Making Medicinal All-Salt




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Medicinal salt is a combination of sea salt and pharmaceuticals. Medicinal salt can be made by evaporating saltwater that contains pharmaceuticals from urban wastewater. Medicinal salt has not only a great natural salty taste, but can also address headaches, depression, infections, and a host of other common ailments. 

It's easy to make your own medicinal salt. The process involves finding a water treatment plant, harvesting its treated water output (effluent), building simple salt evaporation ponds, and collecting the dried sea salt.

What you need: 

a local water treatment plant
4 x 5 gallon buckets
wood: two 10ft 2x6"s for the length and two 6ft 2"x6" boards. We made 3 ponds, but one will suffice.
At least 35 square feet of 3mil - 6mil plastic sheet or heavy-duty pond lining (any color, but black will generate the most heat, which is good for evaporation)
staple gun and staples (3/8", 10mm)
1" wood screws
steel corner braces.
black gaffers tape

For more information on the salt we make go to

Step 1: Find a Source

Find out if your local wastewater contains pharmaceuticals. Some information may be found on your local wastewater treatment plant's website, but specific information is generally not, and may only be in the form of reports or studies that your local wastewater treatment plant should be able to point you towards. Call your local plant, and ask if their wastewater contains what professionals and scientists call "pharmaceuticals and personal care product" contaminants (PPCP's): drugs and other industrial, agricultural, and domestic compounds, often classified as "emerging contaminants". 

Find out where your local wastewater treatment plant drains its treated wastewater - usually to a nearby stream or reservoir, lake or river, beach, or bay. This information may be on the plant's website, but you may also need to call to ask. You can also uses Google maps' satellite view to see a plant's treatment facilities and grounds in order to locate drainage channels or sloughs coming from the plant.

We found our source in San Jose, CA on the Artesian Slough that comes from the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant.

Step 2: Collect Water

Collect water as close to the actual wastewater drainage point as possible. This is where pharmaceutical concentrations will be highest. Often, the immediate drainage points will be fenced off to the public, or only accessible some distance from the plant itself, so just get as close as you can. Coastal water collection is best for making pharmaceutical salts, but not everyone has access to the coast. In this case, freshwater from rivers or lakes can be collected and enriched with any food-grade salt to make saltwater.

- Saltwater Location: Find a place where the 'fresh' water from the wastewater treatment plant mixes with the saltwater into which it deposits (ocean, bay). Harvest water from this location.

- Freshwater Location: Try to gather water from a place with the least amount of suspended sediment or plant matter - just get the freshest water available, closes to the outlet of the wastewater treatment facility.

5 gallon buckets from Home Depot are cheap and good way to contain the water.
Each trip we carried 10 x 5gallon bucks with the help of a dolly. A dolly will save your back!

Step 3: Clean the Water

Clean the water (if needed): depending on where you collect your water (an ocean beach, a freshwater creek, a stagnant pond), your water may contain suspended matter that you do not want to end up in your salt. You can put this water through any filtration process that you are comfortable with, depending on the purity of your source water - you could use something as course as cheese cloth or even a camping pump-filter. Do NOT filter using a reverse-osmosis system, as this process will remove pharmaceutical compounds - carbon filtration systems will not, however.

We used a nylon paint filter that we bought at a hardware store, because it fit nicely over the 5 gallon buckets. Simply fit the filter over the bucket, pour the water through the filter, then remove the filter when the bucket is full. Your water is now ready to pour into your evaporation pond.

Step 4: Make Evaporation Ponds

Make evaporation ponds: You will want to create a saltwater evaporation pond in a flat outside space. For the water collected by two 5-gallon buckets, construct a pond the dimensions of 3'x5'x6". For a pond of these dimensions, you will need the following:

wood: two 10ft 2x6"s for the length and two 6ft 2"x6" boards. We made 3 ponds, but one will suffice.
At least 35 square feet of 3mil - 6mil plastic sheet or heavy-duty pond lining (any color, but black will generate the most heat, which is good for evaporation)
staple gun and staples (3/8", 10mm)
1" wood screws
steel corner braces.
black gaffers tape

Form the 2"x6" boards into a 10'x6' rectangle, with the boards' 6" side forming the vertical height of the box. screw the ends of the boards together using the metal corner braces.

Spread plastic sheeting over the wooden box, and pulling the plastic somewhat taut (but loose enough so that at least 50% of the plastic rests flat on the ground under the pond), staple the edges of the plastic sheet to the wood frame.

Place a strip of gaffers tape across the plastic sheeting where the sheet will wrap over the top of the wooden frame once you have stapled it to the frame. It helps to first staple the sheeting to the wood near the corners to hold the sheeting in place while you tape and then fully staple it down. The tape reinforces the thin plastic sheeting, and prevents it from tearing when day/night temperature changes cause the plastic sheeting to shrink and expand. Extra plastic sheeting may be trimmed or tucked under the edges of the structure.

Step 5: Pick a Sunny Spot

Place pond in a sunny and flat location. Check make sure you have good sunlight coverage from morning until dusk. In warmer arid climates, evaporation will occur much faster than in wetter, cooler locations - and we recommend you harvest your salt in the summer or when it's unlikely to rain.

Step 6: Fill the Pond

Fill your pond with the water you collected from the water treatment plant, and that you've already filtered (in Step 3). Fill the pond to 1.2-2" deep. On an uneven surface, the water will pool in one section of the pond - this is fine, and will cause salts to condense at this point as the water evaporates. 

Step 7: Evaporation

Evaporation: Just wait. Depending on the weather, this could take between 3 to 7 days.

If you have a longer period of time to work with, and especially if you live in a dependably dry and sunny place, you can continue to add saltwater to the pond to create an increasingly saltier brine. This extended evaporation process will result in the making of more salt per pond, and a a greater concentration of pharmaceuticals (more water = more salt + more drugs).

Step 8: Final Step

When your salt water is almost dry - soupy, rather than hard, dry salt, remove saltwater from the pond, and place in a pot to boil off the remaining water (and eliminate any bacteria that may have been present in the water, or accumulated during the evaporation process). When salt is dry, scrape from the bottom on your pot into the container of your choice.

Step 9: Whats in Medicinal Salt?

Every water treatment plant will have different types and amounts of pharmaceuticals, depending on many variables: the size of local cities, whether or not it is an urban or rural location, local populations' consumption of drugs, the method of water treatment used by the plant, and into what type of water the wastewater drains.

Our water source was a freshwater channel composed entirely of treated wastewater that runs directly into a relatively stagnant saltwater. According to the local wastewater treatment plant and a nearby estuary science organization, our salt contained the following:

Primary Active Ingredients:
azithromycin ~ antibiotic
carbamezepine ~ anticonvulsant and mood stabilizer
fluoxitine ~ antidepressant
oflaxacin ~ antibiotic
albuterol ~ bronchodilator
erythromycin-H2O ~ antibiotic
lincomycin ~ antibiotic
sulfamethoxazole ~ antibiotic
caffeine ~ psychoactive stimulant
erythromycin hydrate ~ antibiotic
gemfibrozil ~ cholesterol reduction medication
diltiazem ~ blood pressure medication
trimethoprim ~ antibiotic

May Also Contain:
ibuprofen ~ anti-inflammatory and pain relief medication
naproxen ~ anti-inflammatory and pain relief medication
estrone ~ estrogenic hormone
stigmasterol ~ plant steroid used in the manufacture of syntehtic hormones
tetracycline ~ antibiotic
clarithromycin ~ antibiotic
ranitidine ~ antihistamine
codeine ~ opiate
cotinine ~ alkaloid found in tobacco
cimetidine ~ antihistamine
diphenhydramine ~ antihistimine
metformin ~ anti-diabetic medication
sulfadiazine ~ antibiotic
ciproflaxin ~ antibiotic

~ other trace minerals and chemical compounds including: antibacterial and antifungal compounds from household and personal care products, pesticides and insecticides, PBDEs (flame retardants), and PCBs (electrical coolants).

For further background information and our research you can go to



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    101 Discussions


    4 years ago on Step 9

    Ehhh.... This was obviously not serious when he basically said "Sewage" on page one. Waste water is sewage.

    That all said, there is some interesting bits. IF you're really getting those compounds out of that water, then the native bacterial populations there have developed resistance to those antibiotics. That makes them easy to isolate.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Im glad to see that people are actually writing about this issue in such
    a smart way, showing us all different sides to it. Please keep it up.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    At 1st, I believed the creator. But then, I read the comments. : l

    How-To: Pharmaceutical-Rich All-Salt
    This is not only a serious farce...but a joke. It was never meant to be serious. why was this posted as a CRAFT feature????

    There are several reasons why it is a farce...and as one who has been studying WATER ever since I won the Save My Oceans Contest...The piece on the CRAFT blog for September 18 2010 should be removed!

    1. No water reclamation plant does anything but treat the leftover dredged chemicals in the untreated as extreme bio hazards.

    2. The outstandingly complex array of pharmatcueticals would combine for deadly consequences if injested. Just take a look at all these articles:

    3. I am an avid follower and promoter of the CRAFT blog...but this sure makes the blog lose all least for today. I feel total shame for whoever passed this as a feature.

    16 replies

    Hey there, I'm the one who posted it on CRAFT, I called the project "cheeky," clearly didn't intend to "pass it as a feature." We post lots of stuff every day, not everything is a CRAFT original project. And anyway, part of why this art project is so successful is that it makes you say "wait, is this for real?"


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Bekathwia, this is hilarious, I'd really like to talk to you about it for a radio programme we're producing on drugs. Would you be able to drop me a line with your contact number so we can have a chat? My email address is

    I understand. However I know that some did not. there are many gullible folks out there. I still think that Craft putting it up mixed in with their regular features was a tad irresponsible. i could understand if it was featured on Tree Hugger or another environmental green blog. That would get the environmental folks (me) chuckling and thinking, "Hey thats a good joke here."

    However, the placement on a craft blog as a serious topic, and the link to the "product" was very realistic . it was brought to my attention from a couple of folks on facebook. They thought it was a real product.

    Don't dilute the excellent CRAFT brand was an irresponsible moment.
    Please pass this along . Thanks.

    Irresponsible? I'm responsible for spreading the word about projects we as a team find interesting and thought-provoking, not for writing disclaimers about art projects. Worst case scenario is that it takes some folks longer than others to "get it." Not everyone has to like every single post or project, glad you like most of the rest of them! =]


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    This is an extremely inappropriate venue for this sort of satire. Mixed right in the middle of the serious fare... When did this become a comedy site. I love instructables for its usefulness. This is just nonsense.

    I actually find this instructable quite useful.
    It's a lighthearted, humorous way to bring to light certain issues pertaining to drinking-water. I laughed, and then forwarded this to a few people who I know are doing research on these very same issues. I have no doubt they will laugh too. The point, I gather, isn't that it's merely a joke or satire, but a humorous/satirical tool to spread awareness. There's a difference.

    I agree. However in platform of featuring on Craft is where I was alerted to. since I won the Save My Oceans contest on CRAFT, I thought to make a point clear.

    It was a serious commentary hidden in a completely unrelated platform. I have never seen this done before on Craft is all. It was not light hearted and humorous IMO. There were folks that emailed me and wondered if it was for real. They believed it. They were confused.

    "Light hearted and humorous is a lego halloween costume, or bacon printed purses. Let us peacefully agree to disagree. (((Hugs)))


    Perhaps the article could end with some indication that is was a farce/joke, that would probably be more then enough for most of readers. What we might not want is to cutoff playfulness that fuels creativity - the foundations of every Instructables article - by turning the whole site into a full blown serious affair.

    You may need to step out of your group of friends and hang out with some other folk for awhile... there really ARE people that would take this seriously. Think: How about mentally instable people who are already on a bunch of meds already? Know a couple? I've met many. "Gee, my Pharms cost me hundreds a month, and I can just get them from the water treatment plant for FREE? THAT"S WONDERFUL!" They already rely on other people to tell them what to take... visit internet medical sites regularly... hypochondriacs. "These guys sure know what they're doing!"... they don't understand artistic interpretation or satire.

    I love the idea, and the point, but you have to take a little bit of responsibility for how you get it across. You're obviously intelligent, think things all the way through!

    Simple disclaimer: THIS IS NOT A REAL INSTRUCTABLE. THIS IS MEANT... (state a simple point.)

    Oh you're right. I have no doubt that there are people who believe this is a great idea. However, I believe my point was that there is very little chance that someone would get through this week-long process before someone informed them of their error. Even if they did, it wouldn't be long before they were corrected. Perhaps I am giving the world too much credit when I say that. Surely our collective intelligence is high enough to figure this one out. This isn't dangerous enough to warrant censorship, or even a disclaimer.

    But... the instructable is so far-fetched that explaining it would be like trying to explain the punch-line of a joke to someone.

    The last step mentions 13 different drugs that are in the waste water. The odds are pretty slim that someone would decide that it would be a good idea to consume 13 drugs of unknown dosages by extracting them from WASTE water, and then proceed to follow this instructable.
    Even if someone were to believe that this is a legitimately good idea, the odds of someone not telling them that it isn't before they completed the 3-7 day process are also slim.

    This instructable is harmless. If this was something that could be done in an hour, or an afternoon... then I might be a LITTLE worried that someone, somewhere, was clueless enough to try this.

    This was foolish.

    I encourage the young ones to read the stuff found here.
    I am trusted, now you are not.

    I work at a waste treatment plant but I
    Guess I just didn’t get it.... Am I un-cool?

    I have followed Craft since its inception. I was one of the first subscribers to the p[roint publication also. Never seen something featured that was a farce. Thats all I am saying...if Craft regulary did this...tongue-in-cheek farces and would make sense. People pretty much follow CRAFT to the letter.

    Thats why it was brought to my attention, and I thought I would say something about it. It was portrayed so realistically with the link and all. it did not seem like an art project nor an intellectually related topic one usually finds on Craft.