Can tampons be used for water filtration?

You are out in the wild almost dying of thirst – and then you stumble upon a spring of water. But alas! you didn’t carry your portable water filter with you! Just as you are about to risk drinking unfiltered water, you remember reading on a blog that you can use a tampon to filter water. Day saved! Or is it?

How does a tampon filter water?

A typical tampon consists of three parts: an applicator made out of materials like plastic or heavy cardboard materials to protect the actual tampon, a string to enable insertion and removal, and a piece of tightly packed cotton usually for different levels of absorbance. If you were out in the wild for days without clean water, a tampon could literally save your life. The only other item to this camper’s trick is an airtight bottle, eg. a 500ml plastic soda bottle. Here is what to do;

  • Cork your bottle tightly and then cut it in half to make a funnel
  • Push your tampon to the bottleneck until it is tightly positioned
  • Prick a small hole in the bottle and then allow your water to decant slowly into a cup or the other half o f the bottle that you cut
  • it will take some time but the result with be clear water that is completely free of all debris and dirt. .

Are there any risks to using a tampon to filter water?

A tampon filter will not remove heavy metals, bacteria, and other microorganisms from the water. It is only good for removing visible dirt. As tempting as it might be chug your cup of tampon-filtered water, boil it first to kill any diseases causing microorganisms in the water. if you are in full survival mode with no options, then you can drink the water but if you can wait, it is better to boil the water first.

The following are some of the contaminants that your tampon water filter may not be able to eliminate from the water.

  • Bacteria: Not all bacteria are pathogens but the ones which are can be extremely harmful to the body. A bacterial infection such as a urinary tract infection or strep throat can result from drinking water that might look clean but is actually filled with these microscopic organisms. These diseases are cured by taking antibiotics. I cannot emphasize enough that you seek medical assistant If your water elicits physical symptoms such as
  • Viruses: Viruses are other pathogens that can be found in water and they are known to cause all manner of viral infections. Although viral infections due to drinking contaminated water are not as common as bacterial infections, they still occur so it is best to be safe than to be sorry.
  • Fungi: Studies have shown that when you drink water that is contaminated with fungi, you could suffer from a variety of allergies, intoxication, and a horde of fungal opportunistic infections
  • Parasites: Cryptosporidiosis and Giardiasis are the commonest parasitic infections that you can suffer from drinking contaminated water. The CDC warns against drinking contaminated water as it has been identified as the leading cause for Guinea worm, schistosomiasis, amebiasis, cryptosporidiosis (Crypto), and giardiasis 

How else can you purify water in the wild?

  • Boiling – Experts advise that you should bring the water to a boil and keep it rolling for one minute to kill all pathogens. No pathogen can survive high temperatures so boiled water is completely safe.
  • Chlorination – Adding just a few drops of bleach with minuscule percentages (5%) of chlorine into the unpurified water will kill all pathogens. To avoid using too much chlorine, always keep some chlorine tablets handy which you can use to purify your water.
  • Sunlight- fetch your water in a clear bottle and place it out in the sun for a full day. The UV rays from the sun will kill the microorganisms and the water will be safe for drinking. obviously, this method will not remove the suspended solids and other visible debris.

Final thoughts

The next time you are looking for a source of drinking water when camping, don’t write off that muddy creek just yet. If you have a tampon, you can use it to filter the water and then purify it further by boiling, in the sun or by using chlorine tablets. By combining a tampon filter and another filtration system, you will have very safe drinking water so dehydration won’t ruin your trip 🙂