ways to purify water for drinking

7 Ways to Purify Water for Drinking

When a hurricane hits, or an earthquake shakes things up, water is one of the first things to go. Since it’s also the most important part of staying alive, you need to make sure you have multiple ways to purify water for drinking. Today, we’ll be looking at several methods of getting water suitable to drink.

Water Sources

Where will you get water after a disaster? If you’ve prepared your home and family, you’ll have ready access to water. Keep some pure water on hand for emergencies, in five gallon jugs or similar containers. Having a tank that can hold a few hundred gallons of water is also a good idea.

If you aren’t prepared, or if you run out of water that you’ve already stored, there are a few other options. First, look around your home for sources of water. Toilet tanks and hot water tanks hold extra water if you haven’t used it up.

Wells may be compromised in a disaster, but with the right purifying process, you can render it usable again. Other options include fire hydrants, ponds, pools, and rivers. Obviously, some of these are more likely to be contaminated than others, so use your discretion.

Eliminating Debris

While you can probably drink “dirty” purified water, it’s usually best to strain out the bits and grits before you get to actually purifying it. This will give your filter a longer life and can help mentally, as well. This is especially important if you have children who might object to drinking cloudy or odd-colored water.

You can use any sort of filter to separate debris, including:

  • Coffee filters
  • Sieve
  • T-shirt or other clothing/fabric
  • Layered sand and gravel
  • Dried grass matted together

Another method of separating the debris is to simply let the water sit for a couple of hours until the silt and dirt has sunk to the bottom of the container. Pour the water off into a new container and it’s ready for purification.

Ways to Purify Water for Drinking

Ideally, you’ll prep ahead of time for situations like this. I like to recommend that everyone have a minimum of two ways to purify water.

1. Use a Filter

If you’ve prepared for this day, you’ll have a filter on hand. There are a huge number of options out there, so pick one that suits your needs. The LifeStraw filter is a good option to keep on hand. It’s portable and lets you purify water for the entire family. Of course, you might opt for an individual filter, as well, which can go in your bugout bags.

When choosing a filter, be sure it can filter out viruses and bacteria. These will be rife in a disaster situation and you don’t want to end up with cholera because you picked the cheapest filter.

2. Use a UV Light

UV rays will kill off most pathogens in water, rendering it safe to drink. You can use the sun (see below), or a more efficient method like a UV pen. The SteriPen is a good, portable option for treating smaller amounts of water for drinking, but there are a number of similar purifiers on the market. They’re quite effective, so you might want to keep one of these on hand, as well.

3. Boil the Water

Boiling may be old-school, but it’s almost always available to you. If for some reason you didn’t keep a filter on hand or if you lost it, you can always boil your water to make it safe for drinking. Bring any amount of water to a rolling boil over a fire or on the stove and keep it boiling for at least five minutes. Let the water cool and you have purified drinking water.

Unfortunately, boiling water can make it taste pretty bland and flat. To help with that, try pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers to help aerate it.

4. Use Chlorine/Bleach

Another well-known method of purifying water is to use bleach or chlorine in it. If your water is clear, you can use two drops of bleach per quart of water. If the water is cloudy or dirty looking, add four drops per quart. You will need to stir or shake the water, to ensure the bleach is well distributed. Then let the treated water sit for at least 30 minutes in a dark space.

You can keep chlorinated water for longer periods of time, but make sure it smells lightly of bleach when you open it.

5. Solar Clean It

Did you know the sun can purify water? It works like a UV purifier, but since it’s not as concentrated, you will need to plan ahead. It only works on sunny days and is something that should be a backup method, as it may not be entirely effective if the sun isn’t strong enough or doesn’t shine as much as expected.

In order to do this, you’ll need clear plastic bottles or glass jars. Fill them with the strained water and leave in the sunlight for two to three days. Don’t use bottles over one liter, since the smaller the bottle, the better this works. Lying the bottles on their sides will allow for maximum exposure, and of course, you should remove any labels and ensure the actual bottles or jars are clean.

6. Add Iodine

For a short term solution, iodine can be used to clean your water and your wounds. It’s a dual purpose liquid to keep on hand. You should use five drops per quart of water if it’s clear, and 10 if the water is murky. Once you’ve done this, stir or shake the water thoroughly to ensure the iodine is spread throughout.  It needs to sit in a cooler place for an hour before drinking.

Keep in mind that iodine may cause issues with your health if you ingest too much of it, so this method should only be used for short periods of time and you’ll need to use 2% iodine, which can be found here.

7. Distill Your Water

The safest way to purify your water is to use a water distiller. You can either purchase one or you can make your own. This uses condensation to separate pure water from the pollutants. A very basic method of distillation is shown below:

There are more complicated distillation methods, but you can use a solar still to get basic pure water. What’s your favorite way to purify water?

how to purify water

14 Replies to “7 Ways to Purify Water for Drinking”

  1. Daniel

    I live in that climate where water is full of some kind of sand and it have some ugly smell. Do you think that it can be solved by boiling water? I was thinking about UV pen but actually I don’t know how safe it is for us. It is very important to drink clean water but sometimes it is impossible until you buy water.

    • Genesis

      Boiling water will kill viruses and bacteria, but it won’t get rid of sand or the smell. I’d suggest using a charcoal filter before boiling to eliminate the odor of your water. If you add a particle filter (like a coffee filter), the sand won’t be an issue either.

  2. Shannon

    I keep meaning to get some kind of filters just in case something bad happens because obviously water will be the main concern.  I had no idea that you could use Iodine for short term purifying needs.  That’s really good to know and an easy thing to have on hand.  🙂

  3. Brad

    Another interesting post!

    I did not know that UV light could be used to purify water…  How long would one have to use some form of UV light in order to purify the water? Does it depend on the amount of water being purified?

    Using Chlorine to purify water for drinking? I never would have thought of that! 

    Thank You, 

    –Brad

    • Genesis

      So, the UV light will kill most viruses/bacteria within a six inch radius in 10 seconds. If your container is bigger than that, you need to move the UV light purifier around a bit, but you can still use it for larger amounts of water.

  4. Hong

    This is a very helpful post. I am familiar with some of the tips but not all. You are so right that water is the first thing to go when a disaster hits. I had no idea that you can purify water using a UV light and adding iodine. This is such a great information to have. Thank you for putting this article together. I am sure others will benefit from it too.

    • Genesis

      I’m glad you found it helpful! It’s not always easy to purify water if you don’t have a heat source or anything like that, so I figure the more options, the better!

  5. Vaughn

    We live in region that has experienced a contamination of the main town supply, it’s a big deal when this happens as many people get sick and you quickly realize how important water is when you can’t use it. Makes sense to have a good filter on hand and even a UV light to help kill the nasty’s. We ended up boiling the jug over and over to get enough usable water.

    • Genesis

      Ugh, boiled water is not pleasant. When I was a child, we had a contaminated well and had to drink boiled water for a while. I definitely prefer to use a filter, since it preserves taste.

  6. Kenny

    Hi and thanks for the very informative content. I had no idea there were as many ways as you have covered to purify water. I knew of some of them but by no means all. I would never have thought about bleach! Is there a strength of bleach to consider for your quantity per drops to quarts? Thanks Kenny 

  7. Rika

    Hi Genesis,

    I love your post!  I really enjoyed reading it.  I was aware of a few methods, but not all of it.  I know you get distilled water, but never really bothered to learn more about it.  Now I know what it is.  Iodine is a very interesting option.  It is just important to know some people might be allergic to iodine, although it is rare, but can be fatal.  If you are allergic to shellfish you are allergic to iodine.

    I don’t drink tap water and buy a lot of bottled water which sometimes can be expensive.  Which of these methods can I use that will be cheaper than bottled water?  I assume it will be boiling the water, but boiled water do have a funny taste for me.

    • Genesis

      For everyday use, I highly recommend getting a filter. It will eliminate the nasties and get rid of odors and flavors that come in the tap water. I have a simple one that connects under my sink and has a separate spout. It’s very handy. 

      You make a good point that some people are allergic to iodine, thank you for bringing that up. It does no good to have pure water if it still kills you.

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