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How to Turn Saltwater Into Drinking Water

Water is important to your body. The earth is roughly about 72% covered in water. But 97% of the water is undrinkable salt water. It can cause severe dehydration. But what if the only water source you have is salt water? How can you turn saltwater into drinking water?

In this article, you will discover how to turn saltwater into drinking water

  • Using the cup in a bowl method
  • Using the “Alcohol” filtration setup

How to Turn Saltwater Into Drinking Water

Probably all of us would love to make our own clean supply of water. Nothing beats the fulfillment of drinking your self-prepared clean water. Usually, we use waterfilters to clean our own drawn water from tap, river, or lakes.

But what if the only available water source is saltwater? Saltwater contains salt and the more you drink it the more dehydrated you become. We should be prepared in times like this. Learning how to turn saltwater into drinking water is definitely a good survival skill. We won’t know when we’ll be in a situation where the only water supply is saltwater.

First off, how do we turn saltwater into drinking water? Simple. We just have to separate the water from the salt, filter it and its drinkable. This process is called desalination. And there are various ways to make this happen. You can apply evaporation to separate water from salt using heat energy.

Here’s how:

Method 1: of how to turn saltwater into drinking water

The Cup in a Bowl Method

how to turn saltwater into drinking water using cup in a bowl method

One of the most popular methods to turn saltwater into drinking water is the “Cup in a bowl” method. This method is really simple. You can also use different variations for the setup. It all depends on what materials are available to you. In this article, we’ll use the common materials. You can also use different materials but just make sure it will work. Now let’s run down the cup in a bowl method. First, you need your materials to turn saltwater into drinking water.


  • A large glass bowl – glass heats up very quickly. This helps water evaporate quickly. Helping you acquire drinking water a bit faster. You can also use materials that heat quickly like aluminum when you don’t have glass.
  • A mug or cup – this will be the container for your drinking water. Make sure that this will fit into the large glass bowl.
  • Plastic cling wrap – this will help trap evaporated water from the setup. A loose plastic cling wrap is highly likely to cause your drinking water to escape while in vapor form.
  • Small weight like a stone – This will help direct your drinking water to your mug.


1) The first thing you will need is your saltwater. If you live near the sea then just take a cup of saltwater. Otherwise, as substitute mix water with salt. Make sure that the water is salty enough like a normal saltwater.

2) Now for the setup.

  • Pour your saltwater into the large bowl and the mug in the middle of the large bowl. The large bowl will hold the salt while the mug will gather the evaporated water.
  • Wrap the setup with the plastic cling wrap. The cling wrap will prevent drinking water from escaping the setup.
  • Put the stone above the cup. This will cause the plastic wrap to form a valley-like shape. This will help redirect the collected water from the plastic wrap to the center of the mug.

Your setup should look like this:

Cup in a bowl water filtration setup
I didn’t have a clear plastic wrap so I used a white one.

3) Place the setup in direct sunlight for three to four hours. Let the sun do the work and you will notice after some time that water droplets form in the plastic wrap. This is because the water vapor condenses due to humidity. Over time this water droplets accumulate and when it gets heavy enough goes down into the mug.

4) Enjoy your drinking water!

If you’re still confused about how it works you can check out this video:

Additional Notes:

There are other ways you can recreate this setup. This all depends on what materials you have or what you prefer. For example, you can use fire (if you have one) as a replacement for solar energy. This makes the process a lot faster. BUT you also have to change the other materials. If you’re gonna use fire then make sure your bowl can resist heat. Besides that, you can also use a cooking pot as a substitute for this setup. The setup is still the same but instead of using plastic wrap you can use the lid of the cooking pot. Cooking pot lids are usually curved. Place it upside down on the setup and make sure that the lowest point of the lid is directly above the cup.

Also, interesting to read: How Do You Store Water Long-Term?

Method 2: on how to turn saltwater into drinking water

“Alcohol” Filtration Setup

Water filtration using alcohol

I’ve done Alcohol Filtration/Distillation setup using alcohol components during one of my Chemistry class. Similarly, the theory is still the same. You heat up the saltwater and because water boils faster it will vaporize a lot quicker separating itself from the salt. As a result, you will have drinking water due to the separation.


  • Heat-resistant bottle
  • Cork or rubber seal
  • Tubing
  • Catch basin
  • Source of heat


1) First, make a hole in the cork just enough so that the tubing can fit in.

2) Pour your saltwater in the bottle. Make sure it’s not completely filled up.

3) Put your tubing inside the hole in the cork. Make sure it is airtight so that no water can escape. After that place the cork on top of the bottle containing the saltwater.

Your setup should look the same like this:

turn saltwater into drinking using alcohol filtration setup


The materials are different but the setup is the same. The bottle should be elevated to make space for your heat source. While the tubing should be slanted down if possible. This is to help the drinking water to freely flow downwards into the catch basin.


4) Place your catch basin below the level of the placement of the bottle. It’s important that the catch basin should be leveled lower so that the water will pour into the catch basin and not back into the bottle.

5) Place your bottle with saltwater on your source of heat. Make sure that the tubing isn’t near the source of heat or it will ruin the setup.

6) Lastly, wait for the saltwater to boil and watch as the steam from the bottle gets inside the tubing, turns back into water, and then goes to your catch basin.

Similarly, you can use a teapot as a substitute for the bottle if your tubing fits into the spout.

This is how the teapot setup works:


There you have it, some of the methods you can use to turn saltwater into drinking water. There are also other methods like solar-powered desalination unit. It’s a larger version of the cup in a bowl method. Because they are being sold by companies, I didn’t discuss it here. But you can also make homemade ones with a bit of planning, funding, and research. Reverse osmosis can also help desalinate water. The expenses and materials needed thou is not something we can easily build.

You can also alter the setup so that it can fit with the materials you have. We should be quick-thinking and adaptable to our changing environment. You don’t know what will happen and you might not have all the usual materials you need to turn saltwater into drinking water. As a result, you may end up in a bad situation. Therefore, You have to be resourceful. As long as you stick to the desalination theory, most likely, it will work. You might even come up with a unique method of your own!

What do you think?

Written by Jake Obguia

I love the outdoor life! I grew up in a city and never went out that much. When I was 13 years old, we moved to the countryside. Right then, I found a lifestyle that I loved. I made friends with country boys and they taught me how to fish, raise livestock, pick fruits and plants without the aid of technology. I now enjoy exploring mountains, looking for majestic lakes or river to swim, and camping out.


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