Best Water Purification Tablets: The Surefire Solution For Drinkable Water

Last Updated: November 15, 2022

Great works of art, scientific achievement, and the Hot Pocket are all tremendous works of progress made by humanity, but none of that would matter much without clean drinking water available at your command from the tap.

But what do you do without regular access to cool, crisp, and clean water?

What if you’re in a scenario where you’re stuck in the wild, or worse yet, the SHTF and all public services are extinct?

That’s right; you need to concoct your own clean drinking water. And one of the best ways to eliminate bacteria and other microorganisms is with water purification tablets.

But before you click and shop, we’ll examine the differences between different types of tablets and help you choose the best ones for you, then take a look at some of the best water purification tablets on the market.

The Most Essential of Essentials: Clean Water

We have clean water ready from a tap at any time of the day, which is a modern convenience we take for granted all too often.

The ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, is an extreme example of what might happen when a water supply system goes wrong.

Advantages Of Tablets

While no method of water sanitization is perfect by itself, using water purification tablets is as good as it’s going to get when you need clean water in a reasonable amount of time and need to pack light.

The advantages of water purification tablets are numerous:

  • Lightweight, compact, and easily carried
  • Generally readily (and cheaply) available
  • Very effective at killing bacteria and microorganisms
  • Have a shelf life of 1-2 years when unopened
  • No special or additional tools needed; just the tablet, a container, and the water

It isn’t unreasonable to keep some stocked around the house in case of an emergency, major or minor. If you live in the United States, the increasingly frequent threat of a catastrophic hurricane makes clean water a rarity. Keeping these tablets in your home could mean the difference between life and death.

These tablets are also ideal for a car emergency kit in case you break down in the middle of nowhere!

Another significant benefit is in a survival scenario where you want to evade detection. Ordinarily, boiling water is the safest method of eliminating most organisms from the water, but what if you can’t risk detection? Or what if you’re in a scenario where starting a fire is simply impossible?


water sediment
Sediments need to be removed first.

Please note that the tablets kill pathogens in the water (stuff like giardia), but they do not remove sediments or chemical pollutants.

Additionally, there are a few other drawbacks to using these tablets we should address now before we get too far:

  • Regular and frequent use of water purification tablets can be dangerous to your long-term health
  • The taste of water is often made worse after using tablets because of the iodine, chlorine, and other chemicals used in their composition
  • Without proper storage, the tablets will lose their effectiveness entirely and essentially go bad
  • People with thyroid conditions, those on lithium, and pregnant women should not use iodine-based tablets (chlorine-based tablets are okay to use instead)
  • Some people allergic to shellfish are also allergic to iodine (as above, chlorine is a safe choice)
  • In rare cases, these tablets can cause allergic reactions

Water purification tablets are not a long-term solution for obtaining safely drinkable water.

We’ve got an excellent guide to long-term emergency water storage here, and it’s worth your attention when you’ve finished reading this!

Iodine or Chlorine?

Besides the potential allergies and side effects when choosing between iodine or chlorine tablets, it’s important to note that iodine is generally the superior option for purifying water because it kills more microorganisms. Unfortunately, iodine also tastes far more unpleasant.

It is vital to understand that neither of these options is suitable for long-term use. Iodine overexposure can produce awful side effects that are as mild as stomach aches and vomiting/diarrhea to something as severe as thyroid cancer.

High levels or frequent exposure to chlorine can result in cell damage and asthma, among other undesirable symptoms.

You should keep these tablets nearby for emergencies, but do your best to find alternative water purification methods if you expect to be without clean water for longer than a week.

Don’t worry; as always, we have an excellent guide on other methods for purifying your drinking water.

Safe Use

Because these tablets do not remove sediments from the water, I recommend a quick filtration of water through a cotton cloth, say a t-shirt or a bandanna.

This quick video shows the process.


I’d also recommend keeping a one-liter water bottle or a similarly-sized vessel nearby. These tablets are designed to work in volumes of about a liter to about a quart; if you can’t carry this with you, get skilled at guesstimating volume!

Although each product may have a different set of specific directions, here is the usual order of operations to follow when using a water purification tablet:

Water Purification Tablet Procedure

  1. Collect one liter of water that has been filtered through a piece of cotton fabric
  2. Carefully remove a tablet and add the correct amount to the water you have to purify
  3. If possible, shake the container for about two minutes to break the tablet up
  4. Allow the water to rest for at least thirty minutes before drinking (read the directions of each product, some may differ)
  5. Drink up!

This process is identical between iodine-based tablets and chlorine-based ones.

A few extra tips I’ve picked up are here for your purview below:

  • Popping a vitamin C tablet into the water after it’s been purified can help to improve the taste
  • If you’re purifying a large amount of water, measure it out with 1-liter bottles or some other amount you can easily keep track of
  • Warm water is considerably easier to purify than cold water (wait longer in cold water before drinking)
  • If you can’t filter the water, at least wait for sediments to sink before adding the tablet and try to pour the water into another vessel, leaving most of the sediment behind
  • Avoid using iodine-based tablets in soft plastic water bladders (like in my daypack of choice, the Camelbak Stealth), or it can stain the plastic

5 Best Water Purification Tablets

Potable Aqua

Let’s get the most well-known one out of the way first. Potable Aqua tablets are the standard for iodine-based water purification tablets.

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You can find this at any outdoor retailer or order from the handy-dandy Amazon links above and below.

I always keep a bottle of these in my car and one in my pack. The taste is vile, as can be expected for any iodine-based tablet, but they do the trick.

Notes on Use

  • Comes with 50 tablets
  • Two tablets treat 1 liter of water; one full bottle will treat 25 quarts of water
  • Wait 30 minutes before using
  • Lasts four years unopened, and one year after opening


An excellent chlorine-based tablet, this is your go-to choice if you’re concerned with exposure to iodine.

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If you can believe the claim, the company also offers 600 liters of purified water to a village in Africa for every purchase, so humanitarians can celebrate!

Aquatabs have few complaints about odor or taste, so that’s a plus considering you’re plopping chlorine into your future drinking water!

Notes on Use

  • Comes with 30 tablets
  • Treats up to 60 quarts of water
  • Wait 30 minutes before using
  • Lasts five years unopened, and one year after opening

Ef Chlor

Ef Chlor is a great option when you have a lot of water to purify. Keep these on hand for when the SHTF or you’re stuck with plenty of water stored (rain barrels, a creek, etc.) but no safe way to purify a large amount.

The water should taste decent afterward as well because of an effervescent intended to improve the palatability and flavor of the water after it’s finished its job.

This is an excellent option if you’ve got plenty to purify, and makes it a go-to choice for purifying huge amounts of water for many people in need. Shelters will thank you for having these on your person to help people procure what they need.

Notes on Use

  • 20 tablets per pack
  • One tablet purifies 264 gallons of water
  • Wait 30 minutes before using
  • 3-year shelf life

Katadyn Micopur

With a name like “Katadyn,” this tablet promises a lot by association alone. Although chlorine-based, this tablet has received rave reviews from microbiologists as the best option for killing ALL microorganisms in water.

Unfortunately, it tends to leave a more unpleasant taste in the mouth than we’d like, but still, it makes water safe to drink.

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This seems the best option for chlorine-based water purification tablets, if only because of its purported strength.

They do require a significantly longer time before the water becomes drinkable. While bottles are more convenient for frequent use, these tablets are contained in a one-time opening package, making them more resistant to the ravages of time… as long as they remain unopened.

Notes on Use

  • Available in 20-tablet or 30-tablet packages
  • One tablet per liter
  • Wait at least four hours before using
  • Lasts up to five years unopened


A familiar choice for those who shop in big-box outdoor stores. I’ve used Coghlan’s more than any other purification tablet simply because they’re so readily available.

They’ve been in my pack while camping for years until I changed the formula to keep things fresh.

These are iodine-based tablets, so it carries that standard caution of limiting your intake.

Notes on Use

  • Comes with 50 tablets
  • Two tablets purify 1 quart of water; One bottle purifies 25 quarts of water
  • Wait at least 30 minutes before using
  • Lasts up to four years unopened, one year after opening

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  1. Cannot store enough water for a lifetime…learn to clean it, recycle it…not pollute it, not waste it… ever tried carrying water for your every need ?
    Try old farm living…dig the well …line the walls against collapse of the well, make the lift tools to raise the water to the surface, carry water ford live stock, fowl, family….try being clean without ready water supply…
    must learn to boil water and capture only the steam…distilled water is the purest form…
    a series of bottles or jars can be used to evaporate water into other containers…sunshine helps to dis-infect…boiling will not remove chemical contaminants…every time clean water is possible, fill up and store it .

  2. Back in the 1970s I traveled low-budget in Latin America for two months. All the tap water was suspect then, and the sealed plastic water bottles that are everywhere today were not yet invented. Canned and bottled pop was safe, but you can’t drink that all the time. To have enough water to drink, I carried a plastic liter bottle and disinfected the water with the Potable Aqua tablets of the day. It worked and the taste wasn’t too bad. I did not get sick except once, when I put ice in bottled pop without thinking.


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