How to make a DIY Water Filter

There are many great reasons to consider a DIY Water Filtration System. You may be tired of high prices for water filters, you may have a money shortage and need to filter your water, you could be out in the woods camping or lost. regardless of the reason, you need to find a water filter solution so that you can drink clean and pure water.

Kids who are homeschooled can earn science credit by designing and creating their own DIY Water Filters. It's also a great way to prepare them for emergency situations should one ever arise.

Unfortunately, a lot of companies interchange the terms water filter, water softener, and water purifier. This can make it difficult at best to understand the difference between the terms. The bottom line is that water filtering/purifying/softening systems are designed to filter out contaminants in the water and cleanse it so that it can be used for drinking, fish tanks, ponds, livestock purposes, and more.

Why Filter Water?

Have you ever been out in the woods and dipped a container into the water and then watched as the water settled? What did you see? Sometimes, you'll see bits of debris, fish poop, sand, silt, and other debris floating in the water. More importantly, you may not see some contaminants that could make you quite ill. These contaminants that you can't see can lead to digestive issues including diarrhea and other issues. In some cases, they may even be fatal.

In addition to filtering out bacteria and debris, you could also be filtering out excesses of minerals, chemicals, and impurities that may affect the taste of your water. A good example of this is water that turns a reddish color due to excessive copper or iron in the water. If you leave such water running for a short time, the reddish color often dissipates and you'll be left with clear running water.

Another reason to filter such water is that filtered water will reduce the hard water scaling that can cause appliances like coffee makers to clog and showerheads to clog. Filtered water will help to reduce this scale and extend the life of such appliances and apparatuses.

The Basics Of Water Filters

The basics of design of water filters are a system of filtering elements that are layered to give the end result of clean and pure water. Understanding the basics of water filters makes it easier to create and design your own water filter for use at home or out in the woods or an emergency situation.

The typical water filter has the following elements in it to filter the water:

  • Small Rocks or pebbles
  • Sand
  • Additional Small Rocks
  • Finer Sand
  • Charcoal
  • Cheese Cloth (Or Another Type of cloth such as cotton or linen for filtration)
  • Clean Water

The top of the container holds water to drain down through the filtration elements and the bottom of the filter system has a container for the clean and purified water. These can readily be made in any size to accommodate any amount of water.

How To Make Your Own DIY Water Filter System

Designing and creating your own water filter is actually quite simple. All you need are a few simple supplies. Most people can readily find these on hand in their homes or out in the wilderness areas where they need them. Here are four of the most common DIY Water Filtration Systems that you can consider:

Method 1 - The Bio System

This is perhaps one of the easiest systems you an set up. It consists of three basic layers of gravel, fine sand, and activated charcoal. Here's what you'll need to create this system:

  • A screen
  • Saw to make holes
  • Activated charcoal
  • Five-gallon food-grade plastic bucket or equivalent container
  • Gravel or pebbles
  • Fine sand
  • Plastic plumbing fittings as required to situate the bucket over a filtration container
  • Fabric such as cotton or cheesecloth


Step One: Begin by turning your five-gallon bucket upside down. Cut a hole into the top of the upside-down bucket large enough to pour in your filtering materials. Use your saw for this purpose.

Step Two: Set your bucket back upright over a container to capture the filtered water. This may require some balancing or a board with a hole in it to help situate your bucket so that you don't lose your filtered water.

Step Three: Once you have your bucket properly balanced over a container to capture your filtered water. You can begin the layering process. Working backward from the ultimate goal, place a layer of cotton or fabric over the bottom of the bucket as your final filtration layer.

Step Four: Now it's time to add your activated charcoal. Add this over the top of the fabric layer. You'll want several inches of the activated charcoal before your layer of fabric or cotton. Activated charcoal is often used in third world countries or regions where clean water isn't readily available.

Step Five: Over your charcoal, you're going to add your fine sand. Be generous with this so that the water will filter down gently removing all debris before your final steps. Most people choose to add several inches of fine sand to this layer. The more you have, the better the filtration.

Step Six: Add in your gravel or pebbles. Again, be generous with this layer. It's okay to add six to eight inches of gravel or pebbles. If you have more you may wish to have several layers of six to eight inches so that your water goes through this filtration process several times. The more your water is filtered the safer it is to drink. If you have excess amounts of gravel or pebbles just make several layers of the gravel or pebbles and then the sand layers. Just try to make your layers about the same depth each.

Now you can pour your water into the top, and allow it to drain through the various layers ending in your purified water in the bottom container. Depending on the number of layers this may take a while so be patient. The end result will be worth it to have pure and clean water for drinking purposes and more.

There is no perfect water filter system. Every system will be slightly different so if you feel that yours works but doesn't look like others, that is okay. What works well for one person may not work at all for another person. Keep it simple and follow the basic principles and you're going to have the right results. It's not unusual to combine a few different methods for filtering water. A lot of people use more than one method to ensure pure drinking water.

Method 2 - Water Distillation Over A Stove

  • If you have an infant who requires distilled water or if you have household appliances or items that require distilled water, you can create your own water distillation unit to be used over the stovetop. What you'll need to create your own water distillation unit:
  • Drill with a drill bit for stainless steel
  • Stainless steel pan with a well-fitting lid
  • Food grade silicone hose for high temperature (should match the size of drill bit i.e. 3/8 inches drill bit 3/8 inch hose) in 3-foot lengths.
  • Large glass container or jug with a tight-fitting lid (consider a gallon jar with a well-fitting lid)


Step One: Start by drilling a hole into your metal pot lid. Ensure that your barbed ends are on the outside of the pot lid. If desired you can file this down and wipe out the debris before you begin your filtering project. You won't want any of the debris in your final project and you'll want to be mindful of any sharp edges when you're setting up your tubing or silicone hose.

Step Two: Wash your metal pot well with dish soap ensuring that you've completely rinsed any dish soap residue out of the metal pot. It's always good to give this an extra rinse for good measure.

Step Three: Insert your 3-foot silicone hose into the hole in the hole on the lid. Be mindful of any sharp edges so that you don't accidentally cut yourself. Make sure that the hose goes into the pot and isn't just sitting on top.

Step Four: Insert the other end of the 3-foot silicone hose into the large glass container. Allow the hose to extend into the jar so that it will deliver the final product effectively. Some people choose to have two lids for this container, one with a hole, and one without. They then stick the hose into the container via the hole and when the water is done distilling replace the lid with the intact version. This can help to prevent any other contaminants into the final product and it can also help to prevent any evaporation of your final product.

Method 3 - Solar Disinfection

This method works with sunlight to disinfect the water. It's important to keep in mind that this method should be done over the course of a few hours and you should still boil the end result prior to drinking to ensure that your water is completely drinkable.

  • Before you being this project you'll need the following items:
  • Large Container for water
  • Clear Lid or plastic wrap to prevent bugs or other contaminants from entering the water
  • Stable surface to set the large container on
  • Plenty of sunshine


Step One: Fill your large container with water from your water source (stream, pond, etc.). If there is a large amount of debris in your water it should begin to settle to the bottom of the container. You could also strain the water into the container to capture any major bits of debris.

Step Two: Place your clear lid or plastic wrap over the water container.

Step Three: Place your large container on the stable surface in the sunlight.

Step Four: Wait at least two hours or more for the water to settle. It will condense on the top of the lid or plastic wrap.

If desired, you can strain your end result through some cheesecloth or other cloth. However, it is recommended that you boil the water prior to drinking. Allowing the water to sit for a few hours also works by helping the debris and contaminants to settle in the bottle of the large container.

Keep in mind that this method is probably one of the options that you won't want to use unless you have the means to boil your water afterward. Some bacteria may still survive with this method and you won't want to risk any digestive issues or diarrhea by drinking this water.

Method Four - Boiling Water

If you're in a hurry, or if you don't have any of the above-mentioned supplies, you can still use this method to help get some drinkable water. Many prefer to strain this method over charcoal before they boil the water. To do so, you'll need the following items:


Bucket or container for holding water as it strains (this bucket or container must have holes in it from which the water can drain. If need be, use a drill to drill some holes into the bottom of this bucket).

Bucket or pan to capture water after it strains


Step One: Place your bucket or pan to capture your water on a flat surface.

Step Two: Place your bucket or container for holding the water over the first container.

Step Three: Place the charcoal into the top container.

Step Four: Pour the water into the top container and allow it to drain through the charcoal.

Step Five: When the water is done straining through the charcoal, you can either add more, or you can simply proceed to the next step.

Step Six: Remove the top container and boil your water for at least 3 minutes.

After the water boils, allow it to cool to room temperature. Many people still strain it prior to drinking it. If you wish to strain it use the following method:

Step One: Have a clean container on a flat surface to capture water.

Step Two: Place cheesecloth or other materials such as cotton fabric over the top of your clean container.

Step Three: Pour your cooled boiled water over the materials slowly to allow it to go through one last filtration process.

Your water is now ready to drink. You can store it covered in a refrigerator if you have one, or simply place a lid on it and drink as required for hydration.

It's not at all unusual for people to adapt a few of the above methods into one method and use that. Use what you have on hand and create your own DIY water filter.

Benefits Of DIY Water Filters


You won't be buying bottled water that is expensive and you don't know the source of it. This will also help to save on the landfills where the empty bottle may reside for many years to come.


You'll be drinking clean and pure water that doesn't have chemicals or bacteria in it that could be dangerous for your health.


You'll have a clean taste with your water. Have you ever tasted stale water or water that just tastes fishy or off? A DIY water filter will help to alleviate this issue and provide you with fresher tasting water.

Emergency Water

If you ever find yourself in an emergency situation you'll be able to have fresh clean drinking water that could potentially save your life.


Clean and pure water is better on your appliances and can help to remove hard water that can clog up your appliances and such items as your showerhead. This can save you a lot of money in the future as you won't have to be replacing these items as frequently. When hard water builds up it takes time to clean out the hard water deposits and this can save you a lot of money on home appliances and home repairs.


Of course, there are a few disadvantages of DIY Water filters, but they're likely not what you're thinking. The major disadvantage is that if you're lost in the woods or on a camping trip and need a drink of water you're not going to be able to simply dip your hands into the stream and quench your thirst without first filtering your water. The fact that this is going to take some time may be frustrating if you're really thirsty and in a hurry.

Another consideration is that you may have to sit with your water as it filters to ensure that nothing goes awry. If you're in a survival situation you may need to divide your attention between several different situations. Keep in mind that as you practice this you may be able to adjust your methods to ensure that you don't have to sit with it for so long.

Keep in mind as well, that depending on your original water source and how potentially contaminated it is, you may require more than one of the methods to ensure that you have a clean and filtered water supply.


DIY Water Filtering systems are a great project to try with kids. It can teach them what to do in an emergency survival situation as well as the water cycle on earth. This is a great science project that will work well for people who want to educate their children on what to do in emergencies and also give them credit if they are homeschooled.

DIY Water Filters can be as elaborate or as simple as the designer wishes to make them. Use what you have on hand and make it work. It's easy to substitute components and make do with what you have. If you choose to use several layers you can use many of the same components in differing levels.

Always make sure that your final container is clean before you use it to collect your purified and filtered water. A good washing in boiled water will help to ensure this. Now that you know how to design and create a DIY water filter you can make your own with what you have.

Keep in mind that in an emergency you may not have all of the components for any one method so it's good to get familiar with several of the methods so that you can mix and match them if needed for an emergency. DIY Water Filters work well if you're patient and willing to wait. The more patient you are, the easier it will be to have clean and safe drinking water.

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