Recipe For Safer Drinking Water? Add Sun, Salt And Lime (2024)

Pakistani boys collect water from a hand pump on the outskirts of Islamabad. Anjum Naveed/AP hide caption

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Anjum Naveed/AP

Recipe For Safer Drinking Water? Add Sun, Salt And Lime (2)

Pakistani boys collect water from a hand pump on the outskirts of Islamabad.

Anjum Naveed/AP

Sun, salt and lime sounds like the beginnings of a co*cktail recipe, but for some, it could mean cleaner, life-sustaining water.

In many developing countries, the only source of water is contaminated with viruses and bacteria. In fact, the United Nations estimates that 1 in 6 people don't have access to enough fresh drinking water.

Pouring water into clear plastic bottles and placing them in the sun can kill disease causing organisms in about six hours. It's a simple and cheap method that's been around forever, and it helps. (Who says sun tea isn't safe?)

But there's a hitch – the water has to be clear enough for the sun's rays to penetrate – and much of the world's water supply is murky from the clay soils in riverbeds and lake bottoms that mix with the water. Enter the scientists.

"Basically, you need to be able to read a newspaper through it. That means it's clear enough for the UV radiation to penetrate and kill the pathogens. If you can't see through it, it just won't work," explains Joshua Pierce, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Michigan Tech.

Pierce and his colleagues discovered that by adding a little table salt to this murky water, they could get the particles of clay to stick together and settle to the bottom, making the water clear enough to purify using the solar disinfection method. They also found that the addition of salt works best for certain kinds of clay soils, namely bentonite, and not so well with others. But when they added a little bentonite along with salt to water that contained other types of clay soils, it worked just as well.

Pierce says the method works because bentonite clays have an electrostatic charge – which makes them attracted to the charged ions in the salt. When bentonite is mixed with other particles, they stick together, and the salt pulls everything out of the water.

"So basically you add dirt and salt, to make the water cleaner?" I asked him.

"Right," said Pierce laughing, "It's not exactly intuitive."

Perhaps not so intuitive to the average person, but it's a process that may be more familiar to makers of wine, where bentonite is commonly used to clarify wine of impurities.

Drinking salty water may not sound all that healthy — or tasty, but Pierce says compared to the health risks posed by pathogens in dirty water, the taste and the health effects of a little added salt are not a big deal. He says in most cases the amount of salt is less than what is found in Gatorade – and by most people's standards — drinkable.

And if the salty water isn't all that palatable – or you're in a rush - perhaps a twist of lime will do the trick. A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reports that adding lime juice to water before placing it in the sun removed detectable levels of harmful bacteria such as E. coli significantly faster than solar disinfection alone.

Kellogg Schwab, director of the Johns Hopkins University Global Water Program and one of the study's authors, explains that chemicals called psoralens present in limes and other fruits and vegetables have been known to kill pathogens in blood for some time, so why not water?

Schwab and medical student Alexander Harding discovered that adding a half a Persian lime to a two-liter bottle of water reduced the disinfection time in the sun from six hours to a half an hour. That's just about the same amount of time it takes to boil water, and much more energy efficient.

"It's a relatively simple add-on to a treatment that's already widely accepted," Schwab said.

Schwab says that Psoralens are present in varying degrees in a variety of citrus fruits – and are concentrated mostly in the skin. And although Persian limes may not be available everywhere, he doesn't rule out the possibility that other indigenous sources of psoralens could be used.

But the method is imperfect – while it was a very effective killer of the bacteria E. coli, the lime juice did not seem to have any effect on diarrhea-causing viruses like the norovirus. When in doubt, Schwab says, just leave it in the sun longer.

Recipe For Safer Drinking Water? Add Sun, Salt And Lime (2024)


Recipe For Safer Drinking Water? Add Sun, Salt And Lime? ›

Add Sun, Salt And Lime : The Salt Adding dirt and salt can help make drinking water cleaner, and is far cheaper than fancy filtration systems for getting rid of harmful bacteria, scientists say. It just takes a little patience and the sun.

Is water with lime and salt good for you? ›

The complementary combination of lime water and salt help your body digest food, absorb nutrients, and contribute to natural weight loss.

How do you disinfect water with sunlight? ›

Water poured into clear or blue polyethylene terephthalate water bottles (glass bottles also can be used) is exposed to sunlight for at least 6 hours, or up to 48 hours in cloudy weather. The heat and ultraviolet radiation of the sunlight kill bacteria and protozoan parasites and inactivate assorted viruses.

How can I make water safe to drink at home? ›

Boil water, if you do not have bottled water. Boiling is sufficient to kill pathogenic bacteria, viruses and protozoa (WHO, 2015). If water is cloudy, let it settle and filter it through a clean cloth, paperboiling water towel, or coffee filter. Bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute.

Can I drink water with salt and lemon everyday? ›

This is why starting off your day with water, salt, and lemon works great. This combination helps to hydrate you, get minerals in, and start your digestive system for the day,” Mandell said in a video on thelineremedies page. The combination cuts down inflammation, improves digestion, and rejuvenates, added Dr Mandell.

What happens if we drink lemon water with salt daily? ›

One of the benefits of starting your day with a glass of lemon salt water is that it may help support digestion and prevent constipation. Dehydration is one of the main causes of constipation, so staying well hydrated by drinking lemon water with salt can help prevent this from occurring.

What are the 3 methods for disinfecting drinking water? ›

Water disinfection methods that can be applied in the field include use of heat, clarification, filtration, chemical disinfection, and ultraviolet radiation (UVR).

Does adding salt to water purify it? ›

Add Sun, Salt And Lime : The Salt Adding dirt and salt can help make drinking water cleaner, and is far cheaper than fancy filtration systems for getting rid of harmful bacteria, scientists say. It just takes a little patience and the sun.

How long does it take for sunlight to purify water? ›

6 hours

Why shouldn't you drink water that's been in the Sun? ›

Why you shouldn't drink bottled water exposed to heat. Scientists who specialize in plastics explain that the hotter a bottle of water gets, the more toxic chemicals inside of the plastics leak out into the water they hold.

Is sun charged water good for health? ›

Sun-charged water has anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties, which is great for the body as well as for the skin. Drinking this water daily can even help in curing digestive issues such as heartburn, ulcers, and also improve gut health.

What does direct sunlight do to bottled water? ›

The exposure of bottled water to sunlight leaches heavy metals into the water, thereby deteriorating its quality and this informed the study. Three plastic bottle brands (n = 100 per brand) were exposed to sunlight for different durations. The leaching of contaminants was exposure duration dependent.

What do they add to water to make it safe to drink? ›

The most common chemical disinfectant preparations use chlorine such as Chlorine Dioxide (chemical symbol ClO2). It is simple to use and is available in liquid or tablet form. It is non-toxic and effective at killing most bacteria and viruses.

What is the best thing to put in water to drink? ›

Enhance water with fresh mint leaves, basil, ginger, rosemary or cilantro.

What is the safest water to drink? ›

Tap water is the most convenient and cost-effective type of water to drink, but it may contain harmful chemicals and pollutants. Mineral, structured, and pure spring water are some of the healthiest water you can drink because they're clean and contain all the essential minerals your body needs.

Is it OK to drink lime water everyday? ›

If you have a tendency toward kidney stones, you'd benefit from drinking lime water every day. Citrate — which is found in lime juice — has been shown to dissolve kidney stones and prevent them from forming. The vitamin C and antioxidants found in limes are also known to reduce stress on the heart.

Does lime and salt burn belly fat? ›

Remedies like lime salt don't help weight loss. Lime water could help flush out your system and act as a detox which definitely will help better digestion and metabolism. This will aid in your efforts to lose weight but not burn fat on its own. You have to eat the right foods at the right time.

What happens when you mix lime and salt? ›

Because of the presence of citric acid, the lime juice & salt mixture will be slightly acidic. It will be tart (sour) and salty, to taste.

Why do people use lime and salt when drinking? ›

These days, salt and lime are added to enhance the flavor of the drink. Back in those days, it was very much used to mask the flavor and make tequila palatable. Tequila was not always the delicious spirit you know and love and today.

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