I first witnessed the distilled water vs purified water debate in my hostel room. One of my roommates, a regular gym-goer, was adamant that distilled water helps us stay healthy by boosting our immunity. The other claimed that he preferred purified water because distilled water tastes flat.
Both were right in their assertions. Research has proven that distilled water is beneficial for babies with a weak immune system. And as a person who spent two years with a distilled water enthusiast, I can tell you from experience that yes, it does taste pretty flat.
In this article, I’m going to achieve what my two roommates were unable to do that day: settle the distilled vs purified water debate once and for all. I will do that by listing the benefits, side effects, and applications of purified as well as distilled water.
What is Distilled Water?
Distilled water is a type of water that is free from salts, minerals, and other organic materials. All these substances are removed by boiling the distilled water and condensing the steam back into liquid form. The process also removes all the minerals from the water.
The purification process is highly effective at removing contaminants, viruses and bacteria, certain protozoa like giardia (that causes the diarrheal disease with the same name) and various chemicals such as lead, sulfate, and phosphorous.
How is water distilled?
Distillation relies on evaporation and condensation to purify water:
- Contaminated water is heated until it reaches its boiling point.
- Upon reaching its boiling point, the water evaporates. Impurities are left behind in the tank because their boiling point(s) are greater than water.
- Evaporated water or steam is cooled and condensed into a different container/tank to form distilled water.
Who Invented Distillation of Water?
Legend has it that Julius Caesar was the first person to make and use distilled water. The Roman Emperor is reported to have used solar energy to purify water of its impurities. The technique he pioneered was reused to produce drinking water by Roman forces as they conquered the world.
Is Distilled Water Safe to Drink?
Distilled water is perfectly safe to drink (but remember distilled water lasts about a week). But you’ll most likely find it tasteless or bland. That’s because it’s stripped of minerals like sodium, calcium, and magnesium that give tap water the flavor we all know. What is left is just two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen.
Uses of Distilled Water
Distilled water has many applications around the world. Common uses include:
- Medical Instruments – Health technicians use distilled water to sterilize instruments used during surgeries. Distilled water’s zero mineral content ensures that the sterile instruments won’t have any residue or spotting left on them.
- Medical Procedures – Surgeons performing surgeries use distilled water to rinse their hands. This helps minimize the risk of infection and cross-contamination. Later on, while they’re performing the surgery, distilled water helps them clean wounds.
- Laboratory Experiments – Accuracy is key in lab experiments. To ensure minerals or contaminants don’t skew results, many laboratories use distilled water. By not reacting with chemicals, it helps ensure the results stay accurate.
- CPAP Machines – Continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) machines are literally a lifesaver for sleep apnea patients, who have their airways blocked when they sleep. By trickling distilled water in the throat, CPAP machines keep the airway from collapsing.
- Humidifiers Care – Do you use humidifiers to add moisture to your indoor air? If so, you must use distilled water. Otherwise, if you use distilled water, its minerals can clog your machine, bringing down its lifespan and stopping it from working properly.
- Automobile Care – Your car’s cooling system circulates water to prevent things from heating up. If the water in the cooling system contains minerals, it might end up causing corrosion and rust build-up inside the system.
Side Effects of Distilled Water
Not everything is great about distilled water. Here are some of its side effects:
- Promotes Tooth Decay – Research has proven that drinking water that is stripped of fluoride raises the risk of tooth decay. That means if you solely drink distilled water, your odds of experiencing dental problems will go up
- Impairs Metabolism – Unless you’re following it up with a healthy diet, drinking distilled water in isolation could impair your metabolism. Worst-case scenarios include diabetes, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular diseases.
- Less Thirst Quenching – Studies quoted by the World Health Organization show that you’d have to drink more distilled water to quench your thirst than purified or tap water. This means your spending on drinking water will go up.
What is Purified Water?
Purified water is processed or mechanically filtered to remove chemicals and impurities. The purification process strips the water of contaminants including bacteria, toxins, and chemicals. Though it allows minerals and electrolytes to remain inside water.
Multiple processes can be used to purify water (explained below). Yet all of them have one thing in common: they must lower the presence of contaminants in water to less than 10 PPM, which means that the water should be at least 99 percent pure. Only then it could be classified as purified water.
How is water purified?
Water is purified using one of these four processes:
- Filtration – Filtration strips water from impurities via a physical barrier, chemical substance, or biological processes. Each one of these processes remove different type of impurities and many use a combination of multiple methods to filter water.
- Sedimentation – Sediment filters remove dirt, dust, sand and debris from water. You can also count on them to remove water’s turbidity. However, they cannot remove bacteria, chemicals, heavy metals or dissolved contaminants.
- Coagulation – Coagulation involves the adding of a coagulant into water. This coagulant binds with impurities, increasing their weight and forcing them to settle down due to gravity. Purified water rises to the top and is diverted out of the tank.
- Disinfection – Disinfection relies on the addition of disinfectants to neutralize chemicals, viruses, bacteria and other dissolved substances in water. The water coming to your home from the city’s main supply has also been disinfected using chlorine.
When did humans first start purifying water?
The Greek scientist Hippocrates prepared the first known domestic filter around the year 500 B.C. He invented the now-famous Hippocratic sleeve, which consisted of a multiple-layered cloth placed over a water container. The passage of water through the cloth freed it from micro-organisms.
Is purified water safe to drink?
Purified water is perfectly safe to drink because it is stripped of certain contaminants that might be found in tap water. Some of these contaminants might be innocuous even if consumed regularly. The consumption of others, like heavy metals, though, can cause complications over the long-term.
Uses of Purified Water
Purified water has many applications around the world. Common uses include:
- In the pharmaceutical industry – Purified water is used as a raw material, solvent and ingredient in the processing, formulation, and making of pharmaceutical products. That’s because it doesn’t contain impurities which might disturb the formulae.
- In the beverage industry – Ever wondered why every bottle of your favorite soft drink always tastes the same? Purified water helps beverage manufacturers maintain the consistency of taste, color, and clarity of their trademarked formula.
- In lead-acid batteries – Deionized water is used in lead-acid batteries because it won’t cause erosion of the cells. Some people also use distilled water but deionized water is a better choice as it has both ions and impurities stripped off.
- For food preparation – Many people use purified water for making food items. They know how easy it is for the food they’re preparing to absorb chlorine and other chemicals that might be found in tap water.
- For brewing beer – Many beer enthusiasts use purified water to prepare their homebrew beer. Their beer not only tastes better but it has also far fewer chemicals and contaminants in it.
- In fish tanks – Did we tell you that you shouldn’t fill your fish tank with distilled water? It lacks the minerals (such as iron and calcium) that help fish thrive. You should only use mineral-rich purified water to fill your fish tank.
- For your health – Multiple studies have proved that drinking purified water keeps your skin fresh, saves you from stomach aches and nausea, and provides your digestive tract and colon with various benefits.
Side Effects of Purified Water
Here are the side effects of purified water:
- Might remove fluoride – Some water purification systems also remove fluoride from the water, a helpful mineral that reduces tooth decay. Its absence from your drinking water might therefore lead to poor overall dental health.
- Doesn’t come cheap – While you can distill water by boiling and condensing it, purified water only comes from water purification systems, most of whom don’t come cheap and require maintenance on a regular basis.
- Might harm the environment – Are you getting your purified water in plastic bottles? That means you’re contributing more than your fair share to the global plastic waste which has already surpassed hazardous levels.
Distilled Water Vs Purified Water: Frequently Asked Questions
How to make your own distilled water at home?
- Fill a large pot with 8 cups of water. Then place a smaller pot inside the larger one. At this stage the smaller pot will be floating over the water inside the larger pot. Place the larger pot (as well as the smaller one, obviously) over a burner or stovetop.
- Turn on the burner and set its heat setting at somewhere between medium and medium-high heat. Next turn the large pot’s lid upside down. This will allow evaporated water to deposit onto the lid, before being condensed into the smaller pot.
- Once all the water has evaporated and the condensation has begun, place a block of ice over the top of the inverted lid. This will create a temperature difference between the inner and outer sides of the lid, speeding up the condensation process.
- Replenish the ice supply if necessary and wait until you can clearly see condensed distilled water in the smaller pot. Note that the volume of distilled water won’t be the same as the water you started boiling in the first step. With 8 cups of water, you’ll produce less than 2 cups of distilled water.
Is it cheaper to buy or make distilled water?
It’s cheaper to buy distilled water than to make it because to boil water you have to use gas and electricity and not all the water you boil will turn into distilled water at the end. Instead, if you, say, start with 8 cups of untreated water, the volume of distilled water will be less than 2 cups.
What can I use instead of distilled water?
There are many alternatives of distilled water you can turn to including mineral water, deionized water, spring water and osmosis purified water. All these types of water contain the healthy minerals that are necessary for your well-being.
Can you make coffee with distilled water?
You can use distilled water for making coffee provided you’re a fan of a bitter cuppa. However, if you want your coffee to taste ‘normal’, don’t use distilled water. Instead, use cold water to make coffee. Your taste buds will appreciate it.
Distilled Water Vs Purified Water: Which is Best?
Both distilled and purified water are safe for you to drink and are essentially the same. The major difference between the two is that distilled water gets rid of all the minerals that can be healthy for your well-being, which isn’t the case with purified water.
Provided you want the cleanest drinking water you can find, going for distilled water is a no-brainer. If, however, you want the cleanest + the healthiest drinking water for you and your family, you should opt for purified water.
I graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering and have written for a number of nationally recognized publications in the home improvement space. My skills include fluid mechanics and process engineering and I have worked on numerous projects, including in waste water flow rate calculation and heat balance of steam rollers in the paper industry. My goal as a technical writer is to make complicated topics easy to understand for the average person.