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How to Make Distilled Water at Home

boiling water
Distilling water starts with boiling it on the stove. Capelle.r/Getty Images

Distilled water may sound fancy, but it's just regular water that's been boiled into steam and then condensed back into liquid in a separate container.

It takes very little time to teach yourself how to make distilled water. In fact, you can do it from the comfort of your own home with items you likely already have in your kitchen.

This type of water is perfect for everything from filling your iron to watering sensitive plants. It also has various medical and industrial uses, and you can even use it to make clear ice cubes. Now let's walk through the basics of turning tap water into pure, distilled water.

What Is Distilled Water?

Distilled water is a type of purified water obtained through the process of distillation, which effectively removes impurities, minerals and other contaminants.

The distillation process involves heating water until it turns into steam, leaving behind the majority of dissolved substances such as salts, minerals and various organic and inorganic materials. As the water vapor rises, it is free from the contaminants that remain in the boiling chamber.

The steam is then cooled in a separate chamber, where it condenses back into a liquid state. This condensed liquid is the distilled water, which is remarkably pure, containing almost no dissolved minerals or other substances.

This purity makes distilled water particularly useful in situations where the presence of impurities might interfere with processes or damage equipment, such as in scientific laboratories, medical fields, in the maintenance of automotive cooling systems and in certain industrial processes.

Drinking 'Pure' Water

While distilled water is also safe for consumption, it has a distinctively flat taste due to the absence of minerals that are typically found in regular drinking water.

One thing to keep in mind about drinking distilled water over the long term is that it doesn't have essential minerals, like calcium and magnesium, that our bodies require. (Though, we do primarily get those nutrients from our food.)

Materials Needed for Water Distillation

Ready to make your own distilled water at home? Here's what you'll need:

  1. Heat source: A stove or any other reliable heat source for boiling water.

  2. Large pot: A 3- to 5-gallon (11.4- to 19-liter) pot to boil the water. It should be deep enough to hold a significant amount of water while leaving space at the top.

  3. Lid for the large pot: A lid that fits snugly on the large pot. An inverted lid works best as it directs the condensed steam into the smaller container.

  4. Smaller pot or heat-safe bowl: A smaller pot or a heat-resistant glass bowl that will fit inside the larger pot. This will be used to collect the distilled water.

  5. Ice: Ice helps accelerate the condensation process.

  6. Water: Regular tap water or water from another source that you wish to distill.

  7. Storage container: A clean, sterilized container or bottles for storing the distilled water once it’s collected.

How to Make Distilled Water

Making a batch of homemade distilled water is a straightforward process. After you've gathered your materials (a large pot with a lid, a smaller pot or heat-safe bowl, water and some ice), you're ready to get started.

  1. Filling the large pot: Start by filling the large pot with water, but don't fill it all the way to the top; leave some room to prevent it from boiling over. Place the smaller pot or bowl inside the large pot to collect the distilled water.

  2. Setting up the lid: Flip the lid of the large pot upside down and place it back on top. This inverted lid acts as a surface for the steam to condense on. Placing fresh ice on top of the inverted lid is a helpful trick. The ice cools the lid, which enhances the condensation of the steam into water droplets, making the process more efficient.

  3. Boiling and condensing: Heat the large pot until the water boils. The steam will rise, hit the cold, ice-cooled lid and condense into droplets. These droplets will then fall into the smaller pot or bowl.

  4. Collecting the distilled water: Once you've collected enough distilled water, turn off the heat and let the setup cool. Carefully remove the hot smaller pot or bowl, which now contains your distilled water.

  5. Storing distilled water: Pour the distilled water into a clean, sterilized container and store it in a cool, dark place to keep it pure.

This method mimics the natural water cycle, where evaporation (boiling) separates water from impurities and condensation (on the lid) returns it to a liquid state, free from minerals and contaminants.

Benefits of Distilled Water

Distilling water offers several benefits, making it a valuable process for various purposes:

  1. Removal of contaminants: Distillation effectively removes impurities, including bacteria, viruses, heavy metals and chemicals, from the water. However, while distillation is very effective, it does not remove certain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that have a lower boiling point than water.

  2. No need for chemicals: The distillation process doesn't require the addition of chemicals to purify the water, unlike some other purification methods. This results in water that is free from chemical residues.

  3. Taste and odor improvement: By removing contaminants, distillation can also eliminate unpleasant tastes and odors that may be present in tap water, resulting in cleaner-tasting drinking water.

  4. Reduction of hardness: Distilled water is soft, as it lacks the minerals that cause hardness. This makes it ideal for use in appliances like steam irons and humidifiers, as it can help prevent mineral buildup and prolong the life of these devices.

  5. Consistency: Distillation provides a consistent level of water purity, which is important for scientific experiments, medical uses and certain industrial applications where consistent water quality is crucial.

  6. Ideal for emergency situations: In emergencies where regular water sources are contaminated or unavailable, distillation can be a viable method to purify water, provided there is a heat source to boil the water.

Distilled Water vs. Purified Water: What Are the Differences?

Distilled water and purified water are both forms of clean, treated water, but they differ in their production methods and the level of purity achieved.

Distilled water is made through distillation, a process where water is boiled into steam and then condensed back into liquid in a separate container. This method removes impurities and minerals, resulting in water that is extremely pure.

Purified water, on the other hand, refers to water that has undergone any process to remove impurities, not limited to distillation. This can include methods like reverse osmosis, carbon filtration and deionization.

While purified water is also free from contaminants and impurities, the level of purity can vary depending on the purification process used.

In essence, distilled water typically reaches a higher purity level due to the nature of its production process. However, for most everyday uses, including drinking and cooking, purified water is often sufficient and readily available.

This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.

Original article: How to Make Distilled Water at Home

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