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Distilled Water vs. Purified Water: What’s the Difference?

Updated
You can have great-tasting water that’s better for you.

It is essential that we all drink enough water every day, but it isn’t always easy to do so. It can be particularly difficult if your municipal water supply has an unpleasant taste or you are concerned that it might be dangerous.

Fortunately, you now have plenty of options if you want to improve your water quality and taste. Between distillation, purifying, or simply drinking your current tap water, you might not know where to start.

To help you decide, this article will explain the differences between distilled, purified, and tap water. We will also give you a better sense of the pros and cons of each type and how they taste, so you choose which method is right for you.


Distilled Water vs. Purified Water vs. Tap Water

Distilled, purified, and tap water all provide excellent options for drinking high-quality water, but it is important to understand their differences, advantages, and possible disadvantages.

Distilled Water

Distilled water is a specific type of purified water that has undergone an evaporation process. During distillation, the water in the initial chamber is heated and evaporates into steam.

As a result, all chemicals, minerals, and contaminants are left behind. Only the pure water vapor travels up into the distiller, then into a collection chamber.

Allow Plenty Of Time

The distillation process is time-consuming, and it can take several hours to process a single gallon of water. It is important to plan ahead and ensure you always have water prepared.

Benefits of Distilled Water

Here are some of the reasons you should consider distilling your water:

  • Removes unknown contaminants: Distilling your water makes it impossible for most contaminants to cling to water particles. This makes it an excellent way to tackle bacteria and viruses that can survive other purification methods. If your water supply comes from an untreated well or you use a natural water source while camping, a water distiller will be very effective.
  • Removes chlorine and pesticides: Some of the most stubborn contaminants can resist other filtration methods. Thankfully, a distiller can successfully separate them from water.
  • Improved taste and removal of excessive minerals: Charcoal-based filtration can only do so much when it comes to removing excess minerals, which might negatively affect the taste of your water. Water distillers remove these minerals and leave you with pure water.
  • Protects a compromised immune system: If someone in your household has a weakened immune system, the contents of tap water can be harmful. Distilled water is the purest form of widely available water, making it the safest choice (1).
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Drawbacks of Distilled Water

There are plenty of reasons to drink distilled water, but there are also a few notable disadvantages.

  • Distilling is slow: Home water distillers usually take a long time to provide a relatively small amount of water. It can take between 5 and 6 hours to distill a single gallon of water. If your household consumes a lot of water, the wait might make a distiller impractical.
  • Can be more expensive: Other filtration options rely on the flow of water through a stationary filter. The external housings and filter systems vary in price, but the filters are generally affordable. In contrast, water distillers require a specialized piece of equipment that is more complicated and costly to manufacture.
  • Removes the bad and the good: Distillation leaves your water free from harmful material, but also beneficial minerals such as magnesium and calcium. These minerals are crucial to maintaining a healthy body. If you choose distilled water, you need to ensure your diet provides these minerals from other sources.

How to Distill Water

There are a couple of ways to distill water at home. The two broad distillation types are electric and non-electric water distillers.

Electric Water Distiller

These water distillers plug into an outlet and function similarly to a coffee maker. There is an initial water chamber that can be filled with tap water. When you start the distiller, a heating element heats the water to a high enough temperature that it begins evaporating into steam.

As the steam rises, it is forced out of the water chamber via the chamber exit. As it moves through that exit, a collection carafe captures the steam, and it returns to liquid form as contaminant-free water.

Always account for the electricity used by these models. This will impact both where and when you can use it, as well as the operational costs. These units range from affordable to quite expensive, and some may also offer additional filtration.

Non-Electric Water Distillers

Like their electric counterparts, these water distillers require a heating element to work. Many are designed to work on a stove or even over an open fire. If you anticipate spending time somewhere you won’t have access to electricity and you still want distilled water, these models are ideal.

Specialized distillers are also available. These usually consist of a self-contained unit with multiple compartments, which is great for camping. Like electric water distillers, you can spend quite a lot of money on a non-electric model, but there are also more budget-friendly options.

Purified Water

Depending on your chosen purification method, you can remove algae, bacteria, fungi, and parasites from your drinking water. Purified water is frequently also free from chemicals, hard metals, and even minerals.

Purification achieves similar results to distillation, but the process is different. Essentially, purification removes contaminants from water, whereas distillation removes water from contaminants and places it into a second container.

Benefits of Purified Water

Here are some of the main reasons to consider purifying your water supply.

  • Water will taste better: Everyday minerals can change the taste of your water. You might also find that the chemicals used by your local supplier leave your water with an odor or unpleasant taste. Purification removes these from the water.
  • Healthier water can make you healthier: Drinking purified water can prevent serious waterborne illnesses such as giardia and E.Coli. Reduced chlorine levels in drinking water have even been linked to a decrease in cancer cases (2).
  • You might drink more water: The better your water tastes, the more of it you will probably drink. This is good for your skin and your overall health. People often mistake thirst for hunger and eat more food instead of simply hydrating, so always try to stay hydrated.

Drawbacks of Purified Water

Compared to the benefits of using purified water, the drawbacks are relatively trivial. Here are the most common issues.

  • Can be expensive: Buying and installing a purification system (or buying purified water) is more expensive than drinking water straight from your faucet.
  • Ongoing maintenance: Whether you have a system that requires maintenance, or you have to make water runs, there will be more maintenance involved when using purified water.
  • Created waste: The use of filters (both the packaging and the filters themselves) produces a lot of waste, though most filters are now recyclable. Disposable plastic water bottles are also a significant contributor to landfills (3).

How to Purify Water

If you want to purify water at home, your purification method will largely depend on the quality of your water supply.

If your water is treated before it reaches your home, a light filtration method should be sufficient to purify it. However, if you only have access to untreated water (such as from a well on your property), you might need heavier-duty filtration.

Here are some of the most popular ways to filter your water:

  • Use a whole house filtration system: Whole-house systems are costly to install. However, once they are in place, maintenance is infrequent and straightforward. As larger units, they are excellent for water that requires more rigorous cleaning. These filtration systems process all the water that enters your home, so your drinking, bathing, and laundry water will all be purified.
  • Under sink water filters: Most of these systems are installed directly into a sink’s water line, usually in the kitchen. There are more sophisticated reverse osmosis filters that can be installed in your sink, but many are simple charcoal filters. Charcoal filters require regular filter changes but are connected directly to your faucet.
  • Water pitcher filters: Perfect for storing in a refrigerator or taking with you on a trip, these pitchers are equipped with a charcoal filter. When you add water to the reservoir, it drips down through the filter. You will need to replace the filter monthly — and refill the chamber frequently — but these are budget-friendly to buy and maintain.

When it comes to the filtering process itself, these are the most widespread filtration methods used today:

  • Reverse osmosis filters: A reverse osmosis system filters an extensive range of contaminants. They are usually quite large but they can also be found in under-sink models. These systems remove contaminants alongside some healthy minerals. While most systems only remove material, many reverse osmosis filters have additional phases where the nutritious components are reintroduced to the water.
  • Carbon filters: An excellent choice for less intensive filtration, carbon-based filters remove impurities and sediment from your water. They will leave you with fresh-tasting, odorless water and can be acquired at a reasonable price.
  • UV filters: UV light can destroy bacteria and viruses. A UV filter provides simple, effective purification to ensure you have safe drinking water.

Tap Water

If you aren’t currently filtering your water, you are likely relying on your tap water. Municipal water will be treated before it reaches your home, whereas well water might arrive at your home untreated.

Benefits of Using Tap Water

Many people are content to stick with their tap water, rather than investing in distillation or purification. Depending on the quality of your water supply, it might not need filtering. Here are some of the benefits of sticking with tap water:

  • Little maintenance: Other than monitoring your home’s pipes and plumbing system, you don’t need to do much to maintain your tap water. As there are no recurring filter purchases or replacements, this is a low-cost, low-effort filtration method.
  • Great for large amounts of water: Tap water is instantaneous and indefinite. As long as your faucet is open, you will have water coming in. Both purification and distillation are slower to varying degrees, which means it will take longer for you to receive water.
  • Tap water can contain healthy minerals: Some water sources contain minerals that have health benefits, such as magnesium and calcium. These can sometimes be removed by purification and distillation, which means you will miss out.

Drawbacks of Tap Water

Tap water can have some health benefits, but there are reasons why people opt for purified or distilled water instead:

  • What’s in your tap water? You can’t know exactly what is in your home’s water supply. If it comes from an untreated well, it could contain various materials. Even if your municipal water supply is treated, it might encounter some harmful contaminants as it travels through pipes to your home.
  • Lead piping: In the past, home water supplies used lead piping almost exclusively. Although this is being phased out, many homes still have lead pipes (4). Lead is a well-known toxic metal, and lead consumption should be avoided (5).
  • Some tap water tastes or smells bad: This is a matter of preference, but not all tap water tastes or smells the same. You may find that purified or distilled water is closer to the taste you want.

Distilled Water, Purified Water, Or Tap Water — What’s Right for You?

If you are still considering the pros and cons of each type of water, there are a few things to consider:

  • What’s in your water? Test your water and look closely at the specific contaminants it contains. Does your water supply run through old lead piping? Consider whether you use municipal water or well water. Knowing what you need to remove from your water will help you choose the right type for your home.
  • Consider your budget: Once you have a clearer picture of your needs, determine your budget. This will help you narrow down your range of options and ensures you will find a purification method you can afford.
  • Do you need portability? Having a whole-house filtration system makes life much easier, but it also means you can’t take it with you. If you frequently travel and want to take healthier water with you, consider a smaller, portable option.

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About the Author

Sylvia Jones

Sylvia Jones is a hands-on, DIY aficionado from Indiana. She is passionate about home improvement, gardening, and environmental conservation. In her spare time, you can find Sylvia getting involved in home improvement projects around the house with her husband, or spending quality time out in the yard.