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How to make salt water drinkable by desalination still

Updated on June 2, 2013

Salt water, as we all know is undrinkable unless the salt can be extracted out of the water. Drinking salt water can be deadly, it will shut down your organs if you ever choose to do so. So who knows if you will ever need it, but below is an easy way to set up your own salt water still with very little material, many you could hopefully have or find where ever you are. All you need is a few rocks, a piece of plastic or like material, a water-tight collection container and some salt water.


The how is really easy. Follow the steps and with a little sunshine and heat, you would have drinking water in about 12 hours. (I said it would be easy, not quick.)

Dig a hole. Depth of at least 2 feet and 2-3 feet across.

Pour salt water in the hole.

Put the container on the bottom of the hole.

Cover the hole with plastic like material.

Place rocks on edge of plastic to hold it down. ( Sand can also be used to get a nice seal on hole.)

Wait while the sun does the work.


As the salt water evaporates, the salt will be lost and when the condensation hits the plastic, it will reform as fresh water that drips back down into the container. An average still will produce about 1/2 a liter of fresh water on a clear day, way below needed daily consumptions. If in a real survival situation where no fresh water can be found, many stills could be set up to produce all your water drinking needs.

Another way to set up the same type of desalination set-up will speed up the process, but more materials are needed. First you must start a fire under a tube tent like plastic structure above it. The fire must be small enough to not burn the plastic. You will also need to set up a metal pot or cup of salt water boiling directly in the fire. Also you will need two collection cups on each side of the plastic tenting on the inside, with a few stones to get the condensation to run off into your collection cups. This is the same principal as the first homemade desalination still, however the boiling water will make this process a lot faster. Hopefully you will never have to use these ideas, however the knowledge could save your life one day.


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    • kaiyan717 profile image

      kaiyan717 5 years ago from West Virginia

      I have not found that to be so. It tends to add too much slack and presents openings where the condensation will just evaporate out. It seems like when the condensation collects it will add weight on its own and then finds the middle naturally. I have seen it done with the extra rock, however I have found it un-needed. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • John Holden profile image

      John Holden 5 years ago

      Shouldn't you also place a rock in the centre of your plastic sheet, over the container, to ensure that your condensate actually drips into it?