How to Make Distilled Water: The Ultimate Guide

Updated
The top 3 methods for making distilled water in the comfort of your own home.

You may have heard of its health benefits, but do you know how to make distilled water?

Sure, you can go ahead and buy large jugs of distilled water in the supermarket. However, there’s no fun in that! It’s not too difficult to make your own right at home, but you need to know how to get started. That’s where we come in, so relax and enjoy the distillation ride.


What Is Distilled Water Used For?

Distilled water is commonly used in medical equipment and automobiles. It’s popular in these fields due to its purity. When distilling water, it’s made into a gas which is then condensed back into a liquid, removing all impurities.

It’s perfectly safe to drink distilled water as well. However, it won’t be doing much else than quenching your thirst.

When we drink tap water or bottled water, we get important nutrients such as calcium and magnesium. We won’t get this when drinking distilled water — that’s why it’s not recommended to drink after fasting (1).

Medical Industry

Distilled water plays a massive role in the medical industry. Due to its purity, it’s safe to use for various purposes, these include:

  • Cleaning instruments: All instruments used on a person must be sterilized. Because distilled water is free of minerals, it won’t leave water spots or stains on the equipment.
  • Wound cleaning: Distilled water is preferred when cleaning small or large wounds. There’s no bacteria or microbes in the water that could cause an infection, making it the best option.
  • Pre-surgery: Surgeons must clean their hands and forearms by scrubbing before surgery. They wash their hands clean using disinfectant soap and then rinse with distilled water to keep the whole process sterile. Distilled water prevents any bacteria from reactivating on the skin.
  • In dentists’ offices: Distilled water is used to rinse away potential bacteria after a root canal or tooth extraction.

CPAP Machines

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines are vital devices for those with sleep apnea.

A CPAP machine applies air pressure while you sleep to keep airways open. Some CPAP machines have an integrated heated humidifier to help prevent dry mouth or nasal congestion (2). Using distilled water in the humidifier keeps it free of any mineral or bacterial build-up.

Laboratory Experiments

To achieve an accurate result in an experiment, distilled water is the best option. Because it’s free of contaminants and minerals, it won’t affect the results. Every day, there are new diseases and cures found with the help of distilled water.

Improves Humidifiers

Humidifiers are essential in the home of those with sinus or allergy problems, or dry skin. You can use regular tap water in these devices, however it can quickly cause a build-up of minerals. When using distilled water, your humidifier is kept clean and ready to improve your home environment.

Keep in mind

Using poor-quality tap water in a humidifier can cause unwanted bacteria to enter the air. This could worsen certain medical conditions.

Fruit and Vegetable Canning

Canned fruits and vegetables often use distilled water. Not only will this ensure the cleanliness of the product, but it will also preserve color and taste. Distilled water will reduce spoilage as well.

When canned produce is canned with water other than distilled, the taste can vary depending on the minerals.

Cars and Trucks

Minerals found in water can quickly corrode internal parts of an engine. It’s therefore common to use distilled water for maintenance. Distilled water is often used for the following purposes:

  • Cooling an engine
  • Topping up lead-acid batteries
  • Car wash

Cosmetics Industry

If you look at the back of your cosmetics product, you’ll often find distilled water listed as an ingredient. Companies use distilled water to ensure the purity of their products and to avoid any contaminants. Because cosmetics are applied to the skin, they must be free of bacteria and contaminants.

What Is the pH of Distilled Water?

If you check your distilled water immediately, it should have a pH of 7. This means distilled water is neutral.

However, distilled water can change when exposed to air, getting a pH closer to 5.8. This occurs when water absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reacting to form carbonic acid (3).

It can take about two hours for distilled water to fully absorb all of the carbon dioxide it can from the atmosphere.

How to Store Distilled Water

There are some essential storage points to keep in mind:

  • Ideal conditions: Distilled drinking water should be stored similar to other plain water. It should be kept away from sunlight in a cool area. When the bottle has been opened, make sure the lid is sealed tightly whenever stored.
  • Glass is perfect: Your homemade distilled water can easily be stored in a glass bottle in the fridge. Home distilling kits usually come with a glass container for storage. If you don’t have a glass bottle, you can easily use a BPA-free food-grade container instead.
  • Food safety: The material used for storage has to be safe for contact with food. If you’re planning on storing your distilled water for emergencies, consider changing the water every few months. This isn’t a requirement since distilled water shouldn’t spoil, but if you want fresh water to drink, it could be a smart choice.
  • Clear away chemicals: If you’ve made distilled water for a purpose other than drinking, you must keep it away from chemicals and solvents. This includes gasoline, household cleaners, paint thinners and dry-cleaning chemicals. It should also be kept in a high-density polyethylene container for long-term storage if you’re storing large volumes.

You may have heard of some of these methods, but why not try one out for yourself?

How to Make Distilled Water Using a Bowl

For this method, you need the following:

  • Large pot (ideally, a 5-gallon one) and lid.
  • Glass bowl.
  • Round baking rack.
  • Ice cubes.

Step 1: Prepare the Pot

Fill the large pot about halfway with tap water. Place the glass, or metal, bowl in the pot and see if it floats.

Keep in mind that the bowl will likely sink as it fills with distilled water. If you fear it will touch the bottom of the pot, place the round baking rack in the pan.

Step 2: Set the Temperature

Place the pot on the stove on a medium to high heat. The water must boil before moving to the next step. When it boils, it removes chemicals such as ethanol and methanol.

Step 3: Create Condensation

Once the water is boiling, turn the temperature down to low. Flip the lid and place it upside down on the pot.

To create condensation, you need a hot and cold barrier. You can do this by filling the flipped lid with ice cubes. Then, as the hot steam rises to the cold lid, it creates condensation.

Step 4: Increase the Heat

Turn the heat back up to high to allow the water to boil and create steam that will turn into condensation. As the condensation builds, it will drip into the glass bowl.

Leave your homemade distillation device to work until you have enough distilled water. However, you must watch the bowl to ensure it doesn’t boil. If you notice a few bubbles indicating boiling, turn the heat down straight away.

Step 5: Remove the Pot

When you have enough distilled water, turn the heat off and remove the pot. Take the lid off carefully — there will be hot steam, so take care not to burn yourself.

Take the bowl out of the pot carefully. If you’re finding it tricky while it’s hot, leave it to cool off for a little while before taking the bowl out.

Step 6: Store Your Distilled Water

Allow your freshly-made distilled water to cool completely before pouring it into a glass container for storage.

How to Make Distilled Water Using a Bottle

To make distilled water using a bottle, you will need the following:

  • Two glass bottles.
  • Duct tape.
  • Large pot (again, a 5-gallon pot is ideal).
  • Ice pack.

Step 1: Prepare the Bottles

For this method, you need two regular glass bottles. However, the process will be much easier if you have one with a curved neck. This curve will prevent the distilled water from running back into the first bottle.

Fill one bottle with tap water. Leave a 5-inch space between the water and the top. Join the bottles together at the neck using duct tape. Make sure they’re sealed tightly.

Step 2: Prepare the Pot

Get out your large 5-gallon pot and fill it with just enough water to cover the bottle with tap water. Place it on the stove on a high heat.

Tilt the bottle to a 30-degree angle, allowing the empty container to lean on the inside rim of the pot. The 30-degree angle will make it easier for the evaporated droplets to make their way to the empty bottle.

Step 3: Apply the Ice Pack

To create a cold and hot barrier, apply an ice pack to the body of the empty bottle. If you don’t have an ice pack, you can fill a bag with ice cubes or use any other frozen item.

The cold and hot barrier will cause the water to evaporate and condense to the empty, cold bottle.

Step 4: Continue the Process

Leave your distillation device to work its magic until you’re happy with the results.

Once you’re happy, turn the heat off, and very carefully remove the bottles from the pot. You can wait until they have cooled before handling to avoid a burn.

Pour your newly-made distilled water into a glass bottle and store in the fridge.

How to Make Distilled Water Using Rain Water

Knowing how to make drinkable water from rainwater can come in handy during emergencies or natural disasters. Rainwater is, in fact, nature’s distilled water. Rain is created when water evaporates from the ocean and condenses in the clouds (4).

But, before you go out collecting water from a puddle, you should keep in mind that rainwater doesn’t always stay clean. The pureness of rainwater depends on the atmosphere — if there are contaminants present in the air, the rain will absorb them.

Another factor that can compromise the rain is the ground on which it falls. If the rain falls on contaminated soil, chemicals and other impurities could dissolve into the water.

After collecting the rainwater, you must take further steps to purify the water to make it drinkable. Follow the guide below to see how. It’s easy to do but can take some time depending on the weather.

Here’s what you need:

  • Large, clean container.
  • Fine wire mesh.
  • One or more clean jugs.
  • You might need water treatment.

Step 1: Get Prepared

Place your large container outside in an exposed area to catch as much rainwater as possible. For this to be successful, keep an eye on the weather forecast for a few consecutive days of rain.

To keep the rainwater as pure as possible, keep it in a clear area away from trees and overhanging branches. It should also be away from any roof or gutter to avoid contamination.

Place a fine wire mesh on the container to catch anything that might make its way into the water. The container should be light-proof to avoid any growth of algae. It should also be tightly sealed to keep any mosquitoes from laying eggs on the water.

Step 2: Separate the Minerals

When your container is as full as you want it, leave it to stand outside for two days. This will allow the minerals to dissipate and leave you with pure water.

Step 3: Store Your Rainwater

After two days, pour the distilled rainwater into one or more clean jugs and store as appropriate.

If you plan on drinking your collected rainwater, there are three effective ways to ensure clean H2O. These include:

1. Boiling

For short-term use of drinkable rainwater, boiling is the best option. Boiling the water will kill viruses, bacteria, and parasites.

The CDC advises that you boil the water for one minute, then allow it to cool before storing it. Your drinking water should be stored in a clean container with a cover. If you don’t like the taste, adding a pinch of salt to each quart of water can improve it slightly (5).

2. Water Filters

There are many types of water filters available, and all vary in effectiveness against different contaminants. Some of the more common filters include ceramic, carbon, and membrane. The most effective filter to remove pathogens is one with a pore size of less than 1 micron (6).

3. Chemical Treatment

If you’re unable to boil the water, it’s recommended that you use chemical treatment. Most commercial purification products use either iodine or chlorine. The CDC does warn that chemical treatments won’t always kill certain parasites, though.

Iodine tends to be more effective than chlorine. However, even though iodine is a necessity in our diet, overconsumption can lead to thyroid problems. It’s also recommended that pregnant women steer clear (7). To combat this, use a carbon filter to remove excess iodine after the treatment.

FAQs

Is It Cheaper to Make Distilled Water or to Buy It?

It depends on the method you’re using. Distillation kits use electricity to run, which will show up on your bill. If you have a gas stove, you’re paying for natural gas on your energy bill.

The only method that’s nearly free is through rainwater. However, you still have to pay for the treatment and items necessary.

Many experienced distillers have found it to be more expensive to make than to buy. In saying that, it’s handy to know how if you’re ever in need and can’t run to the store.

Is Filtered Water the Same as Distilled Water?

No — filtered and distilled water aren’t the same. When you’re filtering water, how many contaminants that are removed depends on the type of filter.

Distilled water is the purest water you can find. Because of the process where the water is evaporated and then condensed back into fluid, minerals, bacteria, and other contaminants can’t follow.

Does Distillation Remove Fluoride?

Fluoride is often added to our groundwater in its unnatural form of either sodium fluoride, sodium fluorosilicate or fluorosilicic acid. Sodium fluoride is the most common form added; however, it’s significantly more toxic than calcium fluoride, which is a natural form (8).

Although some water filters will remove a great amount of fluoride, most will only reduce it. Distillation, on the other hand, will remove all fluoride — leaving you with pure and healthy water to drink.

How Long Can I Store Distilled Water?

It depends on what you’re planning on using the water for. Distilled water used in cars, appliances, and for other uses can be stored for over a year in the right conditions. If you’re planning on drinking the water, consider changing it if you haven’t finished the bottle after a week.

Should Distilled Water Be Refrigerated?

Distilled water doesn’t necessarily have to be refrigerated, but it should be kept in a cool place. You should also keep it far away from direct sunlight. As a result, the fridge is a perfect choice.

How Should I Properly Clean the Container for My Distilled Water?

One thing that could ruin your distilled water is storing it in a dirty bottle or container. This could introduce new bacteria or contaminants to your pure H2O.

The best way to ensure a clean container is to disinfect it using a natural product such as white vinegar. To make it even cleaner, you could use distilled white vinegar. Allow it to sit for a couple of minutes in the container, then rinse using distilled water.

Is Rainwater Similar to Distilled Water?

Although rain is created using the same type of process as distilled water, it’s influenced by other factors.

As rainwater travels through the atmosphere, it absorbs pollutants and other contaminants present. When it falls on your roof or in your gutter, it picks up bacteria and other impurities present.

You must take additional steps to clean your collected rainwater to ensure it’s safe to drink. You can do this by either boiling, filtering or treating it with chemicals such as chlorine or iodine.


The Purity of Distilled Water

Distilled water has many purposes — it plays a significant role in the medical industry and in laboratory experiments. The process of distilling water removes most contaminants and pathogens by evaporating the water followed by condensing it back into a liquid.

How to make distilled water depends on the method you’re choosing. You can buy distillation kits, or you can create your own using a large pot and a glass bowl or bottles. If you do make your own distilled water, don’t forget to store it in a clean container, preferably glass, to ensure its quality.

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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.
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