The Lowdown on Iodine Tablets and Drops

When it comes to backpacking water treatment options, iodine tablets and drops are a very popular option. Iodine kills most viruses and bacteria with little effort. Below we’ll get a little more in depth about the pros and cons of iodine, as well as using it properly.


  • Compared to chlorine, iodine is more effective and quicker at treating water.
  • Iodine is inexpensive.
  • It’s lightweight.
  • It’s easy to pack.
  • And it’s easy to use.


  • Iodine is ineffective against cryptosporidia – a common parasite found in untreated water.
  • Iodine produces a commonly disliked flavor in water.
  • Iodine is not recommended for use by pregnant women or individuals with thyroid problems.
  • Some people are allergic to iodine.

Additional information

In order to properly treat water, you need to wait 10-15 minutes for the iodine to work. This time is doubled if the water is very cold or murky.

Remember to “burp” your drinking container. It’s common to forget the rim and threads of your drinking container will get contaminated by dipping them into water source. To properly clean your container, wait about five minutes after putting the iodine treatment into your container. Next, loosen the cap of your container so that it is still attached, but will let water seep through, cleaning the rim and threads.

If you want to use less iodine in order to conserve it or lessen the flavor it adds to your water, you can use half doses. However, if you half the dose, you must double the wait time for your water to be adequately treated. This is handy when treating water before bed.

To eliminate the metallic aftertaste of iodine, you can add a small amount (50 mg) of vitamin C after you have allowed the iodine to treat the water. It is important to add the vitamin C after the allotted time, because if you add it prior to the iodine, it can actually neutralize the iodine’s ability to purify the water.

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