Can whiskey be used to purify iffy water while out in the outdoors?

We have all seen movies were someone uses whiskey to clean those gunshot wounds and more. But I would like to know if one could use whiskey to purify water while out in the outdoors. Could it kill germs like giardia?


There have been studies on the effects of whiskey as a disinfectant, and it works reasonably well as so many old western stories of a splash of whisky on a bullet wound have attested, even if they probably only fictional.

However, as Steve indicated in his answer, as a water purifier, it isn't going to do much. The ethanol concentrations that you need in order to kill bacteria roughly bottom at what you get in whiskey itself. Drop below 30% or so, and I haven't seen any study that shows any effectiveness as those levels.

So, while you could potentially cut your whiskey with a little creek water, and after an hour or so have something that was slightly less potent and fairly safe to drink, it won't give you much in the way of what we might generally think of as purified water. For that, you'll need to stick to water purification tablets or a good filter.

  • About 1 teaspoon of household bleach (8.25% of sodium hypochlorite) in a gallon of dirty water is enough to sterilize it for drinking. Waaaay more effective than Alcohol. Dec 27 '16 at 18:51

Yes and no. If you use it at 100% strength it might be a good sterilizer but just a small amount in water isn't going to do much.

Guidelines for Alcohol Sterilization

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.