Need Clean Drinking Water? Make Your Own DIY Clay Filter

water drop
It’s a sad fact that most of the water in the world needs filtering before it can be safely drunk. It’s the result of many years of industrialization and the resulting pollution in the air, soil, and water. However, most water filters are a fairly expensive and technology-dependent solution to the problem, and it’s not a feasible option for many less privileged people around the world who suffer from polluted water sources. But this clay water filter might just be the inexpensive, practical solution that we need!

I really want to try this. This DIY clay filter requires very few and common ingredients, and can be made very quickly and easily. From Planet Green comes the instructions:

The filter is created with clay, organic materials (coffee grinds or rice), water and manure. The straw and rice are mixed in with the clay and water and then fired over some burning manure. The organic materials are burned away during the firing process and create small passages in the filter that allow water, but not pathogens, to pass. This filter effectively removes 96.4-99.8% of E. Coli in water. One of these filters can great a liter of drinkable water in only two hours. You can make your own filter by following these steps:

1. crushed, dry clay
2. organic material(tea leaves, cofffee grounds, or rice hulls)
3. water
4. Cow manure

1. Mix in enough water to make a stiff biscuit-like mixture
2. Form a cylindrical pot that has one closed end
3. Dry the pot in the sun
4. Surround the pot with straw and place it in a mound of cow manure
5. Light the straw and then top up the burning manure as required.
6. Filter will be completed in less than an hour.

Pretty neat, huh? Clay can be found literally everywhere, which makes this filter solution an extremely appealing answer to the global water purification problem. Try it out!

Not quite ready to do the straw, clay, and manure thing? We’ve got a ton of water quality products listed in the Green Choice product comparison engine, including water filters and water distillers.

Image credit: Flickr via darkpatator

  1. heckety

    Oh that’s ok- you burn the manure- I was wondering whether they went into the actual materials of the filter and I thought….oh shit! That’s what I thought!

    But it sounds good, really. After all aren’t the best aquifers underneath clay? (have I got my geological stratas mixed up?)

  2. Dave

    This is bull s##t. Using cow manure is a horrible idea. If you want clean water it must be steam distilled or by using a reverse osmosis water filter. I hope no one is really using this idea. Please delete. Be well.

    1. Jennifer

      You use the manure to fire the clay, the manure burns slow and hot allowing the clay to harden and dry out all moisture. If you did not fire the clay it would would be brittle and not filter correctly.


    Clay is a cation exchange resin, and is a good ionic filter. Carbon is another excellent filtration medium (solid carbon, charcoal, etc.). Water does not have to be reverse osmosis’d as the reader commented above. Rather, filtration can be effective if it employs duel ionic-particle filtration processes.

    Ionic filtration is good for ions…heavy metals, etc. However, turbidity is another as is biologicals. A micron-size particle filter will do the trick in removing viruses, protozoa, amoebas, bacteria. Heat can and will destroy or denature biologicals, but that requires energy.

    As is the case in Japan, Haiti, Australia, New Zealand, purification protocols that require energy (electricity) are not sustainable…for obvious reasons. Filtration is therefore the best method to employ.

    We are working on a duel ionic-particulate filtration system that is completely portable, self contained, and can use 90% of available fresh water sources (critical factor is turbidity)….sea water is excluded as source. But you can use gutter water, mop water, waste water, fountain water…..and it removes 99% of chemical/biological contaminants.

    SOS International R & D, Los Cabos, BCS, MX

    1. steamers

      Splendid write up on water filtration. Thank you for this it turned out very useful. I am currently seeking a good water filtration solution that I can use at home.

  4. steamers

    Oh that’s ok- you burn the manure- I was wondering whether they went into the actual materials of the filter and I thought….oh shit! That’s what I thought!

    But it sounds good, really. After all aren’t the best aquifers underneath clay? (have I got my geological stratas mixed up?)

  5. Charles

    I know quite a bit on water filtration and this is not a good idea at all. And to the above mentioned comment that this process has been used for thousands of years, yes, maybe so, but they didn’t have to worry about the toxins we have to worry about these days. This method is obsolete, and could very well kill you. The only quality filtration methods out there right now are distillation and reverse osmosis. Without one of these filtration system, you are leaving yourself susceptible to waterborne diseases and harmful toxins.

  6. Carol Gates

    I appreciate the thoughtful hope to help as many people as swiftly as possible towards providing better water for healthy living in impoverished communities. Certainly worth many experimental attempts to make it efficient, so I I wonder who has made the vessel in varying sizes to optimize function and practicality. Size and cleanliness of the clay for example. How to find clean clay and /or how to clean clay (vinegar/peroxide?)
    Dependingon who’s lifting the vessel ( why move it?) Could effect efficiency. Thinking big and making a mold seems logical if one’s pit is deep enough and can still draw air.
    Having never burned manure I wonder if simpletree trimmings and junk wood can produce as much heat as manure. I woul love to see what links there are to other plans which confront burning issues in more depth. How dry must the manure be and does some moisture help keep the fire “right”? When I make bamboo biochar I make a bed of coals with the small branches then pile on a thick load of larger pieces which dampens down the burn for a slow cook. (6 hrs later its lovely and ready to charge with some nettle /kelp tea).
    Where are some good chat areas where this topic is explored or discussions of tested results?
    Thanks for a wonderful new project.

  7. Michael Lark

    I want to try making this type of filter. The article still leaves the question of proportions of clay to sawdust or whatever other organic materials suggested in the article. 50/50ix or what??

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