The need for potable water is an unquestionable priority for all of us. While tap water guarantees cheap access to safe water, sometimes, not even tap water is completely free from contaminants. One thing is certain: Without using a water filter you can never be sure about the quality and cleanliness of the water you drink every day.

Most probably, you’re one of those lucky people who have everyday access to clean drinking water. It seems like the simplest thing to reach for a of bottle of water or walk into your kitchen for a glass of fresh water.

But have you ever thought about what would you do if you would find yourself in a different situation? Have you ever thought about how you would go about getting water cleaned if it wasn’t readily available?

Learning how to make your own DIY water filter can come in handy in situations where drinking water is not a given. In this article, we’re going to go over the easiest ways to purify water without a store-bought water filter.

How to Build a DIY Water Filter?

Besides the fact that today, DIY products are becoming more fashionable, and in most cases, even less costly than store-bought alternatives, knowing how to DIY build a water filter can come in real handy in emergencies.

Imagine yourself out in nature camping or climbing and running out of clean water or being stranded abroad because of a natural disaster. In any of these scenarios, access to clean water may be restricted or simply unavailable. Knowing how to make your DIY water filter can be the key for survival, and it can be a lifesaver.

In the next section you will find some off-grid water filtering methods, some of the easiest tricks and tips to create your own water filter at home or wherever a case of emergency finds you.

Boiling Method

Boiling water is probably the simplest way to make water drinkable. We all know how water looks like when it’s boiling. The main aspect of this filtering method is paying attention to water volume and boiling time ratio. The more water we want to boil, the bigger the fire we need.

The drawback of this method is that by boiling contaminated water, some toxic substances cannot be removed (e.g. heavy metals). This DIY method is helpful when water is not heavily contaminated, and you just want to take extra measures to further purify water.

Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS)

The Sun can also help you to purify water. In fact, the Sun will do all the work for you, you will just have to wait for the result. This method can simplify the process of water purification, although it takes a little bit more time than boiling. All you need for this method is a water container or an ordinary plastic bottle and you will have to find a spot where you have direct sunlight.

The whole process can be done in three easy steps:

  1. Fill a container (PET plastic bottles are usually used) with contaminated water, then put it in a spot where water is exposed to direct sunlight.
  2. Leave the container out in the sun for anywhere between 6 hours and 2 days.
  3. Check the water and if it still looks cloudy, give it more time.

The idea behind SODIS is that exposure to UV light generates highly reactive forms of oxygen in water, which in turn destroy microorganisms.

As mentioned before, SODIS takes a lot of time and unfortunately, it cannot provide the best results. After this purification process, your water may still contain bacteria and harmful chemicals and you may have to filter it again with a different method.

Bio-Filter Method

Activated charcoal is the key for successfully filtering water in both emergency and non-emergency situations. With activated carbon, you will be able to get rid of some harmful pathogens and chemicals polluting your water.

How Can You Build a Bio-Filter in Three Steps?

  1. You will need a large bottle or a container to create a funnel. The easiest way to achieve this is to cut off the bottom of the bottle and turn it upside down.
  2. Cut a large hole in the top of the bottle or container.
  3. The most important part: layering. Start with a piece of cloth or cotton, then add the activated charcoal, add sand and gravel on top. Finish the process with a layer of sand again. Don’t forget that this filter works like a tunnel, so add a second empty water bottle with a hole in the cap to catch the cleared water flowing through your DIY filter.

Charcoal Method

This method is also one of the easiest ways to filter your water in the outdoors, since you can use easy-to-find everyday materials. It’s like the bio-filter method, but you don’t need to use gravel. The most essential part of this method is the crushed, granulated charcoal.

What Do You Need to Build a Charcoal Water Filter?

  1. a piece of cloth
  2. large plastic bottles
  3. sand
  4. granulated charcoal

The downside of this method is that after purification water won’t be ready for drinking, and you will have to boil it first before drinking it.

Solar Water Distiller

Water distillation means that you remove absolutely everything from water. Distillation means bringing water to a boil and capturing the condensed steam in another container.

The method is more complicated than the others mentioned above, but worth the effort since this way you will be able to extract the most pollutants and bacteria from the water.

Should You Use DIY Water Filters Exclusively?

Knowing how to build a water filter can make the difference between survival and chronic dehydration, but these methods are recommended only in emergencies. Every DIY water filter method has issues and you can’t rely on them in your everyday life. They cannot provide the same guarantees offered by a professionally tested and advanced water filter.

These solutions can make the water look clean and they can indeed filter it, but the results won’t be as reliable as the water produced by a professionally-made water filter. The water can still be heavily contaminated after improvised filtration methods. If you’re serious about the quality and the cleanliness of the water you are drinking, the best idea is to use a professional water filtering device.

Water Filters Suitable for Emergencies or Off-the-Grid Living

If you want to have a dependable water filter providing great results in your home or for your travels, you should check out gravity water filters.

These filters are one of the best portable water filters available today, producing an entire day’s supply of clean water. Depending on their size and capacity, these filters can meet the needs of individuals, families, or small groups.

Gravity water filters like the Big Berkey Gravity Water Filter can be used to eliminate a wide range of contaminations issues (viruses, pathogens, industrial pollutants, pesticides, herbicides, etc.) even from water that is collected from rivers, springs, or other similar sources.

The water filter cartridges or water filter candles in these units have a ceramic outer shell with a microporous structure that can offer sub-micron level filtration to trap viruses or bacteria and an activated carbon insert that handles other contamination issues.

Gravity-fed filters feature a top and bottom container (some models are collapsible allowing you to carry them more easily). The top container houses the filter candles and it’s where water is poured in for filtration. The lower chamber captures the water filtered by the candles, and it’s fitted with a tap that dispenses filtered water.

The filter candles used by these units have a long service life, they can be cleaned and reused, and offer a thorough filtration unmatched by a DIY water filter.

For these reasons, gravity water filters are used in hiking expeditions or in emergency relief situations, but they can be used by anyone who wants to live off-grid and needs access to clean water (e.g. to filter water from a private well).


If a gravity water filter or other emergency water disinfection solutions (e.g. water disinfection tablets) are not available, a DIY water filter can be a lifesaver. They might not offer the most reliable filtration, or they might not be able to be as efficient as a professional water filter, but they can prove valuable in life or death situations.

If you’re embarking on an adventure in a remote area, it’s best if you prepare for emergency situations, and that involves having a water filtration device that can be used with virtually any sources of water.


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