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If you think your water is contaminated, purifying it before you drink is a smart move to take. While water coming out of your tap is typically disinfected and safe to drink, there might be times that you don’t trust the water you have to drink. This can happen when camping outdoors or if the water at home has been compromised somehow.
Regardless of the reason, purifying your water will remove disease-causing pathogens and sediments from your water, giving you safe water to drink and peace of mind. Here are 7 proven methods to effectively purify your water.
The easiest, cheapest and most well-known way to purify water, boiling is also the safest method. Water can contain parasites, germs and other pathogens that might be invisible to the naked eye. But just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. These can cause illness and disease but cannot survive in high temperatures.
The best way to purify water by boiling is to let it boil for at least 3-5 minutes, at high temperatures and at a rolling boil. If the water was taken from a water source that you don’t trust, boil it for about 10 minutes. Once boiled, allow the water to cool before drinking. While boiling purifies the water, note that it doesn’t filter, so you may find that any particles in your water will still be there. Filter the water before you drink.
- Easy and convenient way to purify water
- Safe and sure method
- Requires minimal equipment
- Particles will not be removed
Distillation is one of the oldest water purifying methods but is still one of the most effective. This method of water purification requires some form of heat which allows water to vaporize. Once the water is vaporized, it’s collected as distilled water.
The way this works is to heat water to boiling point and then to allow it to continue boiling as the water vaporizes. This vapor is then directed into a condenser where it’s left to cool. The vapor will have turned back to water, without most contaminants. Distilling water gets rid of bacteria and pathogens, as well as minerals, heavy metals (such as lead or mercury) and salts in your water. Distillation is perfect if your water is untreated and raw, as it allows you to get rid of all solid particles and other contaminants.
However, there are two main issues with this. First, distillation removes trace elements and minerals from water, which makes it more acidic. Second, it doesn’t remove synthetic chemicals like pesticides or chlorine solutions, as these have a lower boiling point than water. Also, it’s a slow method and requires special equipment. This makes it a more expensive method of water purification, especially for large quantities of water. Distillation is also not a sustainable method, in that a lot of water and energy is wasted in the process.
- Reliably removes bacteria, viruses and contaminants
- Perfect for non-treated raw water
- Ideal for houses and small-scale purification
- Doesn’t remove synthetic chemicals
- Very slow process
- Not ideal for large scale water purification
- Requires a constant heat source
- Removes natural minerals from water, making the water acidic
- A lot of water is lost in the process
Filtering water is one of the most effective and widely used methods of purifying water, with a wide range of options to choose from. The way filtration works is to use chemical and physical methods by which water can be removed of all contaminants, resulting in clean and safe water.
Filtration gets rid of viruses, bacteria and other harmful compounds in water, but unlike distillation, it doesn’t typically remove all the minerals and trace elements found in water. This makes filtered water healthier and more natural in taste than most other purification methods. Filtration also uses up less energy and resources than most other water purifying methods with minimal to no wastewater.
The cost of filtration depends on the type of filter you use, and this can vary from a simple water filter pitcher all the way to sophisticated whole house filtering systems. Filtration is an economical and typically long-term solution to water purification, as it uses little energy and requires minimal maintenance.
- Sustainable solution with little water and energy used
- Removes a variety of contaminants
- Doesn’t remove all minerals and trace elements
- Can be expensive
- Difficult to install depending on type of filter
- Ongoing maintenance – replacement of cartridges
Chlorine is a chemical used to disinfect water and to kill bacteria, viruses and other organisms in water. Chlorine has been used for many decades to treat water, and while we all know chlorine from swimming in pools, what few people know is that chlorine is often used in drinking water as well to make it safe to consume. Chlorinating your water is an effective and easy way to get rid of harmful substances. It’s also a chemical that’s affordable and easy to find.
Chlorine for water purification comes in table or liquid form with instructions on how much and how to use it. Typically, it takes about 30 minutes from the time you put the chlorine in the water for the bacteria to be killed. While chlorine in small doses is generally safe to drink when diluted with water, it can cause some issues for people with certain pre-existing conditions, like thyroid problems. Too much chlorine isn’t good for you and there is some concern that chlorine increases the risk of cancer, so this method has to be used with care.
While chlorine is one way of filtering municipal supply water, people often filter it out using filtration systems in their homes.
- Effectively kills all organisms in water
- Cheap and easy method
- Comes in several forms for ease of use
- Affects taste and smell of water
- Not ideal for those with thyroid issues
- Potentially increases risk of cancer
Iodine is a common chemical, typically found in table salt. Iodine comes in liquid, tablet and crystal form, and is another chemical that’s used to purify water. Iodine gets rid of unwanted contaminants like bacteria, viruses and other pathogens from your water, resulting in water that’s safe to consume. It’s cheap and portable, making it ideal when you have to purify water outdoors. Iodine takes around 30 minutes to purify water, but like chlorine, it also has an aftertaste that is typically found to be unpleasant.
While iodine has many benefits, it’s not suitable for a range of people, including those with thyroid issues, pregnant women, and people who have dermatitis herpetiformis. Iodine isn’t suitable to be used for extended periods of time.
- Comes in different forms
- It’s inexpensive
- Effective and easy to use
- Iodine kills microorganisms easily
- Iodine isn’t suitable for extended use
- It’s not suitable for pregnant women
- Some people have iodine allergies
UV light devices are an extremely effective way of getting rid of micro-organisms in water and works by attacking their DNA. A portable UV light is like a small torch, which makes it easy to use. While they aren’t very expensive, they do need batteries to be used. If you’re getting a UV light system for the house, these tend to use very little energy. However, while UV lighting is extremely effective in killing bacteria and viruses, it doesn’t remove chemicals or minerals from the water. This is why pairing UV lighting with a reverse osmosis system is ideal for the cleanest drinking water. Some filtration systems come with UV light as part of the filter process, but these can be more expensive.
- Environmentally safe
- Easy to use and extremely effective
- Doesn’t alter taste or smell of water
- Doesn’t add any chemicals to the water
- Requires very little energy
- Only treats bacteria and viruses
- Doesn’t remove contaminants
SODIS (Solar Water Disinfection)
Another source of UV light, the sun is a good ally when it comes to purifying water. For this, plastic bottles filled with water should be placed in a location where they are exposed to the sun and kept for at least a day. The UV light from the sun will kill most of the microorganisms in the water.
Clearly, this is the easiest and cheapest way to purify water, even easier than boiling. However, the main issue with this method is that you will need to have good sunny weather for it to be effective. Also, there are many conditions that need to be met for this to work – it only works with clear plastic bottles (not glass) and may not work against organisms in certain stages of their development.
Another thing to note is that SODIS doesn’t remove chemical contaminants. So while it’s free and easy to do, it’s not the most reliable method for purifying water.
- Easy, free and convenient
- Kills most parasites in water
- Only works with clear, plastic bottles
- You’ll need perfect, sunny weather for at least a day
- May not remove all parasites
- Doesn’t remove chemical contaminants
- Works with small amounts of water at a time
Purifying your water is the best way to ensure that the water you’re drinking is free of contamination. While there are many ways to do it, the option you choose depends on your specific requirements. If you’re looking for a long-term solution to purifying water, opt for a filter system for your house. However, if you need to purify water on the go, then you’ve got a wide range of options to choose from.