If you’ve spent any time in your local camping store you’ll probably run into these Potable Aqua water purification tablets along the way. And, if you love to buy random camping/preparedness/survival gear like me, then you may have a few bottles lying around.
So, have you ever tried them? I have. Here’s the skinny if you haven’t…
What Is Potable Aqua?
According to the PotableAqua webiste:
“Potable Aqua® Drinking Water Germicidal Tablets make water bacteriologically suitable for drinking. They contain iodine in a proprietary compound called TGHP. Each tablet contains 20 milligrams of TGHP, which liberates 8 milligrams (ppm) of titratable iodine. As indicated by label directions, the recommended dosage of Potable Aqua is two tablets in one liter or quart of water. When the tablet dissolves in water, it releases both free iodine and hypoiodous acid. Both are effective germicidal compounds. Potable Aqua tablets also contain a buffering agent that brings the pH of the water to a slightly acidic level to optimize the disinfecting properties of the iodine.”
So, as near as I can tell, it’s mostly iodine with some extra stuff thrown in there that helps to ensure the job gets done right. If you want a more scientific answer, see their FAQ page.
One of the biggest problem with using these tablets (or anything that contains iodine for disinfection) is the taste, which I find a bit off-putting. You’ll also note that such chemical treatments are not effective against every contaminant, but should do the job for most of the bad things you may ingest… with the exception of Cryptosporidium cysts. Here’s a list of the organisms that PotableAqua should be effective against.
How to Use Potable Aqua
Using it is very simple. Just drop two tablets into a quart of water, cap loosely, shake a bit five minutes later (to help coat the lip and thread of the container) then tighten the cap and let sit for at least 30 minutes to fully disinfect the water. The waiting time is crucial to effective disinfection.
While it is best to get the water as clean and clear as possible with as few sediment particles as possible, it’s not entirely necessary. Likewise, the water can be treated when cold or cloudy, which is a plus.
Why Use Potable Aqua Plus?
Potable Aqua Plus is what I like to keep in my bug out bags because the “plus” part is used to remove the iodine taste and, if necessary, the slight yellow tint as well. Just drop a “plus” tablet into the water after the 30 minute disinfection period and you’re all set. (FYI, the “plus” tablets are simply ascorbic acid, which is vitamin C).
Benefits and Cons to Using Potable Aqua
There are a few obvious benefits to using Potable Aqua for your water disinfection, including: they’re lightweight, compact, easily portable, no guess work to dosing, kills most bad bugs, stores for years.
On the other hand, there are a few cons to using Potable Aqua, including: must wait 30 minutes for complete disinfection, not effective against all contaminants, fairly limited number of doses.
To be fair, no one water treatment option is effective against every possible contaminant. You just need to know what Potable Aqua (as well as any other chosen treatment) can do. The biggest problem is the 30 minute time limit, however. If you’re on the go and don’t have time to wait this can be a real problem, especially if water sources are far and few between. Often, water filters and other gadgets get the job done much faster.
Alternative to Potable Aqua?
There are quite a few alternatives to Potable Aqua. Gadgets that come to mind include the SteriPen (which I also own), Polar Pure (own that too), MSR Miox, and a bevy of water filters. In fact, there are quite a few videos on these very water treatment gadgets if you would like to review them.
Overall, I would say that Potable Aqua is not my first choice for water disinfection when on the go, but it is certainly worthy as a reliable backup for my bug out bags and vehicle kits. Here’s a video review of Potable Aqua if you want to know more…