How To Decontaminate Water: 10 Effective Methods To Make Water Safe To Drink

Water contamination has become a significant problem across the globe. In some countries, water sources are contaminated with dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, fluoride, nitrates, pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, viruses, and other harmful substances. This makes drinking water unsafe for humans and animals alike.

There are many ways to decontaminate water, and the method you choose will depend on your available resources.

Here Are 10 Effective Methods to Make Water Safe to Drink

1. Boiling

2. Chlorination

3. Iodination

4. Solar Disinfection

5. Filtration

6. Ultraviolet Radiation

7. Distillation

8. Reverse Osmosis

9. Nanofiltration

10. Desalination


Boiling water for 1 minute is safe. Boiling water for 3 minutes is safe if you are at an elevation of 6,500 feet or higher.

If tap water is unavailable, boiling is the best method to kill disease-causing organisms.

Filtering cloudy water using coffee filters, paper towels, cheesecloth, or a cotton plug in a funnel before boiling is recommended.


Chlorine is used to disinfect water by killing microorganisms. It also kills algae and other organic matter. Chlorine is added to water through either chemical treatment (chlorinating) or physical treatment (iodizing).


Iodine is added to water to prevent iodine deficiency disorders. In addition, iodine helps protect against goiter, cretinism, and thyroid problems.

Solar Disinfection

One popular method of water disinfection is solar disinfection or SODIS. This method uses sunlight to kill bacteria and viruses in water. To use SODIS, water must be placed in a clear plastic or glass bottle and exposed to direct sunlight for six hours. After six hours, the water will be safe to drink.

Solar disinfection is a simple and effective way to make drinking water safe. It does not require any special equipment or chemicals and can be used in any location that receives direct sunlight. However, solar disinfection is not effective against all types of contaminants. For example, it will not remove heavy metals or chemical pollutants from water.


Water filtration removes particles from water. Filters remove suspended solids such as dirt, rust, silt, sand, algae, and plant debris. They also remove dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium.

Ultraviolet Radiation

  • UV radiation kills most microorganisms in water. This is because UV light breaks down organic molecules and destroys them.
  • UV light is produced by natural sources such as the Sun and artificial sources such as electric lights.


Distillation is a method of water purification that utilizes heat to collect pure water in the form of vapor. The distillation process works by boiling the water, which causes the water to evaporate. The impurities in the water are left behind, and the collected steam is condensed and turned back into the water.

Distillation is effective because water has a lower boiling point than other contaminants and disease-causing elements found in water. This means that when water is boiled, the contaminants will remain in the liquid state while the water evaporates.

Reverse Osmosis

  • Reverse osmosis (RO) is a membrane technology that separates ions from a solution. RO membranes use a semipermeable membrane to filter out salts and other dissolved materials.
  • RO membranes are made of polymers with small pores to prevent the passage of large molecules but allow the passage of smaller ones.
  • RO membranes are available in different shapes and sizes. Some are flat sheets, some are hollow fibers, and others are tubular.
  • RO membranes treat waste streams from manufacturing plants and municipal wastewater treatment facilities. RO membranes also produce potable water from seawater and brackish water.
  • RO membranes are not recommended for treating drinking water.


  1. Nano filter membranes are similar to reverse osmosis membranes, except they are much thinner. Nano filter membranes are designed to remove very fine particulates from water.
  2. The nanofiller membrane is made of tiny holes too small to let larger particles pass through. However, these holes are so small that only water molecules can pass through.
  3. Because these membranes are so thin, they do not need to be pressurized like traditional reverse osmosis membranes.
  4. They are typically less expensive than reverse osmosis membranes and are more efficient at removing particles.
  5. However, nano filter membranes cannot remove certain substances, including chlorine, iodine, and heavy metals.


Desalination is the process of removing salt from seawater. Saltwater is very salty and contains many harmful chemicals. Desalination reduces the amount of salt in the water. It does this by using energy to separate the salt from the water.

There are two types of desalinization methods. One type involves heating the water until it boils. Then, the hot water is passed through a series of filters that remove the salt.

Another type of desalinization uses electricity to create an electrical field between two electrodes. When the water passes through the electrodes, the salt dissolves into the water. The salt then collects at one end of the tank, where it can be removed.

This method produces fresh water with less than 1% salt content. However, the cost of producing freshwater is high.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

1. What are some practical methods for decontaminating water? 

Chlorine bleach is one of the most common and effective methods for decontaminating water. To do this, add one teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water and let it stand for 30 minutes before using. This method is most effective against bacteria and viruses but will not remove chemical contaminants.

2. What are some of the most common contaminants found in water?

Several common contaminants can be found in water. These include bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and other microorganisms. Additionally, there can be a variety of chemical contaminants present in water. These can come from various sources, including agricultural runoff, sewage effluent, and industrial waste.

3. What are some of the risks associated with drinking contaminated water? 

There are a few risks associated with drinking contaminated water. First, you could develop an infection, such as gastroenteritis, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea. This can lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous, especially for young children and the elderly. Another risk is that you could develop liver or kidney damage from the contaminants in the water. Long-term exposure to contaminated water can also increase your risk of developing cancer.

To avoid these risks, it is essential to ensure that your water is free of contaminants before drinking it. There are a few different ways to do this, such as boiling the water for at least three minutes, using a water filter, or using chlorine tablets.

4. What should you do if you suspect that water is contaminated? 

If you suspect your water is contaminated, you should immediately ensure it is safe to drink. The first step is to identify the source of the contamination. If the water is coming from a private well, you should have it tested by a certified lab. You should contact your local water utility if the water is coming from a public water system.

Once you have identified the source of the contamination, you can take steps to remove it. There are a variety of methods that can be effective, depending on the type of contaminant present. For example, boiling water for at least one minute effectively kills bacteria and viruses. Other methods include using filters or chemicals such as chlorine or iodine.

5. Why is it important to treat my tap water?

Treating tap water is essential because it contains harmful substances that can affect your health. These substances include arsenic, mercury, nitrates, fluoride, and lead. Arsenic is particularly toxic, so it is essential to reduce its levels in your water.


In conclusion, many ways to decontaminate water and make it safe to drink. Some methods are more effective than others, but all of them can be useful in different situations. It is essential to be prepared and know how to decontaminate water in an emergency properly.


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