Ideas for How to Get Oil Out of Water

Oil in water can be harmful to the environment.
••• Stephen Schauer/Lifesize/Getty Images

Whether you are looking for a neat science experiment or trying to find a way to clean the ocean floor, trying to get oil out of water can be a daunting task. The key is to remember that oil and water are naturally repelled away from each other and are always partially separated.

Down the Drain

A simple and basic way to separate water and oil is to put the liquid into a container and begin slowly draining the water into another container. Since oil naturally sits on top of water, no matter where the spout is on the jug, the oil will always be on the top. The best container to use is a clear one, so you can see the water pouring out. As the oil approaches the spout, tip the container back up so it doesn’t fall out. This will be much easier if you add some food coloring to the water; otherwise, this method won’t separate the two perfectly.

A Salty Solution

Depending on what you want to use the water for; if you want a quick and easy way to separate the two, simply add Epsom salts to the water. The salts break up the oil particles, reducing them to near nothing. Any ruminants of oil will practically have dissolved out of the water and you will be left with salty water. This isn’t recommended if you plan on using the water for cooking.

Below Freezing

Another creative way to try to remove oil from water is to partially freeze the two. The oil will still be on the top of the water, but freezing generally happens from the top down. So, when the oil has frozen over, simply pour the water into a separate container and discard the frozen oil. If some or all of the water has frozen as well, simply break off the pieces of ice that would be the water portion and defrost it separately.

Simple Solution

If you are trying to clear oil out of water in the sink or heating on the stove, simply scoop out the oil with a spoon or ladle. Keeping in mind that there may still be some oil leftover, this is still the easiest solution for this particular type of oil spill.