How to Make Your Own Water Purifier

DIY water filters in plastic bottles

Water purifying systems can be complicated and expensive. Luckily, you can make your own water purifier at home so you have access to filtered, clean water whenever you want it. This technique might come in handy in off-grid homesteading, or during an emergency that limits your access to plumbing.

Purified Water

What makes water purified? Basically, this means that the water is filtered. Once the water is filtered and everything is taken out of it, you're left with pure H2O. You don't need a whole series of screens and filters and gears and devices to create purified water. In fact, this is something that you can find in nature.

If you're looking for filtered, purified water in the great outdoors, look for rocks. Water is filtered when it washes over and through rocks, sand, and other materials. Heavy metals and additives in the water get left behind and only water remains. This is nature's way of purifying water.

And while it sounds strange, this is the exact way that moonshine is made and has been made for decades and decades. Naturally filtered water that comes out of rocks makes for delicious spirits. Even ancient people had the knowledge of finding clean water: look for rocks.

You can do the same thing at home and mimic nature’s way of filtering water using totally standard, highly affordable materials that are easy to get. Get started by making your own small, DIY water purifier so you can get a look at this process for yourself.

Making a Mini Purifier

homemade water filters in plastic bottles

Take a standard plastic water bottle and cut off the bottom. Take off the bottle cap and toss that. You won't need it. Place a cotton ball into the mouth of the bottle. In fact, pack this area tightly with the cotton. Cover the mouth of the bottle and the cotton with a coffee filter. Tightly wrap a rubber band around the neck of the bottle to hold the filter in place.

Fill the bottle about halfway with sand. Top that with small pebbles to fill up most of the bottle, leaving a little space at the top. When you pour water into the top of the bottle, water will travel through the rocks, through the sand, through the cotton, and through the coffee filter to come out purified on the other side.

Try it! Get some water and intentionally make it dirty by mixing in a bunch of black pepper. Take a look at the water and then pour it through the filter. Capture the filtered water in a clean container and take a look at it when it’s done. You shouldn’t see any traces of the pepper, so you know it’s working.

How to Survive

Hopefully, it's unlikely that you could ever find yourself in any type of survival situation. But then again, you never know. If you do find yourself in need of clean water and yet you have no access to it, you can always build a survival water purifier.

Start with a container of any kind that will hold sand and rocks. This container must have a hole or some small holes at the very bottom. This lets the water out.

Place a later of twigs in the bottom of the container. This should fill roughly one-seventh of the container. Place a layer of small rocks that's about the same thickness as the first. Next, add a layer of sand that is somewhat thicker than the preceding layer. Add a layer of charcoal, another layer of sand, and then, a row of larger pebbles.

It sounds like a lot of work but these materials should all be reasonably available and if you build this, you will have purified water. Leave the container open, place something to catch the water under it, and let the rain pour. When you just really need some clean water, this method will work. Who knows when it will come in handy?

DIY Water Purifier

clean water pouring into a glass

Layer the right materials in a container that allows water to flow through the layers and out of the bottom, and you can make a water purifier of any size. Don't forget that you will need a second container to capture all the water.

You’re limited only by the size of your containers and the amount of material you need to use to create the purifier. Remember to use BPA-free, food-grand plastic if you are using plastic containers for your water purifier.

The mini method can be applied to a container of any size. Cover the holes of the water purifier with cotton and then build your layers. Place a layer of charcoal, chopped into small chunks, across the bottom of the container. Add a layer of standard playground sand, then add paver sand in a layer on top of this.

A layer of small rocks should go last. Using this method, you can build your own water purification system at any time. The materials are inexpensive and the process is very simple, so why not?

What Difference Does It Make?

Sure it's simple enough but what's the point of making a water filter like this when most of the time, you can just buy it in a bottle, or whatever?

If you don't like the taste of the water that comes out of your faucet or you'd like to use clean rainwater to provide water for your plants, a simple DIY water purifier is a great option. This kind of filter works well if your water has a chlorine taste to it or if you want to make sure that you're getting purified, clean water all the time.

Filtering water will also remove any smells and it will reduce the number of nutrients and minerals found in hard water. Some people don't like the taste of hard water, so DIY purification methods are a nice option.

However, the term "purified" should not necessarily be taken literally. This method of water filtration does do a lot to clean water and it can even make muddy water drinkable. But a DIY water filtration system will not remove water-borne pathogens.

Water that is unsafe to drink because of bacteria and viruses will not suddenly be safe because of DIY purification methods. Adding a water purification tablet and some drops of iodine can purify the water but a DIY water purifier alone will not make contaminated water totally safe.

Other Ways to Purify Water

improvised water filter bag on spigot

You don't have to put together a filtration system to clean your water, though this is an effective method of cleaning water. If you're looking for other methods to clean water, they are out there.

You can also use a UV light to truly purify water. This is a method you may see in a school science class but it is effective at killing microorganisms. Handheld UV lights are inexpensive and easy to use.

Of course, the old-fashioned method of purifying water always works and always will work. You can simply boil it. Let the water be at a rolling boil for at least 10 minutes. This is all it takes for all bacteria, microorganisms, and pathogens to die. This will make any water safe to drink, even if you have collected it from a stagnant pool of water in the forest. If there is any concern at all that your water may have microorganisms or pathogens in it that can be harmful, boil it!

Distilled water is also purified in that all pathogens and contaminants have been removed. Synthetic materials are not removed from water through this process, however. Distilling water is also a slow process that requires special equipment.

Another interesting DIY method of cleaning water is through solar water disinfection. Fill a plastic bottle with water and keep it in the sun for at least a day. This is a natural form of UV light, which is why this method actually works to purify water and kill bacteria.

This method only works with a small amount of water, no more than a standard two-liter bottle. Larger quantities of water will need to sit out in the sun for longer before all pathogens have been destroyed.

uv water filter light

What's in Your Water?

Even treated water that you receive from your city or county may have contaminants in it and stuff that you just plain don't want. Your tap water could contain heavy metals, chemicals like chlorine, and other additives you might not want in your body. When you filter your water, you always know that it’s clean.

Making Your Own Water Purifier

Try making your own water purifier. To see it really work, get some muddy water and pour it through the filter. You’ll see it come out clean and when you work up the courage to taste it, you’ll find that it has a great taste. Water purification methods like this are going to become more and more necessary in the future.

Knowing tricks like this right now could make a difference in the days ahead. It’s always a good idea to know how to get fresh, clean water because there will never be a day when you don’t need fresh, clean water.

Questions About Water Purifiers

There’s a lot more to water than it seems! Though the formula seems pretty simple, there’s a lot more going on with water than most people realize. There are plenty of questions to ask about water purifiers, how they work and why DIY filters work.

What Do DIY Water Purifiers Remove?

Even treated city water that goes through a lengthy filtration process may still contain chemicals, heavy metals, and other stuff you don't necessarily want in your water. Iodine, fluoride, and chlorine leftover in municipal water will be filtered out with a DIY water purifier.

A DIY system will also filter out total dissolved solids, volatile organic chemicals, and heavy metals, such as lead, iron, mercury, nickel, and arsenic.

These heavy metals and chemicals could be present in your water even after they’ve been filtered out once. Your pipes can also carry contaminants, even when your city or county water is clean. Over time, pipes degrade and start to fall apart, just like everything else.

Little pieces of dirt and debris containing chemicals, minerals, and metals could be getting into your water all the time through little pinholes and degraded areas of pipe.

Don’t the Rocks and Sand Make the Water Dirtier?

Wouldn’t pouring water through rocks and sand actually get more particles into the water? It seems odd that filtering water involves using materials like this but it works. Natural spring water is filtered by the rocks all around it, along with sand and soil, and other particles underground.

Also, DIY purifiers make use of cotton and other filters, which strains out dirt that could be on rocks. You can also wash your rocks and buy clean, new sand if you like.

Can You Filter Tap Water?

If you don’t like the taste or feel of your tap water, you can always filter your tap water, too. DIY water purifiers are not just for survival situations or for outdoor use only. You can filer all of your water with this method if you like.

Related Reading

For more information about water filters, check out our pieces about installing a UV water filter, faucet filter facts, grey water filters, and how to build sand filters.