Is Reboiling Water Safe? Debunking the Myth.

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In summary, it is not harmful or dangerous to boil water, and there is no increased risk of cancer from reboiling.
  • #1
Zdenka
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Alright I'm getting so angry now! Every time my granny is here, she doesn't let me reboil the water in our kettle... she said reboiling water causes cancer! I've never heard it's bad, I thought reboiling water actually kills more bacteria that might form when the water becomes warm.. so you need to reboil it. I'm too lazy to refill the kettle with cold water and boil it again.. reboiling is much more convenient! I mean it's water after all, so how can it be bad? Please tell me I'm right!
 
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  • #2
No, it does not hurt or cause more harm to reboil water, and it certainly does not increase the risk of cancer. There should be no more metal cations in reboiled water than in the original water.
 
  • #3
Perhaps you should scare your grandma back by saying something like:
"Oh you are right, granny, but for the wrong reason: We should NOT re-boil water out of concern for potentially catastrophic molecular hysteresis effects: The boiled and re-boiled water molecules might finally snap, and when the oxygen and hydrogen atoms meet again, KA-BLAAM!"

:smile:
 
  • #4
WHEWWW! thanks for backing me up guys, I knew I was right on this one! heheh ;-P

Btw I was googling and somebody said that if you keep on reboiling the water, all the oxygen atoms will disappear and you'll end up with a dangerous amounts hydrogen.. I don't think that's true, though!
 
  • #5
Zdenka said:
Btw I was googling and somebody said that if you keep on reboiling the water, all the oxygen atoms will disappear and you'll end up with a dangerous amounts hydrogen.. I don't think that's true, though!

If you keep reboiling the water, at some point there will no longer be anything in the pot :)

Boiling water doesn't break the H2O bond.
 
  • #6
A lot will depend on the material kettle is made off.
 
  • #7
Boiling water removes nuclei (like air) that facilitate the bubble forming. One the water is devoid of those nuclei, the water may get superheated, followed by explosive boiling.

So there is something with boiling water over and over again, but not cancer.
 
  • #8
thanks guys! There's nothing like a Physics forum to put my grandma in her place.
 
  • #9
Andre said:
Boiling water removes nuclei (like air) that facilitate the bubble forming. One the water is devoid of those nuclei, the water may get superheated, followed by explosive boiling.
Even this possibility is extremely unlikely. In a metal kettle, boiling is almost certainly dominated by surface nucleation, rather than bulk nucleation (which would be more likely for a really clean and smooth glass container). So, the concentration of dissolved air should not noticeably alter the bubble nucleation rate.

Furthermore, if you assume the depth of the water in the kettle is about 4 inches (about 10cm, to pick a round number), and looking up the diffusivity for O2 and N2 even at room temperature (about 2-3*10^-9m2/s), and approximating the re-dissolution of air into the kettle as a 1-d diffusion problem, I get a time constant of less than 105s. So, in some hours since the last boiling, the kettle is pretty close to being at equilibrium with air again. So even if the bubble nucleation is dominated by the dissolved air, it appears that there will not be much difference in the amount of dissolved air after a day from the previous boiling.
 
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  • #10
It will concentrate anything that is in the water though (that isn't volatile enough to come out in the steam), doubly since it is the second boiling. Studiously always take it right off the second it starts to boil and practically no effect. But who doesn't forget a boiling pot once in a while? That may or may not be a bad thing depending on what's in the water and what if anything is leaching from the kettle. Is it that much a hardship to refill it? Do you know exactly what's in your water? I wouldn't do it, grandma is right (and no one knows everything that causes cancer or who is susceptible and to what, got cancer in your family? Why take the chance). This is one of those things like greenhouse gases, stop doing it and you won't be worse off, don't stop and you roll the dice.
 
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  • #11
nottheone said:
It will concentrate anything that is in the water though (that isn't volatile enough to come out in the steam), doubly since it is the second boiling.

While that's not completely off, nobody boils water long enough for substantial increase of concentration of whatever is in the water. Electric keetles switch off seconds after the water starts to boil. Say it is 10 seconds at 2 kW. That's 20 kJ. At ΔHvap around 40 kJ/mol you are loosing 9 grams of water, out of - say - two cups, or around 500 grams. This is volume change of less than 2%, and similar concentration change.

If you put keetle on the gas stove and you forget to switch it off, that's another story, but how often you do that?
 
  • #12
Now if one were to reduce say 10 cups of water to 1 in a kettle, would the increased concentration have any health problems with it?
 
  • #13
Borek said:
If you put keetle on the gas stove and you forget to switch it off, that's another story, but how often you do that?

ha i did that in college, left a small pot of water on the burner for 3 hours! i rushed into the kitchen in a panic when I remembered and grabbed the metal handle thus burning the crap out of my hand. The bottom of the pot was a strange greenish yellow. I threw it out! :-p
 
  • #14
nottheone said:
But who doesn't forget a boiling pot once in a while? That may or may not be a bad thing depending on what's in the water and what if anything is leaching from the kettle.
Ours is an electric kettle though, it just turns off automatically once the water reaches boiling point. I don't think anyone uses a pot over the stove, nowadays! Except maybe grandmas, hahah

The reason I reboil water is that it saves time and energy (literally) of having to refill the kettle with COLD water again and reboil it.. I save on electricity! Sometimes you just want to have another cup of coffee during the afternoon, but the kettle of water you boiled in the morning has become warm already.
 
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  • #15
Borek said:
While that's not completely off, nobody boils water long enough for substantial increase of concentration of whatever is in the water. Electric keetles switch off seconds after the water starts to boil. Say it is 10 seconds at 2 kW. That's 20 kJ. At ?Hvap around 40 kJ/mol you are loosing 9 grams of water, out of - say - two cups, or around 500 grams. This is volume change of less than 2%, and similar concentration change.

If you put keetle on the gas stove and you forget to switch it off, that's another story, but how often you do that?
considering its his grandmother its possible she grew up with water that wasn't nearly as pure. maybe a slight increase in concentration of the impurities was enough to greatly change the taste. also your earlier note of what the kettle was made of may apply here more so. I understand there are people who are very snooty about their tea aswell. just as bad as wine snobs.
 
  • #16
If you want to concentrate the solutes in water, a most simple way is to boil the water off.

I had a kettle with some kind of coating inside that peeled off. That kettle has piped its last.
 
  • #17
TheStatutoryApe said:
considering its his grandmother its possible she grew up with water that wasn't nearly as pure. maybe a slight increase in concentration of the impurities was enough to greatly change the taste.

This is decidedly true with the well-water I grew up with (if you let "fresh" water from the spigot sit in your glass for a half hour, you'd see iron oxide deposit out of it). We had to scour the inside of our teapot monthly (and worry towards the end of the month that iron oxide would flake off the inside of the pot and appear in your tea ). This was before the days of "Brita" pitchers and the like (even now my mother replaces the filter three times more than specified AND replaces the pitcher every year or less). I NEVER drank that water straight up... it always needed lemon or a touch of Kool-aid powder something.
 
  • #18
If you are really fussy about your tea you should use fresh water because it has more air dissolved, heating removes the air.
Of course this might just be along the lines of people who buy speaker cable with directional copper - but if people can make a fuss about the proper way to drink wine then I suppose you can do the same with tea.
 
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  • #19
I've just heard that it's bad to use overboiled water as a drnking water all the time because it lose the most of mineral in it:confused:
 
  • #20
Lisa! said:
I've just heard that it's bad to use overboiled water as a drnking water all the time because it lose the most of mineral in it:confused:

The only minerals it's going to lose is Calcium Hydrogen/Bi Carbonate - the stuff that ends up as kettle furr, it's not that vital!
 
  • #21
mgb_phys said:
The only minerals it's going to lose is Calcium Hydrogen/Bi Carbonate - the stuff that ends up as kettle furr, it's not that vital!

No, many microelements will end in the scale as well, due to coprecipitation or something similar. Hard to say what is the scale of the problem, but it can't be neglected.
 
  • #22
Would boiling water reduce the number of oxygen free radicals present? I'd have thought so as boiling should remove air dissolved in the water and if this is correct, given how reactive oxygen species can adversely affect human cells, isn't this a good thing? Better yet perhaps a small intake of heavy water each day would reduce the effect of free radicals on the human body as the stronger covalent bonds in the cells which absorb these water molecules would be more immune to the effects of oxidisation.
 
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  • #23
mgb_phys said:
If you are really fussy about your tea you should use fresh water because it has more air dissolved, reboiling removes the air.
Of course this might just be along the lines of people who buy speaker cable with directional copper - but if people can make a fuss about the proper way to drink wine then I suppose you can do the same with tea.

It's definitely true. Water which has been boiled a few times makes crap tea. Fact.
 
  • #24
Art said:
Would boiling water reduce the number of oxygen free radicals present?

Free radicals are dangerous, because they are so highly reactive, that their half life time is measured in microseconds. Imagine you have a glass of water that contains them. How long does it take before you can take the glass and drink water? Time is measured in seconds. How much of the initial amount of free radicals is left in the water then?

Gimme a break :wink:
 
  • #25
Borek said:
Free radicals are dangerous, because they are so highly reactive, that their half life time is measured in microseconds. Imagine you have a glass of water that contains them. How long does it take before you can take the glass and drink water? Time is measured in seconds. How much of the initial amount of free radicals is left in the water then?

Gimme a break :wink:
Presumably as the initial oxygen atoms react new ones are being created. Whether they are all nullified would depend on the ph of the water wouldn't it? And the material of the container the water is served in as the oxygen no matter how reactive needs something to react with. Which is why I contended (in ph neutral water) removing the excess oxygen dissolved in the water is the best way of removing free radicals.

Seems I wasn't a million miles off in my second idea. I found this regarding benefits of heavy water
 
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  • #26
So it's safe to say that drinking reboiled water won't cause cancer?
 
  • #27
Zdenka said:
So it's safe to say that drinking reboiled water won't cause cancer?
Yes pretty safe - although the only way to be sure not to get cancer is to completely avoid water.
Just avoiding it for a few days should be enough.
 
  • #28
mgb_phys said:
Yes pretty safe - although the only way to be sure not to get cancer is to completely avoid water.
Just avoiding it for a few days should be enough.

:smile:
 
  • #29
brewnog said:
It's definitely true. Water which has been boiled a few times makes crap tea. Fact.
To make tea, instead of water, try soda.
 
  • #30
Speaking of boiling water, I just got this email;

Microwaving Water!

A 26-year old man decided to have a cup of coffee. He took a cup of water and put it in the microwave to heat it up (something that he had done numerous times before). I am not sure how long he set the timer for, but he wanted to bring the water to a boil. When the timer shut the oven off, he removed the cup from the oven. As he looked into the cup, he noted that the! water was not boiling, but suddenly the water in the cup 'blew up' into his face. The cup remained intact until he threw it out of his hand, but all the water had flown out into his face due to the build up of energy. His whole face is blistered and he has 1st and 2nd degree burns to his face which may leave scarring.

He also may have lost partial sight in his left eye. While at the hospital, the doctor who was attending to him stated that this is a fairly common occurrence and water (alone) should never be heated in a microwave oven. If water is heated in this manner, something should be placed in the cup to diffuse the energy such as a wooden stir stick, tea bag, etc.., (nothing metal).

General Electric's

Thanks for contacting us, I will be happy to assist you. The e-mail that you received is correct. Microwaved water and other liquids do not always bubble when they reach the boiling point. They can actually get superheated and not bubble at all. The superheated liquid will bubble up out of the cup when it is moved or when something like a spoon or tea bag is put into it.

To prevent this from happening and causing injury, do not heat any liquid for more than two minutes per cup . After heating, let the cup stand in the microwave for thirty seconds ! before moving it or adding anything into it.

Here is what our local science teacher had to say on the matter: 'Thanks for the microwave warning. I have seen this happen before. It is caused by a phenomenon known as super heating. It can occur anytime water is heated and will particularly occur if the vessel that the water is heated in is new, or when heating a small amount of water (less than half a cup ).

What happens is that the water heats faster than the vapor bubbles can form. If the cup is very new then it is unlikely to have small surface scratches inside it that provide a place for the bubbles to form. As the bubbles cannot form and release some of the heat has built up, the liquid does not boil, and the liquid continues to heat up well past its boiling point.

What then usually happens is that the liquid is bumped or jarred, which is just enough of a shock to cause the bubbles to rapidly form and expel the hot liquid. The rapid formation of bubbles is also why a carbonated beverage spews when opened after having been shaken.'

If you pass this on you could very well save someone from a lot of pain and suffering.

This is why smart people live longer than non-smart people.
 
  • #31
This is why smart people live longer than non-smart people.

Tell that to Marie Curie.
 
  • #32
Blenton said:
Tell that to Marie Curie.

HER lifespan wasn't bad (1867-1934). Pierre, however, should have learned to be more careful crossing streets.
 

Related to Is Reboiling Water Safe? Debunking the Myth.

1. Is it safe to reboil water?

Yes, it is safe to reboil water. There is no evidence to suggest that reboiling water is harmful to your health.

2. Does reboiling water change its chemical composition?

No, reboiling water does not change its chemical composition. Water is a stable compound and boiling it multiple times does not alter its chemical structure.

3. Can reboiling water make it toxic?

No, reboiling water does not make it toxic. In fact, reboiling water can help remove impurities and make it safer to drink.

4. Are there any health risks associated with reboiling water?

No, there are no known health risks associated with reboiling water. It is a common practice in many cultures and has not been linked to any negative health effects.

5. How many times can you safely reboil water?

You can safely reboil water as many times as you want. However, it is recommended to only reboil water once or twice as it can affect the taste and quality of the water.

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