Making distilled water at home is easy. You only need a few items and some time dedicated to the process. It can be fun, like going back to the basics of a science class and conducting a simple experiment. Plus, you can save some money while at it!
What Is Distilled Water and What Types of Water Can You Distill?
Distilled water is purified water obtained through condensing water vapour or steam from impure water.
Distillation is a physical process since it involves a change in state from liquid water to water vapour (water in gaseous form), and then again changing the state from water vapour to liquid water through condensation.
Since you are already thinking about how to make distilled water at home, we must mention the types of water you can distill safely. The following types apply:
- Tap water
- Water from streams
- Borehole/well water
- Rainwater (more on this later)
- Plants and damp soil (comes in handy for outdoor survival)
Our focus in this article is on the various water types you can easily distill at home and save money doing so.
The Basic Idea Behind Distilling Water
Water distillation mainly relies on two basic ideas.
First, you boil water, collect the escaping steam, and then condense it. The steam is pure or distilled water, and the impurities stay behind in the boiling container. This process is called steam distillation.
Secondly, a more advanced approach involves evaporating water without boiling it. This method relies on changes in pressure or temperature to form water vapour, which then cools back to water.
What Distillation Removes from Water
Depending on the distillation type, you can remove more impurities or contaminants from water than you would by simply boiling the water. One of the easiest types of distillation for homeowners is steam distillation.
If you are willing to spend more money, you can combine this method with granular activated carbon filters to purify the water further and even improve its smell and taste.
Simple steam distillation removes about 99% of pollutants, minerals, and chemicals. Unfortunately, it also removes useful minerals like calcium and magnesium. Removing beneficial natural minerals explains why distilled water has a bland taste.
When you add carbon filters to the distillation process, you can remove other undesired things such as:
- Traces of municipal water treatment chemicals like chlorine
- Organic compounds (especially those formed when organic matter in the water reacts with treatment agents like chlorine)
- Odours and tastes
- Metals like aluminum, copper, and lead
Distillation also helps kill harmful bacteria that boiling doesn’t eradicate in water.
4 Easy Ways to Make Distilled Water at Home
Here are four easy ways to make distilled water at home.
1. Making Distilled Water on the Stove Using Two Pots
Here’s what you’ll need for this method:
- Impure water
- One large pot with a raised-center lid
- One smaller pot
- Stovetop burner
- Oven mitts
- Place the large pot on the stove and add about 8-10 cups of impure water.
- Put the smaller pot in the large pot so that it floats on the water while leaving enough room around it and between its mouth and the mouth of the larger pot.
- Turn on the stovetop to heat the water at medium heat for a more controlled process. (The water doesn’t have to boil, but there is no harm if it does.)
- Turn on the stove and cover the setup with the lid placed upside-down so that the raised part is over the smaller pot. This helps form a kind of inverted funnel to ensure the distilled water will flow into the smaller pot upon condensation.
- Pour some ice on the lid. This will cause the water vapour that forms on the lid to condense faster and drop into the smaller pot. You might have to add more ice after 30 minutes or so.
- Keep checking to ensure there is still water in the larger pot.
The water that collects in the smaller pot is distilled. Wait for it to cool down before using or storing it.
2. Making Distilled Water on the Stove But in an Outside Container
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A suitable funnel
- Appropriate tubing
- Duct tape
- A glass bottle (outside container)
- Stovetop burner
- Ice/ice pack
The process here is the same as above since it involves heating the water to vaporize it.
Instead of collecting it in a second pot dipped into the larger one, use an outside container, like a dishwasher-safe glass bottle.
A glass bottle is preferred because it’s easy to connect with the funnel using the tubing. The duct tape seals the mouth of the bottle to make it fully airtight.
- Place the pot on the stove and pour in 8-10 cups of water. Connect the funnel and glass bottle using the tubing. Cover the pot with the funnel. Ensure the bottle rests on a safe surface, then wrap it with the ice pack.
- Turn on the stove and heat the water at medium heat. The funnel will channel the vapour into the bottle through the tubing. The ice pack will speed up the condensation process.
- Once you have collected enough water, switch off the stove and allow the water in the bottle to cool before storing or using it.
3. Distilled Water from Precipitation
Precipitation such as rain and snow is naturally distilled water. When water evaporates from water bodies or the ground, it condenses and falls back to earth through the atmosphere.
Rainwater and snow can be used as distilled water without further distillation, but you must be sure it’s safe for drinking. Precipitation falling through the atmosphere may get contaminated by pollutants in the air.
Furthermore, some jurisdictions prohibit collecting rainwater even in your own home. Be sure you are allowed to collect rainwater before using this method.
If you live in an area where the atmosphere isn’t polluted, you can collect rainwater in the open (not from the gutters) and let it sit for 24-48 hours to allow sedimentation before using or storing it.
To ensure that the water you collect is safe for drinking and other uses, you can always distill it using the steaming method. However, this may strip it further of its natural minerals and the inviting taste of rainwater.
4. Making Distilled Water Using Home Distillation Systems or Kits
Home distillation kits are another easy way to make distilled water and save on costs. You’ll need electricity for this method.
The home distillation kit will cost you $100-$1,000.
One advantage of using home distillation kits is that the process is easier and doesn’t require much human input, saving you time.
How Many Times to Distill Water
There’s not much need to distill your water a second time, apart from when you might want to distill precipitation.
One round of distillation is enough to make your water safe for drinking and other home uses.
How Distilling Water at Home Saves You Money
Let’s face it, buying distilled water from stores can be expensive. The water itself may not cost you an arm and a leg, but you’ll spend money travelling to and from the store to fetch it.
When you make your distilled water at home, your main cost will be the fuel or electricity you use to vaporize the water. You’ll save the money you would have spent on car fuel.
Precautions When Distilling Water at Home
You don’t want to spoil the fun of making your distilled water at home by doing it wrong. Be sure to consider the precautions below.
- The cookware for boiling the water gets pretty hot. You must use oven mitts to hold hot cookware, such as the lid.
- Adding too little water to the large pot means you might heat an empty pot when all the water vaporizes. This would damage your pot and even potentially cause a fire hazard.
- Ensure you dispose of the melted ice properly instead of reusing it.
- Storing the distilled water the wrong way will cause recontamination.
- Open the lid carefully to avoid getting burned by the steam.
How to Store Water Distilled at Home
It’s important to take care in how you store distilled water at home. Distilled water tends to absorb contaminants when stored badly. If this happens, all the work that went into distilling the water would be wasted, and the water would be unsafe again.
The following are great ways to store distilled water at home:
- Only store water in a plastic container if you intend to keep it there for a short time
- Refrigerate the water
- For long-term storage, use a clean, sterile, and sealed high-quality stainless steel or glass container to store the water at room temperature.
One way to sterilize a water container is to dip it in hot or boiling water for a while, provided it won’t break or get deformed. Dishwasher-safe containers are also ideal.
Uses of Home-distilled Water
The main understanding is that distilled water is only used for drinking. But there are other equally important uses. Besides drinking distilled water, you can use it in other ways, such as:
- Watering house plants
- Filling aquariums (but mix with some undistilled water since distilled water won’t support aquatic life)
- Filling humidifiers and other medical equipment
- Steam-ironing clothes
Is Distilled Water Safe to Drink? – The Shortcomings
Distilled water is safe to drink, but only for the short term. As mentioned earlier, even steam distillation removes useful dissolved minerals like magnesium and calcium. These minerals are helpful in the body.
For example, calcium helps the body develop healthy teeth and bones and regulate nerve functions and heart rhythms. It also helps with blood clotting and the contraction of muscles.
Magnesium supports energy production and the proper functioning of muscles and nerves.
Taking distilled water exclusively for prolonged periods deprives your body of these natural minerals, leading to complications and higher risks of osteoporosis, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Another shortcoming of steam distillation is that it doesn’t remove all impurities. Some impurities that have a lower boiling point than water may boil before water, potentially contaminating the water vapour and the resultant distilled water.
Such impurities that vaporize before water include pesticides and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). VOCs may form in water after the organic matter in it reacts with the chlorine meant to treat the water.
The practicality of making distilled water at home is questionable. If you make only a few cups for a few people or use them in a medical device, there’s no problem distilling your water.
Distilling water at home is pretty tedious and time-consuming. It becomes impractical if large amounts of safe water are needed daily.
For small amounts of safe drinking water, you might want to buy a Berkey water filter for filtration rather than distillation. If you are on the move, a Berkey portable water filter is a great option.
You might also consider that distilling water at home may be cheaper and fun, but it isn’t entirely a green way of life. Firstly, you’ll use fuel or electricity to boil the water. While the cost of this may be negligible, the type of fuel you use may not be environmentally-friendly.
Secondly, distillation isn’t a waste-free process. You use water to get rid of the by-products of the process, such as the scum formed on your pots.
There’s no denying that distilled water is healthy for you in the short term. It’s safe to drink and easy to make without hurting your pockets. You even save money when you learn how to make distilled water at home.
Despite the many benefits, distilled water won’t be your best type of drinking water for the long term. Plus, it takes a lot of time to make one gallon of distilled water from impure water.
Such disadvantages make it necessary to use other water purification methods like filtration. If you can’t wait hours to produce a gallon of water or if you must make enough for a large number of people, it’s better to shop Berkey water filters.