Can You Really Boil Water in a Plastic Soda Bottle?

I had to burn some papers today and it dawned on me if I could actually boil water in a plastic soda bottle like I’d seen in various videos?

As luck would have it, I had an empty soda bottle and so I gave it a shot.

I strung up the bottle about two-thirds full of cold water like this with the cap removed:


I didn’t want to get the bottle too close to the fire (the fire was just getting going in the photo above) because I worried that the bottom of the bottle would melt. As it turns out, I should have got the bottle a lot closer.

Only several minutes in it was obvious that some bubbles were forming on the sides of the bottle which was encouraging:


I decided to pour out a little bit and test for hotness. It was slightly warm but nothing to get excited about. Several minutes later I noticed the neck of the bottle was beginning to deform quite a bit:


After a good thirty minutes hanging over a decent, albeit relatively small, fire I decided to call it quits because it was starting to sprinkle and I didn’t want to spend all day messing with this.

So, I checked the temperature with a candy thermometer and saw it reached about 135 degrees Fahrenheit (it shows a bit lower by the time I snapped the photo). I know it’s hard to see but the red bar reaches just above the difference between 100 and 150:


Though encouraging, this wasn’t quite as easy as I’d hoped for or expected. I’m afraid I would have to give this quite a long time over a good fire and maybe even to lower the soda bottle even closer to the fire.

The good news is that the bottom of the bottle was still well formed but the bottle overall was a bit deformed to say the least:


If this is something I had to rely upon to ensure my water was pasteurized I would have been hard-pressed to make it a reality. I’d say that if I really HAD to get it done I could have but to actually bring the water to a boil? Well, according to the following video it’s possible:

Which brings me back to the point where my design wasn’t going to work well at all… I should have actually placed the bottle on embers instead. Perhaps I’ll try that next time.

Of course, I wouldn’t absolutely need to boil the water; I’d simply need to get the water to reach a high enough temperature to kill pathogens and for long enough and that would have sufficed.

According to this reference I was close:

63ºC (145ºF) 30 minutes Vat Pasteurization
72ºC (161ºF) 15 seconds High temperature short time Pasteurization (HTST)
89ºC (191ºF) 1.0 second Higher-Heat Shorter Time (HHST)
90ºC (194ºF) 0.5 seconds Higher-Heat Shorter Time (HHST)
94ºC (201ºF) 0.1 seconds Higher-Heat Shorter Time (HHST)
96ºC (204ºF) 0.05 seconds Higher-Heat Shorter Time (HHST)
100ºC (212ºF) 0.01 seconds Higher-Heat Shorter Time (HHST)
138ºC (280ºF) 2.0 seconds Ultra Pasteurization (UP)

Another ten degrees and I was in business.

The moral of the story?

Watch somebody else do it first… then do what they did. 😉

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Author: Damian Brindle

Blogging about all things survival and emergency preparedness, including experiences with DIY projects and ideas, gear reviews, living frugally, cooking in unconventional ways, and more! Take a tour to better understand the many tools and resources you can find here as well as what to expect in the future. Learn from my experiences and share your own in the comments below. Have a blessed day. :)

4 thoughts on “Can You Really Boil Water in a Plastic Soda Bottle?”

  1. I read in Damian Campbell’s Survive Water Crisis that you can purify water without boiling it. It is called SODIS, which means “Solar Disinfection”. Just put you water in a clear bottle and leave it outside in the sun. The cloudier it is, the longer it takes. The water needs to reach 86 degrees for at least 5 hours. If there is 50% cloud cover, it must be in the sun for 6 hours.

    1. Yeah, SODIS is good to know and a big reason why I like to keep clear two-liter soda bottles. Plus they’re great if you fill with water and freeze… now you have a big block of ice and clean water too. 🙂

      We’ve long known that pasteurization temperatures are all that is required to kill harmful pathogens so boiling was never needed, just an easy gauge to know you’re safe.

      Six hours doesn’t feel quite long enough if cloudy; If I remember right you’d want to leave the bottles out for a good two days if cloudy, the longer the better, really. Here is not-so-sunny Seattle I’d need to leave them out for like a month!

  2. I learned this from kids at a 4-H raft retreat. Fill your bottle full, leave the lid on and throw the whole thing right in the fire. It’ll boil alright, and not melt the bottle either! Then you can pick it out with the barbeque tongs or leave it ’til the next morning when it’s cool (if they ever let the fire go out). Who’da thought? Little smart alecks.

    They also cut the ends of off their light stick necklaces and stuck them in bottles of Mountain Dew then hung them in the trees. What a waste of soda pop. They had the camp lit up like the Queen Mary while they were swing dancing to somebody’s iPhone connected to speakers.

    Teenagers … I was afraid to fall asleep.

    1. I think the video shows pretty much the same but I thought the lid should stay off… maybe just cracked a little?

      Anyway, the idea about light sticks and mountain dew is a fun party trick and no doubt you’re right about being afraid to sleep around all those kids! Hopefully they went to bed at a descent time…. I’m ready at about 9pm most nights, lol.

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