In this brief guide, we will answer the question, can you boil distilled water? We will discuss if you should boil distilled water and some of its attributes. We will also discuss how distilled water is manufactured and a method you can mimic to distill water at home.
Can you boil distilled water?
A total of 2.1 billion people (29% of the global population) do not have access to safe drinking water, and this lack of access is responsible for 1.2 million deaths each year. Currently, ~4.0 billion people face severe water scarcity at least one month of the year (3).
You can boil distilled water. Distilled water is pure with no minerals, ions, or chemicals present. Distilled water can however have microorganisms present as viruses or bacteria that boiling can get rid of. The boiling process during distillation generally inactivates microorganisms. However, if the distiller is idle for an extended period, bacteria can be reintroduced from the outlet spigot and may recontaminate the water (2).
However, you need to be careful when boiling distilled water as it can evaporate quickly. You do not need to boil distilled water as it is not used for drinking but other applications. Distilled water is used at homes for medical devices, car cooling systems, aquariums, and steam irons. Distilled water is one of the most commonly used elements in undergraduate and postgraduate laboratories, as well as research centers, due to its inert nature (3).
Distilled water is free of impurities and is absent of ionic compounds, mineral salts, and microorganisms. If the microorganisms make their way back into distilled water, you can boil and get rid of them (2).
What makes distilled water different?
Boiled water is different from distilled water as boiled water has naturally occurring minerals dissolved. Mineral water, on the other hand, has minerals added to fortify and provide calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Filtered water has some of the dissolved and undissolved substances removed such as sediment, chlorine, or volatile organic compounds. Other smaller compounds such as sodium and potassium remain.
Distilled water goes through the process of deionization where the ionic exchange helps to get rid of the ions and then demineralization to eliminate minerals. The final process is called distillation where water is evaporated and then collected by condensation.
Distilled water may still contain trace amounts of the original water impurities after distillation. Removal of organic compounds by distillation can vary depending on chemical properties of the contaminant. Certain pesticides, volatile solvents, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as benzene and toluene, with boiling points close to or below that of water will vaporize along with the water as it is boiled in the distiller. Such compounds will not be completely removed unless another process is used prior to condensation. See the section in this NebGuide on treatment principles for further discussion of ways distillers may remove VOCs (2).
Water evaporates and is collected as the remaining impurities that were dissolved in the water stay behind.
Can you make distilled water at home?
You can distill water at home by evaporating water and then allowing it to condense. The dissolved substances and minerals are left behind and you end up with pure water.
To distill water you will need a distillation flask, otherwise a tumbler or a small pot to collect the distilled water. Using a distillation flask will increase the yield slightly greater than using everyday kitchen equipment would.
While the process would produce clean, distilled water; it is inefficient and intricate, and cannot be relied upon as a sufficient source of distilled water. If you use 8 cups of water, you will get only 1 ¼ cups of distilled water in an hour.
1. Add 8 cups of tap water or mineral water to a large pot and place it on the stove. Put another smaller pot or a tumbler inside the bigger pot. The smaller pot should float over the water in the big pot.
2. Boil the water at a steady simmer at temperatures between 180 to 200 Fahrenheit. Do not turn up the heat higher than the medium flame.
3. Place the lid upside down, on the pan. As the water condenses on the lid, the droplets trickle down the center of the lid and fall into the smaller pot inside.
4. The entire process is very slow; to speed it up you will need to add ice cubes on the lid. As you lower the temperature where the condensates form, a temperature difference will make the process faster.
5. You will need to replenish the ice cubes one or two times until the entire process finishes.
Can you drink distilled water?
Distilled water is primarily used for lab experiments and industrial use. It is not recommended to drink distilled water because it is devoid of ions that the body needs to function properly.
Desalination processes significantly reduce virtually all of the ions in drinking water to the point that people who traditionally consume unreconstituted desalinated or distilled water may be consistently receiving smaller amounts of some nutrients compared to people who consume water from some more traditional sources and thus are disadvantaged if their diets do not provide sufficient intake (1).
You can get the mineral ions by eating a balanced diet assorted with succulent fruits. A healthy person with a good diet can drink distilled water as opposed to athletes, small children, or with chronic or temporary sickness.
The micronutrients that the body needs come from mineral ions. Calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, and zinc are crucial parts of the body that maintains many functions of the body. The minerals can be left out of your daily hydration regime, considering you get enough of it from the diet.
Contrary to popular belief, distilled water has not been proven to hold an advantage over mineral water. The only assurance that distilled water can provide you is that it holds a higher chance of being free from additives and chemicals, hence, prevent you from heavy metal poisoning.
Other FAQs about Water that you may be interested in.
In this brief guide, we answered the question, can you boil distilled water? We discussed if you should boil distilled water and some of its attributes. We also discussed how distilled water is manufactured and a method you can mimic to distill water at home.
- Kozisek, Frantisek. Health risks from drinking demineralised water. Nutrients in drinking water. 2005, 1, 148-163.
- Dvorak, B.I. and Skipton, S.O. Drinking Water Treatment: Distillation. 2013. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
- Abou Assi, Reem, et al. Statistical Analysis of Green Laboratory Practice Survey: Conservation on Non-Distilled Water from Distillation Process. Water, 2021, 13, 2018.