What Temperature Kills Bacteria in Water and Food? (2023)

What Temperature Kills Bacteria in Water and Food? (1)Share on Pinterest

Bacteria are microscopic, single-celled organisms. They’re found all over the world and in many different environments — even within your body. In fact, it’s estimated that we have 10 times more bacterial cells in our body than human cells.

While most bacteria don’t cause illness in humans, there are some that do. These are called pathogenic bacteria. A few examples include:

  • the Salmonella species
  • E. coli
  • methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

You can lower your risk of becoming sick by taking steps to reduce your exposure to these types of bacteria. In fact, there are different ways to kill pathogenic bacteria in water, in food, or on a household surface.

Let’s take a closer look at what temperatures can kill bacteria, as well as other steps you can take to get rid of potentially harmful bacteria in your home.

Several types of disease-causing organisms can be present in water, including bacteria. Some examples of bacterial illnesses that you can get from contaminated water include:

  • salmonellosis
  • shigellosis
  • gastroenteritis caused by E.coli as well as some Vibrio species
  • dysentery
  • typhoid fever
  • cholera

Due to modern water treatment methods, this isn’t something that we often worry about. However, there are some circumstances in which bacteria can be present in water. These include scenarios where:

  • regular water service has been interrupted, due to a water line break or a natural disaster
  • you’re traveling and are unsure of the quality or safety of the water
  • water has been unsafely treated, handled, or stored

The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that bacteria are rapidly killed at temperatures above 149°F (65°C). This temperature is below that of boiling water or even a simmer.

In order to be sure that you’ve killed pathogenic bacteria that may be present in water, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following:

  1. If the water is cloudy, either let it settle or filter it through a coffee filter or clean piece of cloth before you boil it.
  2. Bring the water to a rolling boil. This is the point where the water is boiling very vigorously with lots of bubbles.
  3. Allow the water to boil like this for at least 1 minute.
  4. Remove the water from the heat source and allow it to cool down.
  5. Once the water has cooled, store it in a clean, tightly-secured container.

Additional tips for killing bacteria in water

If you don’t have ready access to a heat source, there are other things that you can do to kill bacteria in water. For example, you can use household bleach to disinfect water by following these steps:

  1. Select a regular, unscented chlorine bleach that’s less than 1 year old. Check the label to verify that it’s suitable for disinfection or sanitization and that the active ingredient is sodium hypochlorite.
  2. If the water is cloudy, allow it to settle or filter it using a coffee filter or clean cloth.
  3. Using a clean eyedropper, add an appropriate amount of bleach to the water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a chart of how much to add based off of the volume of water and the concentration of your household bleach.
  4. Stir the water and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes.

Water disinfection tablets are also commercially available. If you choose to use these, be sure to carefully follow the instructions provided on the product label.

Some types of bacteria can be a potential cause of food poisoning. It’s estimated that 1 in 6 Americans becomes ill with food poisoning every year. Some common foods associated with bacterial food poisoning include:

  • raw or undercooked poultry (Salmonella, Campylobacter)
  • raw or undercooked meats (E. coli, Salmonella)
  • raw or undercooked seafood and shellfish (Vibrio, Salmonella, Shigella)
  • fresh produce (E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria)
  • eggs (Salmonella)
  • unpasteurized dairy products (Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, Listeria)

There are several different ways that you can be exposed to pathogenic bacteria in or on foods. Some examples include:

  • eating meat, poultry, or fish that’s raw or undercooked
  • consuming fresh produce that hasn’t been washed
  • eating dairy products that haven’t been pasteurized
  • allowing perishable foods to sit out at room temperature for too long
  • not washing your hands before you handle or prepare food
  • cross-contamination, where bacteria from one food is transferred to another

Pathogenic bacteria grow quickly in food at temperatures between 40 to 140°F (5 to 60°C). In order to kill these bacteria, it’s important to cook all foods to a safe internal temperature.

The CDC lists the following temperature guidelines for several common types of food:

  • poultry, whole or ground: 165°F (74°C)
  • whole cuts of meat (beef, pork, lamb, or veal): 145°F (64°C)
  • ground meats: 160°F (71°C)
  • fresh ham: 145°F (64°C)
  • fish: 145°F (64°C) or until meat is opaque
  • leftovers or casseroles: 165°F (74°C)

Additional food safety tips

In addition to making sure that food is cooked to the proper temperature, the following strategies can also help reduce your risk of food poisoning:

  • Wash your hands. Be sure to wash your hands before and after preparing food, before eating, and after handling raw meats.
  • Separate. Keep raw meats or eggs separated from other foods to prevent cross-contamination. This includes storing them away from other foods in the refrigerator, and using a separate cutting board during food preparation.
  • Clean as you go. Make sure to clean any surfaces, containers, or utensils after every use, particularly if they’ve been in contact with raw meats.
  • Refrigerate. Promptly store any perishable foods or leftovers in the refrigerator. Don’t allow these food types to sit out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
  • Rinse produce. Be sure to thoroughly rinse any fresh produce before eating it or using the produce in a recipe.
  • Thaw safely: Be sure to thaw foods in the refrigerator or in the microwave. Thawing food on the countertop can promote the growth of bacteria.

Did you know?

Some bacteria can survive at very high temperatures. These types of bacteria are called thermopiles, which means “heat loving.”

Thermophiles are harmless to humans and grow best at temperatures between 113 to 176°F (45 to 80°C). They’re often found in hot springs and in hydrothermal vents deep in the ocean.

In addition to using heat, there are a variety of other steps you can take to get rid of harmful bacteria in your home.

Killing bacteria on surfaces

Many surfaces in your home can also harbor pathogenic bacteria. This is particularly true of surfaces that you touch often.

Although using normal cleaning products can help reduce bacteria on household surfaces, disinfectants can kill them. Some examples of disinfectants that can kill bacteria on surfaces include:

  • products that contain alcohol, such as ethanol and isopropyl alcohol
  • household bleach
  • products that contain ammonium compounds

In order to disinfect surfaces in your home, follow the tips below:

  • Follow the product instructions. Each product will come with its own specific set of instructions, including how much to use, ideal contact time, and the appropriate surfaces to use the product on.
  • Wear gloves. Try to wear a pair of gloves while disinfecting. This is especially important if the product you’re using can cause skin irritation.
  • Check ventilation. Some disinfectants can produce strong fumes. Make sure the area you’re cleaning has good ventilation. If possible, open a window.
  • Focus on high-touch surfaces. Not every household surface needs to be disinfected. Think of the surfaces you touch often and focus on those. Some examples include countertops, faucet handles, doorknobs, light switches, and hand rails.
  • Pre-clean. If a surface has a lot of dirt and grime, clean it with soap and warm water or another household cleaning product before disinfecting the surface.
  • Don’t mix products. Some products can produce dangerous fumes when mixed together. One example of this is bleach and ammonia.
  • Be gentle with electronics. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when cleaning surfaces like phone screens or TV screens. If no instructions are available, use an alcohol-based wipe or spray.

In addition to using disinfectants, opening your blinds may also reduce bacteria on household surfaces. A 2018 study found that sunlight exposure can reduce some types of bacteria found in household dust.

Killing bacteria on fabrics

It’s also possible for bacteria to be present on fabrics, such as clothes, towels, and bed linens. Generally speaking, washing and drying these fabrics as you normally would can help reduce or eliminate bacteria on these items.

However, some items are at a higher risk for spreading illness. Some examples include:

  • healthcare workers’ uniforms
  • towels or cloths used while preparing food
  • shared bath towels
  • clothes worn while playing sports
  • fabrics that have been in contact with an open wound or have been soiled with vomit or feces

To wash high-risk fabrics, do the following:

  1. Clean these fabrics separately from your normal laundry. Always wash your hands after handling them.
  2. For the wash cycle, use hot water —140°F (60°C) — and a bleach-based laundry product.
  3. After the wash cycle, promptly tumble dry the fabrics. A 2014 study found that tumble drying after a high temperature wash was important for reducing bacteria on laundry.

Viruses are tiny microbes that are even smaller than bacteria. On the most basic level, they’re made up of RNA or DNA that’s enclosed in a protein shell. Some viruses may also be surrounded by a membrane called an envelope.

Viruses are parasites. They need to invade a host cell in order to replicate. Like bacteria, they can cause disease in humans. Some examples of viral illnesses that you may be familiar with include:

  • the common cold
  • the flu
  • COVID-19
  • measles
  • HIV infection
  • viral hepatitis

Generally speaking, many viruses are sensitive to environmental factors like temperature and humidity. Some only survive outside of the human body for a matter of hours or days, although others can remain viable for weeks.

You can eliminate viruses from your home in much the same way as bacteria or other germs. This includes:

  • disinfecting household surfaces
  • boiling water if necessary
  • cooking foods to the proper temperature

While most bacteria are harmless, some can cause disease in humans. These bacteria are referred to as pathogenic.

Temperature is one of the ways you can kill pathogenic bacteria in your home. You can do this by:

  • boiling water that may be contaminated with bacteria and other microbes
  • being sure to cook foods to a safe internal temperature
  • washing high-risk fabrics on a hot cycle and promptly tumble drying

Disinfectants are another way to kill bacteria in your home. For example, you can use disinfectant products or bleach on common household surfaces. When using disinfectants, always carefully follow the product instructions.


What temperature is bacteria killed in water? ›

It is also reported that a 99.999% kill of water borne microorganisms can be achieved at 149°F/65°C in five minutes of exposure.

Will 110 degree water kill bacteria? ›

A. The Food and Drug Administration code for dishwashing by hand in a commercial food establishment calls for a wash solution temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit, which is uncomfortably hot for hands but not hot enough to kill most germs.

Is 120 degrees hot enough to kill bacteria? ›

Keeping your water heater in this temperature range for too long will cause a massive buildup of bacteria. However, at 120°F, the bacteria stop multiplying. This temperature won't kill the bacteria, though — it'll just inhibit it.

Can bacteria in food or water be killed? ›

Temperature is one of the ways you can kill pathogenic bacteria in your home. You can do this by: boiling water that may be contaminated with bacteria and other microbes. being sure to cook foods to a safe internal temperature.

At what temperature does water sanitize? ›

Water temperature must be at least 180°F, but not greater than 200°F. At temperatures greater than 200°F, water vaporizes into steam before sanitization can occur. It is important to note that the surface temperature of the object being sanitized must be at 160°F for a long enough time to kill the bacteria.

Can bacteria survive boiling water? ›

If you don't have safe bottled water, you should boil your water to make it safe to drink. Boiling is the surest method to kill disease-causing germs, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites.

What temperature kills E. coli? ›

160°F/70°C -- Temperature needed to kill E. coli and Salmonella. While Salmonella is killed instantly at temperatures above 160F keeping the temperature for longer periods of time at lower temperatures will also be effective. See the chart below.

What temperature is hot enough to kill most harmful bacteria? ›

Bacteria multiply rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees. Bacteria will not multiply but may start to die between 140 and 165 degrees. Bacteria will die at temperatures above 212 degrees.

Is 120 degree water too hot? ›

120 degrees Fahrenheit is the safety recommendation against scalding, but 140° is the common default setting. Most experts agree that anything below 120 degrees creates a risk for bacteria to develop inside your water heater from stagnant water, such as legionella that causes Legionnaire's disease.

Does boiling water kill E. coli? ›

coli O157. Removing it from drinking water: Boil your water for 1 minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for 3 minutes) or disinfect it using chemicals. Specially designed filters and other water treatment technologies might also be effective.

Does boiling kill bacteria in soup? ›

Boiling does kill any bacteria active at the time, including E. coli and salmonella.

Is 135 too hot for water heater? ›

The ASSE Recommendation

The American Society of Sanitary Engineering recommends that hot water tanks be set from 135 to 140 degrees, to inhibit the growth of Legionella bacteria, with the installation of anti-scald devices and tempering valves to prevent hot water injuries.

What bacteria Cannot be killed by cooking? ›

To start with, raw meat may be contaminated with spores of certain pathogenic bacteria (e.g. Clostridium perfringens) and spores are not readily destroyed by normal cooking temperature.

Can you boil lake water and drink it? ›

Never drink water from a natural source that you haven't purified, even if the water looks clean. Water in a stream, river or lake may look clean, but it can still be filled with bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can result in waterborne diseases, such as cryptosporidiosis or giardiasis.

How do you destroy all bacteria in food? ›

In general, an average hot temperature of 165°F (74°C) in cooking can eliminate most of the harmful bacteria in food.

Is it better to wash dishes in hot water or cold water? ›

Let us break it down for you why: Hot water is generally more capable at removing grease from dishes, which explains why washing the dishes in cold water or room temperature water may sometimes result in a nasty and persistent greasy film on your dishes even after the dishes are dried.

What temperature does water disinfect utensils and dishes? ›

You are not actually killing the bacteria when you wash in this way. To kill the bacteria you need to wash the surfaces at temperatures above 70°C and maintain that temperature for some time.

Is hot water enough to clean dishes? ›

Hot water can kill bacteria and other microorganisms. 1 But typically the temperature necessary to kill pathogens is too hot for our hands to handle as dishwashing water. According to the FDA, a temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit is best to wash dishes if your goal is to sanitize them with the heat.

Can you cook bacteria out of food? ›

Cooking and reheating are the most effective ways to eliminate bacterial hazards in food. Most foodborne bacteria and viruses can be killed when food is cooked or reheated long enough at sufficient high temperature. The core temperature of food should reach at least 75℃.

Can salmonella be killed by cooking? ›

The short answer: Yes, cooking can kill Salmonella. Depending on the type of food, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend cooking food to a temperature between 145 degrees F and 165 degrees F to kill Salmonella.

How long is boiled water safe to drink? ›

3 to 5 minutes to kill pathogens at a temperature of 185°F (85°C). By the time that water reaches its boiling point of 212°F (100°C), all of the pathogens are either dead or dying.

What temp kills salmonella in eggs? ›

Cook eggs until both the yolk and white are firm; this happens at an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) or hotter.

What temperature kills salmonella? ›

Salmonella are destroyed at cooking temperatures above 150 degrees F. The major causes of salmonellosis are contamination of cooked foods and insufficient cooking. Contamination of cooked foods occurs from contact with surfaces or utensils that were not properly washed after use with raw products.

What temperature kills salmonella in peanut butter? ›

“What we've learned,” Doyle said, “is that peanut butter needs heat over 190 degrees Fahrenheit for over 40 minutes to kill salmonella, but such lengthy heating times may affect the quality of the product.”

How long to cook something to kill bacteria? ›

How Long Does It Take To Kill Bacteria in Food? It takes at least two minutes to kill bacteria in food as long as the temperature is constant at above 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius).

How long can you hold food at 140 degrees? ›

The USDA did issue an advisory that “A minimum temperature of 135 degrees for a maximum of 8 hours, or a minimum temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit indefinitely also would be adequate to ensure food safety.”

Does 350 degree oven kill bacteria? ›

"Some germs, known as hyperthermophilic bacteria, grow in very hot temperatures up to 250°F. However, most bacteria and viruses that are pathogenic to humans can be killed through a heat of 165ºF or higher within minutes of cooking."

How hot should kitchen tap water be? ›

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend water heater temperature set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

How long can you stay in 100 degree water? ›


If you prefer to soak at the maximum recommended setting — 104°F — the duration of your dip needs to be scheduled accordingly. While this temperature is safe for healthy adults, you should remain immersed for no more than 20 minutes at a time.

What temperature should kitchen sink water be? ›

Q- How hot should the water be coming out of the kitchen faucet in the sink 25' to 30' from the hot water heater? A- Depending on local code but normally a min of 100°F (38°C). In Nursing homes or where children are concerned 105°F (40.5°C) maximum is the preferred temperature.

Does vinegar kill E. coli in water? ›

35% white vinegar (1.9% acetic acid) was the most effective in reducing E. coli levels (with a 5-log 10 reduction after 5 min with agitation and after 10 min without agitation),” they wrote.

What happens if you drink water with bacteria in it? ›

Health risks

Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, nausea, headaches, fever, fatigue, and even death sometimes. Infants, children, elderly people, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to get sick or die from disease-causing microorganisms in drinking water.

What bacteria does boiling water kill? ›

Pathogens in water have been studied and found to be killed or rendered inactive when boiled in water. These include bacteria such as salmonella, viruses including hepatitis A, and protozoa such as giardia.

Does microwaving kill bacteria? ›

This vibration causes friction, which allows the object to heat up to a temperature that can kill germs. That's why microwaves are sometimes used to disinfect items such as a household sponge, as they are a hotbed for viruses and bacteria.

Why you shouldn't boil soup? ›

Simmer, simmer, simmer

Once soup has come to a boil, reduce to a simmer and make sure that it stays there. Boil things too vigorously, and the vegetables will get mushy, the meat will toughen, and the noodles will start to break down.

Can microwave kill bacteria in food? ›

Microwave ovens are great time-savers and will kill bacteria in foods when heated to a safe internal temperature. However, foods can cook unevenly because they may be shaped irregularly or vary in thickness.

What temperature kills Legionella instantly? ›

Notes. Hot water should be stored at 60 °C at least in order to kill legionella bacteria.

Should you drink hot tap water? ›

USE ONLY COLD WATER FOR COOKING AND DRINKING. Do not cook with, or drink water from the hot water tap. Hot water can dissolve more lead more quickly than cold wa- ter. If you need hot water, draw water from the cold tap and then heat it.

What is the hottest water temperature humans can withstand? ›

Children and older people, who typically have thinner skin, suffer more severe burns in a shorter time and at lower temperatures than adults. A child can suffer a third-degree burn in 124°F water in less than three minutes. Children and adults can be burned this badly in two seconds or sooner in 149°F water.

What is the deadliest bacterial food poisoning? ›

Salmonella Approximately 1 million people are sickened by Salmonella in the U.S. each year and approximately 380 of them die from the infection. Children are at the highest risk for Salmonella infection. Children younger than 5 have higher rates of Salmonella infection than any other age group.

What is the most bacteria infested thing that can be in a kitchen? ›

Kitchen Sponge/Dish Rag

The item most frequently used to clean dishes and countertops was actually the germiest place found in most homes. Sponges and dish rags can pick up bacteria during the cleaning process, and, if not properly sanitized between uses, can be a prime spot for germ growth.

Why shouldn't you put warm food in the fridge? ›

Dangerous bacterial growth occurs between 41 and 135 degrees F. This spectrum is known as the danger zone for foods. Potentially harmful bacteria grows most rapidly at these temperatures. Placing large batches of hot foods in the fridge can raise the temperature of the fridge into this danger zone.

Can you drink rain water? ›

Germs and other contaminants are found in rainwater.

While useful for many things, rainwater is not as pure as you might think, so you cannot assume it is safe to drink.

Why you shouldn't boil tap water? ›

Well, because your hot water from the tap can contain contaminants. If you didn't realize this, you're not alone. Hot water systems like tanks and boilers contain metallic parts that corrode as time goes by, contaminating the water. Hot water also dissolves contaminants in pipes faster than cold water.

Is any water safe to drink once boiled? ›

While boiling water eliminates bacteria in the water, it does not make the tap water pure. Water can contain other contaminants such as microplastics, pesticides, fertilisers, industrial chemicals, hormones, medications, heavy metals and neurotoxic microorganisms which are not removed through boiling water.

At what temperature bacteria dies? ›

The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that bacteria are rapidly killed at temperatures above 149°F (65°C). This temperature is below that of boiling water or even a simmer.

Is all bacteria killed at 450 degrees? ›

The only way to kill bacteria by temperature is by cooking food at temperatures of 165 degrees or more.

What kills more bacteria hot or cold water? ›

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) state that warm water is more effective for removing germs during handwashing than cold water is, and they require the water temperature in restaurants, cafeterias, and other food service establishments to be 40°C, plus or minus 2 degrees (or between 100 and 108 degrees ...

Can bacteria survive 250 degrees? ›

"Some germs, known as hyperthermophilic bacteria, grow in very hot temperatures up to 250°F. However, most bacteria and viruses that are pathogenic to humans can be killed through a heat of 165ºF or higher within minutes of cooking."

Is bacteria killed at 50 degrees? ›

To kill the bacteria, the water temperature needs to be above 50°C – as at this temperature the bacteria will begin to die off. To ensure a rapid and certain demise, the temperature needs to be above 60°C.

What temperature kills E coli? ›

160°F/70°C -- Temperature needed to kill E. coli and Salmonella. While Salmonella is killed instantly at temperatures above 160F keeping the temperature for longer periods of time at lower temperatures will also be effective. See the chart below.

Can bacteria survive being cooked? ›

Proper heating and reheating will kill foodborne bacteria. However, some foodborne bacteria produce poisons or toxins that are not destroyed by high cooking temperatures if the food is left out at room temperature for an extended period of time.

What bacteria can survive 500 degrees? ›

One type of extremophiles is called thermophiles. These organisms can survive at very high temperatures. In the 1960s, heat resistant bacteria were discovered in hot springs in Yellowstone National Park.

What temperature range will destroy most bacteria? ›

Above 74°C (or 165°F), bacteria die, although spores and toxins may survive. Food that is being cooked or reheated should hit 74°C (or 165°F). You can hold hot food for service at 60°C (or 140°F).

Is it better to wash dishes in hot water? ›

While you can wash dishes in cold water and soap to get them relatively clean, especially if you efficiently scrub them, in general it is better to use hot dishwashing water. Among other benefits, hot water can clean and sanitize dishes better than cold water can.

Can cold water remove bacteria? ›

Washing your hands in hot water may be pointless as scientists have found that cold water is equally effective at killing germs. Researchers also found that washing even for 10 seconds significantly removed bacteria from the hands.

Which bacteria Cannot be killed by heat? ›

perfringens can exist as a heat-resistant spore, so it may survive cooking and grow to large numbers if the cooked food is held between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F for an extensive time period. Meat and poultry dishes, sauces and gravies are the foods most frequently involved.

What is the danger zone for food temps? ›

The temperature range in which disease causing bacteria grow best in TCS food is called the temperature danger zone. The temperature danger zone is between 41°F and 135°F. TCS food must pass through the temperature danger zone as quickly as possible. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold.

What temperature kills all bacteria in food? ›

In general, an average hot temperature of 165°F (74°C) in cooking can eliminate most of the harmful bacteria in food.

What temperature bacteria Cannot survive? ›

Keeping potentially hazardous foods cold (below 5°C) or hot (above 60°C) stops the bacteria from growing. The food safety standards specify that potentially hazardous foods must be stored, displayed and transported at safe temperatures and, where possible, prepared at safe temperatures.

Can bacteria grow in cold water? ›

Bacteria can live in hotter and colder temperatures than humans, but they do best in a warm, moist, protein-rich environment that is pH neutral or slightly acidic. There are exceptions, however. Some bacteria thrive in extreme heat or cold, while others can survive under highly acidic or extremely salty conditions.


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