Introduction: DIY Water Purification Straw

Picture of DIY Water Purification Straw

Situation: you are driving your car in the middle of nowhere and you go off the road and flip your car into the ditch with only a few things. You get a fire started as you sit by your mangled vehicle you realize that it till be a while before some one will find you, so you decide to assess the situation. You have your shelter and your fire, you need to get water and food so you rummage through your car to try and find something, but all you could find was a straw, some cotton, and a coffee filter what do you do?

Answer: simple you build a water purification straw 

I know what your thinking "how", well in this instructable I am going to explain how using common everyday items that you can find around your house. This indestructible will be divided into two parts, the first part will be explaining how to build it and the second part will explain how to use it safely. These can be made any size to fit in any survival kit, and can be made any where using natural materials that you can find if you are lost.

Why do you need to use one: in all water sources there are micro organisms that can make you really sick along with many other contaminants, such as feces, chemical run off, dead and decaying animals, and other hazardous materials. 

How does it work: on the two ends of the straw there are filters to filter out any sediment that would normally be in the water. Then the inside of the tube contains charcoal (activated carbon) which kills all the micro organisms that you can't see in the water. On the other end of the straw the other filter prevents the carbon from escaping into your mouth as you drink.

Step 1:

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Here's what you will need:
  • A straw
  • A pipe cleaner 
  • Scotch tape
  • Activated carbon(the black stuff on burnt logs or sticks)
  • A coffee filter
  • Scissors

Step 2:

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Cut your straw to size.

Step 3:

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Cut a piece of pipe cleaner to be the same size as the straw.

Step 4:

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Drop your pipe cleaner into the bag of activated carbon. Completely cover the pipe cleaner.

Step 5:

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Slid the pipe cleaner into the straw.

Step 6:

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Cut two circles from the coffee filter.

Step 7:

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Tape the circles you just cut out to the ends of the straw.

Step 8:

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Once you do that your done and it is time to use. Take one end and put it in your mouth and take the other end in the water, next take a mouthful and spit it out do this three times, this will remove any bad taste or color that might come from the carbon.

How does it work: The carbon kills all the bacteria in the water and the filter keeps the dirt and sediment out.

If you made this yourself then I want to see it, leave a photo in the comments below. For all my followers I say thank you for the support. Don't forget to vote for me in the in the outdoor survival contest, thank you.


dramaqueen39750 (author)2017-04-27

I made the straw and it works really well. I would do it again if I had a chance to do it again.

BrendanM12 (author)2015-12-27

ACtivated carbon, sometimes calle activated charcoal, IS NOT THE SAME THING AS "the black stuff on logs an sticks"


Id recommend putting a disclaimer on the quality of charcoal, because people can get sick, or die if they use this incorecly,

mgeise (author)BrendanM122016-10-13

You honestly don't know what you are talking about. Charcoal filtration is a very wide known fact, and if you take a moment to just Google it you would see that.

BrendanM12 (author)BrendanM122015-12-27

Or use it how its described

MeshquatA (author)2016-03-10

can powdered activated carbon be used in the straw? please reply it's important!!

KennethE (author)2015-03-24

You could just pack some iodine, use two drops for a gallon of water, wait thirty minutes, and you got yourself some drinkable water.

TanyaC16 (author)KennethE2015-11-06

I thought iodine didn't kill cryptosporidium? I read somewhere that it barely kills giardia. Just looking for clarity :)

techniqueplustechnology (author)2015-06-30

Why did you mention cotton in the scenario? It is not used in the tutorial.

You can use cotton to make one, I just choose to use a pipe cleaner.

rdewitt3 (author)2015-03-26

That's why you make something like this ahead of time and keep one in the glove box and in the bug out bag. It's called being PREPARED. Not " Oh crap, i'm in an emergency....what do I do now?" You won't last a day. You prep enough to sustain you until you find resources.

stubbsonic (author)2014-04-26

Let's say I'm in an actual situation where a drinking straw, tape and a coffee filter just would not be in my car.

Say I need to make this from parts of a car (or even a bicycle). Is there a modification of this that would work with LIKELY stuff on hand? Would it work to just stuff the powdered charcoal into the tube (inner-tube) or hose from vehicle, with some kind of cloth filters on each end?

Dark Solar (author)stubbsonic2015-03-17

K, well...stumbled across this 'ible on the way to something else...first, charcoal does not kill bacteria --which is bad. What charcoal does do is react with ionized chemical compounds in solution, binding them --which is good. It tends to do the same thing with chemical compounds as well. In lieu of coffee filters and in light of the wrecked car scenario, the place to look for your first-stage filter is inside the car's seats. Seat foam is fairly dense, liquid/gas permeable and will do a fairly good job of excluding fine silts so long as you don't draw too hard on the straw.

Dark Solar (author)Dark Solar2015-03-17

Whoops...went full-on redundant there... As far as what to use in place of a straw, good question. Yes, inner-tube could work but given the ubiquity of litter, maybe forego the straw route in favor of an improvised filtration bottle (way easier to cram foam into the neck of a bottle).

Pure Carbon (author)stubbsonic2014-04-27

that would work fine.

tgferreira184 (author)2014-04-26

Or just boil the water since you already have a fire and a container shouldn't be hard to find in a car (metal rim caps, air filter lid, bent license plate...).

AlyssaF (author)tgferreira1842014-12-13

not all bateria will be killed just by boiling it bacteria has own some protection for they body to survive from heat, so boiling doesn't enough to kill bacteria....

(Maybe you can just do it both so you can be more safer)

true, but boiling water takes time and in a survival situation who's would get the water faster.

I agree with you, your straw is faster, however, boiling water would kill the bacteria for sure, as in your straw if there's a little flaw (wrong charcoal, punctured filter, etc.) it may cost you your life. Also, you would most likely need to boil water for food preparation. Great idea, however, don't let me affect you, it's a great idea, but boiling water is certainly more effective and the hot water would also warm your body.

DeeRilee (author)tgferreira1842014-05-07

One thing I'd like to add, it would be necessary to consider the amount of time that you could reasonably expect to be stranded there, and the temperature.

If it is hot.....then staying hydrated is a priority. While no one WANTS to ingest 'nasties' from the water, MOST of those can be treated successfully once help comes along. So, if you have the materials to make this straw....make it, and drink enough to stay hydrated. In the meantime, boil some water if you can, and you'll have perhaps safer water for later.

You can die quicker from dehydration, than you can from most water-born 'nasties'.

I completely agree

pauldude000 (author)2014-05-09

First of all, charcoal in no manner "kills" microorganisms. Charcoal works as a filter, not as a disinfectant. Also, charcoal does not filter out virus particles at all.

If packed with charcoal powder (not chunks of any size, but powder), this unit might work to filter out most bacteria. The problem is that the water through it still needs to be boiled, and it is a straw. (Commercial filter straws are based off of 1 micron or less nanotube filter technology, not charcoal.) Otherwise it is a case of cryptosporidium, giardia, E. Coli, Salmonella, etc., just waiting to happen.

SubDude350 (author)2014-04-25

Very cool item for survival! I am putting together a survival kit and wanted to put one of these in it. The problem is, the commercial versions are large and expensive. I will be adding this to my survival kit!

DeeRilee (author)SubDude3502014-05-07

Iodine tablets are a good thing to have in a survival kit. They don't take up much space at all, and water IS a priority.

Pure Carbon (author)SubDude3502014-04-25

sounds like a good idea, let me see it when your done.

thewriterben (author)2014-04-29

I might be wrong, but isn't the charring on burnt wood significantly different from the activated carbon that is generally used in filtration? I believe it has a lot to do with the porousness of activated carbon that is a result of how it's made.

Pure Carbon (author)thewriterben2014-04-29

activated carbon is produced when energy is a released from wood (when wood is burned) producing a porous texture, however the pores do not go all the way through. In charged wood the pores are too small to see. When industrial filters are made they crush up the activated carbon into a powder and place it in the filter. their are usually three different layers of the activated carbon that I placed in the filter, along with spacers which are usually made up of different types of sand or fabric filters that help to make the water safe to drink. The activated carbon itself is actually not harmful to people, in fact it is used in hospital to help kill harmful micro organisms. I hope I was any help with answering your question, be sure to vote for me thank you. Keep the questions coming!

thewriterben (author)Pure Carbon2014-04-29

That's what I thought. The description (Activated carbon(the black stuff on burnt logs or sticks) ) on the list of materials might really confuse some individuals interested in pursuing this project. I love the idea and it's something I've been interested in.

Pure Carbon (author)thewriterben2014-04-29

well, thank you for your comment and you pointed out a mistake I made thank you for that. I will be sure to fix it as soon as I have time.

nancyjohns (author)2014-04-28


Pure Carbon (author)nancyjohns2014-04-28

thank you

csiebe (author)2014-04-28

I agree with OneEye and tgferreira. Although it is an interesting idea this is sketchy as hell and should only be a last resort to be used after proven methods. You would do much better to carry a bottle of iodine tablets in an emergency kit that you know will work for sure, or in your scenario boil the water since you already have a fire.

The anecdotal evidence that this has worked in the past is not enough. During rafting swims I've choked down river water known to have geardia in it and I was fine, but that doesn't make the water safe to drink. Point is you might just be lucky so far.

Pure Carbon (author)csiebe2014-04-28

of course, only a last resort. The only reason I tried this was to see if it would work because their are hospitals to go to if I were to get sick, where as in a survival situation there would be none. My inspiration came when I saw FIT gravity filters being made on you tube, and I saw something similar to this on tv. So I decided to improve these and make it better.

OneEye (author)2014-04-25

I'm concerned the filtration you are getting is not as fine as you think. The activated carbon will react with chemicals and volitiles, but unless it is shaped/packed in a particular way it will not give you the filtration you need. It _can_ adhere viruses, spores, and bacteria, but there is nothing in the technique shown to ensure sufficient contact and prevent any microorganisms from being swept around the carbon element without contact and adsorption. I would recommend a recognized commercial filter that has been tested to ensure its performance. The sawyer mini filter cartridge has really cut the entrance into the safe-to-drink market down to the $30 range, and there may be suitable competitors in the same price range now. If none of those are feasible, you can boil or pasteurize the water (solar pasteurization!) to ensure safe drinking water.

omnibot (author)2014-04-25

Nice project! I don't think active carbon kills bacteria and protozoa though. It just binds impurities and toxins. It may be that's all that's needed but I suggest testing it with known quantities of bacteria and make a culture to see if it really stops the little bastards.

Shandrake1 (author)2014-04-25

have you used a meter to test the disolved solids or microscope to scan for impurities of water coming out of this? I would be interested to know how effective this is prior to making one of my own.

Pure Carbon (author)Shandrake12014-04-25

I have not, but I have used this multiple times and I have been fine. It would be a good idea however to be test the effectiveness of this.

00017095 (author)2014-04-25

How strong is this purifier

Pure Carbon (author)000170952014-04-25

I guess I don't understand the question. Are you asking if it's strong enough to make the water safe? if so then yes I can assure you it's safe to use and will purify the water making it safe to drink from almost any water source.

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