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Frequently Asked Questions: Voluntary Boil Order Advisory


Updated February 19, 2021 5:10 p.m.

What is the difference between a voluntary boil order and a mandatory boil order advisory? 
Voluntary boil orders are issued when conditions are present for a potential problem with drinking water being contaminated, but a problem has not been confirmed. A mandatory boil order advisory goes into effect when there is a confirmed case of contamination in the water supply that could make you sick.

How long will it last? 
The voluntary boil order will remain in effect for at least 72 hours or until the water system says the water is safe to drink again, whichever comes later. 

Is it safe to drink tap water, even if it is filtered? 
Yes, but it is recommended to let the water run, until it clears if the water appears dirty. Boil water intended for consumption for one minute prior to drinking or food preparation or use bottled water. 

I already drank the water. Will I get sick?
Most people who drink this water will not get sick. If you do get sick, the symptoms are similar to food poisoning: nausea, diarrhea, cramps, and possibly a mild fever.

What should I do if I have symptoms?
The most important thing to do is avoid dehydration. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid drinks with caffeine, such as soda, coffee, and tea. If you are concerned about your health or the health of a family member, contact your health care provider. 

Can I use tap water to brush my teeth?
No. Do not use tap water to brush your teeth. Use boiled or bottled water. 

Is it safe to take a shower or bath?
Yes, it is safe to take a bath or shower. Use caution when bathing infants and young children, so that water is not ingested. Persons with cuts or severe rashes may wish to consult their physicians before utilizing the water in a bath or shower setting.

During a boil order, can I wash my hands using tap water? 
It is recommended that you wash your hands using soap and either bottled water or boiled water. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer may also be used. 

What about washing dishes? 
Disinfect dishes and other food contact surfaces by immersion for at least one minute in clean tap water that contains one teaspoon of unscented household bleach per gallon of water. 

What about doing laundry?
Yes, it is safe to do laundry as usual. 

Can I use my coffee maker, ice machine, or water or soda dispenser?
Do not use water from any appliance connected to your water lines. This includes water and ice dispensers in your refrigerator/freezer.  

What about ice? 
Do not use ice from ice trays, ice dispensers, or ice makers. 

What should I do about preparing food and beverages? How should I wash fruit, vegetables, and food preparation surfaces?  

What should I do about feeding my baby?  

How do I wash dishes during a boil water advisory?
Dishwashers are safe to use if the water reaches a temperature of at least 160°F or if the dishwasher has a sanitizing cycle.

To wash dishes by hand: 

Should I give my pet boiled water?
Pets can get some of the same illnesses as people. It is a good idea to give them boiled water that has been cooled.

Do I need to worry about my fish or aquatic pets (e.g., reptiles, frogs)?
Most germs that infect people do not infect reptiles or fish. If your water system is using more chlorine or changing disinfection, be cautious about changing the water in your fish tank or aquarium. Contact your local pet store or veterinarian for more advice.

Is it safe to water my garden and house plants?
You can use tap water for household plants and gardens. 

NEW: Can I still use the cold beverage dispensing machine?
No. Beverage machines connected to the cold water supply used to dispense cold drinks (slush, carbonated beverages, iced cappuccino, etc.) should not be used during the precautionary boil water advisory.

NEW: How do I disinfect food contact surfaces?
Food contact surface such as counter tops, cutting boards and food equipment that cannot fit into a dishwasher to sink should be thoroughly washed to remove all food residues and the disinfected using a chlorine solution. To prepare the 200mh/L chlorine solution, add one teaspoon of unscented liquid household bleach (5.25% sodium hypochlorite) per one gallon of room temperature water that has been previously boiled, bottled or hauled. After washing and rinsing, let equipment sit in solution for at least 10 seconds. If spraying or pouring onto food contact surfaces, let sit for a minimum of two minutes. Make the solution daily as it loses its strength with time, therefore it should not be reused or stored. Vinegar is not an acceptable disinfectant.

NEW: I use filtered water in my home. Do I still need to boil my water?
If your water service has been impacted by a waterline break, low pressure, or discoloration, you still need to do a precautionary boil for consumable water. Once the Precautionary Boil Order is rescinded, you should throw away your existing filter and install a new one.


City of Tulsa Customer Care Center, 311,  

Environmental Protection Agency EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline: 1-800-426-4791

EPA Region 6 toll-free line - 800-887-6063;

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636), TTY: 888-232-6348 Email CDC-INFO

Personal Preparation and Storage of Safe Water: CDC provides guidance on the amount of water needed for good health, as well as how to prepare and store safe water before and during an emergency.  

Hygiene and Handwashing: CDC provides guidance on alternative hygienic practices when water is not available or is contaminated.  

A Guide to Water Filters: CDC maintains a guide for filters that remove Cryptosporidium or Giardia.  

Consumer Information: EPA provides information and guidance about drinking water quality, emergencies, contaminants, public health issues, and treatment and storage.