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Somebody stop that kid!

It’s important that you read this series in order.  You’ll find part 1 here and part 2 here.

Last week I showed you the containers I prefer using for storing my own supply of water, so if you’ve bought one of those for yourself,  you’re finally ready to take it out to the garden hose and fill it up with water, right?

Well, not so fast there, Bucky.

You want your stored water to be as pure as it possibly can be going in, and the first mistake many people make is filling their containers from the garden hose.

No, no, no! Too many contaminants, including lead in many cases. If you had taken a look at the the label on that hose when you first bought it, you might have seen a warning that the hose contains cancer causing chemicals and that humans should not drink from it.

Okay, so you’ve been letting your kids drink from the garden hose for years. Fine. You’re an awful parent.

But now you know better. A garden hose is the last thing you want to run your water through just before leaving it to sit in the basement month after month. If you fill your container from a garden hose, you’ll be storing tiny amounts of poisons and carcinagens along with your water.

What you need is a hose specifically intended to run drinking water through, the kind RV drivers use to fill their drinking water tanks.  You can find them at any RV dealership.  Make certain the hose you buy is labeled for use with drinking water. It will probably be whitish and thinner than the standard garden hose, but have regular connections on each end so it can attach easily to your outside faucet just like a garden hose.  WalMart has one about ten feet in length for $6.44. That should be plenty long enough to do the job.

You’ll also want to get a water filter that attaches to that hose so your water will be as pure as possible. Yes, you’ll filter your water again when you’re ready to consume it, but it’s also important to filter the water as it’s going in because municipal water contains loads of contaminants.

Again, we can thank the RV industry for coming up with something that didn’t exist back when our parents were storing their water supply.  You can find several brands of these handy water filters at RV stores. Again, Walmart carries one in their RV department for $17.97, but there are several models available elsewhere, so look around until you find one you like.  You can spend a lot of money on a filter that’s as hefty as one of those under-sink units, but that isn’t really necessary.

You don’t really need to spend more than $25.00 on a filter for this stage of the process. This is preliminary filtering.  When you’re ready to actually drink or cook with this water, I’m going to recommend you use a Berkey counter-top water filter (you’ll see why later).

You’ll want your hose filter to have a carbon core so it resists bacteria when you’re storing the filter itself, and you’ll want it to be rated for filtering metals and contaminants out of the municipal water, including the chlorine.

This RV water filter will attach directly to the RV hose, and it should come with another small length of hose that’s designed to attach to the faucet.  Since you aren’t filling an RV, you can attach that short piece to the other end of the filter and aim it right into your container.

Okay, ready? Almost.

Run water through your hose for a minute or so to clear out any dust and whatnot.  Then before you fill your container with water, it’s probably not a bad idea to rinse the container out first to remove any residue left over from the manufacturing process. You can give it a quick hosing out before you attach the filter to the hose—no sense getting all obsessive about it. Tip it upside down to drain out the tap water, and you’re good to go.

There will probably be rubber stoppers on each end of the filter. Take those off but don’t discard them.  You’ll want to put them back on when storing the filter.  Attach the hose to the bottom end and the short piece to the top (make certain you check the instructions so you know which way the flow is supposed to go).  Then run the water through for about a minute just to flush the loose carbon powder out of the filter.

When you’re ready to fill your container, you don’t want the water on full force.  This type of filter works best when the water is going through at a slow to moderate rate.  About a gallon a minute is about right. If the flow is too hard and fast, these filters won’t clean the water as effectively.

When your container is about half full, turn off the hose because this is where you add your bleach.

Did He Say Bleach?!

I know it seems odd to be adding chlorine bleach to the water, especially right after you’ve been trying to filter most of the chlorine out of your water, but this step is imperative.  Still water can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Even the smallest trace can grow and expand throughout, contaminating your entire supply. So to prevent the growth of bacteria and algae, you’re going to have to add a few drops of chlorine bleach.  But just a few drops.

Don’t think you can just reach under the sink and grab that old bottle of Clorox that’s been under there all your life. Chlorine bleach has a shelf life of only a year; after six months it begins to degrade about 20% a month, so you’re going to have to schlep back to the store and pick up a brand spanking new bottle of the stuff. We’re talking regular Clorox or Purex bleach. DO NOT use one that has perfume or dyes or detergents or any of the new variations of the product. You want just simple basic liquid bleach. The cheap stuff.

The best way to mix it is to take an eyedropper and put 5-8 drops in your container for every gallon it holds. That comes out to just a little less than 1/8 teaspoon per gallon.

MORE IS NOT BETTER! Drinking chlorine is not all that good for you, so we’re only going to use enough to retard the growth of the algae and bacteria. You have to do this, but you don’t have to overdo it.

There is an alternative method to using bleach, and I’ll write about it in the future, but it’s expensive and takes more doing, so for now let’s just get your first batch of water stored as quickly and inexpensively as possible. The aim here is to get you to stop putting this project off any longer. We can discuss other methods once you’ve got your first batch of water stored and safely put away.

The reason I suggest adding the chlorine at the halfway point is because you want to shake it up and get that stuff mixed thoroughly into the water, and a seven gallon container can get awful heavy near the end.  Water weighs around eight pounds per gallon, so if you’re using the seven gallon container, that thing is going to weigh about 56 pounds by the time you’re finished.  You can stop filling every so often and put your drops of bleach in as you go if you want, but don’t lose track of how often you’ve been adding bleach.  You don’t want too much or too little.

My wife thoughtfully reminded me that 56 pounds is almost exactly how many pounds overweight I am, and when I struggle to heft one of these full containers, that’s an alarming thing to contemplate. (lucky for me I wear my weight well.)

Anyway, measure your chlorine bleach carefully, don’t overdo it (better to under-do it slightly) and shake it up good. Then finish filling almost to the top, cap it, then shake it up more as best you can to get that chlorine well distributed. Rock the jug back and forth a bit or roll it around on the grass if that’s the best you can do once it is full.  Don’t obsess about being too thorough; if you do a halfway decent job of mixing it, the chlorine will disburse nicely enough.

Now take the cap off and fill your container up the rest of the way, all the way to the top.  You want the least bit of  empty space because algae likes to form at the top of water.  (Don’t worry, though. There’s not much chance of that happening, what with the Clorox and all.  We’re just taking all necessary precautions.)

Now screw the cap on tight, and you’re done.

Now that you know what you’re doing, your next batch will be quick and easy.  Just remember that if any time at all has gone by since your last fill up, you should run water through the filter and onto the grass for about ten to fifteen seconds just to make certain that any bacteria that may be hiding in there doesn’t make it into your drinking water.

Next: How long can you store your water?

9 Responses to “Storing Water Part 3: Filling Those Containers”

  1. Sharon Swanson

    Okay, I’ve read your 4 part blog on “storing water” and I have purchased several Aqua-tainers. My in-house water is already filtered through 2 good filters. Do I still need to add the bleach? Do I still need to filter the water before using it? Thanks.

    • Rock

      You should still add the bleach, because what that does is prevent algae from growing in water that sits for a long period. If the water you use in your house is already filtered (I’m guessing you have one of those full house filters), you won’t need to filter it again when you fill your containers, Sharon. I feel it’s a good idea to filter it again before using it to get the chlorine out, and anything that still might have tried to grow while your water sat there. But that’s your call, since your water is already twice filtered through what I assume is a good system. I wouldn’t depend only on the RV filter I mentioned in my post. That’s why I recommend filtering it again before use. The RV filter does an okay job, but not as complete as the Berkey filter, for instance.

      My March 31st entry will discuss why I feel the Berkey Filter is best for that.

  2. Greg

    If I have a water softener on my water well, should I use the soft water for storage?

    • Rock

      Greg, I don’t see why not, although I didn’t really like the taste of the softened water we had growing up. It was one of those units that had to be filled with rock salt every once in awhile.

      Perhaps technology has improved. So it’s your call. If it tastes fine to you, go ahead, but filter it first, unless the water softener system you have pre-filters it already.

  3. Rock

    I don’t think so, Stuart. The fact is, I’ve never heard of that being done. What the bleach does is inhibit the growth of algae, so I’d stick with that. Still, I’m open to hearing about whether anyone thinks iodine is a good idea, and why.

  4. Walt

    Can you speak on using a “Water Preserver Concentrate”?

    From what I’ve read, it somehow slowly releases bleach over a 5 year period?

  5. Andreas Odemer

    In the spirit of not having to do a water replacement dump and refill every so often, what about water in rotation? Let’s say we use the 5 gallon clear bottles (ie. Culligan, Arrowhead, etc.), and I have 10 of them in my cool lightless basement. Can I rotate one out everytime we need water and then put the replacement from the store that week to the back…would this work? If the shtf we’ll have 50 galons on hand.

    • Chris Howell


      My concern with your question is that there is not really a fixed time period for rotation. As it pertains to any consumable…it is very important that you have a “Freshness Date” so-to-speak and anytime you rotate stock you need to document it. Further…I wouldn’t recommend basing your rotation dates on “need.” What happens if you only “need” it every 2 years or so? By the time you get to container #5, the contents will have been sitting there for 8-10 years and this is not something you want to consume. I recommend that you set a fixed rotation date such that none of the containers are allowed to sit longer than 6 to 12 months without being changed out. (Even if you have added sodium hypochlorite….bleach or some other sort of water preservative.)