DIY Water Filtration System – Basics & Tips for Beginners

It’s no surprise that the water filters are becoming a modern-day necessity in every household. These appliances serve as a preventive measure against waterborne contamination to produce purified water. There are different types of water filters available in the market that serve their specific purposes. It can be used for everyday household use, agricultural watering, aquariums, or even for ponds and swimming pools.

High-quality water filters are expensive and may not be affordable for everyone. That’s where the DIY water filter becomes convenient. These handy appliances are easy to build and require hardly any materials. Building a DIY water filtration system is an excellent solution if you’re living in a small household and do not want to invest a hefty sum on the high-quality water filter.

In this article, we have covered everything, including how to make a DIY water filtration system, the benefits of having a water filtration system, the drawbacks of the DIY water filtration system, and methods of testing the water quality along with the FAQs.

How to Make A DIY Water Filter?

Whether you want to build a water filter to save money on expensive appliances or for basic outdoor filtration, DIY water filters are super handy systems and are almost as effective as the manufactured water filter.

While there are several methods by which you can build a DIY water filter, it all comes down to your preference at the end of the way. So, here are a few different methods you can build your own DIY water filter:

Bio Filter

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A biofilter is a domestic water filter system that consists of layers of activated charcoal, sand, and gravel. This DIY project is the simplest method of filtering contaminated water to produce clean and pure water.

Materials Needed

  1. Plastic bottle with a cap
  2. Sand
  3. Gravel or small stones
  4. Coffee filter
  5. Activated Charcoal
  6. Vase or tall glass
  7. Scissors or knife
  8. Hammer and nail

Instructions for Making a Filter

  1. At first, cut the bottom of the plastic bottle (about 2.54 centimeters) using a knife or scissors.
  2. Punch a hole in the cap of the bottle with a hammer and nail. This will reduce the flow of the water and make the filtration even more effective.
  3. Place the coffee filter over the sealing surface of the bottle and tighten the cap over it. This will help keep the filtering elements inside the bottle without the risk of falling out.
  4. Now, place the bottle cap-side-down into the vase or glass. This will ensure that the bottle will stay steady while filling.
  5. Fill the bottom-third of the bottle with activated charcoal. If the activated charcoal comes in larger pieces, you must break them into smaller pieces. It is advised to wear gloves to keep your hands clean as charcoals can get extremely dirty.
  6. Over the charcoal, add about three to four inches of clean sand. You can actually use any type of sand as per your preference. However, it is better to avoid colored craft sand as they might leak dyes into the water. If possible, we advise you to use two types of sand — a fine-grained and coarse-grained sand. First, fill the fine-grained sand on top of the charcoal. Then, add the coarse sand over it. It will create more filtration layers to help make the water cleaner.
  7. Now, add gravel as the final layer on the bottle. Leave about an inch of space between the gravel and the top to avoid spilling. It is advised to use two layers of gravel — fine-grained and chunky gravel. First, add the fine-grained gravel on top of the sand, then add the chunky gravel over it.

Using the Filter

  1. First, choose a jar or a pot to hold the filtered water. Make sure the jar is clean and large enough to hold the amount of water you’re planning to filter.
  2. Now, place your DIY filter over the container with the cap pointing downwards. It is better to choose a jar with a larger opening so that you can set the water filter on top of it instead of holding the filter throughout the process.
  3. Slowly, pour the dirty water into the DIY filter and make sure it does not overflow. In case the water starts to reach the top of the filter, stop and wait until the water level settles down. Once the water level goes down, you can pour some more water.
  4. Sit back and wait for the water to pass through all the layers of the filter. This process may take about eight to ten minutes.
  5. Once the water stops flowing, take the filter out from the jar and put it over a new jar. Then, pour the filtered water back over the DIY filter to start the process again. You may need to repeat the same process a couple of times before the water runs clear.
  6. After the filtration process, boil the filtered water for at least a minute to make it even safer to drink. Even though the water passes through several filtration stages, it may still contain a few dangerous chemicals and microorganisms. So, it is important to boil the water before using it to whip out all the harmful chemicals floating in the water.
  7. Finally, let the water cool down for a while before drinking it or storing it in an air-tight container. If you’re going to store the water, we advise you to not leave it standing for a long time, else new bacteria may contaminate the water again.

Making Other Types of DIY Filters

DIY Water Filter using Coffee Filter

In order to make this DIY water filter, you need a circular cup-shaped coffee filter. Turn the filter upside down and wrap it over the top of the cup like a lid. Wrap a rubber band around the filter to keep it steady.

Now, pour the cloudy water over the coffee filter at a slow pace. Boil the water once it is passed through the filter to make it drinkable.

If you do not have a coffee filter, you may also use a piece of cotton fabric or paper towel instead. It is best to use a blank paper towel or a white fabric to avoid dyes bleeding into the water. Note that this filtration method is not appropriate to filter extremely contaminated water. It can be used only to remove cloudiness from the water.

Water Filter Using a Fruit Peel

It may sound kind of unusual, but fruit peels actually have the ability to absorb dirt and bacteria. To make a DIY water filter, you need to peel a banana and grind it in a blender. Once the banana peel is properly blended, put it into a coffee filter or a cotton fabric. Place the filter over the cup and pour the unfiltered water through the coffee filter. The banana peel inside the filter will absorb the harmful bacteria, and the coffee filter will effectively remove the cloudiness from the water.

Water Filter Using Plant Xylem

Sapwoods of trees contain xylem, that is widely known to absorb and filter out dirt and bacteria. These xylems can effectively remove up to 99% of bacteria from water. However, you will still need to boil the water to make it safe to drink after the filtration.

Here’s how you make a water filter out of plant xylem:

  1. First, you need to cut about a 4-inch long slice from the branch of a pine tree.
  2. Peel off the outermost layers and shave it down with sandpaper or a pocket knife to fit into the neck of the bottle.
  3. Once the bark fits perfectly in the neck of the bottle, push the first inch of the bark inside of it.
  4. Cut off the bottom half of the bottle and flip the bottle upside down.
  5. Place it over a container or a jar, and fill the bottle with water, allowing the water to drain through the stick.
  6. Once the jar is filled with water, boil the filtered water before drinking.

Solar Disinfection (SODIS)

Solar water disinfection is a DIY portable water filter that basically uses solar energy to make biologically-contaminated water safe to drink. If the water contains non-biological pollutants, like chemicals or heavy metals, it may need additional filtration stages before you can drink it.
SODIS is probably the easiest way to purify water. But the downside to this method is that it requires an excessive amount of time.

Here’s how you purify the water using the SODIS method:

  • Fill the water in a container or a plastic bottle and expose it to direct sunlight.
  • Put a thin screen over the container to prevent water from new impurities and contamination.
  • If the unfiltered water is clean, you should leave it for about two hours. However, if the water is cloudy, you need to leave the container under the sun for at least two days.

However, you need to remember that using this method alone may not be enough to produce drinkable water. So, you may need to boil the water after the filtration process to ensure safe drinking water.

Benefits of Having a Water Filtration System

Health Benefits

Owning a filtration system in your home or at your office leads the way to a healthier lifestyle. Water filters are designed to remove harmful particles and produce safe water fit for consumption. According to the research conducted by EWG Tap Water Database, tap water has been found to contain harmful particles such as arsenic, chromium, lead, nitrates, and radiological contaminants. Since tap water is the most common source of water for people, a good quality filtration system helps to protect you from these harmful chemicals and improve your health.


Using a water filter system excessively reduces the consumption of single-use plastic. With a high-quality filtration system, you no longer have to buy bottled water for drinking. As the plastic bottles have become the major pollutants across the globe, a water filter will help to reduce its use and encourage an environment-friendly approach. You can also invest in a portable filter for outdoor uses.


While water filters are actually designed to remove harmful particles from water, some filters also improve the taste of water by reducing the unpleasant odors. Water from freshwater sources, at times, have a dreadful taste and may not be drinkable. But water filters reduce this aftertaste which can make water more enjoyable to drink.

Emergency Preparedness

Water filters are extremely advantageous during emergency situations. Natural calamities and disasters may cut access to safe and clean drinking water. In such cases, freshwater might be the only source for consumption. These sources may contain harmful chemicals, bacteria, and contaminants that can be a serious threat to your health. Therefore, having a filter in such unforeseeable situations can benefit you by ensuring clean and freshwater.

Drawbacks of DIY Water Filtration System

Time Consumption

One of the major disadvantages of building your own DIY water filtration system is that it requires time and effort. Depending upon which DIY water filter you choose to make, the time consumption and effort may vary. However, many people would not prefer to invest their time in building a water filtration system when you can buy a better performing system in the market.


Whether you buy a high-tech unit or build a DIY filtration system, these appliances require proper maintenance to get the optimum performance. In the same way that you have to change the filter cartridges of the readymade water filters, you also need to maintain the DIY water filters to get the best out of the system. However, there are no filter cartridges in the DIY system! You have to remove all the layers and repeat the entire process while maintaining these systems, which may be slightly tedious.

Not Highly Effective

The single DIY filter alone does not provide adequate results when it comes to water purification. You may have to repeat the filtration process several times before the water is clean and drinkable. These filters may not be effective in circumstances where you need the water instantly.

Not Sufficient For Excessive Use

DIY filters do not have a fast flow rate, so the filtration process takes a lot of time. Also, it is a small scale filtration system that produces a small amount of water in a long time. So, these systems are not appropriate if you’re looking to use it for larger households.

How to Test Water Quality?

Whether you build your own DIY system or buy it off the rack, there are several alternatives when it comes to water filtration systems. However, buying a filtration system does not necessarily mean pure water. So, how do we know if the water is pure enough to drink?

Well, there are several things you can use to figure out the water’s quality. You can either use a test kit or your senses to determine the quality of the water. Let’s get on with some methods to test the water quality and find out if it is drinkable.

Using a Test Kit

Water test kits are a small and handy appliance that is designed for one purpose — to detect the water contaminants. Water test kits can effectively detect contaminants like lead, iron, alkalinity, pesticides, hardness, and bacteria.

While using a test kit, make sure to read the user manual properly to follow the instructions. Dip the test strip into the water for the required time, then remove it from the water and shake it until it is dry. Wait for a while, then compare the color of the strip to the color chart to find out the water’s quality.


While this may not be as effective as the test kit but it surely does work! Different smells indicate the presence of a specific chemical in the water. For instance, if the water has a bleachy smell, then it probably contains chlorine. Similarly, if the water smells somewhat musty or earthy, it is most likely due to environmental factors like decay or decomposition of organic matter in the water source.

Keep in mind, this method simply gives you a basic idea of the water’s quality. You should not completely rely on this water testing method, rather, use a water test kit if you notice certain smells in the water.


Well, the taste of the water says a lot about its quality! If you sense a metallic taste in water, it potentially means a high level of mineral or low pH level of the water. If it has a bleach-like taste, the water may be treated with chlorine. Similarly, if the water is salty, it might contain sulfates or chlorine ions, indicating an industrial or irrigation drainage.

One important thing you need to remember is that you should never swallow the water if it has a foul taste.


Sight can also help you determine the quality of the water you’re consuming. Simply pour the water in a see-through glass or a bottle and look for cloudiness or any other particles floating in the water.
If you see red or brown substances floating in the water, it might suggest that the pipes are corroded. If the particles are black, it might have come due to the hoses caused by chlorine. Similarly, if the water contains white or tan particles floating around, it means the water has a high hardness level.


If you’re looking to filter tap water, the DIY water filter does the job. However, you may have to repeat the process for multiple cycles to get clean water. Even after the filtration process, you may need to boil the water before consumption.

The materials in the water filter may differ depending upon the type of filtration system you choose. However, charcoal, ceramic, diatomaceous earth, and sand are considered the best materials for filtering water.

Coffee filters are effective in removing larger debris and dirt that floats in the water. Adding this to your system can significantly extend the life of the water filter. Additionally, you can also make a DIY water filter using coffee filters. However, the DIY filter only removes debris but does not eliminate harmful chemicals and bacteria from water.


Well, a DIY water filtration system is a great alternative to expensive manufactured appliances. If you’re short on budget and do not want to spend a hefty sum on systems available in the market, a DIY water filter is your go-to option. These systems work well for a small household and for regular uses. Additionally, these systems are easy to build and are effective in delivering safe drinking water.