CleanCube Project

A project focused on bringing human-scale solutions to the large-scale challenge of clean water.

  • The CleanCube Project is built on a holistic model designed to provide an accessible, affordable source of clean water to people who need it most.
  • Currently in the prototype stage, the CleanCube product is a dissolvable cube made of natural plant-based material that can be added to stored drinking water to kill 100% of E. coli bacteria.
  • This product is part of a larger system that includes small batch production, community-based education, alternative marketing and distribution strategies, and appropriate pricing that fit the realities of CleanCube’s target users.



Worldwide, 783 million people lack access to clean water. In India alone, approximately 600,000 children die annually due to diarrhea or pneumonia, often caused by unclean water and poor hygiene. The sad irony is that water-cleaning devices are available, particularly in India where cheap manufacturing abounds. With so many options available, why are millions of people still lacking access to clean water?

One simplified answer is that the fit, scale, and sustainability of the solutions are insufficient to meet the needs of millions of people lacking access to clean water.

Some water cleaning products are too expensive for the average Indian family. Even if sold at an affordable price, the technology for some products does not reflect the daily realities of those living at or near the poverty line. The requirements needed to make them work effectively do not align with the challenges faced by the people who could most benefit.

Perhaps the most significant reason why the problem of access to clean water persists in India is that the solutions offered are not designed to scale up to reach a large, diverse, primarily rural population. As such, they are not inherently sustainable. Without a sustainable model for production, distribution, maintenance, and local economic impact, products have little chance of making meaningful inroads to eradicating the problem.

So what is the answer?

The answer is that a sustainable solution, one that closely considers the environmental, cultural, social, and financial impacts, has the best chance for making measurable change over the long term. This is the mission behind the CleanCube Project.

It is CleanCube’s interconnected systems approach consisting of small batch production, engaged community education, and innovative distribution and promotion activities that can bring clean water to the people who need it most. And to do so sustainability over the long term by creating economic opportunity, local ownership and by empowering individuals, especially women, at the community level.

The next steps for the CleanCube Project are continued research testing in the lab and in the field. The goal is also to use this human-scale approach to create other powerful design interventions that can overcome the barriers of distribution, financing, and cultural adoption to reach scale in other communities and around other global challenges.



Project Website
OCAD InStudio Interview with Sarah Tranum
Relating Systems Thinking and Design 5 Conference presenation

Illustrated CleanCube banner featuring several families surrouding a water drop, medical symbol and
Infographic demonstrating stages of development in CleanCube project, from production to final impact in the community
Photograph of woman working at home on CleanCube production
Sarah Tranum discussing the CleanCube project with local women
CleanCube infographic illustrating the multiplicative positive effect of having clean water in the community
A photograph of group of women who participated in the project, standing together and smiling
Illustration showing 3 groups of 5 women standing around a grid of clean water droplets
Friday, October 6, 2017 - 11:00am
Lab Member: 
Sarah Tranum
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