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DIY Guide: How to Make a Ceramic Water Filter
Ceramic water filters are our favorite water filtration method because it uses clay material to mimic the natural water filtration process of the Earth. This also means it does not rely on chemicals, electricity, or any fancy device to make water safe for drinking. But we are not the only ones who like ceramic water filters. In places like Brazil, you can find a ceramic filter in just about every household.
It is important to have clean drinking water because we need about 3 gallons of water per day just for cooking, drinking, and sanitation. Additionally, exposure to waterborne diseases can lead to serious health consequences, and especially so to young children. One way to ensure the water you use –whether for drinking or for other uses – is clean is to use a ceramic water filter.
Luckily, you can easily make your own ceramic water filter at home with a few materials. There are two methods of making ceramic filter systems at home. One involves relying on ceramic candles; the other relies on a ceramic pot to filter untreated water. The latter can cost as low as $30 dollars, whereas ceramic candles can be more expensive.
In this article, you will learn about the step-by-step process of making both types of ceramic water filters; check out our complete guide below.
But first, what is a ceramic water filter?
Related Article: 6 Best Ceramic Water Filtration Systems
What Is a Ceramic Water Filter?
A ceramic water filtration system is a type of gravity filter that relies on the force of gravity to move water through the tiny pores of a ceramic candle. The pores are the size of 0.5 microns, and it removes sediments and harmful pathogens from the water since most viruses are filtered out once pores are smaller than 1.5 microns.
Note: A ceramic filter candle can be used with other gravity filtration systems like a Berkey water filter of Alexapure.
Related Article: Brazilian Clay Water Filters: Everything You Need to Know
How Does a Ceramic Water Filter Work?
With ceramic water filters, water would flow through millions of tiny openings on the ceramic’s surface. The holes are so small that impurities get trapped and can’t pass through.
The inside of the ceramic candle also comes with a complicated maze of sharp turns that work to catch any particles that may have made it through the surface. Additionally, some candles contain colloidal silver, which is antibacterial and kills pathogens that pass through the pores. The result is safe drinking water.
This filtration process is inspired by the natural water purification process of soil. It’s an effective way to get rid of contaminants like bacteria and sediments.
Step-by-Step Guide: How to Make Ceramic Water Filters
Learning to make a DIY ceramic water filtration system is a useful skill. This skill will not only allow you to make a chemical-free and safe drinking water source but also, in the event of an emergency, you’ll know how to make a gravity water filter with a few supplies.
There are two types of ways to make ceramic water filters. Ceramic water filters with ceramic candles or with ceramic pots. Both are safe to use, and you should decide to make the filter that is more convenient. However, you should know that a ceramic pot is much more fragile compared to a plastic bucket and may crack from a minor impact. Let us begin by discussing the materials you’ll need to make a ceramic filter using food-grade buckets.
DIY Ceramic Filter with Food Grade Buckets
The ceramic element of this filtration system are in the candles. As mentioned earlier, ceramic candles use millions of tiny pores to remove sediments and harmful pathogens. So you are getting the full benefits of a ceramic filter even though the filtration system is made from food-grade plastic buckets. Let’s jump into the type of materials you will need.
Note: Make sure the bucket you use is BPA-free and of food-grade quality. Non-food grade buckets are lined with a chemical interior that may contaminate your water and be harmful when consumed.
Before you begin the process of making your own DIY ceramic water filter, make a trip to the store and gather all the necessary materials. Here’s what you’ll need:
1) Two Food-Grade Containers with Lids
The two containers will serve as a way to separate the treated water from the untreated water. Like other gravity filters, the untreated water will be poured into the top chamber. It would then move through the ceramic filters, and the bottom chamber will store the drinking water.
Before purchasing containers, make sure there is a label on the container indicating it is a food-grade bucket. This ensures it’s safe to use as a water filter.
You can find food-grade containers in home improvement stores, grocery stores, or food markets.
Expert Tip: When picking out a container, keep in mind the amount of water you will need for your family. A 5-gallon bucket can treat up to 15 gallons of water per day, and each member of your family should be drinking about 1 gallon of water daily. So plan accordingly
2) One or Two Ceramic Filter Candles
A ceramic filtration system would not be complete without ceramic candles. You need at least one candle to yield the benefits of a ceramic filter, but including two candles increases the flow rate by which the water travels through the chambers.
If you decide to use a single filter, we suggest using a ceramic dome over a candle. Ceramic domes are wider and take up more space within the top chamber. However, since they are wide, it is difficult to fit multiple within the container.
We also suggest stocking up on extra ceramic filters because filters should be replaced every 6 months to a year. Having extra filters in your inventory ensures that you don’t have to wait for a replacement to arrive.
3) Thread Seal Tape or Silicone Caulk
These materials ensure that untreated water in the top chamber does not enter the bottom chamber. And that the only way water enters the bottom chamber is by passing through the filters in the top chamber.
4) A drill
A drill is needed to make small holes in the two chambers so that filtered water can pass through. Additionally, you will need a drill to make a hole where the filtered water can pass through the spigot. We suggest using a drill with 1/2 inch and 3/8th inch drill bits.
5) A Water Cooler Faucet or a Spigot Faucet Tap
Once the water is filtered, it needs a way to exit the bottom chamber. Having a faucet tap allows the treated water to be released from the bottom container.
6) Cheesecloth (Optional)
Although not necessary, you can place a cheesecloth over the ceramic candle to filter out large debris. The candle will do this naturally, but an extra layer of protection can go a long way to ensure small pieces of sediment do not enter your drinking water.
5 Simple Steps to Make a Ceramic Filter with Food-Grade Buckets
Making your own ceramic water filter may sound like a lot of work. In reality, the process is simple. Follow this procedure step-by-step, and you won’t encounter any problems.
1) Prepare the Food-Grade Buckets
Before beginning, make sure to do a thorough cleaning of the buckets to remove any residue, dust, and dirt.
Afterward, you will need to play the top chamber over the lid of the bottom container. Make sure the items are aligned with each other.
Once they are aligned, use the drill to make a hole through the top chamber and into the lid of the bottom chamber. Additionally, use the drill to make a hole in the lower side of the bottom chamber. This spot will be used for the spigot later.
2) Add the Ceramic Filter Candle to the Upper Chamber
This can be done simply by wrapping the thread seal tape around the head of the filter candle and inserting it through the bottom of the container. Or you could use silicone caulk to seal the filter candle.
This ensures untreated water cannot pass through the holes at the bottom of the upper chamber.
Then use the filter candle’s nut to fasten the lid to the lower chamber. With this, the filter candle is held tight to the chamber and will not move.
3) (Optional) Apply Cheesecloth over Ceramic Candles
Applying the cheesecloth over the ceramic candle will add an additional layer of filtration to prevent larger sediments from coming into contact with the candle. Ultimately helping extend the life of the candle.
4) Apply the Spigot onto the Lower Bucket
In step 1, we inserted a hole in the bottom chamber for the spigot. Here, we will insert the spigot into the hole and fasten the neck of the spigot with thread seal tape or silicone caulk.
5) Use your Ceramic Water Filter
At this point, you have a functional ceramic water filter. To use the water filter, place the container with the filter candle and lid over the other container. Then, close the lid. You’ll pour unfiltered water into the container with the filter candle.
It’ll take about four to six hours to fill a 5-gallon container. You could leave it overnight to have your water ready by morning.
DIY Ceramic Pot Gravity Filters
This DIY filtration system uses a ceramic pot instead of ceramic candles to treat water. The ceramic pot acts as an upper chamber where it stores untreated water. The untreated water passes through the bottom of the ceramic pot, removing impurities, sediments, and pathogens. Ultimately making the water safe to drink.
This ceramic pot gravity filter is often made in factories, but this household water treatment can also be made at home. You will need the following:
Note: Instead of making your own clay pot, you can simply purchase a ceramic pot that fits in a 5-gallon bucket. If you purchase it, you will not need sawdust, dry clay mixture, a kiln, or water to make a DIY ceramic pot filter.
Sawdust will be mixed with the dry clay mixture to create a moldable clay pot before it is heated in the kiln. Since sawdust is a combustible material it will burn away during the firing process, allowing the pot to be more porous once the pot is ready for use.
2) Dry Clay Mixture
This is the core material that will be used to make the pre-heated ceramic pot. It will be mixed with water and sawdust and molded to make a pot shape.
Water will be mixed with the sawdust and clay mixture to make the clay moldable.
A kiln is a type of furnace typically used on clay products. Once the pre-heated pot is dry and in the ideal shape, it will be ready to be placed in the furnace.
The Potters for Peace Organization made a helpful document on how a kiln to make ceramic pot functions.
Note: you can use different types of ovens and fuel sources (gas, wood, etc.) to make ceramic pots.
5) 5-Gallon Food-Grade Bucket and Lid
A food-grade bucket will serve as the bottom chamber of the filtration system. The treated water will be held in the bucket for convenient access and usage. It will also protect the ceramic pot from external damage.
As a reminder, make sure the bucket is labeled “food-grade” so that the bucket is safe to use for water storage.
Food-grade buckets and lids can be found in grocery stores and home improvement stores at an affordable price.
The spigot will be connected to the bucket and control the faucet for treated water.
7) A Drill
A drill will be necessary to make a hole for the spigot to fit in.
8) Cheesecloth (Optional)
Similar to how cheesecloth is used to cover a ceramic candle, it can also be used as a layer over the ceramic pot. A cheesecloth can filter out larger sediments, keeping your ceramic pot cleaner and prolonging its useful life.
Steps to make Ceramic Pot Filters
Before getting started, make sure you have all the materials you will need. This is very important, especially if you decide to make your own ceramic pot.
Now that you are aware of the materials needed to make a DIY ceramic pot filter, we can jump into the step-by-step process of making a filter from scratch. If you decide to buy a ceramic pot instead of making your own, you can skip to step 6.
1) Mix Sawdust, Water, and Clay mixture
Begin by mixing the sawdust and clay mixture together in a 1-to-1 ratio. And add water as needed to get the mixture to stick together. If the material isn’t holding, it means too much water was added, and you should add equal portions of sawdust and clay material until the pot can hold its shape.
Form your ideal shape, and make sure it will fit in the circumference of the food-grade bucket.
If you have access to a hydraulic press or pottery wheel, we suggest using it as it will make your experience easier.
2) Prepare Pre-Heated Clay Pot
Once the clay pot is molded into your ideal shape, make sure to dry the pre-heated clay pot. If a wet clay pot is placed in the kiln, it will expand in the furnace and potentially crack.
When drying the clay pot, it’s best to leave it on a rack, and it may take several days for it to dry entirely. If you live in a humid environment, it may take longer for the pot to dry.
3) Pre-Heat Kiln
Set the firing process to 212°F (100°C), and place the pre-heated clay pot in the kiln for 2 hours. This step will remove any excess hot water still in the clay pot.
4) Firing process
Slowly increase the heat to 1652°F (900°C) at a rate of 212°F (100°C) per hour, and allow the clay pot to sit for a total of 9 hours.
5) Cooling Off
After 9 hours, remove the clay pot from the kiln and allow the pot to cool down.
6) Quality Test
Once the clay pot has cooled down, you should conduct a quality test to ensure there are no cracks or damages in the pot. A quality test can be conducted by tracking the flow rate of the water through the ceramic pot.
To perform the flow test, simply add water to the ceramic pot. Water should pass through a ceramic pot at a rate of 0.4-0.8 gallons (1.5-3 liters) per hour. If it exceeds the flow rate, it’s better to dispose of the clay pot because it may be damaged.
By contrast, if the flow rate is below the suggested flow rate, it may be impractical for everyday usage.
7) Setting up the Food Grade Bucket
After the flow test is complete and the ceramic material is safe to use, you can begin setting up your food-grade bucket.
The food-grade bucket will serve as your catchment area for treated water, so you want to make sure the water is able to exit the bucket.
In this step, you will need to drill a hole into the bottom of the bucket to fit the spigot. Make sure to use a 1/2-inch drill with 3/8-inch drill bits. Install the spigot, and your bucket will be ready for usage.
8) Place the Pot in the Food Grade Bucket
Once the clay pot and the food-grade bucket are ready for usage, it is time to place the clay pot inside the food-grade bucket. At this point, it will be safe to add water to the ceramic pot. Make sure to cover the ceramic pot with a slide after the water has been added.
What Makes a Ceramic Water Filter Unique?
There are many pros and cons of using ceramic water filters. Below are some of the unique benefits of using ceramic gravity filters.
Related Article: Pros and Cons of Ceramic Water Filters
A ceramic water filter can easily remove different kinds of contaminants. These contaminants include sediment; turbidity; microorganisms like protozoans and bacteria; and various viruses.
Suppose you combine a ceramic water filter with other filter media like ion exchange resin and activated carbon. In that case, you can filter out even more harmful contaminants like chlorine, heavy metals, and fluoride.
Retention of Healthy Minerals
Ceramic filters don’t remove all minerals from your water. Luckily, they allow healthy minerals like calcium and magnesium to pass through.
Ceramic water filters are affordable – especially if you’ll be making one yourself. The materials needed to create your own ceramic water filter are cheap, and maintenance isn’t costly. If you’re on a tight budget, a ceramic water filter is for you.
Ceramic water filters are reusable. Even when you think it’s time to dispose of your filter because it’s starting to get clogged, you can still reuse it after flushing it out and cleaning it.
Natural Filter Media
A ceramic filter is made of natural filter media. This means that it doesn’t contain materials like metals, chemical contaminants, or plastics. So you won’t have to worry about any harmful substances leaching into the water.
Unlike some other types of filters, ceramic water filters can remove bacteria, protozoans, and certain viruses from your water. A ceramic water filter can do this because the pores on its surface are small enough to trap these minuscule contaminants.
Most ceramic water filters are portable. Although a DIY ceramic filter may be larger than commercial ceramic water filters, it’ll still be easy for you to lug around. This makes ceramic water filters an excellent option for hiking, camping, and general outdoor use.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Often Should You Clean a Ceramic Water Filter?
How often you need to clean your ceramic water filter will depend on several factors. These factors include the quality of the water you filter, how much you use the filter, and the type of filter medium. Ceramic water filters that come with a high-end ceramic shell and filter medium will last longer, and you can get away with cleaning the filter once a month.
For your DIY ceramic filter, you may want to clean it at least once every three weeks. If you notice that your filter isn't removing contaminants sufficiently, you may need to clean the water filter more often.
How Should You Clean a Ceramic Water Filter?
To clean your ceramic water filter, you'll need to wash it with hot water and vinegar. You could do this by using a sink filled with warm water and vinegar. This combination will remove any dirt particles that have been clogging your filter. Once you finish washing and scrubbing the filter, you should rinse it thoroughly under cold running water. Be sure to rinse until you've removed all traces of vinegar.
Note: If you are cleaning a ceramic candle, we suggest scrubbing it with a toothbrush.
What Does a Ceramic Water Filter Remove?
A ceramic water filter can remove sediment, chemicals, dirt, and bacteria from contaminated water. Moreover, if you pair your ceramic water filter with activated carbon, your filter will be able to remove chlorine and pesticides.
Ceramic water filters, however, lack the ability to remove viruses. So, if you're concerned about viruses in your water, you'll need to pair your ceramic water filter with another water purification system.
A ceramic water filter will be a great choice if you want an affordable, portable, and effective water filtration system. And creating your own ceramic water filter – after following our comprehensive step-by-step guide – should now be a walk in the park for you.
As discussed, there are two ways to make ceramic water filters. The first method we discussed relied on ceramic candles, and the second method relied on a ceramic pot. Although they both rely on ceramic, the upkeep, cost, and usage of DIY ceramic filters are very different.
For convenience purposes, we suggest following the first method, which uses ceramic candles. Although more expensive, you spend less time cleaning the filter. Additionally, it’s less likely to be damaged since the ceramic filters are shielded by the plastic bucket.
If you’ve already made your own ceramic water filter and would like to explore what other water filtration systems you can use in tandem with your DIY filter, check out the other articles on our blog.
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