Can You Boil Salt Water To Make It Drinkable? (The Complete Answer!)

A human can survive up to about 3 weeks if they have access to drinking water, but no food (this will depend on how much fat the person has).  However, a human will almost surely die within a week if they don’t have access to water! This puts water at the highest priority for any kind of survival situation when you’re out in the wild regardless of what else is happening. If you don’t have enough water you will also start to tire out early, you may hallucinate, and you won’t be thinking clearly. In times of emergency, you will want to make sure you and your family have sufficient access to purified, distilled (or fresh) drinking water!

Can You Boil Salt Water To Make It Drinkable?

No, boiling salt water will not make it drinkable since it will not remove the salt content within the water! It’s very dangerous to drink even a little salt water due to the concentration of salt. You can even hallucinate if you drink too much (not a good idea for recreational drug users, stick to plants). 

Boiling the water, however, is a good idea since it will remove lots of bacteria in the water which will almost definitely make you sick if you drank it! So if you do collect salt water with the intent to drink it, we recommend you boil it a few times to be safe.

To remove the drinking water you can also use drinking tablets like this product here. You can also use a water purification filter as well if you don’t trust tablets! If you’re looking for other tools that will make survival easier, check our multi-tool blog here!

How To Remove Salt From Saltwater

You will have to make a system where you can evaporate and collect the water so you can separate it from the salt. Salt is heavier than water and can’t be evaporated so the water that is evaporated will be salt-free!

Most bacteria, viruses, pathogens, and protozoa (99%) will die off once the temperature reaches or above 158°F. Saltwater will boil at 212°F, so if the water is boiling, it means the things that can make you sick are almost definitely dead!

If you do have a bunch of salt water you need to desalinate, the best and easiest method is purchasing a water desalinator like this one here. For this method, you should pack a couple of large tarps, or plastic sheets to accomplish the job, make sure they are bigger than the hole you need to cover so you won’t run out of space. As for the container, you should get something with a wide mouth that can hold a decent amount of water. You will want to let it run the whole day without having to empty the container part of the way through for maximum results. You should also try to leave the water trap undisturbed for as long as possible so you don’t waste any droplets. After it gets cooler and the sun goes down you can collect your water and reset the trap for the next day!

However, if you do not have a desalinator, you will need a shovel (optional), a bucket or Widemouth container, two large waterproof sheets (like plastic), and a few rocks or heavy items to hold down the tarp.

  1. Dig a fairly large hole (about 3ft by 3ft).
  2. Line the whole with one of the plastic sheets.
  3. Pour the water into the whole (the sheet should prevent the water from leaking into the ground).
  4. Place the container in the center of the hole and make sure it is weighed down so it does not float.
  5. Cover the whole with the other plastic sheet (use rocks around the outside to weigh down the sheet).
  6. Place a rock in the center of the whole above the container to direct the evaporated water droplets.

The water you poured into the hole should slowly begin to evaporate and condense on the top plastic sheet. After a while, the droplets will run down the sheet toward the rock in the middle and drop into the container. If you do this on a fairly hot day you can get as much as a quart of water in a day or maybe more depending on how good the setup is.

Make sure you monitor your desalinization system so you can maximize its efficiency. You will also want to double-check that all the water is dripping directly into the container so that you do not waste any as that would defy the point of this.

Method 2

If you have cookware available then there is a second way to do this that may yield results faster than the first method, you will need:

  • A cooking pot or heatproof container
  • A condenser or cooling tube
  • A second container to collect the condensation
  1. Fill your cooking pot with seawater;
  2. Insert one end of the cooling tube into the pot above the water level;
  3. Secure the pot with a lid;
  4. Place the other end of the tube in the second container;
  5. Place the water-filled container on fire or similar heat source;
  6. Heat the pot until the water starts to boil;
  7. As the water boils, so the vapor travels through the tube, where it cools and condenses;
  8. This freshwater will collect in your second container.

The bigger the pot will be better so you can put as much water as you can in one go. Once the water is desalinated you won’t need to worry about it again. Although, if the water is stored in an open container, you may want to boil it before drinking just in case some new bacteria gets a ride!


Food and water are both important in any survival situation, but you will die much faster if you don’t have a drinkable water source. Make sure you purify and distill all your drinking water if you have to use salt water. We recommend of course, that you get fresh water, as you can skip the distilling process which will save tons of time

How do you make salty water drinkable?

You have to separate the water from the salt, this is most easily done through evaporation!

How do you purify salt water by boiling it?

Boiling the salt water will remove bacteria, but to make it drinkable, you have to collect the steam!