chlorine” type disinfectant is most common. The chlorine comes from chemicals that release chlorine when dissolved in water.

The chlorine-based chemicals may be called chlorinating liquid, dry chlorine or liquid chlorine. Dry chlorine refers to chemicals in granular or tablet form while the other two are solutions of these same chemicals dissolved in water. When using the dry chemical it should first be mixed with water, then that solution added to the water for disinfection.

There are two main types of chlorinating agents for pools.

Inorganic chlorinating agents such as calcium hypochlorite, lithium hypochlorite, sodium hypochlorite, and organic chlorinating agents such as trichloroisocyanuric acid, potassium dichloroisocyanurate and sodium dichlorocyanurate.  These are some big words, that I suggest you learn before purchasing chemicals for your pool if you plan to use it as a backup drinking water source.

The organic chlorinating agents all are poisonous. See the root cyan in all their names? That is cyanide. Do not use these chemicals for drinking water.   Do not use these chemicals EVER except the maintenance of pools.

Of the inorganic agents, only calcium hypochlorite and sodium hypochlorite are commonly used for drinking water disinfection. Lithium hypochlorite isn’t used because high concentrations of lithium can be toxic as well. Lithium is also a teratogen, a chemical that can cause birth defects, specifically defects around the heart. Something to consider if you are pregnant.

Now pool chemicals are not the same as drinking water chemicals. The quality of chemicals I use in my water treatment facility is 99.9% pure and guaranteed to be that pure. That means of the sodium hypo added to make the 12% solution 99.9% of it is NaOCl. The pool chemicals I looked at were 39.4% pure at the most. That means of the sodium hypo they add to make a 12% solution only 39.4% is NaOCl. Try not to get confused between the percent strength of the final solution, 12% in my example and the percent purity of the active ingredient, 99.9% & 39.4%.

Here is a huge can of worms, the lower percent the more filler present. The filler could be completly harmless and it could be highly toxic, poisonous, carcenogenic or teratogenic (causes birth defects). These chemicals are not intended for human consumption and therefore are allowed to be extremely more toxic. Imagine if you could buy flour from a non grocery store and flour was useful for non food reasons (is it? I don’t know). On the market is expensive flour that is high quality and produced for baking for human consumption. The other flour is at a hardware store, and is destined to become part of a plaster compound (I’m making this part up). Because it is destined for non food uses, they can add other stuff to the flour, and they don’t have to keep non food products out of the mixture. How tasty would bread be made with this construction grade flour? It may be edible, but it will probably have long term negative side effects. Would you choose this flour if you could get food grade flour? This metaphor is akin to the difference between pool chemicals and potable water chemicals.

So to the topical question of this article, should you store pool chemicals as part of your emergency preparedness plan? I suggest using the following logic. Make doubly sure that the chemicals you are considering are not poisonous, do this always, every time you add chemicals to water.  Use drinking water grade chemicals if you can, then consider pool grade chemicals.  Could pool grade chemicals save your life one day? Quite possibly, but I would rather have drinking water quality chemicals and let them save my life.  Water disinfected with the correct type of pool chemicals is better than drinking untreated water.  Like I sad at the beginning of this article, the choice is up to you now you are better informed to make this choice for yourself.


8 thoughts on “Are Pool Chemicals Useful For Disinfection Of Drinking Water?

  1. Pingback: Are Pool Chemicals Useful For Disinfection of Drinking Water? | Preparedness Blogs

  2. Pingback: Disinfection with Calcium Hypochlorite « The Ωmega Man Journal

  3. Pingback: Non-Chlorine Pool Chemicals: Safe for Drinking Water? | The Ωmega Man Journal

  4. Pingback: Water Security Before, During & After Hurricanes | The Ωmega Man Journal

  5. Thanks for the information on drinking water grade chemicals. For long term prepping do you have specific brands and where one can purchase NaOCI 99.9 %

  6. Can U direct me to a CaOCl 99.9% Calcium Hypochlorite website for purchase? I am having trouble deciphering the well water from the pool shock chemicals with additives that could be toxic. The EPA formula states using “high-test (78%) granular calcium hypochlorite ” Something that is an ANSI/NSF 60 grade chemical. Thank You.

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