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Categorized | Food, Water, Shelter, Skills

5 Ways to purify water in a pinch

Water is very easy to find almost anywhere on this planet, but the problem is that if the water isn’t pure enough, you just can’t drink it or use it for washing.

So, what do you do when you get stranded somewhere where you just can’t get clean water? Well, you just need to know how to purify water and it will be good both for drinking and cleaning yourself.

1.  Improvised Sand Filter:

If you can only get some muddy water, you can make a sand filter to get the mud out. You would only need to make few small holes in the bottom of some container, put a piece of cloth in it to cover those holes, so the sand wouldn’t fall through the holes and fill it with clean sand. Don’t fill it all the way to the top because you would need to have some room for the water too. The should use the finest sand you are able to get and you should compress it as much as possible. To use this filter, all that you would need to do is pour some water in it, wait for it to pass through the sand and collect the filtered water in something. This method can be quite effective for cleaning the water from mud if the sand is fine enough and if the sand is compressed enough, but it wouldn’t be very good to filter out the microorganisms and it wouldn’t filter out any chemicals, so it is best to use it in a combination with some other method that effectively kills microorganisms and removes chemicals.

2.  Boiling:

One of the best and simplest ways to purify water that isn’t muddy is to boil it. Boiling the water for about 20 minutes would kill most microorganisms that may be in it and it could also vaporize many dangerous chemicals. You would just need something big enough to boil few liters of water in it because boiling only a cup or two of water for that long could vaporize most of the water you have. If you are sure that there isn’t some horrible disease in the water and that there are no dangerous chemicals in it, you could only boil it for few minutes, but if you aren’t sure, it’s better to be safe then sorry. This is one of the most effective ways to purify water if the water isn’t contaminated with something that doesn’t vaporize.  But, don’t forget:  you need the fire starting chops if you’re away from civilization.

3.  UV Radiation:

If you can’t find any metal container to boil the water, you can kill microorganisms by exposing it to UV radiation. All that you would need for this is a bottle and sunlight. The bottle can be made of glass or it can be a plastic bottle. It’s just important that it is clear, so the light could easily pass through it. You would need to fill the bottle with water and leave it direct sunlight for at least 6 hours. If the sunlight isn’t strong enough, you can try using a couple of mirrors to focus more sunlight on the bottle. Just keep in mind that the water is going to become warm and that it is going to vaporize, so you should not completely screw the cap on the bottle because that steam needs to go somewhere.

4. Distillation:

If you have two bottles and a piece of a garden hose, you can also distill water. You would only need to fill one bottle with water, put it in a sunlight and connect it with a garden hose to another bottle that you would bury in the ground in a horizontal position. The steam from the bottle which you exposed to the sun would go through the hose and condensate in the cooler bottle which you buried in the ground. That’s how you would get clean water. You could also speed the whole process up by focusing more sunlight on the bottle with mirrors and by using a darker bottle. Dark colors absorb more light, so darker bottles would become hotter if exposed to sunlight. If you can’t find a dark bottle, you can try painting a clear bottle black. Distillation is very effective for removing any dirt from the water, but it will not remove any chemicals from it.  There are a few ways to do this, but here’s a good water distillation article using a pressure cooker and flame.

5. Bleach:

Regular household bleach can also be used when you need to purify water. You just need to put about sixteen drops of it to a gallon of water, stir for a while and leave it for at least 30 minutes. After that, check does the water have a slight bleach odor. If it doesn’t, repeat the process. Remember that you should only use regular household bleach, not scented, not color-safe and not bleaches with added cleaners. You can use this water for washing, but it is advised that you don’t drink much of it unless you are absolutely sure that there aren’t dangerous chemicals in the water.

It’s best if you combine few methods to get the best results. For example, you could distill water to get the dirt out of it and then boil it to vaporize chemicals from it or just to make sure that there aren’t some dangerous microorganisms in it. That way, you could be pretty sure that the water would be safe for drinking.

Here are some additional resources for your consideration:

1.  Excellent article on water purification on a larger scale.  Very academic, yet easy to understand with diagrams and descriptions.

2.  Good information from the Washington State Department of Health on purifying water.

3.  24 Ways to purify water!  More of a list than anything, but still illustrates that there are many paths to drinking water.

Got your own favorite method?  Leave it in the comments.

4 Responses to “5 Ways to purify water in a pinch”

  1. Andrzej says:

    You can put the bottle dircltey on red ashes or on burning wood. It won’t leak. Although if the bottle is not full, plastic part above the water will most likely melt

  2. Jeff says:

    Great post – can I also suggest having some purification tablets (or drops) handy.

    Something else i’ve been learning to love lately is the ‘life straw’ – find one on amazon – they’re cheap and I use it when camping all the time!



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