Ever checked the ingredients list on common products in your pantry? It can get overwhelming when a simple can of beans has an ingredients list to challenge a Russian novel. With all the additives to preservatives, nothing is what it seems.
It feels like purity is an increasingly scarce value in our age. From E-numbers invading our food to complex chemicals we can’t even pronounce in our water supply, it’s harder than ever to control what we’re putting in our bodies.
And when it comes to water, these contaminating chemicals can be a scourge on your health. Heavy metals such as lead and arsenic can impact our internal organs. Fluoride – added to water in many states – has been linked to brain damage! Impure water doesn’t just disconnect us from pure refreshment, it can also cause serious health concerns.
We should all be looking for ways to bring a little more purity into our lives – but it’s hard to know where to start.
While shopping organically or cooking all your meals from scratch might sound like a lot of work in pursuit of purity, it doesn’t have to be so hard when it comes to water. There are so many ways to purify water, whether you’re at home or on holiday, or even drawing your water from a stream on a camping trip.
With a bit of know-how and a few common materials, you can get back to nature with some good old H2O. No more contaminants, just a pure, refreshing glass of water.
10 Ways To Purify Water
Whether you’re at home or on holiday or even drawing your water from a stream on a camping trip, you always need a way to purify your water.
And there’s a method for every occasion – whether you’re targeting bacteria or heavy metals, or seeking to strain out large particles. Here are ten ways you can purify water.
1. With A Commercial Water Filter
It goes without saying that a commercial water filter will do the job. These bad boys come in all shapes and sizes, and are made for one purpose only: to purify the water in your home.
Commercial water filters can be added to your home water supply at many points. They can be fitted to the outside of your home, and purify every drop of water you use or be located under specific sinks to give you pure water where you need it most. You even get faucet filter attachments that purify your water as it's poured.
Commercial water filters have a wide range of mechanisms for purifying water. Some utilize reverse osmosis to zap out unwanted molecules, whilst others use activated carbon to capture contaminants.
Because of these differing mechanisms, not all commercial filters are created equal. Some hone in on heavy metals whilst others purge pesticides from your water supply. Often, an additional filter is required to remove fluoride from your water.
With such a wide variety, there’s a commercial water filter for every job. This is one of the best ways to purify water there is!
2. Boil Your Water
For those that like to keep it simple, here’s a method for you. Something tried and tested through the ages.
If phrases like “activated carbon” and “reverse osmosis” switch you off, then good old-fashioned boiling might be the way to go for purification.
By bringing your water to a boil, you kill off everything in the water that can’t handle the heat. Bacteria and other creepy critters will die, rendering your water harmless.
However, for really pure water, don’t turn off the heat too soon. Keep your water at a rolling boil for around five minutes to make sure you aren’t going out of the frying pan and into the fire with contaminants in your water.
And mountain climbers know that at higher elevation, it can take even longer. That’s because water actually boils at a lower temperature at altitude due to atmospheric pressure! So with lower temperatures, you’ll want to keep your water heated for longer to ensure that everything dies off.
Whilst boiling water is an easy method for purifying water, it can only target certain contaminants. Debris found floating in your water – if you’ve taken it from a stream, for example, can be strained out before you boil.
And whilst bacteria and bugs die at boiling point, heavy metals and chemical contaminants remain untouched. It’s important to know what’s in your water before picking out a purification method.
3. A Drop of Iodine
Iodine – or chlorine dioxide, by its chemical name – can work its magic to purify your water. In fact, most water purification tablets on the market feature iodine as the active ingredient.
Iodine is exemplary at purifying your water of the viruses and bacteria that may be lurking in there. Whether you’re drinking from a stream on a stunning hillside or you’re traveling and don’t trust the tap water, iodine is your friend.
Whilst expensive tablets work a charm, you can save a little money to extend your travels by using liquid iodine and a dropper. Use four to five drops of iodine in each quart of water, shake to mix, and then leave for around 30 minutes to let it do the job.
If you’re using iodine tablets, make sure to read the packaging for instructions – some water purification tablets recommend leaving them for around four hours. Don’t drink too soon!
One downside of using iodine to purify your supply is that it can leave a bad taste in your mouth. A drop of squash can sweeten the deal.
And be careful when using iodine in its liquid form – like many things, in small doses, it’s more help than harm, but if you take a lot it can cause you damage.
4. A Little Bit of Bleach
OK, what? You may have heard in recent years that bleach can cure COVID, but let’s leave that controversial idea to one side for a second. Can bleach be used to purify water?
Bleach is our go-to tool when disinfecting surfaces and cleaning around the house, and just like it can kill bacteria lurking on your countertop, a few drops can purify your water from viruses and bacteria.
Just like iodine before it, bleach is another one to use in small doses. I really don’t recommend that you down a pint of bleach when you’re feeling thirsty. Rather, two to three drops (from a medical dropper) into a quart of water will do the trick. A minute amount to kill the minuscule bugs living in your water supply.
Never use expired bleach to do this, and check the label to see if there are any other toxic additives in the bleach you’ve bought. Bleach might be good as a backup plan, but water purification tablets, made for the job, are a better option if the thought of a drop of bleach leaves you feeling queasy.
5. Let Cilantro Do The Work
Let’s say you’re cooking Mexican food and you have the sudden hankering for a purified glass of water to wash down your spicy burrito. Whatcha gonna do?
In this unlikely scenario, there’s good news – a handful of cilantro has powerful water purification properties. If you can spare this herb from topping your taco, then you’ve got a ready-made water purification technique on your hands.
Cilantro has absorptive properties that enable it to remove certain heavy metals from your water. Tossing a healthy handful of cilantro into a pitcher of water, stirring vigorously, and then leaving it for around thirty minutes will remove at least some of the heavy metals from your water supply.
Cilantro has been proven to reduce lead and nickel content from water – but other metals such as arsenic haven’t been tested. Lead is a common contaminant, however, so this trick can come in handy.
In fact, there’s a gene that affects certain peoples’ taste buds, so that cilantro tastes soapy to them. Whilst this has ruined many a meal for these individuals who can’t stand cilantro, maybe it hints at cilantro’s cleansing properties when it comes to water!
Remove the cilantro from your water before you refresh yourself, and enjoy the subtle cilantro tinge in your drink!
6. Try A Solar Still
Distilling water is a great way to purify it because it enables you to extract only the pure H2O, trapping contaminants elsewhere and separating them. A solar still can be quite easily built and can even turn saltwater into refreshing drinking water!
To build a simple solar still, you’ll need two containers, ensuring that one can fit inside the other – a plastic basin and a glass jar work wonderfully together. Fill the bowl with your impure water, and place your jar in the water, ensuring no water can enter the vessel.
Next, cover the top of the bowl in plastic wrap or cling film, and weigh the middle of the film down with a small rock, creating a depression above the jar.
Leaving this contraption – your solar still – in the sunlight for a few hours will allow water to evaporate from the bowl, and pure H2O will collect in droplets on the plastic wrap. This can then drain into the jar, leaving you with purified water.
It’s a time-consuming method, requiring water to evaporate and recondense in purified form. But it’s exceptionally effective at removing any contaminants from your water supply.
7. Sunlight Disinfection (The SODIS Method)
SODIS might sound fancy, but it simply stands for solar disinfection. By harnessing the power of the sun's rays, you really can purify water without lifting a finger. Is there anything the sun can’t do?
Solar disinfection works through two competing mechanisms – the heat from the sun gets trapped by the vessel your water is in, and this heat works to kill some of the bacteria and viruses living in our water, in the same way that boiling the water would.
At the same time, the UVA rays contained in sunlight act to pasteurize the water, further eliminating pathogens.
To create a SODIS environment, simply fill a clean plastic bottle with water. Leaving this water in concentrated sunlight for around six hours should be enough to let the rays penetrate your water, and purify it in the process.
However, don’t try to purify too much water in this way – any more than a quart or two, and the sun won’t be powerful enough to move through all the water. And the dirtier and cloudier your water, the less effective this method will be. Try to make sure obvious solids floating in your water are removed first.
There’s one catch – plastic isn’t the number one thing you want seeping into your water supply, and if you use the wrong bottle, the combination of heat and light could allow further chemicals into your water supply. Ideally, you’ll use a BPA-free plastic bottle, which is certified to ensure no chemicals can move from the plastic, undermining your purity.
8. UV Treatment
Whilst the sun’s UVA rays can be effective at purifying water, you’re leaving a lot to chance. There’s no way to know exactly how concentrated these rays are, for example.
But the sun isn’t the only source for these kinds of rays. You can buy UV water filters that contain powerful UV light.
Dropping the UV flashlight into your water bottle and vigorously shaking lets the rays zap away. By the time you’ve finished shaking that bottle, you’ll have worked up a sweat, and earned a cool drink.
Remember, when you’re purifying water with light, only certain contaminants can be targeted. UV rays will kill bacteria in the water by disrupting their DNA, but this process only works on microorganisms that have DNA to begin with. Inert contaminants such as pesticides, chemicals and heavy metals will be unaffected.
9. Natural Pine Filtering
The smell of a fresh pine forest on a summer’s day is purifying for the soul, but pine has further purification properties that make it effective in water as well.
Using pine to filter your water is a handy trick if you’re spending long periods in the wilderness. With a penknife and a pine forest, you can have purified water on hand.
Xylem tissue contained in the pine sap has been demonstrated to effectively trap particles and bacteria. Tests performed with E. coli have shown that water run through natural pine filters comes out cleansed of this bug, and other inorganic materials can be trapped in the sap too.
Young pine branches tend to contain more of this xylem tissue than older, larger branches and should be better suited to this purification method. Simply strip the bark from these branches and run your water over the bare branch, allowing it to collect in a lower bucket. Pathogens will be collected in the sap, leaving you clean water with a great taste.
10. The Clay Filtering Method
Porous materials such as activated carbon are popular in commercial water filters, but you don’t have to splash out on expensive branded filters when you’ve got the tools at home.
You’ve probably got an old clay pot lying around in your garden, or a ceramic dish you save for special occasions. These are equally porous materials, capable of allowing water to drain through whilst trapping many common contaminants.
Anything from sediment to microorganisms can be trapped in clay, leaving you with a pure water experience. Simply place your clay pot on top of a bucket and fill it with water. The water will slowly but surely drain through the clay material, collecting in the lower bucket with impurities removed.
From clay to cilantro, there are materials all around us that can take contaminated water and bring it a little closer to that essential state of purity.
Whether you’re purifying water at home, giving your family a clean-drinking experience, or you’re roughing it at camp, pure water can bring us closer to nature. And using natural materials such as pine and even sunlight teaches us that nature has our best interests at heart.
Learning to work with the tools of the natural world can build a deeper connection with our environment, encouraging us to take care of the planet whilst building a spiritual understanding of the natural world.
Purifying your water can be about more than hydration. It can strengthen your relationship with the world around you, nourishing your soul and leading you closer to the essence of life.
The essence, after all, is what purity is all about.