- Jun 10, 2018 at 8:27 pm #3541313
When backpacking, I only drink treated water (hiker pro and now DIY sawyer gravity filter). However, I have always washed my cookware with untreated water. Am I just lucky that I haven’t gotten sick yet from this or does it sound relatively prudent? The following is what I do with my dirty cookware:
- I grab a large amount of untreated water from a relatively clean looking water source and take that away from the water source. Next, I pour this water onto the dirty cookware. Next, I tear off weeds and grass to use as my sponge to wipe things off. I don’t like to use sponges since I don’t want another stinky thing to attract animals.
- If the food was especially oily or fatty and is leaving a residue, I will make another thick slurry of this untreated water combined with dirt, which absorbs and seems to lift off the oil like soap. Very rarely, I’ll then use a drop of Dr. Bronner’s if it still feels dirty like when i have fried fish.
- I dry it off with a bandana and let it air dry and put it in the sun (UV treatment?). I never eat from it while it’s still moist and if it is still wet, I will boil it or wash again with treated water.
- I only eat hot food in my cookware, so the pot gets boiling water and I stick my silverware briefly in the hot water while cooking (for about 1 minute).
My unscientific or possibly very ignorant theory behind this is that as long as my cookware is not wet or sticky that there is very unlikely to be enough bad stuff (a healthy person doesn’t get sick from a couple giardia parasites) on the cookware to get me sick. I could be that I have just been very lucky for the last 25 years or that my step 4 has been effective enough even though I don’t let my silverware boil in it for a couple minutes (about one minute of high heat is good enough to sanitize a relatively clean spoon?) . What do people think? I have just been too lazy until recently to wash with filtered water, but this could very well be a serious mistake.Jun 10, 2018 at 11:04 pm #3541341
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
My unscientific or possibly very ignorant theory behind this is that as long as my cookware is not wet or sticky that there is very unlikely to be enough bad stuff (a healthy person doesn’t get sick from a couple giardia parasites) on the cookware to get me sick.
If the utensils are dry, there is nowhere left for any significant quantity of bugs to be.
Remember: the human body can handle a small quantity of almost any bugs. If it couldn’t we would all be dead.
CheersJun 11, 2018 at 5:57 am #3541387
Rex SandersBPL Member
@rexLocale: Central California Coast
I’ll second Roger’s opinion. I’ve never gotten sick after accidentally drinking gallons of untreated river water from around the Western US, and no longer worry about a few drops here and there.
On river trips, standard dishwashing procedure was untreated river water + soap in first bucket, untreated river water rinse in second bucket, and river water + capful of bleach in third bucket, followed by air drying. No sickness after ~2,000 person-days of trips in my personal experience.
I’d be more wary of drying with a crusty bandana, which can efficiently protect, smear, and transfer critters around, especially if used for other purposes. Wash and thoroughly dry the bandana regularly. And continue removing the oils/grease/fats.
— RexJun 11, 2018 at 6:48 am #3541394
Roger and Rex, thanks for the replies, I agree that the key to this cleaning could be that the cookware is dry and free of food gunk in which large amounts of bacteria and parasites could live and propagate. Usually, I just air dry and don’t use a bandana because I only use utensils and cookware in the evening and at camp. In the day time, I just snack or eat sandwiches etc. and don’t cook anything, so I can avoid using a crusty bandana, which I usually do anyways. Between the sun/air in the evening and morning (it’s usually one of the last things that I pack), the cookware should be dry unless it rained.Jun 11, 2018 at 11:10 am #3541405
Alex HBPL Member
@abhittLocale: southern appalachians or desert SW
I also reason that as soon as I put that pot back on the burner that the remaining bad guys are taken care of. The air dried cup should be fine and when the next not drink hits it, it will cook some of them too.Jun 11, 2018 at 12:24 pm #3541411
Erica RBPL Member
I clean my dishes with a little filtered water and TP. It’s easier than carrying dishes to a water source.Jun 11, 2018 at 2:11 pm #3541423
Ken T.BPL Member
Well you should be bringing water to your dishes, not the other way around. 200ft away,Jun 11, 2018 at 2:24 pm #3541426
Bob .BPL Member
@bcbobLocale: Vancouver Island
+1 for Ken T. I have minimal dishes (a peanut butter jar and a spoon) but use creek or lake water or ocean water and sand to clean. Dump well away from the water source. Final rinse with treated water.Jun 11, 2018 at 4:29 pm #3541442
Lori PBPL Member
@lori999Locale: Central Valley
I either rehydrate in the bag if using a smaller pot, or heat up enough water for a hot drink and a meal, plus a little extra to rinse out the mug I used to rehydrate/eat with.
I do NOT go out there to do dishes. I’d rather be fishing, chilling… or cutting trees out of the trail, or hiking.
Any water used to wash anything should be dispersed far from water sources.
Having been in the backcountry every month for years, either working or playing, I would never drink untreated water – friends in SAR have been treated multiple times for giardia, as have a few of their dogs. No one who is out there that much would drink untreated water. It’s a roulette wheel whether you are infected or not, but the visitation to the Sierra is on the upswing and you have no idea who’s been in that water before you got there, nor how many livestock have been in it.Jun 11, 2018 at 11:10 pm #3541535
Kief HBPL Member
@kiefLocale: Eastside Sierra, Downeast Maine
Lori, your assertion that “no one” who spends a lot of time in the backcountry would drink untreated water is on par with your repeated claims in other BPL threads that “there are no filters for viruses,” which you’ve persisted in making despite being called out on this falsehood by several forum members. It simply isn’t true. We’re admittedly in the realm of dueling anecdotes here. But in my fairly wide circle of acquaintance with folks who aren’t visitors to the Sierra but have actually lived and worked here for upwards of 20 to 40+ years, I don’t know a single soul who would never drink untreated water. It’s a judgment call. And as far as I know, none of them have gotten sick after deciding to take their chances.
I certainly haven’t. I’ve contracted giardiasis twice—in Nepal and Afghanistan—and the possibility of experiencing it again is not something I take lightly. (A course of Flagyl is no fun, either.) I am far from persuaded, though, either by the available science or the accumulated wisdom of myself and my friends, that an absolutist approach is warranted. The OP made it clear that he only drinks treated water, and more power to him. But let’s not confuse opinions with facts in making pronouncements about everyone else.Jun 11, 2018 at 11:16 pm #3541537
Dean F.BPL Member
@acrosomeLocale: Back in the Front Range
That’s exactly what I do- I use untreated water and sand or gravel to scrub the pot. Then, when you boil the water for your next meal you are sterilizing the pot again. Absolutely no problem.Jun 11, 2018 at 11:34 pm #3541545
David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Michael: I’d be comfortable doing what you describe. Remember the EPA-approved methods are never for 100% removal, but for 99.99 or 99.999% disinfection rates. Each of the steps you describe would eliminate over 90% of any bugs from the untreated water, for a very high combined effectiveness.
We don’t always have sunlight available, but it is very effective. 6 hours of tropical sunlight will sterilize water within a PETE / PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate = recycling type #1 is what disposable water bottles, soda bottles and Smart Water bottles are made of). Any bacteria / viruses remaining on the surface of a towel-dried item would get a much higher UVA dose than those inside a full plastic liter bottle.
http://www.sodis.ch/methode/index_EN (which includes links to the underlying studies). Or Google “SODIS water treatment”.
For group trips where you’re at risk not just from infectious organisms in ties environment, but also from your fellow hikers, I like high-concentration chlorine rinse water as Rex describes above. A cap of bleach in 5 gallons of water, for instance. While a few ppm takes tens of minutes to treat drinking water, 100 ppm takes seconds to treat the water itself and the dishes passed through it. Typically, you have an assembly line of rough rinse, wash with soap, rinse, than chlorinated water bath, leaving dishes there for a minute or two. Split among a large group, a small bottle of **clearly labelled** chlorine beach is pretty light.Jun 12, 2018 at 2:55 am #3541599
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
For group trips where you’re at risk not just from infectious organisms in ties environment, but also from your fellow hikers,
In practice, the risk from fellow hikers is far greater than from the environment.
CheersJun 12, 2018 at 1:51 pm #3541641
J RBPL Member
Regarding the anecdotal evidence of “I’ve never gotten sick” vs. “I have or know people who have gotten sick”, many people who become infected with giardia never show symptoms. The risk of infection is different than the risk of getting sick. Just sayin’.Jun 12, 2018 at 3:03 pm #3541653
John SBPL Member
All you really need to do, in order to clean something, is do a quick boil of the water it doesn’t need to be treated. The CDC and EPA actually recommends boiling water over water treatment. If under 2000 meters in altitude a rolling boil of 1 minute is recommended. If you go over 2000 meters push that out to 3 minutes. Since you already have your stove out, or fire going, and likely wont be filling the whole container to the brim to clean, it won’t take much time at all to reach that boil. Since it’s not inconvenient I just say “better safe than sorry” and get the quick boil going with untreated water to conserve my purified water for drinking.
Also I don’t use water treatment stuff anymore, just a Sawyer. Iodine doesn’t kill crypto and while Chlorine Dioxide does, it can take as long as 4 hours to get the job done. With how much I drink on the trail that means carrying A LOT more weight in water as I wait for the CD to do it’s thing even in cooler temps. Once you get a serious bug in your digestive track, like I did once, you don’t take chancesJun 12, 2018 at 5:46 pm #3541679
Bruce TolleyBPL Member
@btolleyLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
I personally think the practice of harvesting grass to dry dishes is 1) unnecessary when you can air dry the dishes and 2) leaves an adverse, visible impact on your campsite
You might be exposing yourself to bacteria and other microfauna in the soil you use as part of your process, but if you rinse afterwards you probably mitigate the chance of infection. The air and the sun are natural disinfectants.
If you have any cuts or open sores, I would not expose them to untreated water. Ditto if you need to clean a wound.Jun 13, 2018 at 3:22 am #3541843
Paul McLaughlinBPL Member
My own practice: I never wash my dishes in the usual sense. I rinse, and drink the rinse water. Sounds gross to some but in actuality it has almost no taste and this way I have no dirty water to dispose of and I am using treated water to rinse with. After rinsing, I shake them off and let them air dry – preferably in the sun. Since most of where I like to go is at elevations over 9,000 feet, I am usually having to go to great lengths to ward off the intense UV – but here is one place where I welcome it.
I generally carry an eating bowl, and almost never have any food in the pot. If I do have food in the pot, I am less concerned about how clean it is compared to the bowl. After all, the next time I use it I’m going to boil water in it.Jun 13, 2018 at 11:09 am #3541885
Alex HBPL Member
@abhittLocale: southern appalachians or desert SW
“My own practice: I never wash my dishes in the usual sense. I rinse, and drink the rinse water. Sounds gross to some but in actuality it has almost no taste and this way I have no dirty water to dispose of and I am using treated water to rinse with. After rinsing, I shake them off and let them air dry – preferably in the sun. Since most of where I like to go is at elevations over 9,000 feet, I am usually having to go to great lengths to ward off the intense UV – but here is one place where I welcome it.
I generally carry an eating bowl, and almost never have any food in the pot. If I do have food in the pot, I am less concerned about how clean it is compared to the bowl. After all, the next time I use it I’m going to boil water in it.”
This is exactly how I deal with dishes too. After the main meal, the pot is rinsed and cleaned with a bit more boiled water and then the bowl rinsed with that while hot and a hot drink is made with the water (usually hot chocolate which masks any remaining flavors). Then all is left to air dry. Too many years hiking in the desert to waste water on washing dishes.Jun 13, 2018 at 3:11 pm #3541904
1.Bruce, the grass is not harvested to dry the bowls. It is used to scrape and clean it like a sponge. It does better than my hands. Personally, I don’t think that this does too much damage (not much more or probably less than walking or putting down a tent), but I get the concern HYOH and I’m all for LNT.
2. Paul and Alex, I eat out of the pot that I cook and boil the water in when I hike alone and I don’t use an eating bowl. However, when I hike with people , I use an eating bowl. The problem is that I tend to take foods that needs actual cooking in the pot and not just boiling water and I boil/fry fish that tends to involve more clean up and simply rinsing with water is often not enough. Plus, I’m not as bad a** as you……I can’t see myself drinking water mixed with olive oil and fish oil/fats :) Like both of you, I agree with the decreased concern with the cooking pot since it’ll be reheated.
Jun 14, 2018 at 3:56 pm #3542072
- This reply was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by Michael K.
Paul SBPL Member
We eat out of a cup. First some soup, then some “main course”, and finally finish with an herbal tea. All food and tea prepared with water that was brought to a rollicking (!) boil. The hotness of the tea allows us to rub the cup clean with the tea bag as a wash cloth. We do this all the time. It’s our system! The cook pot is another story: We wash it out with whatever water (or snow) is handy. The thought being that we are going to bring it to boil the next time we use it anyhow (and that boiling would kill anything nasty).
Personally, I would not be comfortable with washing our cups/spoons with unfiltered or untreated water.
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