How to Make a Homemade Water Filter

In today’s article, we will show how you can make a water filter at home using some materials that might be lying around. It’s fun, educational, and not difficult at all!


clean water

You can apply some of the filtration techniques used by some well known water filter brands to materials you might have lying around the home. While we wouldn’t recommend replacing a recognized water filter that has been stringently tested and certified with something that you have made yourself, it can be a fun science experiment or last resort in case of an emergency.


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Take a look at the video which gives a rough idea of what we’ll be doing. But, make sure you keep reading as our homemade water filter is more effective than his.

Our homemade water filter will work in much the same way as many pitchers or countertop systems work. Gravity feeds the water downwards through a variety of media that each act as a stage of filtration.

Starting with the largest particles at the top (gravel) which will filter out the larger contaminants from the water, and finishing with a fine coffee filter that prevents any visible particles from making their way into the final drinking water.

There’s a special ingredient too, which might not be so readily available around the home. That’s the activated carbon.

However, this is available from sites like Amazon and also pet stores that specialize in fish. If you have carbon water filters at home (perhaps a pitcher) then you could also recycle the activated carbon from inside for the purpose of this experiment.

Why activated carbon?

Activated carbon is the functional component of most water filters. It is basically charcoal that has been treated to increase its potential for chemical adsorption. It uses this process to make water contaminants “cling” to its porous surface and prevent them from passing through into your drinking water.


homemade water filter

What you’ll need:

  • A plastic bottle (the bigger this is the more water your filter will be capable of filtering per minute)
  • Gravel
  • Sand
  • Activated carbon
  • A coffee filter
  • Scissors

The quantities of said gravel, sand, and activated carbon depend on the size of the bottle you use. You are going to cut the bottom of the bottle off and fill it with layers of these substances.

What to do:

  1. First, you’ll want to source your materials and prepare them properly. Rinse the gravel and sand in water to make sure they don’t contain any dirt or dust.
  2. Next, you need to prepare the activated carbon. The finer the particles, the more surface area, and therefore the more effective it becomes at adsorbing pollutants. Grind up the activated carbon into a powder-like substance.
  3. With the filtration media prepared the next thing to do is prepare your bottle. In theory, the more filtration media (sand, gravel, and activated carbon) that you use, the better the level of water filtration you will get. This is more true for the carbon, as increased contact time will give better filtration. Also, note that you will need a gap at the top where you fill the bottle with water. The more space at the top, the more water you can put into the homemade water filter at once.
  4. Now, we can start filling the bottle with the carbon, sand, and gravel. The order in which we put these into the bottle is important. We need the biggest objects at the top and the smallest at the bottom. Start by placing the coffee filter in the bottom, and then gradually filled with activated carbon, then sand, and then gravel. Remember to leave a gap of at least a few inches at the top. This allows our water filter to fill up with a decent amount of water each time it is used.
  5. An extra tip to increase the effectiveness of our homemade water filter is to fasten the bottle cap. By putting a few holes in the bottle cap we can allow the clean water to pass through but at a much slower rate. This means the water has more contact time with the activated carbon, which increases its effectiveness at adsorbing water pollutants. However, it does mean you’ll have to wait longer for your filtered water.


We now have a pretty decent water filter that is made from mostly recycled materials and uses the same techniques as many big brand water filters. This kind of filtration is comparable to a rudimentary water filter pitcher, but just remember our homemade filter should never replace a professionally built and certified water filter.

This makes for a fun and educational science experiment that’s perfect for young kids. See what kinds of contaminants you can remove from water. Oil, dirt, coloring?

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Bonus: Portable Water Filter Bottles For Camping and Survival Situations

While making your own homemade water filter isn’t necessarily difficult, it is time-consuming and it can be a hassle. And in survival situations, you might not always have the necessary materials at your disposal. With that said, you might want to consider taking one of the following water filter bottles with you on your next camping trip.

Brita Plastic Water Filter Bottle

Brita Plastic Water Filter Bottle

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Brita is a brand that’s known for making reliable filters, and this 26-ounce bottle is no exception. It will last you for approximately two months of use or 40 gallons of water. That’s more than enough for even a group of people who love going camping on the weekends.

The bottle is easy to transport and fit wherever you may need it to, as its dimensions allow you to stick it even in your car’s cup holder.

Epic Nalgene OG Water Bottle with Filter

Epic Nalgene OG Water Bottle with Filter

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The Epic Nalgene OG removes 99% of tap water impurities so you can fill it up and have your hydration needs at your disposal wherever you may go. It removes particulates via the activated coconut carbon fiber mesh surface areas, which adsorbs contaminants such as cysts, heavy metals, chemicals & pharmaceuticals.

This water bottle with filter for tap water saves the Earth over 550 plastic single use water bottles. Furthermore, the USA made eco-friendly organic coconut shell based carbon fiber mesh filter is an environmentally friendly filter that is tested by 3rd party labs.

Philips GoZero Active Bottle with One Adventure Filter

Philips GoZero Active Bottle with One Adventure Filter

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This bottle is designed to work with two interchangeable filters to transform water from both tap and natural sources into clean drinking water. Each filter includes a built-in indicator to let you know when it needs to be replaced.

It’s by far the bottle we recommend the most in survival situations, as it can easily filter out even pollutants that affect rivers and lakes. While not as portable as the other two models, the filtration capability is worth the extra “hassle”.

Hi I'm Jamie, teacher and owner/chief contributor at We strive to bring you the most informative water filter reviews in the most intuitive and user friendly way. Besides offering advice on the water filter to suit your needs, we also post topical articles on water pollution and the environment. Stay connected and follow us on, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more!

1 Comment
  1. Seriously, it is imperative for us to supply our body with enough quantity of fresh water so as to avoid conditions like hyperthermia or hypothermia. Especially for an adventure-freak person who lives for that adrenaline rush portable water filters seems to be like a great idea. At least, by using this they can ensure that they supply their body with toxic-free water. Thanks for sharing the information.

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