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Water Purification Techniques Every Beginner Should Know

Jane Marsh - March 27, 2024

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Water purification maintains health and well-being, removing harmful contaminants from liquids and making it safe for drinking and everyday use. For those looking to ensure the quality of their water, understanding and applying simple water purification techniques can be empowering and essential.

Here are easy-to-implement methods for those just starting to explore the world of water purification. These techniques are practical, require minimal equipment and effectively make water safer for consumption.

Understanding Water Purification

Water purification removes biological contaminants, undesirable chemicals, gases and suspended solids from water. The goal is to produce water fit for specific purposes, most notably for human consumption. It ensures the water is clean, safe and free from harmful elements.

It’s essential because unpurified water can contain various contaminants that pose health risks. The EPA enforces standards for more than 90 contaminants in drinking water. These include microorganisms, inorganic compounds, organic chemical contaminants from industrial processes, agricultural runoff and disinfectants or their byproducts used in water treatment.

Removing these contaminants prevents waterborne diseases, safeguards health and ensures the water’s safety for drinking and other uses.

Boiling: The Most Basic Technique

Boiling is a straightforward and effective method for purifying water. Here’s how it works:

  • Pour the water into a clean pot or kettle and place it on a heat source.
  • Bring the water to a full, rolling boil. To ensure thorough purification, continue boiling for at least three minutes. The boiling time increases in higher altitudes, where water boils at a lower temperature.

It is highly effective in killing viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms in the water, making it safe for drinking. However, this method has limitations. It doesn’t remove chemical contaminants, heavy metals or sediments.

Also, boiling requires a reliable heat source and time, which might only sometimes be convenient. Additionally, the taste of boiled water can be flat, as boiling removes oxygen from the water. Despite these limitations, it remains a widely accessible and straightforward technique for essential water purification.

Chemical Purification: Using Household Bleach

Using bleach for water purification is practical, especially when other options are unavailable. It’s vital to use regular, unscented bleach that contains either 6% or 8.25% sodium hypochlorite. Here’s the process:

  • Ensure the bleach is suitable: Confirm the bleach has no added scents or dyes.
  • Prepare the water: If it is cloudy, filter it through a clean cloth, paper towel or coffee filter to remove any particles.
  • Measure the bleach: For 6% bleach, add two drops per liter of water. For 8.25% bleach, use one drop per liter.
  • Mix and wait: Incorporate the bleach into the liquid and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. The water should emit a slight chlorine odor. If it doesn’t, repeat the previous step and let it stand for another 15 minutes.

Remember to do this method in a well-ventilated area. In addition, avoid using bleach that is past its expiration date. Lastly, never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaners.

Bleach is effective in killing bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms. However, it does not remove chemical contaminants, heavy metals or particulates. It’s a good short-term solution, but you should use it cautiously and as per guidelines to ensure safety.

Filtration Systems: From Simple to Advanced

Various types of water filtration systems are available, each with features and levels of suitability for beginners:

  • Activated carbon filters: These are common and easy to use. They remove organic compounds and chlorine and improve taste and odor. They are great for beginners due to their simplicity and affordability.
  • Ceramic filters: These filters have tiny pores that can remove bacteria and protozoa. They are user-friendly and often come in portable designs, making them suitable for beginners.
  • Reverse osmosis systems: These systems are more complex and can remove many contaminants, including fluoride and heavy metals. They might be less suited for absolute beginners due to their complexity and installation requirements.
  • Ultraviolet Filters: UV filters use ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and viruses. They are practical and easy to maintain, but their effectiveness depends on water clarity, which might require pre-filtration.
  • Gravity filters: Ideal for beginners, these filters use gravity to pull water through a filter. They are simple to set up and use and don’t require electricity.
  • Distillation units: These systems boil water and condense the steam into liquid. They effectively remove many contaminants but can be slow and consume more energy.

For beginners, activated carbon filters, ceramic filters and gravity filters are often the best choices due to their ease of use, low maintenance and effectiveness in removing common contaminants.

Natural Purification Methods

Solar water disinfection (SODIS) is a straightforward and natural method for purifying water, ideal for areas with limited resources. 

It involves filling clear PET plastic bottles with water and exposing them to direct sunlight for at least six hours or two days if it’s cloudy. Enhancing this process by adding lime juice, about 30 milliliters per liter of water, can accelerate the disinfection due to the citric acid present in lime.

While SODIS is effective against bacteria, viruses and protozoa, it doesn’t remove chemical pollutants or alter the taste of the water. Its effectiveness depends mainly on sunlight, making it less suitable in cloudy or less sunny regions.

Nevertheless, its simplicity, cost-effectiveness and minimal resource requirements make it a practical choice for individuals in remote locations or for emergency water purification needs.

Tips for Maintaining Clean Water Practices

Maintaining water cleanliness is crucial, given that only 0.5% of the Earth’s water is usable. A pivotal habit is regular water testing, especially for those using private wells or local sources, to detect contaminants early.

Incorporating purification techniques — like boiling or using home filters — ensures safer water for cooking and drinking. Storing purified water in clean, airtight containers also prevents recontamination. It’s essential to stay informed about local water quality and adjust purification methods accordingly during known contamination events.

Moreover, conserving water is equally essential. Practices — like fixing leaks, using water-efficient appliances and rainwater harvesting — can help preserve this limited resource.

Educating household members about water purity and conservation techniques fosters a collective effort toward sustainable water use. These proactive steps safeguard health and contribute to the responsible management of the scarce clean water available.

Simple Steps to Safer Water

Try these techniques if you’re starting to learn about water purification. Clean water is vital for people’s health and well-being, and understanding how to purity it is a valuable skill. Each method is straightforward and practical, making them perfect for beginners.

By starting with simple practices, you’ll gain confidence and knowledge in ensuring your water is safe. Remember, taking steps towards purifying your water protects your health and deepens your appreciation for this essential resource. So, try these practices and embrace the journey towards cleaner, safer water.

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About the author

Jane Marsh

Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.