Does boiling water kill coronavirus?

Let’s be honest, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought up fear and struggles for everyone. A lot of misconceptions and possible solutions have emerged in order to find a cure for the disease.

There are also a lot of reactions from people and tons of questions that have been popping up all related to the virus. Ranging from the likes of what’s the best social distancing methods, how to prevent the virus from spreading, and many more…

One of the questions that folks are asking is whether boiling water can kill the virus. Normally, we all know that bringing water to a boiling point can destroy most pathogens but is it enough to kill the Coronavirus?

In this article, we’ll be finding our answers regarding this matter. We’ll first cover what is exactly a virus, how does boiling affects the pathogenic agent, familiarize ourselves with Coronavirus and then proceed to the part on whether boiling water can kill Coronavirus.

What is exactly a virus?

Viruses are a different type of pathogenic entity compared to bacteria. A virus is a microscopic agent that only starts to replicate once it is inside a host organism. That means when it is outside a host or hasn’t infected a host, a virus doesn’t function but once it is inside a host organism then the virus will start to do its work on the infected host.

Viruses, depending on the type or species have their own preference for host organisms; it can possibly target only plants, sometimes only animals or even man or even all organisms that it manages to infect.

Speaking of infection – once, inside the host, the virus will start to infect cells by penetrating the cells and then placing its genetic code within them. These infected cells are then forced to rapidly create as many copies of the original virus that infected it.

This will eventually conclude in the destruction of the host cell as it releases the copies. The cycle will repeat itself over and over again until you do something about the infection.1

Now that we’ve understood what is a virus and how it works inside a host body, let’s discuss how boiling kills viruses and what happens to these pathogens when exposed to strong heat.

How does boiling exactly kill viruses?

In this section, we’ll discuss what exactly happens to the virus when water is being boiled. For starters, bringing the water to a boiling point – kills microbes and viruses by utilizing the heat to damage the structural components within them thus disrupting essential life processes.

When I mean by structural components in the case of viruses, we’re looking at the destruction of their proteins which isn’t only vital for them to thrive and function but also utilized in replicating themselves.

In short, bringing water to a boil will deactivate and kill most viruses because we destroy their important proteins and as a result, they cannot thrive nor multiply.

However, most pathogens including most types of viruses usually start to deactivate whenever water reaches a heated point at 60 degrees Celsius which is noticeably lower than that of the boiling water. It is at this point of temperature where they start to unravel and disintegrate.

As a result, this is the protocol that is being followed by the Centers for Disease Control in the United States wherein 60 degrees Celsius is the ideal temperature to kill most viruses or any other pathogens. Take note that this method is not exactly sanitization but instead, this is more in line with a form of pasteurization.2

Now that we’ve understood how heat or boiling water affect pathogens, let’s familiarize ourselves first with the virus that is the focus of this topic, the Coronavirus.3

The Coronavirus which also goes by the name, SARS-CoV-2 is a more recently discovered virus that surfaced last 2019. This highly contagious virus has an incubation period of 14 days and causes symptoms ranging from what is observed in fever or flu up to diarrhea, loss of smell or taste, nausea, and even shortness of breath.

In some cases, Coronavirus can be mild but there have been instances where it became severe leading to complications such as pneumonia, kidney failure, and at worst cases, death.

Now that we’ve familiarized ourselves with exactly what virus we are dealing with, let us proceed to the main scope of this article – to find out whether boiling water can kill the Coronavirus.

Does boiling water kill Coronavirus?

According to a study conducted by a team of French researchers at the Aix-Marseille University in France – it was discovered that Coronavirus is quite the heat-resistant pathogen. Tests were conducted on the virus samples.

The samples were exposed to different temperatures of heat (56 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes, 60 degrees Celsius for 60 minutes, and 92 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes) and the results were published in a journal at bioRxiv.org.

The results discovered that high temperatures can significantly reduce the effectiveness of the Coronavirus but not enough to completely deactivate it. This means that even in a weakened state, the Coronavirus still has the capability to perform its vital functions hence it can still replicate and cause another round of infection to its host.

This means that the usual 60 degrees Celsius for 60 minutes protocol that’s employed by the US-based Centers for Disease Control & Prevention isn’t effective against it.

However, it was in the test in exposing the virus to 92 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes where the real results start to show. It was there where the Coronavirus started to deteriorate or weaken to the point of deactivation. So yes, boiling water does kill Coronavirus but be advised that this process can also fragment its RNA structure which is its genetic code and according to researchers, this can cause the rise of false negatives. 

One more thing you will need to consider is whether the water has a considerable viral load because boiling’s effectiveness is reduced if your water source has a high viral load. If there’s a small presence though, bringing water to a boil can be a feasible solution.

In summary, Coronavirus is far more resilient than your normal flu or fever-causing virus. The typical protocols needed to kill or disable viruses will only weaken it but it will still be able to cause illnesses or spread to other potential hosts.

It takes up to a near boiling point of water for you to finally disable the virus. If simply bringing the water to the boiling point isn’t enough then consider adding a few more minutes to put the water over a heat source just to make sure that any lingering proteins or genetic code of the virus will be disintegrated.4

Best options to boil water

Since we are now aware that high or almost-boiling temperatures are capable of deactivating the virus, now let’s get to know some of the best options to boil water.

  1. Pot-boiling – Probably the most common way to boil water. All you need to do is to ready a pot, get some water in it and place it over fire (whether open fire or over a stove). Take note that you’ll have to familiarize yourself with the stages of boiling water which are namely quiver, sub-simmer, and simmer, and the full, roiling boil. This is also the usual way how to purify water from germs or microbes but this has the drawback of losing heat once you have turned off the stove.
  2. Use a pressure cooker – Sometimes using the pot-boiling method can take quite a while and if you’re looking for a faster option then try using a pressure cooker instead. Since the pressure cooker traps water underneath a very airtight lid – this causes the pressure to go up that the water in it reaches higher temperatures fast!
  3. Electric Water Boiler – In homes with electricity, you are better off using an electric water boiler because it is far more efficient than heating water inside a microwave, and sometimes that heat isn’t enough to reach boiling point.
    The electric water boilers are capable of heating up water faster because their heating elements are often in direct contact with the water itself. What does that mean? Basically, heat will be transferred to the water fast resulting in it boiling quickly compared to using a pot, a pressure cooker, or the microwave (which is an inefficient idea).
    Note: Due to its efficiency in heating up water faster than the other options mentioned, the electric water boilers are going to be your best option in boiling water for consumption.5

ADDITIONAL NOTE: If you are using hot water for baths, it is strongly advised that you use soap thoroughly as you take a bath.

The Coronavirus is protected by a thick layer of fat-based material which makes it very resilient against heat. However, the said fat-based layer is susceptible to chemical cleaning meaning the likes of soaps, detergents and alcohol will make short work of the Coronavirus making it more vulnerable and easier to eliminate.

Alternative Sources

If you are still unsure about boiling and still looking for other safe sources of water to utilize, then take note of these alternative sources of water so that you can have something to drink or to use at your home.6

  1. Bottled Water / Distributed Jugs of Water – These provide a readily available source of drinking water. It may cost you some money but at least you have something to drink. However, settle for a bigger jug instead of more glasses or pitchers of clean water.
  2. Bulk Water Supplies – Often arranged by the water utility or emergency agencies; these provide you a readily-usable source of clean water if you’re not sure about using the one that’s available to you. Keep in mind that these tend to run on a schedule so do a little research first on your region if the utility agency does this.
  3. Water disinfected on-site – Through the use of specific chemicals (can be Sodium or Chlorine-based cleaning agents) utilized on the water source, water becomes sterilized and fit for human use. Take note that it has some limitations because chemical sterilization isn’t a good fit if the water source nearby is muddy or if there is waste matter present in it.

Final Words

To conclude this article – yes, it is possible to kill the Coronavirus through boiling but it does require extended exposure to the heat as the virus itself is far more heat-resistant than most of the viruses that we encounter from time to time. Bringing the water to a boil will slowly deteriorate its proteins and other essential lipids causing it to become inactive or killed at some point.

Just make sure that the water isn’t too contaminated so that the method of boiling can be feasible or otherwise, if not – consider looking for alternative water sources if the viral load of the water you have is quite high.

References:

1https://microbiologysociety.org
2https://www.health.ny.gov
3https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org
4https://english.alarabiya.net
5https://stanfordmag.org
6https://www.health.ny.gov