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Clean and Purify Your Water Nature-ally

Have you ever thought about purifying water in a natual manner? Natural filtration is all around us but can we use it to purify our water?

Water Scarcity

One of the most crucial problems affecting the world today is the scarcity of low-cost potable water. It is estimated that globally, half of all hospital beds are occupied by people suffering from a water-related illness. Our global water shortage is getting worse every day due to over usage, lack of conservation methods, pollution, and draught. Even countries with significant water resources are experiencing reductions in natural clean water supplies. Unfortunately, most water purification technologies are not readily accessible to economically disadvantaged people throughout the world.

In response to this growing crisis, scientists have been researching water purification methods that could treat water at low cost with minimal energy consumption and few or no chemicals. At the National University of Singapore’s Department of Chemistry, scientists came up with a novel way to purify water using the peels of apples and tomatoes.

Filter with Plants

Tomato peels

Tomatoes are the second most consumed vegetable in the world, with approximately 30 per cent consumed as processed products. The disposal of the tomato skin and its other fibrous materials is an economic waste for many food processing industries.

Mr Ramakrishna Mallampati, PhD candidate, evaluated the effectiveness of tomato peel as an adsorbent by using different pollutants. He also studied the structure of the tomato peels to assess their efficiency as biomaterials to remove toxic metal ions and organic pollutants from water. In addition, factors such as the pH, nature and amount of adsorbent used for extraction were considered to establish the optimum conditions under which tomato peel could remove various pollutants from water.

His study revealed that tomato peels can effectively remove different contaminants in water, including dissolved organic and inorganic chemicals, dyes and pesticides, and they can also be used in large scale applications. The results were published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal RSC Advances in September 2012.

Apple peels

In addition to tomato peels, Mr Ramakrishna Mallampati also explored the viability of using the peels of apples for water purification, as apple peels are easily available as biowaste from food processing industries and they are biodegradable.

Similar to tomato peels, apple peels can also remove a range of dissolved water pollutants through the adsorption process. In order to enhance the ability of apple peels towards extraction of negatively charged pollutants, Mr Ramakrishna immobilised naturally occurring zirconium oxides onto the surface of apple peels. Zirconium loaded apple peels were found to be able to extract anions such as phosphate, arsenate, arsenite, and chromate ions from aqueous solutions. This method of water purification can also be used for large scale applications.

The findings are published in the American Chemical Society journal ASC Applied Materials & Interfaces in May 2013.

Read More:

Banana peels

Minced banana peels could be used repeatedly to purify water contaminated by industrial plants and farms (up to 11 times) and still be effective.” Mining processes, runoff from farms, and industrial wastes can all put heavy metals, such as lead and copper, into waterways. Heavy metals can have adverse health and environmental effects. Current methods of removing heavy metals from water are expensive, and some substances used in the process are toxic themselves. “Compounds in banana peels contain atoms of nitrogen, sulfur and organic compounds such as carboxylic acids. These acids are charged such that their negatively charged electron pairs are exposed, meaning they can bind with metals in the water that usually have a positive charge.” Read more:

Shredded Coconut Husks and Burnt Rice Husks

The fibers from shredded coconut husks can filter out most suspended solids like metal and dirt from the water, which then pass through burnt rice husks to remove any residual turbidity and other contaminants. The burnt rice husks also provide significant absorption capabilty for taste, odor, and colo removal. Repeating only increases the water purity until it is safe to drink—colorless, odorless and free of contaminants. Download the research article with a diagram of a filter for a village at:


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 (especially nickel and lead) just as effectively as a charcoal filter. This common herb is an absolute life-saver.

Students, along with Professor Douglas Schauer of Ivy Tech Community College, were searching for a cheap and accessible way to filter ground water. They dried and crushed numerous wild plants while conducting their research, and found that cilantro was the most effective.  

One method of purification using the cilantro filtering method is grinding up cilantro and passing water though it using a tube, which allows clean water to trickle out of the opposite end of the tube, ultimately leaving even cleaner water. Another method involves drying cilantro and putting it in tea bags, which are then placed in a pitcher of water, helping to take out some of the toxic metals. Researchers hope that people may be able to purify drinking water by grabbing a handful of cilantro, letting it dry out for a couple days in the sun, and then maybe a handful of that would purify a pitcher of water.

Moringa Oleifera

Moringa Oleifera is a very popular plant because of its striking aesthetics; and, their seeds have water purification powers. In generral, one seed kerrnal can treat 1 liter (1.056 qt) of water. All you need to do is remove the seeds from the mature pod and crush the seed kernals to obtain a fine powder. After sifting the powder thru a screen or fine mesh, add it to a small amount of water to form a paste. Then add the paste to about 250 ml (1 cup) of the water you want to filter and shake for one minute to activate the coagulant properties and form a solution. Filter this solution thru a muslin cloth or fine mesh screen into the remaining water to be treated. Stir the treated water rapidly for at least one minute and then slowly (15-20 rotations per minute) for 5-10 minutes. Let this treated water sit without disturbance for at least 1-2 hours. Once the particles and contaminates have settled to the bottom, the clear water at the top should be carefully removed to avoid re-contaminating the clear water. This works because the crushed seeds clump together with debris and other types of foreign particles and sink to the bottom of the container. The water at the top of this mixture is left purified, clean and ready to drink.

Cautions: The process of shaking and stirring must be followed closely to activate the cooagulannt properties; if the flocculation process takes too long, there is a risk of secondary bacteria growth. The process of settling is very important since the sediment at the bottom contains the impurities. Thus, care must be taken to use only the clear water off the top and not to re-contaminate the cleared water. Moringa may not remove 100% of water pathogens. Read more:

Java Plum Seeds

The Java plum seed water filtration method is traditionally from Sudan where it is used to cleanse their drinking water. They do this by grinding and blending mature Java plum seeds together. This mixture is then combined with distilled water as a way to disinfect it and make it safe for drinking. Java plum seeds are good for making sure that things like parasites such as stomach worms are removed from your water.

Plant Xylem

Xylem is the porous tissue that conducts fluid in plants. In woody plants, it is called sapwood. Surrounded by bark, it often surrounds the older, inactive heartwood. In conifers, it is formed from dead cells called tracheids, which are essentially hollow tubes. These cells grow in parallel and have closed ends. The water passes from one conduit to another through holes known as pits, which are covered in a membrane with nanoscale pores that act like a kind of sieve. Anything bigger than these pores cannot get through. Thus, particles exceeding 100 nanometres and bacteria such as E coli are removed. However, viruses are not removed due to their smaller size.

Plant xylem from the sapwood of coniferous trees – a readily available, inexpensive, biodegradable, and disposable material – can remove bacteria from water by simple pressure-driven filtration. Approximately 3 cm of sapwood can filter water at the rate of several liters per day, sufficient to meet the clean drinking water needs of one person.

Caution: The wood must be freshly cut to be effective since the conduits in dried wood become blocked and don’t work as a filter. Read more:

Jackfruit Seeds

You can use Jackfruit seeds to naturally filter water; but you really should not use them to filter water that is heavily toxic or contaminated. Jackfruit seeds are better for adding minerals to your water and making it healthier. Jackfruit seeds add all sorts of vitamins, nutrients and minerals to your water. It is particularly full of nutrients that are beneficial to our immune system and health.

Solar disinfection

Solar disinfection of water is one of several household water treatment methods to effectively reduce the incidence of diarrheal illness. One method of using sunlight to disinfect water that is recommended by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is known as SODIS (Solar water Disinfection).  The SODIS method requires filling 1 or 2 L polyethylene terephthalate (PET plastic) bottles with water and then expose them to sunlight for at least 6 hours. In cloudy weather, longer exposure times of up to 48 hours may be necessary to achieve adequate disinfection. Note: Consider using clean glass bottles instead of plastic.

Lime (or Lemon) and Sun

Solar disinfection of water combined with almost any type of citrus is very effective at reducing dangerous E. coli levels, however limes seem to work best. A recent study published by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that adding limes to water that is being disinfected by the sun speeds up the disinfection process. The preliminary results of this study show solar disinfection of water combined with citrus could be effective at greatly reducing E. coli levels in just 30 minutes, a treatment time on par with boiling and other household water treatment methods. In addition, the 30 milliliters of juice per 2 liters of water amounts to about one-half Persian lime per bottle, a quantity that will likely not be prohibitively expensive or create an unpleasant flavor.” Caution: noroviruses are not removed. Read more:

Photos left to right by: Maria Peterson, Sigmund, Vinod Kumar, & Sri Lanka at Unsplash
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