This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
Water may be filtered and purified by precipitation, by means of alum, by adding a 4 per cent solution to the water to be clarified until a precipitate is no longer produced. After allowing the turbid mixture to stand for 8 hours, the clear portion may be decanted or be siphoned off. About 2 grains of alum is ordinarily required to purify a gallon of water. Potassa alum only should be used, as ammonia alum cannot be used for this purpose. The amount of alum required varies with the water, so that an initial experiment is required whenever water from a new source is being purified. If the purification is properly done, the water will not contain any alum, but only a trace of potassium sulphate, for the aluminum of the double sulphate unites with the various impurities to form an insoluble compound which gradually settles out, mechanically carrying with it suspended matter, while the sulphuric acid radical unites with the calcium in the water to form insoluble calcium sulphate.