What is the Best Way to Purify Water?

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In an emergency situation, having safe, clean drinking water is a top priority. Whether you’re at home during a natural disaster, you’re lost in the woods, or you’re dealing with some type of crisis situation, considering you can only live for three days without water, knowing how to purify water is crucial.

What is the best way to purify water? Boiling water for a period of five to ten minutes is the best way to ensure you kill off most viruses, bacteria, pathogens, and other types of contaminants. Using a filter can also be an excellent option, but if you find yourself in the middle of nowhere without a filter, then boiling your drinking water will be the safest option available.

Read on to learn about the other methods you can try to purify your drinking water in the event of a natural disaster.

Locating the Source

Fortunately, there are many ways to purify your drinking water. The first step will be to locate a water source. Depending on your situation and location, the water may be almost non-existent or abundant. Water can come from a variety of freshwater sources such as lakes, ponds, creeks, and streams. If you’re able to distill water you can even use saltwater or brackish water as a source. Precipitation can also be used as an emergency water source. Ice, hail, sleet, snow, and rain can also be collected. Fresh rain should be safe enough to drink without going through some type of purification process.

Water that comes from underground sources such as springs may also be safe to drink, in most areas. Water that comes from tapped trees such as birch can also be safe to drink and can be easy to find in the later winter months. However, most other sources of water will need to be purified using one of the following methods:



Boiling water will kill bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens. Most survivalists can agree that boiling water is the most reliable way to purify it. However, boiling the water will not evaporate all forms of pollutants, yet it’s still one of the safest methods to use. You can boil water for a period of five to six minutes at a rolling boil in order to kill most organisms, however, I recommend boiling the water for a period of ten minutes.


If you’re stuck in a situation in which the only type of water available is from a dangerous water source then you won’t have very many options available. At this point, distillation is probably the best solution. Heavy metals, salt, lead, radiation, and other types of contaminants can taint a water supply in the event of a disaster. Trying to filter this water will only ruin a water filter. The water can be heated into steam, which can then be captured to create water that’s relatively clean, even despite the prior contamination. While this purification process will not remove all types of possible contaminants such as certain organic compounds, most heavy particles will remain behind. You can quickly make a steam distiller using some copper tubing and a pressure canner.

Filter Straws

The lightest and smallest water disinfecting tool currently available is the straw water filter. These filters can be used the same way as you would use a drinking straw, or you can also connect the straw to a drain valve on a water heater in order to purify the water. This filter can also fit on a garden hose and work to purify the water that runs through it. However, don’t expect this type of filter to be able to remove every type of bacteria or virus, especially if you’re using it on a water heater that’s full of tepid water after a power failure, or on a hose that’s been laying out in the sun. The majority of straw filters contain activated carbon filters, which will filter out pathogens, bacteria, and can also remove odors and odd flavors.

Drip Filters and Pump Action Filters

These are the two most common types of filters used in emergency situations. The pump action filter will rely on a pump to force water through the filter, while the drip filter uses gravity drip action.

Related Questions

What is a Bug Out Bag?

This is a bag that should be packed, ready, and waiting, in the event of an emergency. You’ll use the best survival backpack, such as the 5.11Tactical RUSH72 Military Backpack and load it with essential supplies such as freeze-dried food, personal protection gear, water, clothing, a rain cover, and whatever other personal items you can’t live without, such as medication or a spare pair of glasses.

What if I Don’t Have Any Survival Gear in the Event of a Natural Disaster?

Too many people find themselves in this type of situation, which is why it’s good to always be prepared. However, there may even be times when you’re out and about and disaster strikes, so you may not even have access to your supplies or your bug out bag. Because of this, I also recommend educating yourself on what you can do in that type of circumstance, such as how you can purify water without a filter or make a shelter using what you have on hand. If you’d like to learn more, click here to read my article on how to start a fire with nothing.

Final Thoughts

So, what is the best way to purify water? By boiling it for a period of ten minutes. You can try the other purification methods I’ve discussed here, but boiling your water is what’s going to kill off the bacteria, parasites, and other types of contaminants. If you’re not prepared for an emergency and don’t have the latest portable water filtration system on hand, then boiling your water will be the most effective and safest option.

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