how to make a water filter

Water covers more than 70% of the earth, but only a small percentage of it is safe to drink. Even in areas where water is considered safe to drink, it’s wise to filter out impurities, heavy metals, and potential contaminants that may make it unsafe.

Purchasing a commercial water filtration system can be extremely expensive, especially when it comes to one that can filter enough water for the whole house. In these cases, you may want to consider a homemade water filter for the time being. They are simple to make and provide the same type of biological and mechanical filtration aspects as a commercial water purifier would. Let’s discover various methods on how to make a water filter.

What Does a Water Filter Do?

The main purpose of a water filtration system is to remove things from the water that we do not want. This can be as simple as removing large debris such as leaves and twigs or as elaborate as removing certain biological hazards and microscopic particles. When it comes to filtering drinking water, ensuring you have a multi-step filtration system to provide clean water is important.

Multiple types of different filter media are the best way to remove a wide range of unwanted particles. Each filtration media has its own unique purpose, though normally, the first layer is the largest and is made to remove the biggest unwanted items, such as leaves and twigs.

And depending on the type of filtration you specifically need, you can either add or remove other materials as your filtration media to meet your unique needs for creating drinkable water. You can use items such as fruit peel, dirt, or other materials to act as basic filter materials in a pinch.

There are many ideas on how to make a water filter, but it’s important to understand how they work to make sure your DIY water filtration system is as effective as possible.

Filter Media

The simplest filtration media is a combination of small pebbles or gravel and sand. The pebbles or gravel are used to remove the larger items, namely leaves, twigs, insects, and other debris. As the water passes through the pebbles and into the sand, smaller particles are removed.

Activated charcoal, also known as activated carbon, is also highly effective for use in water filters. It is specifically designed to remove heavy metals, salts, and waterborne pathogens. Activated charcoal is commonly used as the filter media right before the water is expelled for drinking or other uses. Activated charcoal is commonly kept above dense cotton or cloth to add one final polishing stage to the water.

What Are We Filtering?

Most water from a well, for example, includes a variety of metals and minerals found in the earth. This metal and mineral composition can differ depending on the location of the well, and while some minerals are okay to have in your drinking water, others are not. In some areas, lead and arsenic can be found in small amounts. Over time, this can cause health issues in humans that drink the water. Charcoal is a huge benefit here as it can help nullify the dangers of lead and completely remove arsenic.

In addition to lead and other heavy metals in the water, there are a variety of biological contaminants and microscopic life you do not want to consume. This may include bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause illnesses. While no water filter can remove 100% of the biological and microscopic particles in water, it can make a huge difference in cleaning up even filthy water to make it much safer for drinking.

Simple DIY Water Filter

Suppose you’re looking for a very simple homemade water filter that is mostly just a proof of concept and not a proper drinking water filter to provide the cleanest water. In that case, this is an extremely simple option. This hands-on experiment is a great way to show classroom students of all ages the basic principles of water filtration and what each layer of the different materials may do.

What You Need:

  • 2 Plastic Bottles
  • Small Stones
  • Sand or Natural Soil
  • Cotton Balls or Coffee Filters

Steps by Step Process

  1. Carefully cut the bottom off of one plastic bottle, and cut the top off of the other bottle
  2. Remove the cap from the bottle that is missing its bottom
  3. Place the cap-less bottle upside down into the bottle that had its top cut off
  4. Place cotton into the bottle and push it down into the area where the cap was
  5. Place sand on top of the cotton
  6. Place small stones on top of the sand or soil
  7. Pour dirty or cloudy water into the plastic bottle that has the filter media
  8. Watch as the water makes its way through the filter media and comes out as clear and pure water into the second bottle

Homemade Water Filter

To make a homemade water filter on a larger scale that can filter a proper water supply for drinking, you can use 5-gallon buckets. Normally found in hardware stores or even bakeries, these storage buckets are a great way to store large amounts of filtration media in any layering method.

The most recommended method is to use sand, charcoal, small gravel, medium gravel, and large gravel, in that order. Additionally, you can add a cotton filter media or use a coffee filter to act as the final step of filtration before the water goes into your glass for drinking. This provides a full 5 to 6 step filtration method that can remove a huge percentage of impurities in your tap water or water from a stream.

Preparing to fix the under-sink filtration system

Simply drill small holes in the bottom of the buckets and fill them with the filter layers of your choice. It’s recommended to keep cotton, a coffee filter or some other natural materials over the holes so no other filter media falls out or clogs up the openings. Layer the filter media from larger items to smaller items at the depth you choose. The thicker the layer, the better the filtration will be.

Stack the buckets on top of each other and allow room at the bottom for you to access the clean filtered water that comes out. Place your dirty water in the top bucket and give the processing time to filter through the bucket or stack of buckets, depending on how large the scale you choose to go with this filtration method.

This homemade water filter is great for removing both large and small impurities from your water. And with charcoal being included, you can rest assured knowing a large number of heavy metals and some microscopic contaminants were removed as well, giving you clean water as a result.

DIY Outdoor Water Filter

If you’re enjoying the great outdoors, such as on a hike or camping, it’s important to have access to plenty of clean drinking water. Staying hydrated is very important, especially on hot days or when hiking in areas that exert your body. But if you run out of bottled water, you may need to get your water from a river or stream.

For a quick, easy project to create an outdoor DIY water filter, you can use a variety of materials you may already have on hand. Such as a piece of cloth which can be from your shirt or a bandana, some sand you may be able to find on the ground, and some small stones, gravel or grass, which is most likely all around you.

Use one container, either a water bottle or a snack container you carried along on the trip, and add your unfiltered water. In another container, place your shirt or another piece of cloth over the opening. On top of that, layer the smallest sand or stones you can find. Plus, layer larger pebbles or grass on top of that. Pour your unfiltered water in and let it pass through the different layers.

In this case, since the filtration method is not extremely secure, if using this natural water filter, it is recommended to boil the water as well over a campfire or small portable camping stove before drinking. However, if you cannot boil the filtered water, you can still consume it in a survival situation. After all, some water is better than no water, even if it’s not completely filtered. 

Biological Water Filter

a new filtration system

Commonly used as the main filtration method in aquariums and terrariums, using beneficial bacteria for filtration is not unheard of. While it is not recommended to drink this water without boiling it first, it can still be an effective way to filter the water for use with your household pets and in aquariums.

Biological filtration is a way to use good bacteria to clean up the bad and other contaminants. Mostly used to clear dirty water of ammonia, it can also be helped by using live plants in the water as their root systems will make use of the contaminants that humans do not need or want.

The main aspect is to provide a large surface area for good bacteria to live on. This is normally done with small plastic balls known as “Bio Balls” or “Bio Orbs”. They have a star-shaped layered look, which provides a huge amount of living space for good bacteria to grow. Over time, a colony of good bacteria can help filter select contaminants from the water, making it safe to use with your pets.

Make Your Own Filtration System

Whether you decide to make a homemade water filter or purchase a commercial water purification system, ensuring you and your family have clean drinking water is vital. Regardless of how you choose to filter your water, you show that you care about your health by simply making an effort for cleaner water.

Water purification is a relatively simple concept, and making your own water filtering system is a great project to do in the afternoon or over the weekend. Hopefully, the above information gave you an idea of how to make a water filter that works for you.

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