How can I make a water filter

byAlex MacDonald

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 recommend 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.

Bring 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.

Our 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.

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Alex is a play at home mom with two young kids. She is passionate about child nurturing, education, and safety.