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How To Make Your Own DIY Charcoal Water Filter | 10-Step Guide

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Tim Rhodes

No budget for a water filter? – It’s time to try this DIY charcoal water filter at home.

Nowadays, safety should always be on your top priorities to survive each day.

No one wants to put themselves or even their families at risk, so we always make sure that every food and fluid we take in is clean.

With the help of technology, it is effortless for you to research, find, and know things about safety on anything under the sun.

Yes, we can survive a month without food, but we can only last 3-5 days or a maximum of 7 days without taking in water.

So we must remember that water will always be more important than food.

Make sure that the water you are about to drink is safe by doing both the filtration and purification processes with this DIY charcoal water filter


10 Easy Step Guide On How To Make Your Own DIY Charcoal Water Filter

We do not know how long we are going to enjoy the lifestyle we have right now. 

Today, you might think you will never experience scarcity of food, water, or any shortage of supplies in your entire life.

If in any circumstance that you end up being in a survival situation and having nothing left to eat or drink, and all you see is the water coming out from your faucet or the water from the creek, which you know are not that safe to drink directly, you have to boil it.

If you notice some small particles of dirt from it, then you need to filter it first.

And for those who go camping or see themselves in the wilderness, you can still take in clean water by making the process of filtration.

You may create your version of a water filter to make it readily available whenever you feel unsafe of the water you are about to drink – whether it be at home or in the wilderness.

As long as you are armed with the right and proper knowledge, you will survive.

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Prepare Or Collect The Materials

Before creating your charcoal water filter, there are a few things you need to prepare.

Readily available and can be found at home or your nearest home depot, and if not, it is always easy to find a substitute for all these items from your surroundings.

  • 1L plastic bottle or if you have a taller one

You may use your old plastic bottles of soda or water at home if you have taller bottles than the 1L, the better.

Please take note that taller bottles are better when making a charcoal water filter as it gives the water a long way to get filtered compared to the broader bottles.

In case you are in the wilderness, and this is not available, you may use the bark of a tree or anything that you may use and form into a funnel.

  • Cotton ball or coffee filter or cloth or grass

Either of these two should be available from your home.

This will be the last substance or part where the water passes through before dripping out from the bottle.

If unfortunately, both are not found at home, you may consider using a piece of cloth as the substitute, but take note that you will still need another piece of it later on.

While in the wilderness, you may use grass to replace this and make sure to put it tightly inside the bottle right after its cap.

  • Piece of cloth

Cut a piece of cloth with a size that is almost the same with the diameter of the bottle’s body.

Make sure to have a size that is enough to serve as the separator of charcoal and sand.

  • Charcoal (ordinary or activated)

This is the most important substance needed for your water filter.

Some prefer to have activated charcoal, but that will cost you more.

If you do not want to spend too much, and if you are outside of your house, you may still use that charcoal you get from burning woods.

  • Sand

It does not matter whatever the color is as long as you make sure it is cleaned first before you use it.

You may buy this from a store, or if you are lucky to live along a body of water, you may get it from there for free. 

  • Pebbles

These are small stones that you may find anywhere.

You may buy this from your favorite fish store as they sell it also for your aquarium, or the stores selling plants have this too.

And you may also just get it directly from the ground.

Just make sure you choose the good and clean ones.

  • Pot or another plastic bottle

Any container that could catch the filtered water and you may use for boiling later on.

This is not part of making the water filter; however, by having this, you will know whether your do-it-yourself charcoal water filter was a success or not.

If this is not available, you may still use another plastic bottle to store your filtered and clean water.

The size of this should be enough to hold your filtered water so that there will be no wasted water after the filtration process.

  • Scissors or knife or cutter

Extra care is needed when using this.

This will be used to cut the bottom of your plastic bottle for your charcoal water filter.

You will also need help or assistance from an adult to use this before cutting the bottom of the bottle.

Step 2: Cut The Bottom Of The Bottle

Please be careful in doing this since you need to use a knife or a cutter or anything sharp that could cut your plastic bottle.

You only need to cut the bottom part of the bottle. 

That is where you will put in all the materials.

If you are hesitant to do this, better ask assistance from an adult or someone skilled enough to cut it carefully. 

Step 3: Poke a Hole On The Bottle Cap

Using the same tool you used in cutting the bottom of your bottle, make a small hole in the cap.

It is where the water will drip out from the bottle and serves like your faucet, so make sure too that the hole will not be too large.

We are reminding you again that you need to be extra careful in doing this since you will be using a knife, scissors, or a cutter.

It will be better to ask assistance from someone skilled to poke the hole carefully since the cap is tiny. 

Step 4: Put In The Cotton Ball Or Coffee Filter Or Cloth Or Grass

Position your plastic bottle upside down with its cap on.

Place the cotton ball or coffee filter or piece of cloth inside the bottle and should be next to the lid.

You need to make sure it is placed very tight since that will be the last one to filter the water.

If it isn’t put in very close, there might be some small particles of dirt that could escape from the filtering process.

Or you may cut a piece of cloth from your shirt that is enough to cover the passage of the bottle before its cap.

 For this layer, it will be better for you to use a white or light-colored piece of cloth.

Since this is the last layer of your filter before the water drips from the bottle, the result or color of the water might get affected if you choose a colored piece of cloth.

When you are outside in a survival situation in the wilderness, you may use grass to replace this, and you still need to make sure it is cleaned first.

You do not want to have soil in your final product after being filtered by the charcoal, do you? 

Step 5: Put In The Charcoal

Whether you are going to use activated charcoal or the ordinary charcoal which comes from your burnt wood, this goes into the bottle after the cotton ball.

You also need to make sure that this is placed inside tightly for it to perform its primary function on the filtration process – it absorbs all the impurities of the water.

Do not get confused with activated charcoal and activated carbon, both of these are the same.

Charcoal is considered as the most important substance needed for this water filter as this is capable of absorbing all the contaminants or impurities found in the water.

Believe it or not, aside from being used in grilling, charcoal has a lot of benefits, just a few of these are: it also makes the water healthier.

It even improves the flavor of the water when you use activated charcoal or carbon. 

If you can’t buy charcoal from a store, then you might need to create your own.

Even if you are outside your house for camping or in the wilderness, you may create your charcoal.

Yes, you may create your charcoal, but it will also be a great help considering the type of wood to be used.

You also need to choose the kind of wood that you will be using. 

It is better to use softwood as it does a better job of absorbing dirt and impurities.

On the other hand, hardwood is recommended to be used if you are going to make pencils since these are hard to break.

Knowing this makes you even more excited to see how charcoal helps in filtering the water, right?

But after burning wood for the charcoal to be used in your water filter, you cannot use it immediately, and you still need to wait for it to cool down so it will be better to get back to it after a day or two.

Once your charcoal is ready, you will need to crash it using a rock and turn it into a gravel size.

Once done, pour in your charcoal into the bottle with a two inches height.

The charcoal level needs to be pressed down to make sure it is placed tightly as it is the main factor of your water filter.

The tighter it is, the better it absorbs all the impurities of the water. 

In case there are spaces found in the charcoal level, there might be few contaminants that could still skip the process.

Step 6: Put In a Piece Of Cloth

Any piece of cloth is okay, even the one cut from your shirt if you are outside camping in the wilderness.

This step can be skipped, but since we want to make sure that the water will be filtered well, you need to use another cloth or put a piece of cloth right after the charcoal level.

This is to make sure that your sand will not mix to your charcoal once the water passes through the filter.

Aside from acting as the separator of those two layers, you can also consider this piece of cloth as another layer since it also filters the water.

Step 7: Put In The Sand

As mentioned from the list of materials above, it does not matter whether you will use white or grey sand, as long as you are sure that the sand you will use is clean.

No one would want to use sand that has a lot of dirt like weeds or any insect.

You need to put sand with a height of three inches in the bottle.

Sand should have the largest part in your water filter since its fine particles filter the suspended impurities of the water.

Same with the other materials inside your bottle, sand should also be very tight so it can function well.

Smaller visible particles will get stuck in here before they reach the charcoal layer, and yes, with the help of the cloth in between, too. 

Step 8: Put In The Pebbles

Same with the sand, these pebbles or small stones need to be cleaned first before using it.

It goes inside the bottle after the sand layer.

These will filter the bigger chunks in the water through physical means alone.

If, for example, there is a small branch or leaf found on the water, it will quickly get stuck in the spaces of these pebbles.

You may just put pebbles with a height of an inch.

That is already enough to block those particles you see from the water with your bare eyes.

Pebbles or small stones are very easy to find.

You can even find a stone from the ground you are stepping on unless of course, you are in a city.

But do not worry, you may also buy this from a fish store or even from those selling plants. 

Step 9: Pour The Untreated Water

This will be the most exciting part when making your charcoal water filter as you will find it out in this step if you have created a perfect one and if you will be able to see clear water after it drips out of the bottle.

Place your bottle on top of your pot that will catch the water.

If you do not have a pot, you may use another bottle or any container that can catch the water and just make sure it is clean before using it.

A pot is recommended, so you are also ready to boil it right after filtering it.

But if, in any case, that it is not available, you may still use another container that can carry the clean water.

You should take note that the water you will pour should drip from the bottle and not flow from it.

If it flows fast then you need to fix those insides of your bottle again.

All those inside should be placed very tight so it can filter the water properly.

If the water drips out is more apparent than the one you poured into the bottle, then you did a perfect charcoal water filter.

You may repeat the process twice or thrice to make sure that all the impurities were already filtered and removed.

Step 10: Boil

This is the last thing you need to do after filtering your water.

Yes, it is not a step in making your water filter.

However, it is also essential to know this step if you want to make sure you are drinking clean water.

Remember that charcoal can only absorb the impurities of the water, but it does not kill the pathogens or the microscopic elements found in the water.

You may get rid of these by boiling the water.

If there is no way for you to boil the water, you can still sterilize it with the help of the sunlight.

Exposure of the water to the sunlight depends on the weather. 

You need to shake first the container to add more oxygen to the water.

And if you have iodine tablets, you may simply put it in your filtered water since one of the benefits of iodine is it purifies the water.

Final Thoughts

Voila! So those are the very easy 10-step guides that you may follow when you want to make your version of a charcoal water filter.

If you are planning to go camping and you feel like you might need to extend the days, but you could also possibly run out of safe bottled water, it will be better if you have your water filter handy at all times. 

You might be wondering how long you can use the water filter. 

When the day comes that you are no longer getting clear water from your filter no matter how many times you pour back the untreated water.

It is already the sign saying that your filter needs to be cleaned, and you need to replace the materials inside the bottle.

Thank you for checking this article.

Go ahead and start collecting the materials now so you can create your DIY charcoal water filter as soon as possible and see the magic it gives you with your own eyes!


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