How to filter river rater for showering

How to filter River Water For Showering

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Did you know Americans use about 40 gallons of water daily in the bathroom? Whether you are an overnight hiker or a homesteader, consider river water to help reduce your water bill and dependency on public water systems. However, you should know that river water may look clean, but it still requires filtration to be used for potable uses like drinking water or showering. 

To make river water safe for bathing, you will need to purify the water. Different ways to filter river water for your showering vary from the most effective to the least effective methods. Getting familiar with these methods can save your life during uncertain times.

In this article, we will discuss how to filter river water for showering. But first, why should you filter river water?

How to purify rainwater for bathing

Why Should You Filter River Water?

Unfiltered river water is unsafe for drinking. It should be filtered to remove sediments or large objects that settle at the bottom or float on the water’s surface. 

Treating water after filtration ensures the removal of small particles, such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites which cannot be killed in the initial filter. These small particles could be a potential source of waterborne diseases such as Giardiasis and Cryptosporidiosis

River water comes from rainwater which is pure water. However, it becomes contaminated or polluted as it touches the ground. The cleanliness of river water also varies depending on its location and the environment that surrounds it. It has a clean look for places that are nearby clear mountain streams. 

However, river water can be murky or polluted if you are in the wilderness with less sunlight exposure or living in places with industrial plants that affect the quality of water. In this case, filtration and water treatment are a must. 

river water for showering

How to Filter River Water for Showering

To treat river water, you will mainly need to (1) collect river water with a container, (2) filter river water to remove sediments, and (3) treat the river water. Treating the water ensures that disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microorganisms are eliminated.

Below are the different methods which are effective in treating your river water.

Method 1: UV Light Filter

uv light water treatmentThe energy from UV light damages the microorganism’s cellular function, thus halting it from growing and making them ineffective in spreading disease. This purification method can come as small as a sterilization pen (SteriPens) or as a large UV lightbulb for home use. The UV Light method is not always effective, especially on murky water surfaces with large debris and a large container of water. It is recommended you use a sediment filter along with a UV Light Filter.


  • Uses low energy: UV light water filters like SteriPen only consume a low amount of your electricity when you charge them. However, UV lightbulbs for home use can be costly. 
  • Effective: UV lightbulbs destroy 99.99% of microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and protozoa.
  • Chemical-free: There is no chemical treatment like chlorine or iodine, so its taste and odor are not affected.  
  • Easy to use: SteriPens are rechargeable portable devices, and it doesn’t have a complex mechanism to operate. Just simply place it in 1-liter water for 90 seconds, and stir until the light shuts off. For UV lightbulbs, simply allow the water to be exposed to the light for 90 seconds to kill the pathogens.


  • Expensive: Investing in a portable SteriPens device can be expensive, but you can use it for years. As for UV lightbulbs, they need to be replaced annually and can be expensive.
  • Battery dependent: It needs electricity to function. It is not ideal for survival if you travel in a place for longer days with no electricity. 
  • Doesn’t remove all impurities: It won’t work for murky and brownish water. It does not clean other sediments and dissolved impurities like pesticides and toxins.
  • Small treatment capacity: It only works in clean water that needs minimal filtration. It will not penetrate well if you have a large container and if the water is too cloudy.
  • Prefilter is required: It is a water treatment and not a water filter; thus, it will need to be prefiltered with filter devices or DIY filters like clothes. 

Method 2: Chlorination 

water chlorine tabletsChlorination is a popular chemical treatment that is commonly used around the world for water disinfection. Chlorine is known to be effective in killing bacteria, viruses, and toxins that cause waterborne diseases.

However, it is also important to know how many drops of bleach you should put in your water, as too much of it could be bad for your health. This chemical is hazardous, and it needs proper handling, storage, and use.


  • Effective: Chlorine is effective in making water safe for consumption as it kills microorganisms and toxins that cause waterborne diseases.
  • Easy to use: The mechanism for using this is not hard to follow. You just simply add chlorine to your water, and it will make the job done for your water treatment. 
  • Inexpensive: It has a low price and is available to buy anywhere. Additionally, you only need a small number of drops of chlorine to treat a large amount of water.
  • Widely used: This method is widely used around the world, especially in the water distribution systems that enter households. 


  • Bad smell and taste: Chlorine can leave an unwanted smell that may not be suitable for people sensitive to the smell of chemicals like chlorine. Additionally, the use of chlorine can also affect the taste of water. 
  • Needs control: You will still need to measure and control the number of drops of bleach that you will put in your water.
  • Don’t kill all pathogens: Although chlorine weakens the cell membrane of microorganisms in order to penetrate and kill them, it doesn’t include other microorganisms like Cryptosporidium, which is resistant to chlorine. 
  • Can cause illness: Long-term exposure to water with chlorine may cause health problems. This is due to the creation of carcinogens like Trihalomethanes which can harm the liver and kidneys.  

Method 3: Sediment Filter 

A sediment filter enables the removal of sediments and solid particles in water through mechanical filtration. This process allows the water to pass through the filter while sifting and holding back dust, sand, dirt, and other particles that are visible to our naked eye. 

A sediment filter is a pre-treatment process and not a purification process itself. Thus, this usually serves as the first stage of the water treatment and is paired with purification methods like reverse osmosis and UV Light purification.


  • Removes solid particles: It removes sediments and undissolved particles, which prefilter the water before the purification process. 
  • Affordable cost: The prices of sediment filters can vary depending on the micron size that it can filter. Some sediment filters come at a low price in the market. 
  • Simple to use: Some sediment filters are simple to install and operate and do not require following complex instructions.
  • Use of coagulants: The addition of coagulants can enhance the sedimentation process. Coagulants are chemical substances that speed up the process of settling out suspended solids.
  • Removes other liquids and contaminants: With the help of the coagulation process, a sediment filter can also remove other contaminants like lead and barium.


  • Serves only as a prefiltering process: It serves as a first-line defense against solid particles and a prefiltering process and not a purification method itself.
  • Doesn’t remove chemicals: Sediment filter only removes solid particles that are visible to the eyes but not the dissolved liquids like toxins or chemicals which are smaller than 1 micron.
  • Doesn’t improve smell or taste: Since it functions as a prefiltering process only, it does not improve the smell or taste of water.
  • Needs maintenance: Sediment filters need to be cleaned regularly and replaced about every six months to one year.
  • The negative side of coagulants: Improper dosage and use of coagulants can be harmful. 

Method 4: Gravity Filter 

berkey water filterA gravity water filter uses gravity to filter polluted or contaminated water. There are different types of gravity filters, and they can be in the form of ceramic, stainless steel, or gravity bag water filter. Gravity filters are usually composed of upper and lower chambers. The upper chamber is where you pour your contaminated water, between them is the filter system, and the lower chamber is where the filtered water settles.


  • No use of power: Gravity filters do not need electricity to function and operate, so you don’t have to worry during power interruptions or loss of power supply. 
  • Effective: The water flows over and through the micro-pore filters, which are effective in removing solid particles and killing pathogens like bacteria. 
  • Easy to install: Gravity filters are easy to install, assemble, and operate, which saves your time and effort. 
  • Affordable cost: The price of gravity filters can vary depending on their size. Some gravity filters are affordable.
  • Easy to use: It is a portable device and lightweight to carry; thus, it is easy to bring during your outdoor activity or camping. 


  • Low flow rate: Waiting for water to flow over in the top chamber and through the filters can take time, and you might not be willing to wait that long.
  • Doesn’t filter heavy metals: Although it removes solid particles and sediments, it does not remove heavy dissolved metals or toxins that can be harmful to your health. Doesn’t remove all microorganisms: It can remove bacteria but not the other much smaller microorganisms that can cause illnesses or waterborne diseases. 
  • Not fit for high TDS water: This method is not suitable and recommended for water with high Total Dissolved Liquids (TDS) levels.
  • Maintenance needed: Since it does not use electricity, its filters should be replaced, and tanks should be cleaned on a regular basis. 

boiling water

Method 5: Boiling Water 

Boiling water is the natural way to purify river water. Boiling kills pathogens, including bacteria and viruses. This method is also free and costs nothing. Boiling water can take as fast as 90 seconds, depending on how small or big the quantity of water you are boiling. But normally, boiling takes up to 5 to 10 minutes, or longer would be better to ensure that water is purified. 


  • Cheap: This method costs nothing and is free. You just need to set up a fire and prepare the things that you will use for boiling.
  • Easy to use: Boiling water is the most convenient method. You can use devices like a camp stove and jetboil. If you don’t have this kind of equipment, you can simply have a stone stove and build a campfire along with your cooking pot.
  • Effective: Boiling water is effective in removing solid particles and dissolved toxins and in killing microorganisms like bacteria and viruses.
  • Chemical-free: This method does not use any chemical treatment that can affect the taste and smell of your water. 


  • Takes time to build a fire: If you want to build a campfire, it will take your time to collect wood and set up the fire. This may also be a difficult task if you are in the wilderness and during the rainy season.
  • Equipment needed: If you are on a campsite or outdoor trip, you will still need to bring a cooking pot to boil the water. If you are using equipment like a camp stove or jetboil, you will also need to secure fuel.
  • Requires you to wait: Boiling water means you will also have to wait for the water to finish boiling.
  • Don’t work all the time: This method does not work on cloudy and murky water with heavy dissolved liquids.

Method 6: Solar Water Purification 

solar purifierWhat makes solar purification different from UV Light is that it doesn’t use a device to purify water. Here, you just fill your clean plastic bottles or containers with river water and let them be exposed to direct sunlight for a minimum of 6 hours to one day. Exposure to sunlight is effective in killing microorganisms or waterborne diseases that are present in river water. 


  • Inexpensive: Like boiling water, this method can disinfect your water without spending any money. 
  • Easy to do: This method is very simple to perform as you only need to fill your containers with water and let them be exposed to direct sunlight.
  • Effective: UV radiation from sunlight is effective in killing microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses that are present in river water.
  • Chemical-free: It doesn’t use chemical treatments to purify water, just pure sunlight exposure, and it will make the job done.
  • Saves time: Filling your containers with water and letting them be exposed to sunlight for hours means it doesn’t require your attention all the time. 


  • Dependent on sunlight: Since this method requires sunlight exposure, it does not apply to the rainy season.
  • Doesn’t remove all microorganisms: This method may not kill other dissolved impurities like pesticides. Additionally, this will not work if the turbidity of the water is bad. 
  • Small treatment capacity: This won’t work for treating large amounts of water. It is only recommended for small plastic containers placed horizontally under the sun. 
  • Manual work: Collecting and cleaning plastic containers and filling them with river water will use your energy and manual work by hand. 
  • Requires you to wait: You will still need to wait for a long time before the water becomes disinfected and before it is ready to use.

purify rainwater for bathing

Final Thoughts

If you plan to spend days on your outdoor trip, you should anticipate the location of your destination, including your source of water. Water itself is inseparable from life; you will need to use it for drinking, cooking, and showering during your travel. 

And in times of crisis where you run out of water or are trapped in a survival situation, you will have to find ways to survive. 

A natural body of water like a river may raise your doubt if it is safe to drink or used for a shower. River water should only be drunk as a last resort when all other water sources have been exhausted, but this can put you in trouble in the long run. 

In this article, we have covered the different ways of purifying river water. Educating yourself on these methods is essential as it can save you from future uncertainties. However, it is important to also weigh the pros and cons of using each of these methods. By familiarizing yourself with these methods and evaluating them, you can decide what method you will use and will work with you when the need arises. With a little bit of knowledge, you can turn your water safe for consumption. 

If you enjoyed this article, consider reading our other articles on water security:

Water Security: How to Filter Rainwater at Home

11 Ways to Use Rainwater at Home

Best Roofs for Rainwater Collection

How to Purify Rainwater for Bathing

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