Filter Butler blog


How to Make Your Own Homemade Water Filter

Have you ever wondered if you can make your own water filter at home? Well, by simply replicating the layers in the ground, you can mimic the natural water filtration process that happens in the water cycle.

I began teaching my daughter about water filtration and ways we might be able to clean up dirty water.  I let her brainstorm for a minute to come up with a few ideas. Her first thought was to use a strainer to clean out dirt, but the holes were far too big and cleaned out almost nothing.  Next up she wanted to try a fabric napkin.  While this worked a bit better, our water was still muddy.  Once she was out of ideas, and my kitchen was a near disaster, I showed her another way we could build our own water filter.


For this experiment you will need:

  • A plastic bottle or funnel
  • A vase
  • Gravel
  • Activated Charcoal
  • Clean sand
  • Cotton
  • Dirt
  • Water

Our Experiment Begins

I chose to use a plastic bottle. We often don’t FB-8-22-14-Homemade-Filter-2recommend the usage of plastic bottles in your day to day life but today you can put an old one to good use. Start off by cutting the bottom off of the bottle with a pair of scissors. This is the only step of this experiment that was not kid friendly but everything else is safe and easy for little hands.  Now turn your bottle upside down into the vase.  It’s time to start layering.  First layer will be your cotton balls. You want to have 1-2 inches of cotton.  Next layer will be your activated charcoal. I used about an inch worth.  Lucky for me I had most of these items left over from the terrarium we made a few months ago. An even better idea would be to do both at the same time to help teach your kids about the water cycle.  Overtop of the charcoal, add 2 inches of gravel. You can also use stones if you have no gravel. Your next layer will be 3-4 inches of sand. Since your sand is there to trap larger particles, the cleaner the sand the better this experiment will turn out. Lastly, add another layer of gravel.

FB-8-22-14-Homemade-Filter-3Bring on the Dirt

Now take a nice big glass of water and dirty it up. Mix a good amount of dirt into it and turn it into mud. My daughter loved this part.

Pour your muddy water into the top of your water filter and watch it slowly saturate the layers and make its way through your filter into the glass beneath.

FB-8-22-14-Homemade-Filter-5FB-8-22-14-Homemade-Filter-4Our Results, Filtered Water

Ideally, you’ll have some lovely clear water come out the other end. While it’s not the cleanest water I’ve seen, I think we did a pretty good job.  It’s definitely not drinkable though, so please don’t try.  You never know what kind of contaminants could be hiding in there.

This was a great, educational activity that helped expand on the filtration process of the water cycle and explain how water filters work.  I much prefer my Filter Butler water filtration system though!

Learn more fun facts about the history of water filtration with Filter Butler.

Homemade Water Filter Guide

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Alex MacDonald

Alex MacDonald

Alex is a play at home mom with two young kids. She is passionate about child nurturing, education, and safety.
Categories: Family Activities,Water
  • Daniel

    What does activated charcoal mean? Sorry, can’t understand that part. How to activate it?? Badly needs your answer.

    • Daniel,

      Thanks for the comment. Activated charcoal is simply charcoal that has been heated or otherwise treated to increase its adsorptive power. Activated charcoal is great for a water filter because it is much more absorbing than unactivated charcoal.

      Hope this helps!

      At your service,

      -Filter Butler

    • Filter Butler


      Thanks for the comment. Activated charcoal is simply charcoal that has been heated or otherwise treated to increase its adsorptive power. Activated charcoal is great for a water filter because it is much more absorbing than unactivated charcoal.

      Hope this helps!

      At your service,

      -Filter Butler

    • I Dominguez-Urban

      Activated charcoal is often sold in pet shops that carry fish (for use in filtering aquarium water). Possibly also found in hardware stores.

    • Jacob Simon

      Google It

  • Mayeli Ramos Urias

    what can I used to substituted activated charcoal

  • Hannah E. Edmond

    A man can live a week without food, but without water, a man lives only 2 to 3 days. In an emergency period or the wildlife, this is very hard to get drinkable water.If you have a water supply of your own, you can get fresh water in your emergency need. Here you get details how to make A Homemade Water Filter -

    • Eddie Pervanic

      Actually you can live for 28 days without food dumbass

      • Jay Cole

        Actually you ca live well beyond 28 days. I’ve personally gone 42 days without food, and I believe the record was over a year.

  • Water purification
    is necessary. Even if you are in your home, a water purification system is a
    good thing to have in case an emergency happens. Water filters are easy ways
    to ensure safety.
    Commercial drinking water cooler

  • I Dominguez-Urban

    “It’s definitely not drinkable though, so please don’t try. You never know what kind of contaminants could be hiding in there.”

    Well that’s disappointing. The headline promised a home water filter, but if it’s not drinkable, all you’ve provided is a lesson on how to filter water.

    Hurricane Maria totally destroyed the infrastructure of several islands in the Caribbean: no potable water, no electricity, possibly no fuel, limited cell phone availability, no foreseeable help for several days. So I thought this might be a temporary solution. They do have a lot of sand available.

    Of course boiling is the best option, but if there’s no electricity and no propane that may be difficult. Outdoor wood or charcoal for boiling maybe? Certainly 2% iodine.

    • Stormageddon Bloodstar

      It is actually pretty effective at scrubbing out pathogens, but the key points are to make sure the water moves through the activated charcoal slowly enough to be effective. As has been mentioned in places, Gravel -> Sand -> Activated Charcoal in large layers works. If you have two two liter bottles, some clean sand and gravel, some cotton or coffee filters, and activated charcoal, you can make a filter –

      Cut the bottom off both bottles, then put a couple of inches of cotton in the top of the bottle, In one bottle, layer several inches of sand above the cotton, then several inches of gravel leaving a few inches of clear space at the top. In the second bottle, put several inches of activated charcoal above the cotton layer. you can use a coffee filter as a substitute for the cotton. if you can hang the gravel/sand bottle and the charcoal bottle below the it, then you can put a bucket or jug under the charcoal bottle to catch the water you’re going to run through the filter.

      One thing I would suggest, try to count how long water takes to work through the activate charcoal (Empty Bed Contact Time). In order for the system to be effective it should take a number of minutes to work through the system.

      if you can expose the water to direct sunlight, you can use the UV radiation from the sun to sterilize the water. I’m not as familiar with that process, but it’s also worth looking up.

  • Josh Bungen
  • Josh Bungen

    Life straw, keep one for each person plus extras.

  • Jason Angers

    May i know when this got published on this website?

    • Eddie Pervanic


  • Thank you for sharing your great idea and experiment with us.

  • Michael Taiano

    This is absolutely horrible ur child doesn’t love you

    • Daniel Freeman


  • Daniel Freeman

    Thanks Alex, it was really useful. I’ll make sure to use this method to give clean clean water to my child. He doesnt like it, but i know he’ll grow to love it. He’s looking much more thin, which is a great sign for a 1 year old. Oh boi, thanks Alex

  • Omar Aguilar

    This is absolutely adorable ur child doesn’t love you

  • Kelsey DIY

    Such a cool diy project!

  • Vaishnavi Mishra

    It is a wonderful article and practically been shown to us with instruction thank you for sharing a wonderful blog with us . However I would like to recommend if you are planning to buy ro water purifier or domestic water purifier then I would suggest you to buy from SKF Elixer it is a water purifier manufacturing company they have a variety of collection of water purifier and there service are also very good. For more details kindly visit our website by clicking on link :

  • Defiant Lion

    How about using a couple of coffee filters & D.E. before the activated charcoal or some where along the line. Plus also when using sand & gravel that you use 1 regular & 1 finer of sand & gravel thereafter!

  • Pravhi

    Thanks for sharing the information about water purifier.

  • If you have to find your own water supply, you must be able to strain out impurities that can make you sick.

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