How to Turn Salt Water into Drinking Water

Even though you can’t drink salt water, otherwise known as saline water, what you can do is turn it into fresh water, through a process called desalination. This process is being used more and more as a viable means to get freshwater for those who need it. It’s also very applicable in a survival or grid down scenario where freshwater may not be so available.

Throughout most of the United States, the overwhelming majority of people are able to access more than enough freshwater.  However, in some areas of the country, freshwater is in shorter supply. With the population of the country growing, this means that freshwater shortages could become more prevalent, making it a major issue our country and other countries could face.

As a result of our freshwater supplies becoming more strained, seawater is becoming more of an important resource across the globe.  Many nations have debated the use of renewable-powered, solar desalination power plants and several have already begun to set them up.  Only time will tell if these power plants are successful or not.


It’s ultimately more dangerous to drink high quantities of saline or salt water than it is to not drink it at all. Consuming excessive amounts of salt can destroy the kidneys. The human kidneys are simply not designed to be able to handle such a large volume of salt. Furthermore, a large intake of salt makes you thirstier, and could cause you to want to drink more saline water.  For every gallon of salt water that you drink you’ll need to drink at least one gallon of freshwater to ‘get back to normal’ so to speak.

When your body does not receive the freshwater it needs, it starts to shut down beginning with your internal organs and then your brain. Once your brain becomes affected, you will begin to lose your normal mental cognition, start hallucinating, and maybe even go crazy. If you get literally no freshwater into your body, you can die in about three days.

To put it in broader terms, drinking large volumes of saline water without getting any freshwater into your body only increases the speed of dehydration. If you’re out in the sun and sweating while this happens, then the process of dehydration occurs even faster.

This is why it is such a valuable skill to be able to turn saline/salt water into freshwater. Desalination is easily your best defense against dehydration if you have nearly unlimited access to salt water but absolutely no access to fresh water.

Unfortunately, turning saline water into freshwater is a skill that not very many people know. But it’s also an incredibly simple skill, at least in theory. The reason why this skill could be considered ‘simple’ is because all that it involves is removing the dissolved salt in the saline water in order to make it freshwater. The only thing that makes this process not so simple is the actual process for doing it.

Fortunately, we’re going to teach you three different methods for how you can turn saline water into fresh water. Anyone who lives in or near an area close to the coast should absolutely learn desalination. If you lack access to rivers and lakes or if you encounter a drought, gathering water from the ocean may be your only realistic option. In this scenario, it could very well be that this skill is what saves your life.


Saline water is defined as water that contains a significant concentration of dissolved salt. The concentration of salt is measured by the weight of the salt in the water, or parts per million (abbreviated as PPM).
If the water has a concentration of around ten thousand PPM of dissolved salt in it, then that means that at least one percent of the total weight of the water has come from those dissolved salts.
Here is how water is classified in regards to PPM:

  • 1,000 PPM or Less = Fresh Water
  • 1,000 PPM – 3,000 PPM = Slightly Saline Water
  • 3,000 PPM – 10,000 PPM = Moderate Saline Water
  • 10,000 PPM to 35,000 PPM (and beyond) = Heavy Saline Water

You might be wondering what category oceans fall into out of these four categories. Oceans have a concentration of at least 35,000 PPM, meaning that they are heavy in saline water. But since the three methods of converting saline water into fresh water works for saline water from the oceans, you can take comfort in knowing that it will work for all of the other categories as well.

Next, let’s start with our first of three methods for turning salt water into fresh water:


This method is the most commonly used of our three methods, which is why we will discuss it first. To do this method properly, use the following steps:

  1. Make sure that you have enough sunlight for an extended period of time, since this process will take several hours to complete.
  1. Collect your desired amount of salt water in a watertight bowl, but do not fill up the bowl all the way.
  1. Place a smaller cup into the center of the bowl slowly, so that none of the salt water splashes or gets into the cup; if this happens, the fresh water will be contaminated as it is collected and you’ll need to get a new cup.
  1. Ensure that the lip of this container remains firmly above the water as well.
  1. Cover the entire bowl with a sturdy type of plastic wrap, but without making the plastic wrap too loose or too tight.
  1. Confirm that the plastic wrap is completely airtight with absolutely no holes, slits, or escape points whatsoever.
  1. Seal the plastic wrap around the rim of your main bowl.
  1. Place a weight of some kind, such as a small rock, in the middle of the plastic wrap and right above the cup in the middle of the bowl; if the weight is too heavy, it will tear through the plastic wrap and you’ll have to start over.
  1. This will result in your plastic wrap dipping towards the center, so that fresh water can more easily drip into your cup.
  1. Next, take everything that you have so far and place it under the direct sunlight. The sunlight will heat the water and you’ll see condensation begin to form underneath the plastic wrap.
  1. The droplets of fresh water forming underneath the plastic wrap will then slowly but steadily drip into your cup.
  1. Within a few hours, you should begin to have enough water in your plastic cup to drink.

You can repeat this process as often as you want until you get your desired amount of water. The freshwater that forms out of this method is also completely desalinated and therefore safe to drink.

A good visual demonstration of this method can be found here:

Solar Water Distiller


Using this salt water to freshwater conversion method, you’ll be able to get more freshwater than with the previous method. But the trade-off is that this method requires you to use a little more energy to do it.  However, if you’re desperate for water, then expending that little bit of extra energy may be worth it.

Here is a step-by-step process for completing the evaporation distillation method properly:

  1. Take a metal bottle with a cork, and make a hole in the cork that is big enough for tubing to fit into.
  1. Fill the bottle with saline water, but leave a little space near the top, just like with the bowl of the previous method.
  1. Place your tube through your cork until it reaches the bottom part of the cork.
  1. Place the cork with the tubing through it into the top of your bottle.
  1. Run your tubing to another container or bottle that is shorter in height than your first bottle.
  1. Place the bottle over a source of heat, but be sure that the tubing does not get excessively hot.
  1. The water in your bottle should begin to boil and steam should form.
  1. The steam should then travel through the tubing and will convert into water when it drops out of the end of your tube and into the new container.

As with the previous method, the water in the new container will be completely desalinated and safe for drinking.

Simple Water Distillation for Bushcraft and Survival


The third and final method, we will explore for turning salt water into drinking water, is the pot and stove method:

  1. Take a large pot that has a lid and an empty water glass or metal cup. The glass should be short enough so that you can put the lid over the pot.
  1. It is advisable to use a Pyrex cup or metal cup; plastic cups will melt. Other types of glass could possibly blow up when they are exposed to intense heat.
  1. Pour salt water into the pot, but as with the previous method, leave some empty space near the top.
  1. Either before or after you pour in the salt water, place the cup into the pot as well. Make sure that absolutely no saline water gets into the cup, otherwise, your fresh water will become contaminated.
  1. Place the pot on your stove over a moderate to low heat and wait until the water boils. A slow boil is better than a rapid boil to prevent any of the salt water from getting into your cup.
  1. Turn the lid for the pot upside down, so that when the water vapor condenses onto the lid, it will more easily drip into the glass.
  1. The pot lid needs to be positioned so that its handle is hovering directly over the cup.
  1. If the upside down lid is not already sealed over the edges of the pot, seal it. If it’s not sealed, much of the steam, and along with it the freshwater, will escape.
  1. Within about twenty to thirty minutes, there should be enough water inside your glass to drink.
  1. Use an oven mitt or towel to remove the pot from the stove and wait before touching anything. Both the glass and the water inside will be extremely hot.
  1. When removing the glass, be careful that none of the remaining salt water in the pot gets into your glass.

Drink the water when it has cooled down to an acceptable temperature.  You can watch a visual demonstration of this method here:

Homemade Water Distiller - DIY - Stove Top "Pure Water" Still - EASY instructions!


What’s ironic about Earth is how water is in great abundance all around us, but less than a percent of it is actually safe to drink. As we discussed earlier in this article, drinking salt water can cause kidney failure, rapid dehydration, and can even lead to death. This is why it is so important that you know how you can convert salt water into safe for drinking freshwater when you only have access to salt water. Not only can learning this skill save your life, but it could save the lives of your family members as well.

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4 thoughts on “How to Turn Salt Water into Drinking Water”

    • the second 2 for sure the 1st method probably salt and sugar both impede the growth of bacteria .virals plus other stuff giardia are mostly fresh water issues and contaminates in sea water would be more likely near the mouths of waterways but if your that close to fresh water you would probably just boil it


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