Water is essential to everyday life. Easy access to water is usually guaranteed in an urban setting by a cooler or plenty of the bottled stuff sold from store to store, but what happens when you’re in a situation where there isn’t anything obviously filtered for miles? A lack of safe drinking water is a very real problem: according to a 2014 study by the World Health Organization, 750 million people around the world lack access to safe water—that’s approximately one in nine people.
Even if your drinking water looks safe because it’s clear, it still may pose a threat because of heavy metals, amoebae or bacteria. Diarrhea caused by inadequate drinking water, sanitation, and hand hygiene kills an estimated 842,000 people every year globally, or approximately 2,300 people per day.
A lot of trekkers have made use of plants that purify water. It’s not just a handy survival tip meant for the wilderness. You could experiment with this amazing scientific technique and know that no matter where you go, you can get safe drinking water—from your house, to your camping trip, to your next travel destination.
HOW DO PLANTS FILTER WATER?
Communities have been making use of various plant-based water purification methods for years—whether it’s planting water lilies or yellow irises near the local lake, or creating drinking stalks from plant stems, these cultures have been working on methods that are just as efficient as your handy-dandy office water cooler.
1. Filtering water with fruit peelings
WATCH IT HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX1TAOwS180
One of the recently utilized water filtration techniques was laid out by a research associate from the National University of Singapore, Ramakrishna Mallampati. His method combined rubbing alcohol with tomato and apple peelings—by soaking small strips of these fruit peelings in rubbing alcohol and drying them out, he was able to create a no-fuss fruit water filter that when placed in dirty groundwater for several hours, would absorb many toxic substances, such as pesticides, heavy metals and commercial dye. Once the peel is removed, the water is safe to drink.
2. Two-step filtration with coconuts and rice
WATCH IT HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NX1TAOwS180
The fibers from shredded coconut husks are used to filter out most suspended solids like metal and dirt from the water, which then pass through burnt rice husks to remove any remaining debris. Repeating these steps only increases the water purity until it is safe to drink—colorless, odorless and free of contaminants.
3. Plant xylem
WATCH IT HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ-vtnKKMEw
Various kinds of plant xylem can be turned into a portable plant water filter—making even your average sapwood branch a lifesaver. MIT researchers conducted experiments with white pine, where they peeled the branch, attached plastic tubing on top and fastened a water tap to it. Water poured into the tubing would pass through the porous xylem—the fibres which connect the plant—and the xylem would sieve dirt, dye, and even bacteria out of your drinking water. Even viruses may not be a far-off target with the right plant!
4. Banana peels
WATCH IT HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIQ1JHEBmpg&t=22s
Too useful to relegate to the trash bin, these can be used up to an astounding eleven times when minced, to filter out any murkiness and pollutants.
5. Sun and citrus method
WATCH IT HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CktV2gWowX8
Solar disinfection with basically any citrus fruit to infuse the water has also been highly recommended. You just slip in a few slices of lemon or lime into a clear water container, leave it out in the sun and come back for your nice, bacteria-free water. This method has proven particularly useful against the common E.coli.
6. Make cilantro tea
WATCH IT HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEm7rtke0e4
More recently, scientists have also found a way to purify water with crushed cilantro—grind it up and pass water through it, or make tea bags that will absorb heavy metals just as effectively as a charcoal filter. This common herb is an absolute life-saver.
The methods above are just six ways where plants filter water. But for long-term, cheap water filtration with plants? There’s still more in store.
7. Sustainable filtration with aquatic plants that filter water
WATCH IT HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DN-v1RR7png
Choosing plants that filter water to grow near your home or in your nearest body of water is a great idea. The water filter plant cost will be pretty low, and the plan will give you a constant supply of fresh, drinkable water. Try planting aquatic water filtering plants such as yellow irises or water lilies. These plants are great for temperate climates, because they remove carbon dioxide from the water—making it less acidic and better for your consumption. They are also able to moderate nutrient levels in the water, as nitrogen and phosphorus are great in small amounts, but may cause damage to your body if present in excessive levels.
8. Marsh plant filtration
WATCH IT HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KS8rhtIlGbs
Utilize plants that grow in wetland areas, such as bulrushes and reeds for filtering your water. These marsh plants are so amazing that there are several DIY projects that involve the use of these plants to clean laundry wastewater. These plants are easy to find, so your water filter plant price will come out way lower than grabbing a plastic bottle every few hours!
9. Moringa seed purification
WATCH IT HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hZ5ixwcKno
Need a water filter plant for home, but don’t live near the water? This option involves the moringa plant’s seeds. When crushed, the seed particles clump with debris and other foreign material in your water and sink to the bottom. Moringa seeds also lower bacterial levels in water.
10. Jackfruit seed filtration
WATCH IT HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10LxcuP6egw
Jackfruit seeds are known for their benefits to the immune system as well as being chockfull of nutrients, can also be ground up and used to purify drinking water.
11. Java plum seed purification
WATCH IT HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzcKz3Rxe_g
This traditional method from Sudan makes use of ground mature Java plum seeds. The ground seeds are combined with distilled water to disinfect it for safe drinking. It also ensures there aren’t any hidden parasites in your water, such as stomach worms.
Using Plants To Filter Water: Easy, Safe, Effective!
If you never thought a water plant filter method would ever be effective, these examples have just blown you away. Forget harming the environment and spending on gadgets and filters—the best sources for your next clean drink can come from any of these natural methods.
5 Plant-Based Ways to Filter Water
- Use a water bottle with a built-in filter. These are easy to use and can be found in most stores.
- Create a DIY water filter using activated charcoal, sand, and gravel. This is an effective way to remove impurities from the water.
- Grow plants that naturally filter out toxins from the water. Some examples include cattails, reeds, and horsetail.
- Install a rainwater harvesting system. This will collect rainwater for you to use for drinking or other purposes.
- Construct a solar still. This is an effective way to purify contaminated water by evaporating it and collecting the clean condensation.
ALSO: Consider investing in a home filtration system for added convenience!
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About The Author
Sharyn Baker is the resident editorial assistant for AllAboutWaterFilters and regularly provides articles specializing in off-grid water filtration, outdoor survival, and water treatment in the wild. She has previously worked as an editing assistant and a product review content creation assistant, primarily focusing on outdoor survival preparedness. She enjoys producing her own off-grid water filtration safety guides for her other blogs in addition to her work on the AllAboutWaterFilters editorial team.