Everyone understands instinctively how precious water is to survival. Going even a single day without a drink of water can leave you crippled or dead when the chips are down.
Precious few people can survive outside in the elements for more than a few days, at most, without it.
And that’s the paradox of the sea when it comes to survival: surrounded by limitless water, and none of it safe to drink!
But there’s got to be something we can do to make use of it: Is it possible that you can drink boiled salt water in an emergency situation?
No, boiled salt water is not safe to drink. Boiling doesn’t eliminate the salt content of salt water, though it can reduce harmful microorganisms as usual.
In fact, boiling your collected salt water is only going to make it even worse for you because it concentrates the salt present in the water.
That means if you boil and drink it in a desperate attempt to quench your thirst, it’s only going to dehydrate you even faster and trash your internal organs.
This is a survival problem that’s as old as time, so keep reading and I’ll tell you more about the issue…
What Happens if You Drink Salt Water?
If you drink salt water, whether it is from the ocean or it is fresh water simply contaminated with salt, the only thing you will do is speed up your own demise.
That is because your body simply cannot deal with the immense concentration of salt present in the water.
If you’re already dehydrated, this is a double whammy: you’ll dehydrate even faster because your body will end up releasing moisture that it has stored to flush even more urine from your body in an effort to eliminate the salt.
In no time at all, you’ll be facing hypernatremia, which is a higher-than-normal concentration of salt in the bloodstream.
This is a life-threatening condition, particularly in a survival situation…
A person that is suffering from hypernatremia will have an elevated heartbeat or irregular heart rhythm, intense nausea and vomiting, loss of equilibrium, and eventually, seizures as their organs start to shut down.
Death usually results from either cardiac arrest or swelling of the brain.
It’s easy to see how a person that is stuck with only salt water to drink could eventually go mad from desperation, drinking the salt water in an effort to quench their thirst and only accelerating their bad end.
Indeed, this has happened many, many times throughout history…
How Long Can You Survive Drinking Sea Water?
Not long, not very long at all, and in fact, drinking salt water is only going to accelerate your end versus going without water at all.
Dehydration is only ever made even worse by consuming salt water, and there is no injury, no ailment, no sickness that cannot be made even worse by consuming salt water.
When a person starts to drink salt water, the end is not far off…
Can We Use Salt Water After Boiling It?
No. Or rather, you cannot drink salt water after boiling it. Boiling salt water will help to kill other biological contaminants in it, however, and that does make salt water more suitable for various chores and other tasks, such as the washing of clothing or dishes and other equipment.
Even so, it is still just as dangerous to you after it has been boiled, or even more so!
Does Boiling Water Remove Salt?
No. Boiling salt water doesn’t do anything to remove salt from it. In fact, it just does the opposite.
When you boil salt water, the water turns to steam and leaves the rest of the water and the salt it contains behind. The salt does not evaporate!
So, considering you have the same amount of salt but less water, what you are left with is a smaller quantity of water that is even saltier than it was before you started boiling it!
Because of this, drinking boiled salt water is going to be even worse for you!
What Does Boiling Remove from Salt Water?
Boiling salt water will still kill microorganisms like viruses, bacteria, parasites, and more that might be hiding in it.
This is definitely a useful step toward purifying the water for whatever purpose, but it’s nowhere near enough to make it safe for you to consume.
And, as detailed above, the other thing that boiling salt water will remove from it is the water itself! It will turn to steam, float away on the air and then condense elsewhere, leaving you with less water.
Does Boiling Water Purify It at All?
Yes, strictly speaking, as I said above, boiling salt water does purify it but only in terms of eliminating germs, not rendering it safe for human consumption.
Even germ-free salt water is still way too dangerous for you to drink, and doing so will result in hypernatremia and your eventual end.
Do Chemical Additives Make Seawater Safe to Drink?
No. Sterilization tabs, iodide, and other chemicals that preppers typically use to purify water in the same way do nothing to eliminate the salt content which can bee lethal.
Although, once more, they might prove to be a useful step in rendering salt water completely safe via a multi-step process, they do nothing to overcome its inherent unsuitability as potable water.
Something else to keep in mind is that the presence of salt might interfere with the normal function of the chemicals.
If at all possible, you should remove the salt from the water through desalinization or some other procedure before moving on to chemical sterilization if it is still required.
Is it Possible to Make Salt Water Drinkable?
Yes. You can make salt water drinkable, but this is usually very difficult and time-consuming without specialized technology.
That said, where there is a will there is a way, and if you have the will and a little bit of know how you can try distillation, using field expedient methods or a specialized appliance, or desalination, which relies upon an appliance.
How Can You Remove the Salt From Seawater?
As mentioned above, by using distillation or desalination.
Distillation you might already be familiar with: it is a process by which water is evaporated into steam, but the steam is captured and allowed to recondense in a separate container.
Through this process it leaves all other contaminants, including salt, behind.
In the field, this can be done with something as simple as a transparent piece of plastic, a shallow hole in the ground and some kind of a container that will catch the condensate from the plastic.
Desalination is much more involved, and is a process that is most commonly used above ocean-going ships and boats and sometimes at a much larger scale to supply fresh, drinkable water to coastal and other nearby settlements.
Although there are models available that are basically the size of a countertop appliance, this isn’t something that you’ll be able to carry with you as part of your survival kit, to say nothing of providing power to it.
If you’re concerned about making use of salt water in a survival scenario, you are strongly advised to learn as much as you can about different methods for distilling it.
This takes a long time, but it can provide you with a steady supply of safe, drinkable fresh water from salt water.