Is Distilled Water Safe to Drink? Here Are the Facts.
Updated: April 12th, 2023
Shopping for drinking water isn’t the same these days. Back then, we could pick a few gallons of regular bottled water off the shelf at the grocery store without hesitation or confusion. But thanks to new forms of water treatment, we now have to choose between spring water, purified water, mineral water, and many others. And let’s not forget the fancier types, such as alkaline water, sparkling water, and distilled water. Wait…distilled water? Yes, you heard it right.
Some people claim distilled water offers loads of health benefits. Heck, some even say it’s the purest water you can drink. But what is distilled water exactly? Is it safe to drink, let alone the “purest type of water in town?” How does it compare to other types of water?
In this article, we answer these and other relevant questions in detail. Stay tuned.
What is Distilled Water?
In the simplest terms, distilled water is the resulting liquid created when water is converted into steam, condensed, and returned to a liquid state. According to the University of Georgia (UGA), 99.9 percent of all impurities, natural minerals, and other dissolved and suspended substances from the source water remains behind. Hence, the resulting water is relatively pure.
The Water Distillation Process and How To Distill Water (Explained)
The distillation process begins by heating water in a tank or suitable container. Once the water comes to a boil, it evaporates and forms a vapor. The vapor is then cooled, usually by passing it through pipes or tubes at a lower temperature. The cooled steam then condenses and returns to liquid form, leaving behind any mineral residue and contaminants. Finally, the resulting liquid (the distilled water) is collected in a separate, sterile storage container.
Depending on the distillation method and the amount of water to be distilled, the entire process could take several hours to complete. A typical countertop distiller takes around 4 – 6 hours to produce one gallon of distilled water. Furthermore, distilled water can be double distilled to ensure high purity.
What Does Water Distillation Remove?
Distillation effectively removes heavy metals, organic compounds, dissolved salts and solids, and almost all other impurities from water.
Here’s a list of contaminants removed through water distillation:
|Contaminant Group||Common Pollutants in Group|
|· Heavy metals||· lead, mercury, fluoride, copper, arsenic, barium|
|· Dissolved chemicals||· chlorine, chloramine, pesticides|
|· Total dissolved solids (TDS)||· inorganic salts (principally calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, lead, sodium, bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulfates)|
|· Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)||· benzene, dichloromethane (methylene chloride), an industrial solvent; trichloroethylene, used in septic system cleaners; and tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene), used in the dry-cleaning industry|
|· Electrolytes||· sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, bicarbonate, phosphate|
|· Sediment||· rust, sand, dirt, silt|
|· Pathogenic microorganisms||· bacteria, viruses, cryptosporidium, algae|
|· Pharmaceuticals||· atenolol (a beta-blocker), carbamazepine (an anticonvulsant), gemfibrozil (an antilipidemic), meprobamate (an antianxiety medication), phenytoin (an anticonvulsant)|
|· Bad tastes and odors||· bacteria, heavy metals, chloride ions, sulfates|
So, Does Boiling Water Distill It?
Certainly, not. Boiling water will not produce the same high-purity water achieved by water distillation. Still, it is an excellent method for reducing harmful pathogens possibly present in the water. This is why whenever the water supplied by public water systems becomes compromised, or natural disasters damage municipal water steam, local water authorities will issue boil water advisories.
Boiling water does a remarkable job of eliminating bacteria, protozoa, cysts, and other microorganisms commonly found in water because these organisms cannot survive at such high temperatures. However, boiling won’t remove chemicals, heavy metals, and dissolved substances present in the water.
Can You Drink Distilled Water? Will Distilled Water Kill You?
Yes, you can drink distilled water if you want. You can even use it to make ice cubes for a beverage. It won’t kill you. It’s water. But drinking distilled water, while seemingly beneficial, isn’t recommended. Of course, we don’t want to seem like the bearers of bad energy. So, let’s discuss some potential benefits of drinking distilled water:
- It may be purer than water from other sources: Depending on where you live, distilled water could be more refined than spring and mineral water. In many cases, it’s far purer than regular tap water. So, if your town’s water is tainted with harmful chemicals or other pollutants, you’re safer drinking distilled water.
- May cleanse the body: When drinking distilled water, you’re consuming water with no other additives. As distilled water is pure, some people believe it can cleanse the body. However, there is insufficient data to confirm this claim.
- Reduces the risk of disease: As you’ve already read in this article, distillation removes waterborne pathogens from water. Most waterborne disease-causing bacteria do not survive distillation. Otherwise, they’d likely enter your body and make you sick.
- Reduces the risk of consuming harmful chemicals through water: Distillation removes 99.9 percent of harmful dissolved solids and bacteria from water. As such, you have a lower chance of ingesting these pollutants when you consume distilled water. The EPA does allow for low levels of certain harmful chemicals in drinking water. However, none of these chemicals are present in distilled water.
- It’s a natural purification method: Unlike tap water and perhaps some bottled water treated with chemicals, like chlorine, distilled water is a natural purification method – no chemicals used whatsoever.
- Excellent for people on salt-restricted diets: Since distilled water contains no sodium, it’s perfect for people with hypertension or similar health conditions and those on a sodium-restricted diet.
Here’s the sad part:
- Flatter taste: You might not like its flatter and less flavorful taste compared to tap and bottled waters. That’s because it’s stripped of essential minerals like sodium, calcium, and magnesium that give tap water its familiar flavor. All that’s left is hydrogen and oxygen.
- Increased risk of nutrient deficiencies: Distilled water may put individuals at greater risk of nutrient deficiencies. It lacks minerals that may benefit health. For example, drinking water low in calcium and magnesium is linked to an increased risk of fracture, preterm birth, and heart disease. So, unless you get your recommended daily servings of these minerals through the food you every day, we don’t recommend drinking distilled water.
- Lack of electrolytes to aid hydration: Distilled water may not be the right choice if you are an athlete or someone who engages in lots of physical activity occasionally. As you sweat, you lose electrolytes rapidly. To stay hydrated, you need water with minerals, or a sports drink with added electrolytes to replace what’s lost through sweat. Distilled water cannot make up for what expels from the body because distillation removes electrolytes. Similarly, if you’re sick or malnourished, you need all the minerals you can get. Hence, it’s probably not a good idea to drink distilled water.
- Risk of excess contaminants: Depending on the distilled water’s source, it may or may not be safe to drink. Distilled water sold at supermarkets or other commercial entities was likely produced using filtered water, so it’s probably okay to drink. However, distilled water from sources, such as non-potable water from industrial facilities, may contain toxic pollutants destructive to human health. These contaminants include bacteria and dissolved substances like lead or arsenic.
- Damage to tooth enamel: Like other purification methods, distillation removes fluoride from drinking water, which may put those who choose to drink distilled water at an increased risk of cavities. This makes it vital for those who consume distilled water exclusively to maintain proper dental hygiene.
- A magnet for pollutants: There might be unwanted chemicals in the container used to store the distilled water. Containers made from particular materials, such as plastic monomers (like those at the grocery store), may leach contaminants into the water over time, undoing all the effort to get pure water. Since distilled water is so pure, it is easily tainted by impurities from its storage container.
So, before you drink distilled water, you must consider the downsides and other factors such as:
- The quality of your local tap water
- The availability of other healthier and tastier sources of drinking water
- The vitamin and mineral contents in your diet
- Your taste preference
Common Uses of Distilled Water
There are many negative connotations around drinking distilled water. However, several of its uses outside of that might blow your mind. Its exceptional purity makes it ideal for various medical, industrial, scientific, and household applications.
Here’s how distilled water is used in different industries and at home:
Sterile Medical Uses
Because of its high purity, distilled water has its place in hospitals, doctors’ practices, and other medical institutions. These facilities use distilled water to sterilize medical instruments and for hand-washing. The zero-mineral content of distilled water means sterile instruments won’t have any spotting or residue left on them. It also won’t leave deposits on the equipment used to sterilize them.
It’s not only instruments that need to be sterilized to prevent infection and cross-contamination. Surgeons need to ensure they scrub in and rinse before surgery. Tap water may contain many pollutants, so distilled water is a better choice to prevent bacteria from water getting on the skin when rinsing.
Distilled water is also used to clean wounds because of its purity. This helps prevent infection. Even dentists use distilled water, especially following tooth extraction or root canal treatment. The water they use to rinse your mouth will be sterile as well, washing away existing bacteria.
You can consistently find biologists and other laboratory experts using distilled water for various experiments. Water impurities could ruin an already difficult lab experiment, and determining the problem could be time-consuming and challenging. To avoid this, distilled water is used to clean tools and materials.
At the Vet
Like in the medical field, veterinarians also use distilled water. They, too, need distilled water for operations and sanitization, but they also use it for intravenous injections. As you probably know, these injections are most commonly given to reduce fevers in our pets and keep them healthy and hydrated.
Almost all the cosmetic products we use contain water. Water is added as a solvent so that the ingredients can transfer their benefits to your skin. For this reason, skincare and makeup products must have the cleanest water possible in their ingredients. Impure water in these products could lead to increased blemishes, or worse, especially for people with sensitive skin. That’s why water purity is crucial in this industry, and ultimately, the need for distilled water.
A vehicle’s cooling system works incredibly hard when it is running. If there are minerals in the water used to top it up, the system could corrode. Since distilled water has no minerals, it’s safe for use in your vehicle.
Lead batteries in vehicles are also vital components that rely on water. If the water poured inside the battery isn’t pure, it can prevent the battery from charging correctly. They can also cause the battery to deteriorate slowly, causing headaches when trying to start the vehicle.
Cleaning and other household activities
Distilled water is a fantastic cleaning agent. Your tap water may contain minerals that can cause soap scum and mineral buildup and can leave unattractive streaks on your windows, shower doors, computer screens, and other similar surfaces. These white stains are the result of dissolved salts and minerals in your water. They can prevent cleaning products from lathering and can leave an unsightly residue.
Cleaning with distilled water gives you brighter, cleaner windows and shinier sinks. Many people even use it as a final rinse on their car after washing it. This is because distilled water flushes away mineral contents that leave water spots and damage the paint job. Using distilled water in your iron prevents minerals from creating a scale buildup that can ruin the appliance.
If you own an aquarium, you probably know fish are susceptible to chemicals like chlorine. Filling your aquarium with distilled water provides you with neutral, purified water free from any contaminants that could harm your fish.
Distilled Water vs. Filtered Water: What’s the difference?
Before reading this article, you may have thought all water is the same. It turns out, that’s not the case. There are specific differences between each type. Let’s take a closer look at arguably the two most common types and see how they differ:
- Distilled Water: We’d hate to sound like a broken record, but again, distilled water is a specialized type of purified water produced by boiling water, collecting the steam, condensing the vapor, and storing it in a separate container as distilled water. During the distillation process, 99.9 percent of salts, minerals, and other organic and inorganic materials are removed from the source water.
- Filtered Water: Filtered water usually starts as plain tap water or well water. This water passes through some combination of carbon and micron filters, which helps clear out sediments, chemicals, heavy metals, pathogens, and various other contaminants from the water. Filters can also eliminate foul odors and tastes. Tap water is usually filtered for impurities and particles and then treated by municipalities to ensure its safety.
Which one is better for drinking?
Overall, both distilled and filtered water can achieve comparable levels of purity. However, filtered water is generally a better option – although, depending on where you live, you may make a different choice.
Filtered water contains traces of essential minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fluoride, often added to municipally treated water. Fluoride in water helps keep your bones and teeth healthy. It also retains oxygen and electrolytes. Oxygen gives the source liquid a slightly better taste. At the same time, electrolytes help to replenish salts lost from the body through urination and sweat.
How to Filter Your Drinking Water
If you have filtered water running through your home, hats off to you. But don’t take its quality for granted. Sometimes filtered water from municipal water systems passing through pipes picks up contaminants along the way to your home. This could result from leaks along the services lines introducing pollutants to the water or contaminants like lead, leaching from old pipes into the water. Of course, you probably wouldn’t have been aware of this, and ended up consuming water containing potentially dangerous contaminants.
That said, you can install a home water filter to improve your water quality further and prevent contaminants from secretly invading your water supply. Luckily, household water treatment systems can enhance tap water’s taste and odor and remove specific pollutants.
Whole house water filtration systems (aka, point-of-entry (POE) treatment systems) filter all the water entering your household. That means, every time you open a faucet, filtered water will come gushing out. Filtered water will also be available in your shower, washing machine, dishwasher, and even your toilet. Also, whole-house systems are very environmentally friendly. They supply huge volumes of fresh, clean filtered water to large households without producing an ounce of wastewater.
If you’re looking for a system that offers these and other incredible benefits, look no further than the Springwell CF1 whole-house filtration system. The CF1 is arguably the best whole-house system on the market. It’s a robust, efficient, and highly affordable system with a filtering capacity and performance like no other.
This multipurpose system is fully loaded with unique, innovative features and technologies to filter out harmful chemicals and compounds from water. It eliminates chlorine, chloramine, haloacetic acids, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), pesticides, and other contaminants. Moreover, the system removes about 99.6% of chlorine and other contaminants that cause bad taste and odors from your water.
With a system like this in your home, you can rest assured that your drinking water has a higher quality than bottled water. What’s more, it is easy to install and maintain and doesn’t require electricity to work. There’s also the optional UV water purification system add-on, powerful enough to kill bacteria and other pathogens.
Learn more about the Springwell CF1 Water Filter.
Drinking adequate water is vital to your health. But after weighing the pros and cons of distilled water, it’s clear that drinking filtered water is the better option – although there are some exceptions. Distilled water contains nearly no minerals, including those that may be beneficial to your health. However, filtered water retains these minerals, but it may even contain toxic pollutants. Thankfully, you can treat your filtered water with the remarkable Springwell CF1 whole-house filter.