Introduction: Water Purification

Picture of  Water Purification

Imagine your stranded on an island in the middle of the ocean and you need clean drinking water ....

well have i got something for you

actually even if your not stranded on a deserted island you should probably enjoy this.

So just sit back, relax, and let old Goawayndstay teach you the art of water purification!

Step 1: GET a BOWL

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1. Scavenge through your cupboards to find a semi large bowl

Step 2: Add Water

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1. Add several cups of water to the bowl

Step 3: Add Food Coloring

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1. Obtain some food coloring
2. Add it to the water

Step 4: Add the Salt

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1. Acquire some salt
2. Add it to the mixture of food coloring and

Step 5: Mugtastic

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1. Next you will need a mug or cup smaller than the bowl of your choice
2. Insert the cup into the bowl as shown in the pictures

Step 6: Suranatastic

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Then you will need a large sheet of saran wrap

wrap it around the pan *loosely*

Step 7: Rubber Bandtastic

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You may want to use a rubber band to hold it on but make sure it slightly sagging in the middle

Step 8: Pennytastic

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Now all that you have to do is add some weight to the plastic to keep the inverted cone shape

Step 9: Whats Next ?

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Now all thats left is to set it in the sun

and to wait

Step 10: TAA DAA !

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The water purification process takes some time depending how much water was used

but it should not take more than a few hours for a big batch

how this works: because it a contained environment (similar to a green house) the water heats up more quickly than normal ....that causes it to evaporate ,but because it has nowhere to go, it just condensates on the bottom of the plastic wrap and follows the natural curve of the saran wrap because of the weight . The water than drips into the cup completely color free and salt-free. This is because salt and food coloring does not evaporate with water.

its really a cool little science experiment with a practical long as you have the materials ! Most of which can be improvised with ease

In the picture below you can see the condensation of the water

To give you an idea .....this all happened within 20 min.

I hope you enjoyed this instructable, I will do my best to answer any questions as well


optiblah (author)2012-09-12

If I do it at home, does it get rid of the chlorine, fluoride and whatever else they put in tap water? And would this distilled water be ok for making colloidal silver?

manadhon (author)2010-08-13

the only problem i find with this is, that if your stranded on an island, where are you going to get saran wrap or rubber bands?the nearest supermarket?

aristide202 (author)manadhon2012-08-30

No problem in mediterranean , nowdays we have emergency depots everywhere. In any island there's plenty of junk . Just give a look in prevalent wind exposed rocks or bays and you'll find bottles , jugs , ropes , goggles ,wood and mostly plastic stuff of any kind , fishing nets, buoys and whatever else (!) floats on sea water.

taluntain (author)manadhon2011-03-05

you would use a coconut as the bowl and leaves as the wrap or just sit the leaf over it and set the other half of the coconut under the corner of the leaf and the condensation will run into the other half of the coconut

aristide202 (author)2012-08-30

Great. simple and effective. Not to mention the many possible emergency variations of this nice instructable. I have even seen a an ethilic alcohol last chance distiller very similar to this. Spirit was supposet to drip in a cup from a lap of a plastic shopper folded out of the rim of a bucket containing sometthing reminding fermenting fruit juice . I must say the productt was cristal clear and smelled like some kind of vodka drink. I must tell I gently avoided to taste that unelegant basic liquor also because of its unpredictable methanol toxic content .

Schmidty16 (author)2012-08-08

what was the straw this that india used when a usa president ordered something to get rid for the dieases in waterit was straw shaped

Ryan5cyl (author)2012-02-16

Yes distilling water this way is cool, you dont necessarily need food colouring or salt, in the wild you can distill any source of water, salt, polluted, stagnant etc to extract safe drinking water. Equally you can add vegetation and even urine to your bowl, bucket or pit to increase your yield. I tend to carry a clear plastic poncho in my survival kit (the festival type) to use for shelter, gather rain water and as a solar distill if im in the right climate. You can also wrap a clear bag around a branch or bush ensuring it doesnt make contact to collect dew and moisture at the bottom of the bag. If you are ever unsure about the quality of the water you produce then boil it!

maeve (author)2011-05-30

the only thing is this does not remove all the harmful bacteria from the water... we were trying to build something lke this in school and were wondering about adding infra-red lamps (solar powered) to kill bacteria...

littleangels (author)2009-02-11

Does anyone know how to make a condenser that pulls the moisture from air? (To collect water, of course).

unjust (author)2007-08-20

notably in the usa owning materials used in distillation as well as owning a still is illegal. while the chances of the atf or irs going after you for an unlicensed still made of saran for water is pretty slim, it's not necessarily something to advertise. of course, i assume, the above is for educational purposes only for those readers in the land of the free.

thinkahead (author)unjust2008-02-10

You are thinking of a still used to produce intoxicating beverages for sale. The fed allows individuals to make and distill their own beverages up to 20 gallons a year with no limit on fuel.

unjust (author)thinkahead2008-02-11

no, you can't distill -any- bevies in the usa w/o license. you can brew a healthy amount each of wine and beer for personal use, but distillation is a no no. distillation for fuel has run afoul of several states for bypassing state fuel taxes even in small amounts. i believe that the federal law bars the ownership of a distillation device in addition to the prohibition on distillation of spirits. i'll see if i can dig up the law text, but if you can prove me wrong, please do. if memory serves, the irs has the option to seize all lands upon which a still is found, irrelevant of if the land owner owns the still or rents. it's a BIG no no.

chuckr44 (author)unjust2008-09-04

Ownership of distillation device is legal ONLY for distilling essences of herbs and similar things. So if your house is inspected and they find any evidence of making liquor or alcohol fuel, you are in serious trouble.

unjust (author)chuckr442008-09-05

can you cite law for that? my reading of us tax law a few years back was that it was pretty clear that the ownership of the makings of a still in any form was illegal (meaning that if strictly interpreted, owning a crock pot and a length of aquarium tubing, or a set of large mixing bowls could be considered a still) n.b. that i am not a lawyer, just interested in beer and whisk(e)ys

thinkahead (author)unjust2008-02-11 must be thinking of the thirties during prohibition. The only thing you can do is distill beer or wine you buy from the store - another idiosyncratic working of corporate sponsored laws.

unjust (author)thinkahead2008-02-12

no, i'm thinking about the present. please do some research and prove me wrong.

a permit can be obtained to distill for ONLY fuel purposes from the BATFE.

ezfoxz (author)unjust2008-03-07

I think that you are reading it in the literal sense and not the interpretation of the Letter in that its talking about spirits (chapter 51) not the broad sense of just distilling otherwise teachers crafters and house hold moms would be lockedup. Thats why we have attorneys that interpet the letter of it. To protect us from this kind of misreadings.

unjust (author)ezfoxz2008-03-10

well, first they'd have to prosecute individuals who are distilling w/o intent to sell, which i'm not aware of them doing.

the letter of the law is what prosecutors use in determining if you've broken it. law is written in literal sense. you can break the intent while staying within the letter of the law with impunity, however breaking the letter while staying within the intent can get you locked up. look at accounting rules for example: equally accurate accounting measures may not fall w/in legal reporting requirements leaving one firm under penalty where as another is not. that's why the letter of the law is important. the *intent* is much more nebulous, as is being shown by the current supreme court discussion over the 2nd amendment.

please read my post below for the relevant section of us tax code.

ezfoxz (author)unjust2008-04-04

Any prosecutor trying to pull this off are a district attorney depending which State your in would have hell to pay if they even tried to bring this in front of a judge.Due to we would be locking up the judges little old grandma because she was makeing pickles are every kentucky fried chicken restraunt would be closed and liable.Yea this is one those laws that would be screaming to the state supream courts because then fina and others would be liable as well.And judges are like witness they all see things from different windows when acting upon laws and how they see them. I'm talking aloud only but on my experince I bet im right without haveing to pull any case into it.

unjust (author)unjust2008-02-12

now i'm not a lawyer, but this seems to sum things up well:

chuckr44 (author)thinkahead2008-09-04

In the US, you can distill your own wine or beer, at a limited capacity, with no licence. Hence we have the beer and wine kits for sale. You cannot distill ANY liquor without a license and the BATF does not give licenses to private individuals, only companies. As far as distilling fuel goes, a license from the BATF is required and it is very expensive, like $1000 per year. I looked into it, not sure on price though.

unjust (author)chuckr442008-09-05

you don't distill wine or beer to produce it, you brew it or ferment it. distillation (in this context) is the process of refining a fermented sugar source. after you have brewed it, then you can distill it into a whiskey or brandy, which would be illegal in the usa.

octavian234 (author)2008-07-11

this would be useful when all the clean water runs out and the world is thrown into chaos...jk jk.... but not really

dano077 (author)2008-06-03


RiddleOfSphinx (author)2008-05-04

Wow, so looking at this in an anal perspective....all makers of these products used are illegal participants of stilling? Mmmmkay Or if I have a bowl with Saran wrap rubber banded to the top sitting outside my house, a cop is going to arrest me ?? "Here officer, would you like to try some of my illegally purified water ? " :P Anyway...good instructable, and I will have to "illegally" try this sometime ;)

rhackenb (author)2008-05-04

I have known about using a sheet of plastic that you can drape over a hole dug in desert to capture the moisture that comes up. I've always questioned whether a person stupid enough to get lost in desert would have though ahead to bring a sheet of plastic. Your idea of doing this simply with a bucket, a cup and a piece of plastic sheeting makes a whole lot more sense. You won't get moisture from the desert this way but you can retrieve water from a river or swamp and do it. You're more likely to have the right equipment with you. I don't think you explain why you put the dye in the water. I think it's to prove that the water gets transferred but now the dye (a substitute for an impurity). Here's what I thought of for when you are trekking in the wildernes. You are unlikely to have a bowl with you. However, if you have a raincoat or square of heavy plastic, you can dig a bowl-shaped hole and use the plastic to line it. You fill it partially with water, put in a cup that you probably will have and then use some other lighter plastic or even tin foil as the top part. You don't need coins...pebbles will do. This is a great instructable.

zsout (author)2008-05-03

"imagine standing on a deserted island, needing some water... well if you just happen to have a bowl, cling wrap, a mug, food dye, and of course 22 cents then..." haha im just joking... well done, im going to try this over the summer when its hot.

chooseausername (author)2007-08-18

Can we absolutly be 1000% sure that the distilled water will be safe to drink ? For instance, i'm into the desert, and the only source of water is my urine or some water from the radiator (or the blueish alcoholized water used to wash the front window) of my car, or a very disgusting mud full of camel poo ... and i wanna get some fresh water to quench the thirst of a baby. Will the distilled water be 100% safe to drink, or will i have to distilate it a second or third time just to be sure ???

Window washer fluid, probably yes, when distilled. boil first, if you can. Radiator fluid... not unless you KNOW what is in it, and even then, probably not. Water with camel poo, YES! and add your own fluids to it as well. To the "to be distilled" stuff that is. human waste fluid is filled with all the nasty toxins that your kidneys flushed out of your body... no reason to make them do it all again. especially when their function is already compromised by a limited amount of fresh water! According to my somewhat splotchy memory, deathly toxic levels of stuff builds up in urine within 2-3 "reuses". so if you need fluid for that one last desperate beyond disgusting march to civilation, ONCE ONLY please. even that is iffy.

Llewner (author)ironsmiter2008-04-22

Ghandi drank his own urine for years. Maybe it's only if you are a meat eating American. ;)

Thanks for all these informations Kiteman and Ironsmiter :-) About the Window Washer fluid, i think there is some "antifreeze" product added in it ... so, finaly, i would avoid it ...

Most window washer fluid had isopropyl in it so don't use it either.

Kiteman (author)chooseausername2007-08-18

Distilled is distilled, as far as water is concerned. I did a similar demo for a class, and I added ink, salt, mud and snail faeces to the mix, then drank the absolutely tasteless result.


If you're distilling the stuff out of your radiator, or any other mix containing alcohol, the first stuff that will evaporate is the alcohol. Maybe simmer it for a few minutes to boil the alcohol off?

That's not the point of this Instructable, though - this is a way to extract pure water from the environment (= ground), rather than a way of purifying largish volumes of water you have collected. That requires a different kind of still.

chooseausername (author)Kiteman2007-08-18

Oh, an other question though ... The distiled water is pure (no minerals). Once, I heard it may be lethal to drink too much "pure" water. Is that true ?

Kiteman (author)chooseausername2007-08-19

It's toxic to rink too much water at one sitting (remember that radio show?), but I'm not sure about the long-term effects of drinking distilled water.

If it's just one of your drinks, there should be none, but if you drink nothing but distilled water, especially on an empty stomach, there be problems with electrolyte balance in the body (dissolved impurities prevent them leaving the bloodstream - distilled water may encourage the electrolytes to diffuse into the gut and be passed out too quickly - but I'm just fishing there, no evidence)

unspecified (author)Kiteman2008-03-07

Yeah - it is called hyponatremia, and you basically just dilute all of the electrolytes right out of your body. I have only SEEN it on marathon runners, but it is easy to do if not careful.

yes and no. too much of ANYTHING can be toxic. Marathon runners are to my knowledge, the only known cases of "water toxicisity". What you may be thinking of is Distilled/deionized water. that IS bad for you...mostly as a function of massive amounts of freeradicals produced in the de-ionization process. That type of water is only really useful in your radiator, as it limits electrolisys between the copper and aluminium parts to a degree.

Kiteman (author)ironsmiter2007-08-19

DI is as safe to use medically as distilled water. When you see "aqua" on the side of a jar of cosmetics or bottle of toiletries, that's DI.

The reason bottles of DI say "do not drink" on them is corporate paranoia, just in case somebody does drink it and happens to fall ill at the same time, plus it removes the requirement to recall any batches that are not processed properly.

chooseausername (author)Kiteman2007-08-19

Yeah, that was what i was suspecting about commercial deionied/demineralized water ... Thanks :-)

ironsmiter (author)Kiteman2007-08-18

there are also a number of volatile chemicals in some anti-freeze besides alcohol. and solar heated distilation is not precise enough to get JUST the water, and not the other chemicals. not is it presice enough to get the lower-than-water-evaporation chemicals, leaving the water... so DON"T USE RADIATOR FLUID for this. other things you CAN use are almost any kind of fresh vegtable matter (grass cuttings, leaves, cactus, flowers, roots, even damp soil will work. if you are truely stranded in the midle of nowhere, you can do this on a larger scale. Dig a hole in the ground two foot deep placing the removed soil in a doughnut shaped mound around the hole. Place your catch basin in the middle(cup, bowl, soda can with the top cut off, hubcap, whatever will work) Gather whatever you can get your hands on that's likely to contain water, and place it around the outer part of the hole. Take a sheet of plastic(visqueen, seranwrap, an old poncho, even an umbrella) over the hole. slap a rock or whatever in the middle to create the cone shape. leave it alone for a few hours. If the plastic is clear, you can check, but DON'T open to look you'll let all your precious water vapor out into the air :-) This works best if you finish in the afternoon, and let it sit overnight, as the cooler night air helps with condensation. Sorry, no pictures to post. On the boyscout survival training trips(many years ago, when we trained boys to become good men) Digital Camera was not on the list of survival tools available(don't think they even exsisted then!). Certainly would be now(digicam built into the cellphone. Camping has always been about dissconnecting from the "modern" world... but the saftey net a cell provides is worth it, IMHO)

chooseausername (author)Kiteman2007-08-18

Ok :-) Thanks for the info :-)

unjust (author)chooseausername2008-02-11

urine distilled is safe. you only get water out. the nasties in it are ~ disolved solids or salts. radiator fluid contains several alcohols that are NOT friendly and could be removed with fractional distillation but not effectively through this method as you don't get significant separation of liquids unless you control the fluid and air temperatures carefully.

jlm993 (author)2007-11-08

This is called a solar still. It is survival 101. Works if you dig a hole in wuddy soil. Place the cup in the middle and weigh down the plastic. Evaporates the water from soil and there you have water.

Bubulindo (author)2007-08-21

I just haven't figured what's the food colorant for... :\ Is it just to show that you can split water from everything else? This reminds me of a first grade experience on how is salt made. :D


ucancallmeal (author)2007-08-21

this is way cool......neato!

HamO (author)2007-08-17

Next time I'm stranded with a mixing bowl, plastic wrap and 22 cents I'll know how to make fresh water, but a well done instructable with nice pix.

Kiteman (author)HamO2007-08-18

This is the table-top version to teach you the theory. When you're stranded for real, you remember the lesson and cobble together a rougher, but larger version:

Dig a big hole in the ground (any ground - almost all "ground" contains some sort of water), stand a container in the bottom (cup, curled leaf, bent bit of fuselage), cover with a bit of plastic sheet, tarpauline etc, hold the edge down witrh rocks, weight the middle with another rock, and wait.

It won't get you enough water for a comfortable life, but it will keep you alive.

Bigdawg (author)Kiteman2007-08-18

Right, and in the real version, you can put plant matter (for example, cactus too bitter or difficult to consume), urine, and whatever else you find that might yield moisture into the hole in order to increase the distilled water volume. All you really "need" is a good sized piece of plastic whenever you travel in a place where you could end up stranded like this, although a container to catch the water would also be nice. The local sand/dirt/rocks can be used to hold it in place.

ironsmiter (author)Bigdawg2007-08-18

sorry if I claim-jumped your ideas in my posts.. :-( I really must learn to finish reading the comments section before posting. a car window, or windshield(if you can get it out) also make for fine condensers. And indeed, if you have the plastic already, you could make a "dirt bowl" and line it with a piece cut off the edge, to catch the water. that's actually a VERY good idea ;-) I'll have to add that to my post-electrical survival book.

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