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Distilled water and water distillers: What are they and how do they work?

    Distilled water is completely free of impurities.  It is obtained through a distillation process that you can do at home with some DIY techniques or by using a water distiller.

    Key sections in this article

    • 1 Distilled water: what is it?
      • 1.1 Formula
    • 2 How to use at home
      • 2.1 Distilled water: can you drink it?
    • 3 DIY distilled water
      • 3.1 Condensation in container
      • 3.2 Condensation in a bottle
      • 3.3 Collection of rainwater
    • 4 Difference between distilled and demineralized water
    • 5 Where to buy a home water distiller
    • 6 Price of distilled water
      • 6.1 Readings

    Distilled water is water from which minerals, micro-organisms, gases and impurities have been removed. This water does not have bacteria, limescale or other minerals. Also, it has limited electrical conductivity due to the low concentration of ions inside. In this article we explore its uses, characteristics, and how to produce it at home.

    Distilled water: what is it?

    Distilled water is 100% pure water. It is free of mineral salts, gases and bacteria.

    The process of distillation is used to eliminate the solid components, minerals, micro-organisms and gases present in both tap and bottled water.


    The chemical symbol for distilled water is almost the same as that of ‘normal’ water: DH2O.  This means that in each molecule of these waters there are 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen.  However there is a fundamental difference between the two: the letter ‘D’ signifies the distillation process.

    Difference between distilled and demineralised water

    Distilled water differs from demineralized water both in its characteristics and its intended uses.

    It is not uncommon for the concept of water distillation to be confused with that of demineralisation. Although similar, they are different processes.

    The process of demineralising water consists of chemical reactions that do not reduce the amount if bacteria in the water.  The distillation process, however, leaves you with 100% pure water.

    Use at home

    Within the home, distilled water is mainly used for preparing food, in household appliances (such as irons, dehumidifiers and air conditioners), watering plants and personal care. It can also be useful for making eco-friendly cleaning products, filling aquariums and topping up your car radiator or windshield washer bottle.  If you have green fingers, it is great for making the soil in your garden acidic.

    Distilled water is a valuable aid in domestic cleaning. It shines steel, removes stains from laundry and ensures that when you refill the radiator trays, there will be no limescale.  It is also perfect to wash your hair with, as it won’t weigh it down or create any chemical build-up.  It is a key ingredient when making detergents or DIY perfumes.

    DIY distilled water

    Very often we hear about distilled water without actually knowing what it is and when it should be used in place of our usual tap water.

    Moreover, not everyone knows that distilled water can easily be made at home using very simple methods. These techniques ensure the same result as the distilled water you buy in shops or pharmacies, and don’t require any special tools or complicated chemical formulas.  Water can even be distilled without the use of domestic water softeners.

    Here are 3 DIY techniques that allow you to distil tap water safely.

    Condensation in a bowl

    Fill a pan with tap water and place it on the stove with a glass container (e.g. a glass bowl) floating in the water.  Ensure that the container never touches the bottom of the pan – it has to float.

    When the water starts to boil and evaporate, place a glass lid upsidedown on the pan and fill it with ice cubes. This means that when the water evaporates and rises upwards it will meet a cold surface before it falls back down, into the glass container resting there. 

    Heavier mineral salts and gases will sink to the bottom of the pan.  The water collected in the glass container is distilled water.

    Condensation in a bottle

    This technique involves the use of two glass bottles.  If possible, use one regular glass bottle and one with a neck curved at a 90° angle.

    Fill one regular bottle with plain tap water, leaving 10cm of empty space between the top of the liquid and the top of the neck. Using a sturdy adhesive tape, join the two bottles by the necks, connecting the holes together.  The two bottle necks must be perfectly sealed so that neither steam nor water can escape during the condensation process.

    Fill a large pot with water before putt the full glass bottle in.  Make sure that the bottle is surrounded by water and tilt it at a 30° angle, leaning it against an internal wall so that it is stable.

    The empty bottle outside the pot will need to be wrapped in an ice bag and cooled properly so that when the water begins to heat up, contact with the cold surface will trigger the steam condensation process. Distilled water will then start to fill the empty bottle.

    Collection of rainwater

    This method is quite simple and consists of collecting rainwater in clean containers. Store the water for two days after collection.  After the two days the water’s mineral salts will be dispersed and the water will be ready to use.

    NB: This technique can be affected by atmospheric pollution, which alters the rain water’s composition with acidic or harmful elements, so please consider this and whether it is a suitable method for you before you try it.

    Home water distillers

    If you use distilled water daily, or you would like to start doing so, the methods described above can be tedious and inefficient. A simpler process to create distilled water is by using a water distiller.  This is an easy to use home appliance which distils water quickly and inexpensively. A water distiller is composed of a stainless steel tank, a heating element and a cooling element.  You simply fill the tank with water, which gets heated to boiling point.  The evaporated water is then channelled into the cooling section, which enforces condensation and turns them back into liquid state.  You are then left with 100% pure distilled water.

    A home water distiller can distil 4 litres of water in each cycle, and takes about 3.5 hours to do so. Much more convenient than the ‘condensation in a bottle’ method we considered earlier!

    Where to buy a home water distiller

    Here at Imber we provide high quality water distillers.  We have two models: Imber Isla, which has a stainless steel body and comes with a glass collection jug, and Imber Puro, which has a white outer shell and a PVC collection jug. Both perform the same way and will leave you with four litres of distilled water in less than an afternoon.

    We also provide useful activated charcoal sticks, cleaning products for your water distiller, and extra collection jugs.

    Browse our water distillers here.

    How much does distilled water cost?

    The average price of distilled water varies according to the manufacturer and the distributor where it is purchased. Generally the cost averages £0.80-0.90 per litre. 

    With an Imber home water distiller, you can expect to pay only 9p per litre of distilled water, making a huge saving when compared to bottled water and store bought distilled water.