Equipping for disaster

Survival 101: Build a DIY water filter

A sand and charcoal water filter is an effective way to purify water from various sources such as rivers, lakes, and wells. It is a simple and inexpensive solution that can help you obtain clean drinking water in emergency situations or in areas where access to clean water is limited. In this article, we will guide you through the step-by-step process of building a sand and charcoal water filter.


  • Two plastic buckets with lids
  • A spigot
  • A drill
  • A hole saw drill bit
  • Fine sand
  • Activated charcoal
  • Gravel or small stones
  • Cloth or coffee filters
  • A container to catch filtered water

Step 1: Prepare the Buckets

The first step is to prepare the two plastic buckets. One bucket will serve as the top container, which will hold the unfiltered water, and the other bucket will be the bottom container, which will catch the filtered water. Drill a hole near the bottom of the bottom container, large enough for the spigot to fit through. Install the spigot in the hole and tighten it securely from the inside of the bucket. This will serve as the outlet for the filtered water.

Step 2: Drill Holes in the Top Container

Using a drill and a hole saw drill bit, drill several holes in the bottom of the top container. These holes will allow the water to flow into the filter and start the filtration process. The size and number of holes will depend on the size of your container and personal preference. However, make sure the holes are small enough to prevent the sand and charcoal from escaping.

Step 3: Add Gravel or Small Stones

The next step is to add a layer of gravel or small stones to the bottom of the top container. This layer will serve as the first filter medium, helping to remove large particles and debris from the water. It will also prevent the sand and charcoal from clogging the holes at the bottom. Add enough gravel to cover the bottom of the container with a layer about an inch thick.

Step 4: Add Activated Charcoal

The next layer to add is the activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is an excellent filter medium that can remove impurities such as chlorine, sediment, and organic compounds. It also improves the taste and odor of the water. Add a layer of activated charcoal on top of the gravel, about two to three inches thick.

Step 5: Add Sand

After adding the activated charcoal, add a layer of fine sand on top of it. The sand will help remove smaller particles and debris from the water. Add a layer of sand that is about two to three inches thick, or enough to cover the activated charcoal completely.

Step 6: Add Another Layer of Gravel

Once the sand layer is in place, add another layer of gravel on top of it. This layer will help prevent the sand from escaping and clogging the holes at the bottom. Add enough gravel to cover the sand layer with a layer about an inch thick.

Step 7: Add a Filter Medium

To prevent the sand and charcoal from escaping through the holes in the top container, cover the layers with a filter medium such as a piece of cloth or coffee filter. Make sure the filter medium is large enough to cover the entire container and secure it in place with a rubber band or a string tied tightly around the rim of the container.

Step 8: Fill the Top Container with Water

Fill the top container with unfiltered water. The water will flow through the filter layers and collect in the bottom container. You can leave the system to filter the water overnight or until it has reached your desired level of filtration.

Step 9: Collect the Filtered Water

Once the water has been filtered, collect it from the bottom container using the spigot. The filtered water should be clean and safe to drink. If you want to further improve the taste and quality of the water, you can boil it or add a water purification tablet.

Step 10: Clean and Maintain the Filter

It is important to clean and maintain the filter regularly to ensure its effectiveness. After using the filter, remove the filter medium and rinse the layers thoroughly with clean water. You can also scrub the layers with a brush to remove any sediment or debris that may have accumulated. Allow the layers to dry completely before using the filter again.

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