Water Disinfection and Polar Pure


Water treatment (disinfection) consists of removing solids by filtration and / or destroying disease organisms by chemicals or heat.  Methods of water treatment include:


Ordinary (unscented) household chlorine bleach, a 5% solution of sodium hypochlorite, can be used as a water disinfectant. Household bleach will kill some, but not all, types of disease-causing organisms that may be in the water. It is readily obtainable in many parts of the world, but in a dilute solution which makes it awkward to use because such a large volume must be carried.


One way to disinfect water is boil it. EPA recommends boiling water for one minute or three minutes at altitudes greater than one mile. The temperature at which water boils changes with a change in atmospheric pressure and altitude. The extra fuel needed may be a problem on long trips or where fuel is not available.

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Filters have become popular because they can remove impurities from water without changing the water taste. The most popular portable filters sold today have pore sizes of 0.1 to 4 microns. On average, the human hair is about 100 microns.

The Giardia cyst (a common intestinal parasite) is 6 microns in diameter and many bacteria are larger than 0.2 microns. Small pore filters (at least 0.2 microns) can remove such organisms. Viruses, however, range from 0.004 to 0.06 microns in size -- far smaller than the pore size of the best portable filter. Chemicals (iodine or chlorine) or heat must be used after, or instead of a filter if viruses are suspected to be present. Only filters with an iodine matrix are capable of killing viruses. Read filter information carefully to determine disinfection capabilities.

All filters eventually become clogged. Filter lifetime is determined by the quantity and size of particles in the water. Filters may also clog from growth of organisms in the filter medium. The filter must then be backflushed or replaced or, for ceramic filters, scrubbed clean, slowly eroding the ceramic. In very cold conditions, retained water may freeze, plugging and possibly cracking the filter element. A chemical water treatment backup to a filter is advisable. Filters weigh 1 to 1.5 pounds -- even more after use because they retain some water.



Iodine, a chemical element, is a bluish-black solid that will vaporize at normal temperatures into a blue-violet gas. It is slightly soluble in water and will create a saturated iodine solution. This solution can be used to disinfect water.

"Tincture of iodine" (alcohol / iodine solution) can be used to disinfect water, but to assure disinfection, milligrams of iodine per drop must be known.

Iodine complexes such as Potable Aqua and Globaline are convenient and effective when fresh, but degrade on air exposure. -- These tablets should be discarded 3 months after opening bottle. Refer to manufacturer regarding expiration date of opened and unopened package.

Use of Betadine (povidone/iodine complex) in water treatment has not been tested.

Anyone considering the use of any iodine-based water treatment method should consult with their physician if there is known thyroid disfunction, pregnancy or sensitivity to iodine or iodine containing products. The same care should be followed when using a filter with an iodine matrix.


Polar Pure Water Disinfectant was conceived in the late 1970's for personal reasons. Bob Wallace, the founder of our small family business, Polar Equipment, Inc. wanted an effective form of water treatment to use during a climb of Popocatapetl Volcano in Mexico. The concept began after reading an article in a 1978 edition of Backpacker Magazine about two M.D's, Fredrick Kahn and Barbara Visscher, who became infected with giardia on a climb near Los Angeles, CA. The doctors recommended disinfecting water with iodine to prevent infection. Knowing that the risks of water borne pathogens was high in Mexico, Bob brought iodine along on the trip to disinfect his water and returned without illness. This experience inspired Bob to create a product that would allow others to easily disinfect their water no matter where they were.

After thorough research of Kahn and Visscher's data and other sources, experimentation with bottle design, iodine containment and solution delivery, our current product, Polar Pure Water Disinfectant was developed and the formation of our company Polar Equipment, Inc. Our original intended use for the backpacker and has evolved to include numerous other outdoor adventurers, foreign travelers, those involved in survival training, and more recently, as an important and essential addition to emergency preparedness kits.

Each bottle of Polar Pure contains a small amount of crystalline iodine. When water is added to the bottle, a saturated solution of iodine is created and used to disinfect a quart/liter bottle of water. When used as directed, the Polar Pure solution kills not only giardia but viruses and bacteria as well. An economical, effective and unique product, one small bottle of Polar Pure is capable of treating up to 2000 quarts of water.

Polar Pure has a distinct advantage over all other chemical water treatment products and filters available in that it has an indefinite shelf life. Unlike filters that can clog or crack or water purification tablets that have a limited shelf life (even if unopened), one bottle of Polar Pure will last the average backpacker many years before a replacement is needed. The indefinite shelf life makes it ideal for emergency preparedness kits because it will be effective to use at any time. No need to worry about an expiration date. There is no product available that compares to Polar Pure in size, ease of use, economy, effectiveness, and its indefinite shelf life. Refer to our Comparing Water Treatment chart for a comparison of water treatment options.


Polar Pure Water Disinfectant uses elemental crystallized iodine in a unique delivery system to destroy water-borne pathogens including giardia cysts and micro-organisms (viruses) that pass through filters. Simply add water to your Polar Pure bottle to create and use a saturated solution of iodine to disinfect your water.

Iodine crystals are stable and slightly soluble in water. Keep your Polar Pure bottle filled with water and tightly capped to maintain a ready to use iodine-saturated solution.

When used as directed, a saturated iodine solution for disinfection is maintained in your filled Polar Pure bottle. This saturated solution is then used to disinfect your drinking water at an optimal concentration of 4 - 5 ppm (parts per million - about 4 - 5 mg) iodine per quart/liter of water.

Saturation concentration varies with the solution temperature, but a green dot on the liquid crystal dosage chart on the Polar Pure bottle shows how many capfuls are needed for disinfection. For complete instructions, refer to our directions for use page.


Refer to our water treatment comparison page for more information regarding water disinfection

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