How to Make a Salt Water Distiller out of Cans

How to Make a Salt Water Distiller out of Cans


There are lots of ways to make rudimentary distillation machines out of common household items.  However, most projects involve setting them up in fixed locations and using large containers.  Let’s take a look at how to apply similar principles to a more portable option.  This project can be helpful when you are looking for a way to get easier access to fresh water under difficult circumstances.

Basic Materials:

Large aluminum can

Soda can

Aquarium or similar flexible tubing

Glue gun


Rubber bands

Aluminum foil

Paper towel or thin cloth

Preparing the Salt Water Can


The first step is to remove the label and clean out the can.  Make sure the lid is removed and that any sharp, jagged pieces of metal have been smoothed over.   Next, fill the can with salt water and take a few squares of aluminum foil and place over the top.  You want to use the foil because any plastic lids can release toxic gases as well as melt as the salt water boils later.  If you have a metal lid, you could fashion that to fit and attach to the can as an alternative to foil.  However, you still want the foil to provide some insulation while promoting condensation.

Once you have the lid and foil attached to the can, poke a hole on the inner-side of the top.  The inner-side will be the one that is closest to the soda can once this project is put together.  You want the hole to be just big enough for the plastic tubing to go into.  Secure the foil/lid to the top of the can with a rubber band. 


Next, insert the tubing into the hole, but just about 1/3 of an inch down.  The tubing is there to transfer steam and water droplets into the soda can, so you want it as close to the top as possible.  Take the glue gun and seal it in place. 

Preparing the Soda Can


Clean and rinse out the soda can thoroughly because this will serve as the collector for the distilled water.  Place a couple of small sheets of foil above the opening in the top of the can and secure with a rubber band.  Carefully poke a hole in the foil over the opening for the other end of the aquarium tubing to slide into.  Repeat the process outlined above by sticking the tube inside of the can, but you can let it go in further than the other one.  Secure it in place with the glue gun and allow to dry.

Using the Unit


Place the salt water can over a small flame that is just intense enough to boil the water inside.  Set the soda can on a stable surface a foot or so away.  Moisten the aquarium tubing with a paper towel or cloth and wrap around the tubing. Keep this as moist as possible during the distillation process.  The moisture will cause the steam in the tubing to turn back into water before draining into the soda can.

You can scale this up or down as you like based on your preferences, and feel free to modify this project with other material.  The aim of this tutorial is to show how simple it is to make a rudimentary distillation unit that can be put together in just a few seconds.  Try it out for yourself, and see how effective this simple device can be for distilling salt water. 

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