Fun Fact: Humans can live about 20 days without any food but can only live about 5 days (maybe even less) without water. We may take water for granted now because it is in such rich supply, but what if disaster strikes? I will tell you right now, YOU WILL REMEMBER THIS INSTRUCTABLE AND YOU WILL LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY! The method introduced in this Instructable is the same method by which your drinking water is filtered now but just on a smaller scale. With just a few common household items that you more than likely have just laying around, you can supply clean water with this Environmental Engineer approved method to you and your family when you so desperately need it.


DISCLAIMER: I am not responsible for any harm/ accident / sickness caused as a result of this Instructable. Water treatment such as this is extremely safe but if not done properly, it can make you very sick. Perform at your own risk!

With that being said, let’s get to it and save some lives!

Step 1: Assembling the Materials

Picture of Assembling the Materials
Picture of Assembling the Materials

This project is easy as it gets. All you need is just a handful of items that you can find at home.

– Coffee Filter (I used the cone-shaped ones to fit in the bottle better but any coffee filter should work just fine

– A small shovel

– A colander

– Sand / Dirt (Sand is much better but dirt would work)

– Knife / Scissors

– A 2 Liter Plastic Bottle

Optional: Charcoal– to refine the purification process even further but it is not always necessary. I did not use it for this instructable and the water purified just fine.

*Tip* It might be worthwhile to have these things already set aside in a emergency preparedness kit. Who knows, you may only have minutes to leave your home and these materials could very well save your life!


Step 2: Making the Filter

Picture of Making the Filter
Picture of Making the Filter
Picture of Making the Filter
Picture of Making the Filter

3 More Images

The first step is getting the bottle ready to hold the sand. Take your knife or your scissors and cut a little less than half of the bottle away (Picture 1). After you cut the bottle, you will want to set the tip inside the bottle so that it can drain into the bottom piece. If you have done this correctly, it should look similar to (Picture 2). Next, take the coffee filter and expand it to conform to the edges of the bottle (Picture 3).

The next step is to prepare the filter through which the water will flow to give you 95% clean water! We will talk about the last 5% in a later step! Take your Sand / Dirt and add it to the colander (Picture 4). Be sure to have a bowl beneath the colander to catch your refined material. With the material in the colander, gently shake the material to separate the finer sand particles from the rougher sand particles. The distinction between the two should be rather dramatic (Pictures 5 & 6).

For the final step, you add the most-refined material to the least-refined material. With that being said, add the fine sand particles in first then the rockier particles. Depending on what you are filtering, it may be worthwhile to add slightly larger pebbles, but in this case, it was not necessary. If you followed the steps correctly, it should look like the filter I made (Picture 7)

Now that your filter is built, lets filter some water!

Step 3: Filtering the Water / Purifying the Water

Picture of Filtering the Water / Purifying the Water
Picture of Filtering the Water / Purifying the Water
Picture of Filtering the Water / Purifying the Water
Picture of Filtering the Water / Purifying the Water

To test this homemade filter, I got the nastiest water that I could find. I got a few scoops of dirt and added it to some water and shook it up to get a really filthy concoction (Picture 1). This could represent an absolute worst case scenario of water filtering.

Now it all comes down to this, an epic showdown between dirty water and our filter! (Picture 2) Remember this could be the difference between life and death so lets hope this works!

Add the water to the top of the filter (Picture 3) and watch it drip down through the filter! (Picture 4) The filter will catch twigs, small organisms and even the tiny particles of dirt! It might be difficult to see, but the water is pooling at the bottom of the bottle! So Cool!

*Tip #1 * The water may still be a little cloudy after the filtering process (especially with this dirty of water) so the best way to fix it is just running your filtered water back through the filter again. After that, it should come out pretty clear!

*Tip #2* To avoid running into the problem discussed in Tip #1, if you have extremely dirty water, let it sit for a moment so the majority of the dirt sinks to the bottom before pouring it into the filter. It will minimize the amount of filtering you will have to do. *If you filter rainwater or pull water from a river you shouldn’t have this problem at all!*

Well, let hope it worked… Drumroll please!

Step 4: Raise Your Purified Glass of Water to Success!

Picture of Raise Your Purified Glass of Water to Success!

Success! The water looks great! I know what you are thinking “Now let’s boil that sucker!” WRONG. It takes an immense amount of precious energy to boil water. You want to use your fire/ energy source to cook your food not boil your water! It will deplete your valuable resources dramatically and waste your time as well!

The most efficient way to clean up that last 5% of dirty water (mostly microorganisms) is to use common household bleach. When used properly, it cleans the water to become totally drinkable.

Here is a table to give you an idea of how much bleach is need for the amount of water you are filtering.

Volume of Water to be Treated to Amount of Bleach Solution to Add:

1 quart/1 liter Add 5 drops

1/2 gallon/2 quarts/2 liters Add 10 Drops

1 gallon Add 1/4 teaspoon

I did a little less than a liter so I used 4 drops to be safe. Mix the solution thoroughly. Once you add the bleach, it is wise to wait about forty-five minutes to an hour for it to kill all of the bacteria.

* Tip* Sniff test! If you can still smell bleach after forty minutes, wait a little bit longer, it is probably still killing bacteria. Once you can no longer smell the bleach, the water should be totally safe to drink.

If you are brave enough, give it a shot and try it for yourself! 🙂

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