How LifeStraw Makes Contaminated Water Safe For You to Drink

What is a LifeStraw, and what are its benefits over other water-purifying methods? In this article, we discuss how a LifeStraw works and tell you who this compact, easy-to-use solution will work best for. 

Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink – unless, that is, you own a LifeStraw, a chunky, oversized straw that lets you drink from rivers, streams, and other water sources without getting sick. By eliminating 99.9999 percent of the bacteria and 99.9 percent of the parasites present in the water, you can stay hydrated for one whole year (2.7 litres a day; 1,000 litres a year) before needing to replace it. 

In 1994, Vestergaard, LifeStraw's parent company, were asked to develop a filter that could remove Guinea worm larvae from the water they were contaminating. After witnessing the positive impact their solution had (more than 37 million LifeStraw Guinea Worm filters have contributed to the near-eradication of the disease), Vestergaard developed the LifeStraw product, a straw able to filter out virtually all of the microbiological contaminants that make water unsafe to drink, making it public in 2005.

So, how does it work?

You shouldn’t need any instructions to use a LifeStraw; it works exactly as a normal straw does. The only difference: give it a quick blow after each use to clear the filter.

The LifeStraw uses mechanical filtration to clean contaminated water. When you start drinking, hollow fibres with pores of less than 0.2 microns (about 500 times smaller than a human hair) trap dirt, bacteria, and parasites, allowing clean water to pass through. Both personal versions of the LifeStraw can filter around 1,000 litres of water, and because they use no chemicals or moving parts, nothing will expire: "If stored in a cool dark place and allowed to dry out between uses, the LifeStraw will last until it reaches capacity." (You'll know when this, as it will stop absorbing anymore water.)

The "Steel" version does, however, include a disposable carbon capsule that has the ability to filter out chemicals like chlorine, as well as some fertilisers and pesticides. LifeStraw recommended this be replaced every three months. Only the "Family" version is able to filter out viruses.

Why LifeStraw?

While the LifeStraw won't enable you to purify large amounts of water for cooking and storing, it does provide instant hydration from a drinking source whilst you're on the go. Other methods of water purification - boiling water or using purifying tablets -  are effective, but they necessitate extra equipment be brought along, require a longer purifying time, or leave a chemical aftertaste in the water. LifeStraw, on the other hand, provides immediate safe drinking water without a chemical aftertaste.

Plus, at a portable size (smaller than a classroom ruler) and a weight similar to that of a carabiner, the LifeStraw is compact enough to fit comfortably in any bag, big or small.

For every product you purchase, a school child receives safe drinking water for an entire year. So far, over 630,000 students have been given clean drinking water globally.


One thing we are always going to need, wherever we are, is clean, safe drinking water. While it isn't practical for purifying large amounts of water for cooking or storing, the LifeStraw is an inexpensive and compact solution that's ideal for use by hikers, trekkers, and trail runners, in an emergency kit, or even as an extra way to hydrate yourself without having to waste stored water. And, with a high capacity and no shelf life, it has the potential to provide the weekend outdoorsperson or semi-regular adventurer years of safe water before needing to be replaced.

The straw that broke the camel's back? Not quite.

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