The Best Water Purification Tablets for Emergencies and Survival

Water is a necessity for survival, but it’s also a necessity to have it clean enough to drink. We’ve all experienced food poisoning a few times in our lives- and impure water will make that seem like a breeze when you get sick from it. The best water purification tablets make cleaning water quick work and will get you back to other important tasks in an emergency or survival situation.

There are only a handful of brands and types to choose from when it comes to tablet-form water purifiers. Even still, you need to know what you can rely on when you need it most. This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best water purification tablets, tested each of them, and now the results are in: the overall best, a budget option, and an upgrade option. If you need to get clean water that will keep you going in a survival situation, one of our suggestions will help keep you hydrated.


Contents (Jump to a Section)


Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets

The Best Water Purification Tablets

Potable Aqua

Lightweight, Fast, and Effective

It turns out that it’s tough to beat the long-time leader of portable water purification that delivers a no-color no-taste fast water treatment.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Potable Aqua (with PA Plus) water purification tablets hit our top spot since they get the job done at the right price. These tablets are effective, fast, and don’t leave that funky iodine taste or stain that cheaper one-shot tablets have. They are lightweight enough to add to any kit and very simple to use. After just 35 minutes, you’ll have water that is ready to drink when it filters out bacteria and Giardia lamblia.

Add Potable Aqua PA+ Tablets to your kits and don’t look back. We use them in our kits and are thrilled to see that they easily beat out the competition when we put them to the test.


Coghlan's Germicidal Tablets

Budget Water Purification Tablets

Coghlan’s Germicidal Tablets

Inexpensive, Simple, and Dependable

Inexpensive tablets you can find at several stores that get the water clean on a budget.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

The cheapest solution is also the easiest to use. It is an iodine-based treatment that requires one tablet per quart of water and cleans the water after 30 minutes. The downside is that it can taste a little like iodine since it doesn’t have a neutralizing tablet included. This makes it faster, but the water tastes a little funky after it is clean. Some people have reported that these tablets can stain clear plastic water bottles, but they did not stain our stainless bottles.

Pick up some Coghlan’s Germicidal Tablets fast, easy, and cheap since they are available at a wide range of stores.


Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets

Upgrade Water Purification Tablets

Aquatabs

Preportioned, Fast, and Thorough

Individually packaged tablets keep your purification solution lightweight, portable, and easy to use.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Not only are these the best tabs to use in your mobile kits, but they are also both fast AND thorough which is hard to find. You simply use one tab for one liter (a little more if it is cloudy or suspect), mix for ten minutes, and then let it sit for another 30, which is one of the fastest working reactions you can find for a chlorine-based water purifier.

Pick up some Aquatabs for any of your kits for the best water treatment solution in tablet form and you won’t regret it. They have an extensive shelf life and are the easiest option to spread between your family’s bug out bags and other survival kits.


Everything We Recommend

Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets

Potable Aqua

It turns out that it’s tough to beat the long-time leader of portable water purification that delivers a no-color no-taste fast water treatment.

Where to Buy

$10* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Coghlan's Germicidal Tablets

Coghlan’s Germicidal Tablets

Inexpensive tablets you can find at several stores that get the water clean on a budget.

Where to Buy

$9* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Aquatabs Water Purification Tablets

Aquatabs

Individually packaged tablets keep your purification solution lightweight, portable, and easy to use.

Where to Buy

$14* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing


The Tablets We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to the several purification tablet brands and types that we tested: Potable Aqua, Coghlan’s, Ef-Chlor, Aquatabs, P&G, Katadyn, ‎Chlor-Floc, and more.

Some of these brands use the same chemicals and concentrations to develop their tablets, so we ended up testing quite a lot of them looking at the differences in quality, taste, packaging, etc. You can see our full list of review criteria below in the what to look for section, with an explanation for each.

We did not consider any in-place purifiers, membrane purifiers (like straw filters), UV purifiers, or liquid/powder and focused entirely on water purifiers in tablet form. You can find examples of each of those that work well, but the tablet purifiers are great for portable kits.

We’re always looking for new and better equipment, so if you have a purification tablet you swear by let us know down in the comments. We review most of our tested gear annually, so we can always get it in the next roundup round and see if it makes the cut and we can see if it will beat out our top picks.


What to Look For

The best water purification tablets have several important features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Effectiveness
  3. Speed
  4. Taste
  5. Versatility

When you get the right blend of these, you can find reliable tablets that will keep you hydrated through an emergency. Below, we break down what each of these features means for truly dependable tablets that you can trust with your life:

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like purification tablets shouldn’t blow out your budget. Having one is better than having none, but the same applies to other tools and gear you may need for an emergency. Budget according to your risk and your needs rather than just spending lavishly.

On the flip side, you don’t want to go too cheap. Luckily, every tablet we tried was effective when the instructions are followed correctly, but there are still benefits to spending more. Cheap tablets require more time to purify the water and often leave a chemical taste. Don’t get too frugal when it comes to something you will rely on in an emergency.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, especially something like tablets. It’s better to diversify your tools and preparedness gear to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios. There is a sweet spot where you get high value out of the best features with not-to-high of a price, which is where our top pick sits.

Effectiveness

The effectiveness of a purification tablet is tied to the contents and quality of the tablet. There are several different chemical compounds that can be used to purify water, but only a few of them come available in tablet form. Water purification tablet chemicals typically include:

  • chlorine
  • chlorine dioxide
  • iodine

These vary in effectiveness and have their own strengths. Chlorine dioxide is the most powerful of the three listed here and is one of the most effective at killing a wide range of microorganisms, including viruses and protozoans. The downside to chlorine dioxide is that it requires a much longer treatment time than both chlorine and iodine-based tablets.

Speed

Speed is important in an emergency and important for clean water in an emergency. Four hours becomes a much longer time to wait for water purification than 30 minutes since water purification tablets are an emergency solution.

In-place and bulkier water purifiers are expected to take a little longer, but water purification tablets are meant to be fast and easy. If you wait around all day for purified water, you may as well be boiling water to purify or using other solutions. In the military, we called this a ‘fire and forget’ method – add a tablet to your water bottle and keep on moving. Then you can drink it after the short time limit of at least 30 minutes. This lets you stay mobile and concentrate on other tasks.

Taste

A few of the treatment options can leave the water with an odd flavor. Some iodine treatment tablets also come with iodine neutralizer tablets to eliminate the unpleasant taste with a two-part tablet treatment. Chlorine tablet treated water can be left exposed to air to allow the chlorine to evaporate over time to reduce the odd taste.

Unpleasant taste isn’t the only concern. Those with thyroid conditions, iodine allergies, and pregnant women should avoid iodine water purification tablets.

Versatility

The packaging and composition of purification tablets can provide some versatility when you need to use them outside of your regular function or in unique scenarios. Individually packaged tablets are amazingly convenient for bug out bags and everyday carry, and one of the reasons we love our upgrade pick.


How to Use Water Purification Tablets

Water purification tablets are very easy to use, and they come with instructions printed right on. Take care to read them and it’s hard to go wrong. You’ll need to know how much water you are purifying, usually listed in liters.

Before you start tossing tabs in, you’ll also need to filter out any debris and sediment in the water. This is not necessary with all water purification tablets, but it is good practice since it will speed up the process and require fewer tablets. You can use any membrane filter- from homemade all the way to our favorite, the Sawyer Mini.

Once you’ve discovered how many tablets you need to treat your membrane filtered water, you just add the tablets and wait the time listed on the packaging.


Who Needs Water Purification Tablets?

The CDC and FEMA hope everyone has water purification tablets on hand. There is not enough in the strategic stockpile for everyone, and distribution would be a massive challenge. Membrane filtering isn’t clean water, and you’ll need potable water no matter what emergency you encounter.

This is why you’ll find it suggested for almost every kit.

Water purification tablets are essential for:

We suggest at least a few tablets for these kits as well:

Of course, you can always use the tablets for things beyond emergencies and survival kits too- like rugged camping and bushcraft. We actually encourage it- don’t let them sit in your bags and kits without knowing how they work or how to use them properly.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best water purification tablets is useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical military and prepping experience:

Gerba, C., Johnson, D. & Hasan, M. (1997). Efficacy of iodine water purification tablets against Cryptosporidium oocysts and Giardia cysts. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. Volume 8, Issue 2, Pages 96-100. (Source).

Nakamura, S., Kunii, O., Abdur, R. & Wakai, S. (2002). The impact on health and risk factors of the diarrhoea epidemics in the 1998 Bangladesh floods. Public Health. Volume 116, Issue 2, Pages 68-74. (Source)

Powers, E. (1993). Efficacy of Flocculating and Other Emergency Water Purification Tablets. Army NATICK Research Development and Engineering Center. (Source)


The Final Word

Water is essential to survival, so you’ll need several ways to store, collect, and treat water in a wide range of situations. Whether you are staying put to bug in or hitting the road to bug out- water purification tablets should be a part of your survival kit. If you need to figure out how much water you plan to store or treat check out our easy Water Storage Calculator.

To go along with solid treatment tablets, you should also consider a few other basic survival items:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our research and testing found that the Potable Aqua Tablets are the best option given the value, effectiveness, speed, taste, and versatility. If you take our suggestion and grab these purification tablets- make sure you try them out and know how to use them before an emergency.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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The Best Water Purification Tablets

Rusty Collins

I am an engineer by day, but a prepper 24/7. I am an Air Force veteran that developed emergency and disaster plans as an emergency manager and responded to many attacks and accidents as a HAZMAT technician. I have been exposed to deadly chemical agents, responded to biological incidents, and dealt with natural disasters worldwide. Check out my full story here: Rusty's Story

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