DIY Water Filters – All You Need to Know

Filtering your water is an excellent way to ensure that its free of contaminants and safe to drink. Even water that looks and smells clean can contain invisible impurities that could potentially pose health hazards.

While there are many types of filtration systems on the market, from whole house filtration to simple filter pitchers, they all work on similar principles. You too can use these principles to make your own DIY water filter at home.

Here’s what you need to know.

What’s in Your Water?

First of all, it’s important to know what kind of contaminants are in your water as this will help you to find the right type of filtration for your water.

Certain additives in your water can be beneficial while others can be harmful. Essential minerals like calcium and magnesium are beneficial for health and are found in hard water.

However, you’ll also find a range of impurities in your water that you wouldn’t want there. These include:

  • Heavy metals
  • Chemicals like chlorine, iodine and fluoride
  • Pesticides, herbicides and pharmaceuticals
  • Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)
  • Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs)
  • Heavy metals like arsenic, lead, iron, mercury and nickel
  • Microorganisms like bacteria and viruses

These contaminants can affect your health including your hair and skin, your appliances and home. Getting rid of them will ensure cleaner, fresher and purer water.

How to Make a DIY Filter

The best way to get clean water in your home is to purchase a filtration system proven to work effectively. This can include a whole house filter system that gives clean water to all your water outlets, an under sink water filter or a countertop water filter that provides clean drinking and cooking water to your kitchen or a filter pitcher that gives you filtered water to drink.

But there may be times where you may not have access to such filtration systems and you need a quick way to purify your water. Or you may not have the financial resources to buy one of these filtration systems. In such cases, making your own DIY filter could be an option for you.

Let’s take a look at the steps required for making a DIY water filter.

Materials Required:

Materials for a DIY filter can vary, but in general, these are the most commonly used items:

  • A plastic bottle (2L or more)
  • Small rocks or gravel
  • Course sand or pebbles
  • Activated charcoal
  • Clean, fine sand
  • Cloth or coffee filter
  • Water


  1. Begin by cutting off the bottom of the plastic bottle, creating an opening large enough to put in the materials for the filtration system.
  2. Place the bottle upside down with the neck into a tall glass. This is where the clean water will filter into.
  3. Begin to layer the bottle with the materials. The first layer is the cloth or coffee filter, which goes near the neck of the bottle. It should be about an inch or two thick.
  4. Next, put in the layer of fine sand, activated charcoal, coarse sand and finally the layer of rocks/pebbles. Each layer should be about 1-2 inches in thickness.
  5. You can now pour in the water from the cut open section and watch as it slowly makes its way through the filter to the bottom and out of the glass.
DIY water filter explained

Each of the layers in this DIY water filter has its own purpose:

  • The rocks filter out large particles like twigs, leaves and insects
  • The sand removes smaller, finer contaminants in the water
  • The activated charcoal uses chemical absorption to remove other impurities that come through.
  • The cloth at the end of the filtration process pushes the water through tiny layered holes which removes any impurities that survived the journey so far. The end result is clean water.

Other Ways to Purify Water

This DIY water filter is one of the most popular ways to clean water, and is typically used in science classrooms to show children how water filtration works. But it’s not the only way that water is filtered.

Some other popular ways to obtain pure water by filtering out contaminants include:

Solar Water Disinfection (SODIS)

For this method, you need to fill up a plastic water bottle with the contaminated water and then leave it out in the sun for at least a day. The bottle should be clear and made of plastic. This method won’t work on glass or metal, as that blocks the UV light from getting to the water. SODIS isn’t a reliable method because you have to have certain conditions for it to work, like very sunny weather, which isn’t within your control. What if you needed clean water on a rainy day? Also, solar light doesn’t remove all contaminants; it mainly gets rid of pathogens like viruses and bacteria, but that too only in certain stages of their development.

UV Light

If you have access to a UV light, this is an excellent way to kill harmful pathogens in water. Note that this won’t remove solids or particles in your water, but will kill microorganisms by attacking their DNA. UV light devices are small torch-like objects that are portable and inexpensive.

Boiling Water

Boiling water is an easy, inexpensive and effective way to get rid of impurities in water. While it won’t filter your water from contaminants, it’ll purify it and make it safe to drink. For this, simply pour the water into a kettle or pot and allow it stay at a rolling boil for at least 5 minutes. If the water is extremely polluted, allow it to boil for about 10 minutes.

The infographic below shows several effective ways to purify water:

Effective Methods to Purify Your Water

Why Have a Water Filter

As we’ve already mentioned, there are many impurities in our water, even in water that looks clean. Having a water filter at home is a good way to get rid of these impurities. But there are more benefits than just that. Here’s a quick breakdown of reasons to have a water filtration system at home:

  • Reduce chemicals – First and foremost, a water filter will get rid of things like chlorine and chloramine which are commonly used to disinfect tap water. An effective filter can remove most, if not all, of this water.
  • Improves taste and smell – Water containing contaminants can taste and smell unpleasant. One of the biggest culprits that impact on water taste and odor is chlorine. Water with a high amount of heavy metals can taste metallic. These things can be filtered out, resulting in better tasting water.
  • Using less plastic – For many people, the alternative to having a filter at home for clean water is to buy bottled water. They believe that bottled water is cleaner than tap water. The trouble with this is that first, bottled water isn’t necessarily cleaner than tap water (in fact, most bottled water comes from taps!) and second, bottled water is extremely bad for the environement. By having a filter at home, you can reduce your usage of plastic water bottles, instead reusing a refillable water bottle.
  • Contaminants in pipes – Maybe the water from your tap is excellent and trustworthy, but the trouble can be your pipes. Some pipes tend to leak heavy metals into the water system, especially if they’re old. While the water might be clean when it leaves the municipal tanks, it can carry many harmful contaminants by the time it gets to your tap.
  • Hard water – While hard water can have a nice taste and be good for your health, the high mineral content can be hard on your home and appliances. An effective filter will reduce these minerals, softening your water.

Want to learn more about reasons to filter your water? Read our article here.

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