Last updated - November 19th, 2021
Distilled vs purified water? What should you choose? Does the difference even matter?
Water is an essential element for survival. But it can also be detrimental if it has impurities.
To make sure that every possible threat goes away from your drinking water, you will need a method to filter it. In many instances, you might not have access to a whole house water filter, in which case you might need a filtered water bottle as an on-the-go solution.
However, let’s put aside outdoor survival for a moment and focus on the key differences between distilled vs purified water.
- What’s the Difference?
- Are They Good to Drink?
- Head to Head Comparison
- Water Purification Methods in Detail
- Testing the Results
- Final Thoughts
What’s the Difference?
Distilled vs purified water comes down to the process the water goes through to reach purification.
The resulting water from each method is highly similar, with the key difference being the process itself, and what impurities that process removes.
The other main difference is that distillation as a process takes up an enormous amount of energy. For instance, reverse osmosis and other filtration methods require way less power.
What Is Distilled Water?
You can create distilled water through a process called distillation. The chemicals that create water, H2O, get separated from the rest of the contaminants that might be in the water.
The process of distillation works by bringing water to the temperature where it boils into steam, around 212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius. Since many of the contaminants found in water are inorganic minerals, heavy metals, dirt, or chemicals that can’t boil, this process will get rid of them fairly easily.
The thing is, you need something to collect the steam in and allow it to cool down and condense so it will turn into the water again. A professional water distiller can make your life easier than trying to make your own contraptions.
Distilled water is safe to drink, as it contains no impurities, contaminants, toxins, etc. You might not like the taste, though, because distilled water tastes flat.
What Is Purified Water?
There are a variety of ways in which you can purify water. The most common methods involve ion exchange, filtration, or reverse osmosis.
Just like with distilled water, the main objective is to remove impurities and make the water safe to drink. For water to be considered purified, it needs to have less than 10 ppm, preferably just 2 ppm.
A water filter is one of the best ways to try and purify water without going through the arduous process of boiling and cooling. Although filtration is not the same thing as purification, it is the most common method used by people to receive water as close to purity levels as possible in their homes.
Water coming from fountains in parks and other public places is purified by local municipalities. The authorities use a complex procedure to purify public water:
- Flocculation and coagulation – adding positively-charged particles that attach to the negatively-charged ones inside the water.
- Sedimentation – the particles go down to the bottom of the water reserve, where they can effectively bind with each other and separate themselves from the drinking water.
- Filtration – the water then goes through a complex filtration system before reaching home’s pipes. The system consists of sand, charcoal, and gravel. Theoretically, it should remove most bacteria, viruses, dust, and chemicals.
- Disinfection – finally, disinfectants, such as chlorine, get added to the mix. This final step is essential in removing all remaining contaminants.
Are They Good to Drink?
Both distilled and purified water are safe to drink, to put it shortly.
However, both of them have their strengths and weaknesses.
Where you live, what chemicals you have to deal with, and even the minerals you might need in your body all play a significant role in sticking to distilled or purified water long-term.
Is Distilled Water Good to Drink?
While distilling water is useful for removing heavy metals, hard minerals, and bacteria, it’s not at all effective against pesticides and herbicides.
Herbicides and pesticides alike have a boiling point lower than water. That means they will boil faster and you won’t be able to separate them from the water.
If you live on a farm or if your water source is close to your garden, chances are herbicides and pesticides have already entered your drinking water and you don’t even realize it. If that’s the case, we don’t recommend distillation.
Now that we got the precautions out of the way, let’s focus on what distilled water is good for.
Since it is pure, you can use distilled water for everyday drinking and for cleaning wounds.
Just as effective as distillation is at removing bacteria from water, it sadly also removes up to 99% of crucial electrolytes and natural minerals.
You might not realize how many beneficial elements water has. And distillation takes a lot of them out.
To compensate somewhat for these downsides, we recommend looking into an alkaline water bottle filter, since they raise the pH levels in the water.
Is Purified Water Good to Drink?
Purified water may originate in springs, taps, or surface and groundwater sources. However, to get purified water inside your home, you will need to rely on one of the best water purification systems on the market.
To put it as simple as one can, purification removes up to 99.5% of impurities. And it won’t depend on variations in the quality of the water or its source.
Other water purification methods include reverse osmosis, activated carbon block filtration, sedimentation, and ultraviolet disinfection.
When talking about distilled vs purified water, the latter provides more benefits.
Water purification removes heavy metals, bacteria, chemicals, and even pesticides and herbicides. And depending on the purification method used, beneficial minerals can remain intact.
While many municipalities purify water before distributing it to the residents, the methods used are at times questionable.
Consequently, even home water purifiers may present some inconveniences. Maintenance is time-consuming. And if neglected, it will lead to bacteria build-up inside the filters.
Head to Head Comparison
When it comes down to it, distilled water is actually a type of purified water.
Yes, as we mentioned earlier, purification can be done through numerous processes. And distillation is simply just another way to purify water.
You can’t differentiate between the two with the naked eye. And even by using a water tester, in most cases, you won’t see a major difference either. If we were to test two separate glasses of water, one distilled and one purified through filtration, the levels of contaminants would probably be the same in both cases.
Water Purification Methods in Detail
Now that you know the basics about distillation vs water purification, let’s go in detail through other methods through which you can purify water.
Boiling is the simplest way to decontaminate water. It is effective because it kills 99% of living organisms and even some chemicals.
It’s a good method to use in emergency situations when you don’t have access to a filter or other complex purification methods.
Some bacteria are resistant to high temperatures, so the recommended time for boiling water is from 3 to 7 minutes. One thing you may have not thought about is that the altitude also affects how effective boiling is.
If you live in a high-altitude area, such as mountains, you will need to boil water longer than people who live in low-altitude areas, such as plains. This is because altitude directly impacts how fast you can heat and subsequently boil water.
After boiling, let the water cool down to room temperature. This is important because it allows the solid matter inside of it to settle down. Strain the water into a cup, bowl, or other container and let it cool inside a fridge or any cold place such as a cellar.
When Is Boiling Useful?
One of the main advantages of boiling is that it doesn’t add any chemicals to your water. But you should keep in mind that boiling doesn’t remove pesticides, herbicides, and a few other soluble chemicals. In this sense, it has the same advantages and disadvantages as distillation.
And just like distillation, it will also remove most oxygen from your water. This will make it taste flat, which isn’t ideal. However, you can solve this problem by shaking the purified water in its container or adding a little salt.
For many years, chlorination has been the go-to method for purifying water in municipalities all over the country. Some of the reasons why this method has become so popular is because it’s relatively cheap, easily available, and it’s effective in most cases.
You should go for chlorination if your main concern is removing bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other pathogens that are regularly found in water no matter where you live. You will find many chlorine packages on the market, and all of them have different concentrations. Make sure to follow the instructions on the packaging carefully to avoid making your water more toxic than it is.
Mix the chlorine with the contaminated water as instructed, and let it rest for about half an hour. If the water appears too white, allow it to sit for at least an hour. After the water starts clearing up, you can enjoy the decontaminated liquid without any worries.
When Is Chlorination Recommended?
Chlorination is highly effective against germs and other living organisms, but not against much else. We recommend deploying this method sparingly and carefully.
No wonder many choose to install chlorine and fluoride-resistant filters inside their homes.
Speaking of eliminating fluoride and chlorine from your water, one of the best methods to do so is through reverse osmosis. This method is also touted for its capability of purifying seawater. And it improves the taste, odor, and appearance of tap water as well.
An RO system pushes the water through a membrane that captures impurities such as chlorine, fluoride, lead, and pesticides. By applying the osmotic pressure and pushing the water through the membrane, you’ll get crystal-clear purified water.
Should You Consider Reverse Osmosis?
In many cases, a reverse osmosis water filter unit might be even better than a regular water filter. Water filtered through a reverse osmosis system tastes better and it’s completely odorless. Impurities that pass through other filtration methods don’t stand a chance against the process of reverse osmosis.
However, there is a downside. Reverse osmosis is regarded as a huge water waster. It only purifies a fraction of the water that passes through, while most of it remains trapped in the membrane along with the impurities. So if water conservation is a major concern to you, you might be better off with other methods.
Ultraviolet light’s UV-C rays are the same ones emitted by the sun during hot summer days. They are highly effective against bacteria, viruses, parasites, and microorganisms, as they attack their inherent DNA structure.
The way UV filtration works is relatively simple. In short, UV radiation attacks the microorganisms’ DNA, preventing them from reproducing and from spreading diseases in your drinking water.
A UV water filter contains a UV light bulb encased inside a quartz sleeve. You need to install it at the entry point on your main pipe for it to work. Once installed and working, it kills microorganisms in a matter of seconds without wasting water and without adding any chemicals.
Is a UV Filter Right for You?
A UV filter only eliminates microorganisms and nothing else. Furthermore, if you have heavy metals or hard water, as is the case with 80% of US households, a UV filter will need to be paired with a traditional filter or with a pre-filtering system.
The inorganic impurities block the UV rays from reaching the pathogens and destroying their enclosure. Thus it will be ineffective and your investment would have been for nothing. On the other hand, if pathogens are your only concern, a UV water filter will do a fantastic job, and it won’t inflate your electricity bill too much or require heavy maintenance.
Testing the Results
Now you know a plethora of details about distilled vs purified water. One step that you don’t want to skip is testing. This will show you how well a certain method has worked for you.
Distilled vs purified water testing can be done in a couple of ways. Some of them involve testing the water yourself, while others involve letting experts do the job for you. Either way, here are a few examples of how you can do it.
Order a Professional Lab Test
If your water comes from a supplier, you can order a report from them. If you, for some reason, have doubts about their reports, you can take them to a specialized lab for testing.
You can check out the EPA’s water testing page for authorized support regarding this matter. There you will find state-wide certified labs that will gladly test your distilled vs purified water samples.
Note that the lab will ask you for the reasons you want to test the water, so be prepared to make a list of concerns you might have. The person responding to your call will give you instructions.
Listen very carefully. Some tests have specific requirements. You won’t get an accurate result unless you follow the instructions properly. After you take all the necessary steps and send your samples, you should receive the results in about three working days.
Testing Water Yourself
You can order a water testing kit online, or you can test the distilled vs purified water through more conventional means.
Let’s go through the basics of testing without a kit first. Fill a clear and clean glass with your distilled or purified water. Hold the glass up to sunlight to see if it looks cloudy. Clean water should be transparent and not have any “floaties” in it.
Leave the water in sunlight for a couple of hours and then return to see if there are any color changes inside the water. If it turns red, it means you’re dealing with rusty pipes. Green-ish water might mean you have excessive copper. Black or brown usually means lead, dirt, and other serious contaminants, in that case, you will want to call a plumber and get a filtering system ASAP.
Water Testing Kit
To scientifically and accurately test your water you will have to get a strip kit. It’s a simple-to-use tool that will give you a reading in a matter of minutes.
Fill three-quarters of a glass and place the strip kit’s tip inside the water for at least two seconds. Drop the rest of the strip into the water to complete the test. Let it sit for a few seconds and then take it out.
Compare the strip’s color to the colors on the strip kit’s chart to see what contaminants you might have. This way, you’ll know exactly what type of filter you’ll need to purify your water and avoid damaging your health.
Testing for Hard Water
If you want to test your water for minerals, you will need a TDS kit. A TDS meter detects total dissolved solids (TDS). It won’t detect bacteria or other contaminants, just magnesium and calcium. It’s a great way to figure out if you have hard water.
You can search for a TDS meter online or check at your local hardware store. Wash out a glass with soap and water before use, and then fill three quarters with water. You will need enough water to completely submerge the TDS test’s tip.
Turn the meter on and submerge it. Keep it steady until you see a number appear on the screen. Don’t submerge the entire meter, or else you might break it. Most of these meters aren’t fully waterproof. Once it’s done, check the screen for the PPI readout.
Less than 600 PPI means that your water isn’t hard at all. Over 600 means that water hardness is an issue. And over 1200 means that your water is way too hard to be safe for your appliances or for showering.
To effectively treat hard water, we recommend using a water descaler or a reverse osmosis system. Or distillation for small quantities at a time.
To wrap everything up, distillation is just another method of purifying water. All the purification methods shown have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s up to you to choose what is best based on your needs.
Research the main problems with water in your area. Then, if you’re still uncertain, test it out. Finally, depending on the results, you can choose the method that works for you. Just be careful to balance out the good and the bad so that you won’t regret choosing said method in the future.
And, finally, don’t be afraid to try several methods if time and budget are on your side.