Have you recently started working with clay at home and away from community or shared studio facilities? Save your plumbing with an inexpensive, do-it-yourself water filtration system.

COVID-19 has changed the way many of us are working. As rules changed and our ability to gather decreased, I had many students asking me about setting up makeshift studios at home. In these times, any activity we can find solace in is well worth the effort you have to put in upfront to get lots of joy from in return. One of the initial challenges to overcome in setting up a home studio area is the potential strain on your home’s plumbing.

Gathering Materials

Sediment from clay will accumulate in pipes and drains and grow mold, while glazes will settle in them to build a hard mass. The result is dreadfully blocked pipes requiring a plumber (not to mention the environmental impact of dumping clay and glaze materials down the drain). An investment of around $40 in materials for this project could save hundreds of dollars later. One of the most inexpensive things you can do to save your pipes is make this simple and effective filtration system (1). You will need the following components in 1-inch diameters:

  • PVC threaded female adapter
  • PVC male adapter
  • Slip-elbow PVC fitting
  • 2-foot length of PVC pipe

Additionally, you’ll need a 5-gallon bucket with a gasket lid and a roll of aluminum window screen. You’ll also need a 1-inch hole saw, a utility knife, and a heat gun (optional).


Assembly and Use

First, test fit the pipe with the elbow attached. When placed inside the bucket, your goal is to have the top of the pipe sit an inch below the rim (2). Mark and cut the pipe. Next, using a hole saw, cut a hole in the bucket ¼ inch above the inner floor. For a watertight fit, use your heat gun or torch to heat up the hole and press fit the male adapter. Attach the female fitting to the outside to hold it all together (3). Gluing is not necessary for any of the fittings. If you do not have a torch or heat gun, just dry fit them. Now, it is time for the lid. Cut the inside ring of the lid using a utility knife and remove (4). Using the outer diameter of the lid as a template, cut your screen to fit. Lastly, remove the gasket from the lid, place the screen in the channel of the lid, set the gasket back into the channel, and press firmly for a tight fit. You are all set!


Using your new, inexpensive filtration system is easy. Place the bucket in your sink and dump your dirty water from throwing and cleaning into the filtration bucket. The large chunks will stay on top of the screen, making them easy to gather and discard. Over time, the heavy particles will sink to the bottom of the bucket as it fills with water. When the bucket is full of water, the top inch of cleaner water will flow out of the bucket through the pipe, allowing the clay to settle out of the rest of the water. It is important to clean out the bucket about once a month, or more often depending on use. To clean, scoop solids out with a large serving spoon or a measuring cup. If no glaze material is present, this clay sediment makes a wonderful new clay starter. If glazes are present, make sure you dispose of sediment properly. Once the bucket is light enough to lift, you can empty the water outside and start all over again!

the author Nathan Portnoy is a ceramic artist and educator based in Dallas, Texas.