Can You Boil Water in a Plastic Bottle?

When you’re out in the wilderness, it’s possible that you may have to take water from a lake or river to refill your bottle(s) – if you’ve got access to them. With that said, you can’t always drink it directly; there could be all kinds of funky things in it which will make you sick.

One way to get around this problem is to boil the water to kill off the bacteria. Usually, you’d use a pot but what if you don’t have a pot with you?

bottle in the fire

What about plastic bottles? We’re always told that you shouldn’t burn plastic because it can give off toxic fumes, but can you actually boil water in a plastic bottle?

Yes, you can boil water in a plastic bottle, though it isn’t recommended. It’s easy enough to do, but there is a risk of the plastic releasing toxic fumes into both the air and the water. Additionally, the water itself tastes awful.

Burning Plastic is Generally a Bad Idea

The process of boiling water in a plastic bottle involves the use of a fire and usually burning plastic is something we’re advised NOT to do.

The reason being that it can give off toxic fumes which can make you decidedly ill. Plastic contains a chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA) and chemicals called phthalates.

BPA is a clear solid which is used in lining food and beverage cans as well as in certain plastics. It’s also used to make thermal paper (like what you’d find in sales receipts) and certain epoxy and vinyl resins.

There is some debate about whether or not it’s a health risk but it’s ability to mimic oestrogen and the presence of certain steroids cause the chemical to bind to certain cells in the body and disrupt endocrine system.

BPA also affects the reproductive system and there are some studies that link the chemical to cancer.

Phthalates are chemicals that are added to plastics to increase durability, flexibility, transparency, and their general longevity. Unfortunately, there are also significant health-related issues with these chemicals.

Like BPA, Phthalates affect the endocrine and reproductive systems by inhibiting the production of hormones, decreasing arousal and satisfaction (in women) and decreased fertility in men – although, there hasn’t been any concrete proof of this.

How to Do It

The process of boiling water in a plastic bottle is very simple. You start a fire and place the bottle of water in the fire; moving the bottle around every so often to get an even heat. You can leave the lid on – loosely fastened – or remove it; the water will boil either way but it’ll boil faster if the lid is on.

A word of caution if you decide to do this, make sure that you do it outside; doing it indoors can add unnecessary safety risks.

close Up of bottle (top view)

I Decided to Try It

Recently I was doing an article about methods to boil water without a pot and one such method involved taking a soda bottle, filling it with water and sticking it in a fire to boil.

As I said before, this is generally considered a bad idea and we’re always told NOT to do it. With that in mind, I was a bit skeptical, so I decided to try it…you know…for science.

It took some doing but I got my fire going and braced my bottle at a slight angle between some of the logs. Initially, I had the lid on the bottle, but I eventually removed it.

Initially placed in front of the fire with a few logs keeping it away from the flames, I moved the logs around a bit and placed the bottle closer to the heat.

deformation caused by heat
deformation caused by heat

I watched for deformation and discoloration, but my chief concern was the possibility of toxic fumes. After about a minute, the heat started to cause deformation in the bottle and steam started coming out of the top.

It took about five minutes or so before I removed the bottle from the heat – unfortunately I dropped the bottle which put boiling hot water all over the place (which wasn’t pleasant).

side view close up of bottle
side view close-up of bottle

The Final Verdict

So, the final verdict? Yes, you can boil water in a plastic bottle. Can you drink it? Well… sort of; it tastes awful and it’s probably not very good for you but, if you’re in a desperate situation with no other alternative, then it’s better than nothing.

In closing, I hope you enjoyed the article and found it informative. As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the next one very soon.

Take care!

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