The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Potable Aqua Iodine Tablets Review

One of the most popular and affordable tablets.
Potable Aqua Iodine Tablets with Taste Neutralizer
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Price:  $11 List | $10.15 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Small and light, simple, effective against viruses
Cons:  Long incubation time, adding chemicals to water, not effective against cysts, not for long-term use
Manufacturer:   Potable Aqua
By McKenzie Long ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 16, 2014
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  • Reliability - 25% 6
  • Weight - 20% 10
  • Treatment Capacity - 20% 7
  • Speed - 15% 2
  • Ease of Use - 20% 9

Our Verdict

If what you are looking for is a fast and inexpensive emergency water treatment, iodine is a time-tested solution. Unlike all pump-filters with the exception of the First Need XL, iodine treats viruses. However, iodine does not treat for the cyst Cryptosporidium, while pump filters and chlorine dioxide treatments such as Katadyn Micropur Purification do. Potable Aqua Iodine Tablets and Taste Neutralizer tablets are small, hardly weigh anything, and are simple to use, so they are convenient to carry with you. One drawback to a hiker on the move is that iodine takes 30 minutes to properly sterilize water, which is one of the longest treatment times in this review.

According to Potable Aqua, "Potable Aqua is intended only for the emergency disinfection of water and should not be used in any other way." Iodine should not be ingested continuously over extended periods of time, so if you plan to go on a long trip or will be treating water frequently, a filter method or a UV light method like the SteriPEN Journey LCD would be comparatively lightweight options to consider.

Our Analysis and Test Results

Iodine is a chemical water treatment that is one of the oldest water treatment methods out there. It is inexpensive and lightweight, but is not recommended to use over long periods of time and can make your water taste funny. Though iodine does treat for viruses as well as bacteria, it does not treat for cryptosporidium like other chemical treatments such as chlorine dioxide.

Performance Comparison

Potable Aqua Iodine and Taste Neutralizer Tablets dissolving into water. They take 30 min to effectively purify.
Potable Aqua Iodine and Taste Neutralizer Tablets dissolving into water. They take 30 min to effectively purify.


The active ingredient in these tablets is iodine, which treats bacteria and viruses but does not treat Cryptosporidium cysts. It is trustworthy, works on more types of diseases than many filters, and can also treat the water on the threads of your bottle. However, iodine is not recommended by Potable Aqua to use repeatedly over an extended period of time.

Shown here is the disclaimer on the back of the Potable Aqua tablets.
Shown here is the disclaimer on the back of the Potable Aqua tablets.

Some people have also shown allergies to iodine. Make sure you are not one of these people before you select this as your treatment method. For a list of the organisms that iodine is effective against, check out Potable Aqua's frequently asked questions and click on the question at the very bottom.

This photo outlines the organisms that these tablets protect against  as of January 2017.
This photo outlines the organisms that these tablets protect against, as of January 2017.

Ease of Use

If you use Potable Aqua Iodine tablets as directed, they are quite simple. Two tablets treat one liter of water, and 2 more taste-neutralizing tablets make the water more desirable to drink after the iodine has incubated.


Even with both bottles, the iodine and taste-neutralizers, this system is small, light (2.27 oz.), and easy to carry.

Time Before Drinking

Once the iodine is dropped into the water, it takes 30 minutes to effectively purify. Then, if you want to neutralize the unappetizing iodine flavor, it takes another 3 minutes for the taste-neutralizers to work on top of the 30. Do not use both types of tablets at the same time since the neutralizing tablets also eliminate the iodine. This is not the most ideal wait time for a backpacker, but since it is not recommended to use iodine repeatedly for an extended period of time, it is a reasonable wait time for a back-up or emergency water treatment system.

Durability / Uses Before Maintenance

There is no maintenance involved in tablets, making them simple and a perfect back-up treatment plan.


Before adding in the taste-neutralizing tablets, the iodine gives the water a medicinal, metallic flavor that isn't bad for the first sip, but becomes nauseating after an entire liter. The neutralizing tablets reduce the medicinal flavor, but leave a faint hint of a metallic taste. In general, the neutralizing tablets work quite well in eliminating the characteristic iodine flavor. Iodine does not filter out particulate like all of the pumps, so if you collect sandy water, you will still be drinking sandy water.

Best Application

Iodine tablets are recommended for short term (weekend trip) or emergency treatment of water. Do not select iodine as your treatment method for a long thru-hike such as the AT or PCT, because it is not recommended to ingest iodine over an extended period of time.


For only $11 for the iodine and taste neutralizers, this is the cheapest way to get a water treatment system quickly. Since it is not recommended to use over long periods of time, and it doesn't treat for Crytosporidium, spending $3-$5 more on a chlorine dioxide treatment would be a better value.

Other Versions

There are multiple types of iodine for water purification out on the market. Potable Aqua is the most popular brand for the outdoor market.

McKenzie Long