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It is obvious that water must run through a purification process to turn into clean drinking water. That is because, depending on your water supply, there may be contaminants and various impurities, including heavy metals. To be safe to drink, tap water should undergo an additional treatment process. But which one – the water filtration or the distillation process? This is an important question because water purification and filtration methods greatly affect water quality.
In this post, you will learn whether distilled water is the same as filtered water, and if it is okay to drink distilled water. To learn about some other types of water, visit my posts dedicated to the safety of spring water, alkaline water, soft water, and hard water.
Is Distilled Water The Same As Filtered Water?
The answer to this question is “no” – distilled water is not the same as filtered water. Although both the filtration and distillation process aim at yielding pure water, the methods are different.
To begin, the distillation process replicates the natural cycle of evaporation, precipitation, and condensation. As you remember from your science class, the sun heats the ocean, the water evaporates into the clouds, cools down, and turns into precipitation. On its way down and once on the ground, the water picks up air and soil pollutants. But when it starts evaporating from the water surface, it leaves behind the salt and other solids.
Similarly, as a method of water purification, distillation begins by heating water to its boiling point, which causes its evaporation. Going through coiled metal tubes, the vapor cools down and turns into condensed pure water, devoid of impurities (especially bacteria and viruses due to boiling).
As for filtered water, it is the result of tap water going through filtration systems such as reverse osmosis and carbon filters that remove impurities and contaminants with the help of various filtering media.
By the way, boiled water is not the same as distilled water, either. Indeed, boiled water does not go through the entire purification process (evaporation, cooling down, and condensation). While the water temperature increased to its boiling point does kill bacteria, it does not strip water of other impurities. Find out when it’s okay to drink boiled water in my post Does Boiling Water Make It Clean?.
What Is Distilled Water?
Simply put, distilled water is a result of a water purification process that involves boiling, evaporation, and condensation. A big plus of the distillation process is that it can rid the water of a broad range of impurities like bacteria and heavy metals. However, its overall effectiveness largely depends on what contaminants the water contains.
Indeed, while many inorganic compounds and non-volatile molecules cannot evaporate with water and stay in the boiling chamber, some organic compounds can. Because they have lower boiling points than water, they may re-contaminate the water if not properly handled. One of such organic compounds is benzene. It may end up back in the water once it has condensed into liquid form. To trap such lingering contaminants, most distillers use carbon filters.
Here is how the distillation process works (source):
- Boiling chamber: water is heated to a rolling boil, which starts evaporation and steam production.
- Vent: steam rises through a vent leaving behind microorganisms, impurities, and contaminants that cannot convert into gas.
- Condenser: steam is chilled by a fan and turns into water droplets.
- Activated carbon filter: the impurities that have evaporated and condensed with water are removed through a process called “adsorption.”
- Storage container: pure water drips out of the distiller’s spout into a holding container.
One of the minuses of water distillation is that it takes a long time. Thus, supposedly, an average countertop water distiller takes between 4 and 6 hours to produce a single gallon of drinking water because water comes out drop by drop.
Is Distilled Water Safe To Drink?
Some potential concerns with distilled water include:
- volatile organic compounds, and
First, the distillation process removes oxygen and healthy minerals (e.g., calcium and magnesium) from water. Hence, reportedly, it has a flat taste.
Second, as I mentioned above, some volatile organic compounds whose boiling points are lower than that of water vaporize along with the water. Some examples are benzene and toluene. If not removed before condensation starts, they may affect the pure water quality by re-contaminating it (source).
Third, along with viruses, bacteria, lead, iron, hardness minerals, nitrates, sodium, and most other dissolved materials, distillation removes healthy minerals. This leaves your drinking water demineralized of such beneficial minerals as calcium, potassium, and magnesium. While this is great for water pipes and home appliances (think that clothes steamer you use occasionally), it is not ideal for human health.
For example, in its report on nutrients in drinking water, the World Health Organization (WHO) emphasized that
consuming water of low mineral content has a negative effect on homeostasis mechanisms, compromising the mineral and water metabolism in the body.source
The WHO report also cited the German Society for Nutrition, which had reached similar conclusions. Specifically, they stated that
ingestion of distilled water leads to the dilution of the electrolytes dissolved in the body water. Inadequate body water redistribution between compartments may compromise the function of vital organs.source
Therefore, to answer the question, “Is distilled water safe to drink?” I’d say, “It is not ideal to drink distilled water on a regular basis unless it is re-mineralized.”
What Is Filtered Water?
Please read my blog post dedicated to filtered water. In a nutshell, filtered water results from tap water running through filtration systems to get rid of impurities. You want to filter your water to remove various contaminants, heavy metals, and chlorine (used for disinfection). According to the EWG Tap Water Database, your tap water may contain aluminum, antimony, arsenic, benzene, lead, and even uranium. (See how we dealt with uranium in our water.)
The main goal of filtration is to improve water quality, taste, and safety. For this, various filtration methods and filtering media exist. Ideally, you select your water filtration technology in accordance with the contaminants in your water.
Presently, reverse osmosis filters and carbon filters are common as home water filtration systems. The main flaw of reverse osmosis is that, just like distillation, it demineralizes your water by ridding it of healthy minerals. And the main drawback to carbon filters is that they may not remove all the contaminants.
For this reason, in my opinion, the best thing to do is to consult with experts on water filtration. They will help you determine what specific contaminants are likely in your local water. And then will help you match your home with the right filter. Personally, I consider Clean Water Revival to be such experts. They will help you choose the best water filtration system for your water contaminants and your living conditions. You can also read my post on top water filters before making your purchase.
Distilled Vs Filtered Water
Check out this summary table for distilled and filtered water.
|Results from the distillation process that includes boiling, evaporation, and condensation.
|Results from running through filtration systems that use various filtering media (e.g., activated carbon).
|Void of bacteria, heavy metals (lead), and chemicals (nitrates, pesticides).
|Void of bacteria, heavy metals, chlorine and other contaminants.
|May still contain some pollutants (e.g., VOCs) unless they are trapped during the distillation process with specially designed filtering media (e.g., carbon).
|May still contain pollutants unless the filtering system is customized to the specific contaminants in your water.
|Comes out demineralized (without any healthy minerals) but can be re-mineralized.
|If reverse osmosis is used, the water comes out demineralized (without any healthy minerals) but can be re-mineralized. Conversely, water filtered by carbon media contains healthy minerals.
|Takes 4-6 hours to make 1 gallon.
|Takes minutes to make a gallon.
|Takes a lot of electricity to run the distillation machine.
|Reverse osmosis filters take lots of electricity to run. Carbon filters don’t.
|Not good to drink on a regular basis due to flat taste and absence of healthy minerals.
|Water filtered by reverse osmosis filtration method is not good to drink on a regular basis due to flat taste and absence of healthy minerals. Conversely, water filtered by carbon media is good to go.
|The leftover contaminants go down the drain.
|The contaminants remain in the filter.
Conclusion About Distilled And Filtered Water
Distilled Water And Filtered Water Differ In Methods Of Producing Pure Drinking Water And Water Quality.
To sum up, both distilled and filtered water yield pure water that is void of viruses, bacteria, heavy metals, and chemicals. In addition to harmful minerals, distilled water lacks healthy minerals, too. One can say the same about water filtered by the reverse osmosis filtration method. While an occasional glass of demineralized water is fine, I wouldn’t drink it on a regular basis. The lack of vital minerals can be potentially harmful to your health over time.
On the other hand, filtered water, especially if the filter media matches your water contaminants, retains these minerals and is suitable for daily drinking. In my opinion, the best way to find a water filtration system suitable for your water and your circumstances is to use the help of Clean Water Revival. Also, make sure to read my blog post on top water filters – it’ll be of great help, too!
To learn more about other types of water, including spring water, refer to my blog posts:
- Is Spring Water Safe To Drink?
- Is Alkaline Water Better For You?
- Is Soft Water Safe To Drink?
- Is Hard Water Safe To Drink?
- Does Boiling Water Make It Safe To Drink?
- What You Can Do About Uranium In Water
- What Is Filtered Water?
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