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How To Purify Water: 7 Ways To Make Clean Drinking Water

What will you do when your water supply runs dry?

Ever sipped tap water in a foreign country and had to live on the toilet for the next three days?

Clean water should be your most important concern in any survival situation.

You can survive thirty days without any food, being shot and even contracting a dangerous disease like Ebola you have a slim chance to survive.

But without water? All you’ve got is 72 hours and you’re dead. Like certainly dead.

Even worse you not only need water but you’ll also need enough of it. While half a litre a day will keep you alive you’ll also experience troublesome side effects like headaches, dizziness, rapid heartbeat and breathing and – in the worst cases – hallucinations and delirium.

The good news is that water is literally anywhere. Rivers, lakes, oceans, your toilet bowl. Heck 71% of the earths surface is covered in water!

On the other side you can drink almost none of that directly. There was a time when men could quench his thirst straight from the river. But pollution, large scale farming and the destruction of aquatic ecosystems has made almost any water source undrinkable without prior water treatment.

When the local water treatment plant fails or you find yourself without ready access to bottled water, what will you do? Wing it, drink whatever you can find?

Drinking untreated water is a dumb idea:

Ancylostoma duodenale is looking forward to invade your intestines.
  • Bacteria and viruses that live in the water will make you sick. Symptoms range from diarrhea and fever to serious diseases like cholera, dysentery or salmonella.
  • Tiny dirt particles can clog up your lungs and irritate your throat.
  • Metal compounds leeched into the water from over-farming can cause life-threatening heavy metal poisoning.
  • Toxic chemicals (commonly called “pollution”) can burn and rip up your organs from the inside out.
  • Parasites that live in the water love to invade your digestive track and use it as a feeding and breeding ground. Some parasites can grow up to 10 feet (3 meters) inside you. They also lay eggs.

Sounds scary?

It doesn’t have to be. If you know how to purify water even the dirtiest water can be purified and made fit for consumption.

How you would purify your water depends on what tools you’ve brought and how contaminated your water source is.

Below are seven ways to make even the most disgusting puddle drinkable.

1) Boiling / Potting

Boiling water is the most basic water filtration method.

The easiest, most common but also least safe way to purify water.

Put the water into a pot or any other metal container and heat it until it’s bubbling.

Most bacteria will die the instant the water hits the boiling point but some bacteria have adapted to withstand high temperatures temporarily so make sure you boil your water for at least 5 to 10 minutes.

If you think just boiling water is enough to keep you safe though you’re in for some unpleasant surprises.

While boiling removes bacteria and parasites from your water, everything else is still in there. This includes dirt, pollutants and dangerous toxic chemicals.

Which brings me to the next filtration method:

2) Cloth Filtration

Any CLEAN piece of cloth will work.
Always carry a bandana or any other piece of fine woven cloth with you.When you have to purify murky or dirty water filter the water trough your clean cloth before you boil it.

Fixate the cloth with a rubber band or clippers to a container and slowly pour water on top of it while you watch it rinse trough the cloth into your container.

Wash out the cloth and repeat if necessary until the water looks clear.

Cloth filtration works well to remove larger particles like sand, dirt and to a small extend pollutants.

But you’ll do nothing to the bacteria and parasites that dwell in the water. Therefor you should always boil water after you purified it through cloth filtration.

3) DIY Coal, Sand And Earth Filtration

A DIY coal, sand and earth filter. pc
All around you the earth under your feet is a giant water filter.Once any kind of water reaches the ground it gets slowly absorbed through layers of vegetation, dirt, earth and stone until it reaches the ground water.From there cities pump it back up and use it as tap water.You can use this simple process to purify water when you have access to clean earth, sand or gravel:

Cut open the back of a plastic water bottle and add multiple layers of cloth, crushed coal, sand or earth in between the open end and the front of the bottle.

Next let your water drip through your homemade water purifier.

The coal will remove many kinds of bacteria and pollutants while the sand and earth filter dirt and other small particles out of your water.

Just make sure to add a thick layer of cloth at the bottom of your makeshift purifier so the other ingredients won’t slide trough into your freshly purified drinking water.

4) Water Purification Tablets

You can buy these really cheap online.

Water purification tablets work similar to how you keep the water in a swimming pool clean:

Throw one or two into your water, wait for at least half an hour and chemicals released from the tablets will have killed anything dangerous to a human.

These tablets combined with cloth filtration to remove dirt particles makes for very safe drinking water.

Your water will taste horrible so keep some ice tea or fruit juice powder handy.

5) Purification Pumps And LifeStraws

This is by far the safest way to obtain clean water from almost any source.

A LifeStraw is THE easiest solution to obtain clean drinking water.

Purification pumps are professional versions of your DIY coal, sand and earth purifier that use high pressure mechanics and multiple layers of active coal and tiny nano-scale meshes to remove harmful substances and organisms from your water.

That sounds expensive because it is.

If you don’t want to sell your kidney to get a full scale purification pump you can buy a LifeStraw which is a miniature version of former.

Instead of extracting the water from your water source and pumping it into a container you just dip the straw-like device into the water and drink from it.

Similar to how you would drink soda with a straw.

While you suck the water through the straw it will be purified in a similar process to a purification pump.

6) Distillation

The Pulpit Rock
This is how water distillation works. Infographic from
The only way to obtain drinkable water from salt water and also the safest way to purify water is called distillation.

Instead of filtering particles and organisms out of the water you reverse the process and filter the water out of everything else.

It’s easy: Add water to a pot and place an empty, smaller pot inside the bigger pot.

Next clamp a clean plastic sheet over both pots and weigh it down in the middle with a stone.

Bring the water to a boil and you’ll see how steam rises from the larger pot, condenses on the plastic sheet and clean water drops down into the smaller pot.

The more heat you supply the faster the water will evaporate.

You can make almost any water source completely safe by distilling it although the process takes a lot of time and energy and removes any minerals and trace elements from the water.

7) UV Purification / Solar Still

When not needed, your solar still can be used as hanging garden.

All you need for UV water purification is a transparent water bottle.

Filter your water trough cloth to remove large particles and dirt, pour the water into a transparent bottle and place it in a spot that gets hit directly by the sun. Make sure there is no air trapped in the bottle.

Now wait for at least twelve hours.

The ultra violet sun rays will kill bacteria and other organisms in your water over time.

This purification method isn’t very safe because you can’t tell for sure how long it’ll take until all micro organisms are dead.

It can take a very long time and if you live somewhere up North there might not be enough sunlight to complete the process at all.

If you like to tinker and have some spare time you can build a solar still similar to the purifier described in the distillation process, except that you use solar energy instead of heat from a fire to evaporate the water.

There you go, seven ways to purify water and make clean drinking water :-).