If you’re curious about building your own solar still for water purification, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll guide you through the process step by step, making it easy to understand and follow along. Whether you’re looking to purify water for camping trips or simply exploring sustainable solutions, building a basic solar still is a practical and eco-friendly way to ensure access to clean water. Get ready to harness the power of the sun and embark on this exciting DIY project that will leave you with a reliable source of purified water.

Table of Contents

Materials and Tools

To build a basic solar still for water purification, you will need the following materials and tools:

Glass container

The glass container will serve as the collection point for the condensed water in the solar still. Ensure that the container is clean and free from any impurities or residues before use.

Plastic sheeting

Plastic sheeting will act as the cover for the solar still, trapping the evaporated water and allowing it to condense. Make sure the plastic sheeting is clear and free from any tears or holes to maximize its effectiveness.


A bucket will be used to collect the purified water that flows out from the solar still. Choose a bucket of suitable size that can hold an adequate amount of water.


Scissors will be necessary for cutting the plastic sheeting to the desired size and shape. Ensure that the scissors are sharp and suitable for cutting through the plastic material.

Duct tape

Duct tape will be used to secure the plastic sheeting to the glass container and create a tight seal. Make sure to choose a high-quality duct tape that is durable and weather-resistant.

Bricks or rocks

Bricks or rocks will be placed inside the solar still to create a slope, allowing the condensed water to flow towards the collection point. Choose bricks or rocks that are stable and can withstand the weight of the plastic sheeting.

Filtering material

Filtering material will be placed inside the solar still to enhance the purification process by removing any remaining impurities from the water. Consider using activated carbon or a combination of sand and charcoal as filtering material.

Water source

You will need access to a water source, such as a pond, lake, or river, to fill the solar still and initiate the purification process. Ensure that the water source is not contaminated with harmful substances or pollutants.

Marker or pen

A marker or pen will be used to mark measurements and guidelines on the plastic sheeting when cutting or attaching it to the glass container. Choose a marker or pen that is waterproof and can write on plastic surfaces.

Measuring tape

A measuring tape will be needed to measure the dimensions of the glass container and plastic sheeting accurately. Choose a measuring tape that is flexible and easy to read for precise measurements.

Preparing the Solar Still Setup

Before constructing the solar still, there are several preparatory steps to ensure the setup is effective:

Choose a suitable location

Selecting the right location for your solar still is crucial for optimal performance. Look for an area that receives ample sunlight throughout the day and has a flat surface to set up the still. Avoid shady or obstructed areas that may block sunlight.

Clean the glass container

Thoroughly clean the glass container with soap and water to remove any dirt, dust, or debris that may contaminate the purified water. Rinse the container thoroughly to ensure it is free from any residue.

Cut the plastic sheeting

Using the scissors, cut the plastic sheeting to fit the dimensions of the glass container. Leave enough excess plastic around the edges to allow for secure attachment to the container. Use the marker or pen to mark the measurements before cutting.

Attach the plastic sheeting to the container

Securely fasten the plastic sheeting to the glass container using duct tape. Ensure that the edges are tightly sealed to prevent any air or water leaks. Take care not to cover the opening of the container.

Create a slope for condensation

Place bricks or rocks inside the glass container to create a slope. This slope will enable the condensed water to flow towards the collection point. Ensure that the slope is gradual but steep enough for effective condensation.

Place bricks or rocks

Position bricks or rocks strategically around the solar still to keep the plastic sheeting taut and prevent it from sagging or touching the collected water. This will help maintain the efficiency of the solar still setup.

Create an outlet for purified water

Cut a small hole in the lower part of the glass container to create an outlet for the purified water. This outlet will allow the water to flow out into the collecting bucket. Ensure that the hole is small enough to prevent water leakage but sufficient for proper drainage.

Secure the plastic sheeting with duct tape

To ensure the plastic sheeting remains securely in place, use duct tape to reinforce the attachment points. Seal any gaps or loose edges, and ensure that the sheeting is taught across the glass container.

Collecting and Purifying Water

Once the solar still setup is prepared, it’s time to collect and purify water using the following steps:

Find a water source

Locate a nearby water source, such as a pond or lake, to fill the solar still. Ensure that the water source is clean and free from pollutants or contaminants that may affect the purification process.

Position the solar still

Place the solar still in the selected location, ensuring that it receives direct sunlight throughout the day. Position it on a flat surface and align it with the light source to maximize sunlight exposure.

Place the container in the center

Position the glass container in the center of the solar still, ensuring that it rests securely on top of the bricks or rocks. This will allow the condensed water to collect in the container.

Cover the surrounding area with plastic

Cover the area surrounding the solar still with additional plastic sheeting. This will create a barrier to prevent outside elements from contaminating the purified water and maintain the desired temperature within the still.

Add filtering material

Place the filtering material, such as activated carbon or a combination of sand and charcoal, at the bottom of the glass container. This filtering material will help remove any remaining impurities from the water as it condenses.

Cover the still with plastic sheeting

Carefully cover the entire solar still, including the glass container, with the prepared plastic sheeting. Ensure that it is tightly sealed and free from any gaps or openings to prevent air or water from escaping.

Monitor and collect the condensed water

As the sunlight heats up the water inside the solar still, condensation will occur on the plastic sheeting. Monitor the solar still regularly and collect the condensed water that drips down into the glass container through the outlet hole.

Maintaining and Improving Efficiency

To ensure the optimal performance of your solar still and improve its efficiency, follow these maintenance and improvement tips:

Regularly clean the glass container

Regularly clean the glass container, emptying and rinsing it to remove any accumulated impurities. This will help maintain the purity of the collected water and prevent any clogging or blockages.

Replace or clean the filtering material

Periodically replace or clean the filtering material to enhance the purification process. Over time, the filtering material may become saturated with impurities, reducing its effectiveness. Replace it when necessary or clean it thoroughly to remove any accumulated contaminants.

Optimize the slope for condensation

Observe the flow of condensed water within the solar still and adjust the slope created by the bricks or rocks if necessary. Optimize the slope to ensure that the water flows smoothly towards the outlet and collects efficiently in the glass container.

Maximize sunlight exposure

Regularly assess the position of the solar still to ensure it receives the maximum amount of sunlight throughout the day. Adjust its orientation or location as needed to align with the movement of the sun and optimize sunlight exposure.

Enhance insulation with reflective surfaces

To improve the efficiency of the solar still, consider adding reflective surfaces around the still’s surroundings. These surfaces, such as mirrors or aluminum foil, will reflect additional sunlight onto the plastic sheeting, increasing the temperature inside the still.

Add insulation to increase temperature

In colder climates or during nighttime, insulation can help maintain the temperature within the solar still. Covering the still with additional layers of insulation, such as blankets or additional plastic sheeting, will reduce heat loss and enhance the effectiveness of the still.

Consider adding a heat source

In situations where sunlight availability is limited, consider adding a separate heat source to aid the evaporation and condensation process. This can be achieved by placing a heat source, such as a small fire or heat lamp, near the solar still to provide additional warmth and increase water production.

Safety Precautions

Building and using a solar still for water purification comes with certain safety considerations. Keep the following precautions in mind:

Avoid drinking untreated water

Although the solar still purifies water, it is essential to avoid drinking the water without further treatment if you are unsure of its quality. Use additional methods such as boiling or chemical treatment to ensure complete water safety.

Take precautions against overheating

As the sun’s heat intensifies, monitor the solar still to prevent overheating. High temperatures can cause damage to the plastic sheeting or increase the risk of fire if there are any flammable materials nearby. Take necessary precautions to protect yourself and the surrounding environment from overheating.

Ensure proper material handling

When working with the glass container and plastic sheeting, handle them with care to avoid any cuts or injuries. Use gloves or other protective equipment as needed, and dispose of any broken glass or sharp plastic safely to prevent accidents.

Be mindful of sharp objects

When placing bricks or rocks inside the solar still, be cautious of any sharp edges that may puncture or tear the plastic sheeting. Choose smooth and stable objects to minimize the risk of accidents or damage.

Protect against extreme weather conditions

During severe weather conditions, such as strong winds or heavy rain, take measures to protect the solar still. Secure the plastic sheeting, reinforce the attachments, and consider moving the solar still to a more sheltered location to prevent damage or displacement.

Benefits and Limitations

Understanding the benefits and limitations of using a solar still for water purification is crucial. Consider the following:

Solar stills are eco-friendly

Solar stills utilize renewable energy from the sun, making them an environmentally friendly method of water purification. They do not require complex equipment or electricity, reducing the carbon footprint associated with other water treatment methods.

Can provide clean drinking water in emergency situations

In emergency situations where access to clean water is limited or compromised, a solar still can be a valuable tool for producing drinkable water. It offers a simple and effective method of purifying water without relying on external resources.

No need for complex equipment or electricity

One of the significant advantages of a basic solar still is its simplicity. It does not require any specialized or complex equipment, making it accessible to individuals in various situations and environments. Furthermore, it operates solely on solar energy, eliminating the need for electricity.

Limited water production capacity

One limitation of a basic solar still is its relatively limited water production capacity. Depending on its size and weather conditions, a solar still may only produce a small amount of purified water over a given period. This may not be sufficient to meet the water needs of a larger group or during times of high water demand.

Effectiveness depends on sunlight availability

The effectiveness of a solar still depends on the availability of direct sunlight. Cloudy or overcast weather can significantly impact the still’s performance and reduce the amount of purified water produced. Therefore, it may not be the most reliable method in areas with prolonged periods of low sunlight.

May not remove certain contaminants

While solar stills can remove many impurities and contaminants through the evaporation and condensation process, they may not effectively remove certain contaminants. Some minerals, chemicals, or pathogens may not be eliminated, requiring additional treatment methods to ensure water safety.

Comparing Solar Stills with Other Methods

When considering water treatment methods, it is beneficial to compare solar stills with alternative options. Here are some key comparisons:

Distillation vs. other water treatment methods

Distillation, the process utilized by solar stills, is known for its effectiveness in removing impurities from water. When compared to other methods such as filtration, chemical treatment, or UV sterilization, distillation offers a reliable means of water purification. However, it may be slower and less practical in terms of water production.

Solar stills vs. water filters or purifiers

Water filters and purifiers are commonly used for water treatment, especially during outdoor activities or emergencies. While they may be quicker and more compact than solar stills, they often require replacement filters, batteries, or electricity. Solar stills offer a sustainable and cost-effective alternative, as they rely solely on sunlight for operation.

Solar stills vs. boiling water

Boiling water is a traditional method of water purification, particularly in situations where access to modern equipment is limited. Boiling water can effectively kill most pathogens and microorganisms, making it a reliable method. However, it does not remove impurities or contaminants other than biological agents. Solar stills provide a comprehensive purification process that removes both biological and chemical impurities.

Considerations for specific situations or environments

Different situations or environments may call for specific water treatment methods. In areas with limited access to reliable electricity or resources, solar stills offer a sustainable and accessible solution. However, in situations where large volumes of water need to be treated quickly, alternative methods such as filtration or chemical treatment may be more practical.

Alternative Solar Still Designs

In addition to the basic solar still design, several alternative designs can enhance water production or suit specific needs:

Multi-stage solar stills

Multi-stage solar stills consist of multiple interconnected stills, allowing water to undergo multiple cycles of evaporation and condensation. This design increases overall water production and may improve the efficiency of the purification process.

Wick-type solar stills

Wick-type solar stills use a wick material, such as cotton or cloth, to draw up water from a water source. As the water evaporates, it condenses on the plastic sheeting and drips into a collection container. This design can increase the water production rate compared to a basic solar still.

Solar stills with integrated solar panels

Solar stills with integrated solar panels utilize both a traditional solar still setup and solar panels. These panels generate electricity, which can power additional components such as fans or pumps to increase water circulation and production.

Improvised solar still designs

In situations where resources or materials are limited, improvisation may be necessary. Improvised solar stills can be constructed using locally available materials, such as plastic bottles, buckets, or even natural materials like leaves or bamboo. These designs may not be as efficient or consistent as traditional solar stills but can still offer a means of water purification in emergencies.

Applications and Uses

Solar stills have various applications and uses in different scenarios and environments. Consider the following:

Emergency situations and survival scenarios

In emergency situations, such as natural disasters or when stranded without access to clean water, a solar still can provide a means of producing drinkable water. Its simplicity and reliance on renewable energy make it a valuable tool for disaster preparedness and survival.

Outdoor adventures and camping trips

For outdoor enthusiasts, a solar still can serve as a reliable source of clean water during camping trips or hikes. Its lightweight and portable design make it easy to carry, and the reliance on sunlight eliminates the need to carry additional resources like filters or purifying tablets.

Developing countries and remote communities

In developing countries or remote communities with limited access to clean water or electricity, solar stills offer a sustainable and cost-effective solution. They can be easily constructed using locally available materials and provide a reliable source of purified water.

Educational purposes and science experiments

Solar stills can be utilized in educational settings to teach students about principles of evaporation, condensation, and water purification. Building and experimenting with solar stills can offer hands-on learning opportunities and foster an understanding of sustainable technologies.


Building a basic solar still for water purification is a simple and efficient method that can be easily implemented in various situations. By following the outlined steps and considering the benefits, limitations, and alternative designs, you can create a solar still that provides a reliable source of clean drinking water. Remember to prioritize safety, regularly maintain the still, and consider the specific needs and environmental conditions for optimal performance. With a basic solar still, you can confidently purify water and ensure its availability in emergency situations, outdoor adventures, or community settings.

By avysurvival

Hi! I'm Avy, the author behind Survival Active. As someone deeply passionate about survival and preparedness, I'm here to provide you with the best tips, tricks, and gear recommendations to help you face any challenge that comes your way. My goal is to equip you with the knowledge and resources needed to protect yourself, your loved ones, your health, and all that you hold dear. With my thorough product reviews and expert advice, you'll feel confident and prepared in any situation. Join me on this journey to mastery and discover the secrets of survival at Survival Active.