Distilled Water Definition, History, Importance, and Disadvantages

Distilled Water is the product of a process of water purification, which is aimed at ensuring that various contaminants in water are removed. This article discusses the following issues in relation to distilled water;


-What Is Distilled Water?

-History and Origin of Distilled Water

-How Do You Make Distilled Water?

-Importance of Distilled Water: What are the Benefits of Using Distilled Water?

-Disadvantages and Limitations 

-Factors to Consider

-Other Methods of Water Purification



Distilled water
Packages of Distilled Water (Credit:  أمين . 2014 .CC BY-SA 4.0.)

What Is Distilled Water?

Distilled water is water which has been purified by vaporization, separate collection, and condensation. We may also describe distilled water as water which has been boiled till its gaseous state, then cooled and condensed back to its liquid state in a separate container [3].

Based on the given definitions, we can see that the process of making this type of water is possible because of the variability of the physical state of water, which can change as temperature conditions change.

Because the contaminants in water do not generally have the same boiling point and physical properties as water, distillation helps to remove most of these contaminants. Distilled water is free of most of the soluble and insoluble impurities which occur in other types of water.


History and Origin

The practice of distillation in general has been traced back to c. 1200 BCE, based on Akkadian records of a very primitive method of liquid distillation that was used by the Babylonians [6].

Distilled water production itself dates to as far back as c. 200 CE., based on accounts given by Alexander of Aphrodisias [5]. Around the same period, other ancient forms of distillation were used for liquor and perfume production in Egypt.

Between the first to thirteenth centuries, distillation was practiced extensively in China and the Middle East, with developments within various industries. These developments were recorded in the Southern Song, Jin, Eastern Han, and Yuan Dynasties of China. as well as in the Medieval Muslim dynasty.

Water distillation has been directly attributed to Avicenna of Persia, as well as to the first century alchemist Roger Bacon, in separate accounts.

A book named; Liber de arte destillandi (The Book of the Art of Distillation) was published in the year 1500 by Braunschweig, a German alchemist, in which he gave elaborate descriptions of the early methods of distillation.

Taking a cue from this work, more than a century later in 1651, John French published The Art of Distillation, known to be one of the earliest English publications on the subject. Other early developments in water distillation include an improvised method described in 1797 by Captain Israel Williams of the Friendship.

The most common historical application of water distillation is in purification of seawater, which is converted by this process, into distilled water.

Distilled water production was a generally expensive process until it was modified in the Mid-Twentieth century, with the invention of the Kleinschmidt Still during the Second World War [7]. This invention, among other developments, have made it relatively cheaper and easier to produce distilled water today.

How Do You Make Distilled Water?

To put it simply, making distilled water involves a purification process in which heat energy is applied to water till it reaches its boiling point and vaporizes.

When the water begins to vaporize, the heat being applied is usually maintained at a relatively steady temperature.

This is done in order to keep the temperature at the boiling point of water, so as to ensure that the other (soluble) materials in the water do not evaporate. Only by this means is it possible to separate the pure water molecules.

distillation and water purification
Process of Water Distillation 


As the water vaporizes, the gaseous droplets are funneled directly into a condenser. In the absence of heat, the water vapor condenses back to liquid form. Various sources of heat have been developed for the water distillation process due to the cost of burning fuels to providing heat energy. These sources include solar energy and geothermal energy among others.

For domestic purposes, a water distillation system can be used. This system may come in different forms, including the following;

1). Household or Countertop Water Distiller

This is a relatively portable water distillation system which can be set-up in homes or offices. Countertop water distillers are generally capable of distilling a small amount of water at a time, compared to other types of water distillers.

2). Commercial Water Distiller

Several boiling chambers are incorporated into the commercial water distiller, all of which make it capable of distilling relatively large quantities of water at a time. The volume of water which can be distilled at a time may vary from tens to hundreds of gallons.

3). Plumbing Water Distiller

As the name implies, plumbing water distillers are usually installed within the plumbing system. These systems simplify the process of producing distilled water, by ensuring that the water is made available at the point of need.



Importance of Distilled Water: What are the Benefits of Using Distilled Water?

1). High Purity

Distilled water is considered to be the purest form of water available.

The contaminants which are absent in distilled water include;

*Inorganic contaminants like carbonates, iron, calcium, magnesium, lead and manganese, among others

*Organic contaminants like microorganisms, proteins and calories


2). Beneficial to Health

Due to the absence of most of the major contaminants in distilled water, its consumption does not present any significant risk to the body.

Distilled water is particularly important to people who are prone to, or suffering from various ailments, as well as people with weak immunity to diseases [2]. Some of the health benefits of consuming distilled water can be outlined as follows;

*Prevents the occurrence or exacerbation of kidney stones

*Prevents kidney irritation

*Purifies the blood

*Is helpful in bladder infection treatment

“Protects the teeth and bones from excessive fluoride assimilation

*Improves overall bodily function and vitality

*Prevents the occurrence of diseases caused by pathogens


3). Useful for Industrial and Chemical Processes

Most chemical and industrial processes which involve the use of water, can only be effective if water is provided in its purest possible form. Because distilled water is highly pure, it is often used for these processes.


4). Provides a Chemical-Free Form of Pure Water

The process of water distillation is a natural process, which does not require the addition of any chemical substances at any point.

This is very helpful as it provides purified water without any chemical ‘disinfectants’ like chlorine, which could have negative impacts on the quality of the water.


5). Wide Variety of Applications

Distilled water has a wide variety of possible uses, since it does not contain any significant quantity of any other substance asides water.

Some common uses include;

i). Cleaning applications like glass-cleaning, as well as cleaning of materials with mineral build-up such as pots, pans, conduits and kettles

ii). Used to clean and fill aquariums because they provide a non-ionic and safe environment for aquatic organisms

iii). Planta may also be watered with distilled water, especially when there is need to control the chemical composition of the water, such as in hydroponics setups

iv). It is also used in electrical appliances and other devices like pressing irons, car cooling systems, humidifiers, and Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices.

Disadvantages and Limitations of Distilled Water

1). Deficient in Nutrients

While it is an advantage that distilled water has little to no contaminants, this also means that some potentially useful constituents of water are removed by the process of distillation.

Some of the useful constituents which naturally occur in water include magnesium, fluorine and calcium. These elements provide vitamins to the body when the water is consumed.

For example, the consumption of water containing magnesium and calcium is known to help in fortifying bones. The absence of these constituents increases the risk of fractures and other orthopedic problems [8]. Other associated ailments include heart disease.


2). Flat Taste Relative to Natural Water

The absence of minerals in distilled water also means that it is lacking in minerals such as sodium and calcium, which give water its natural flavor. Therefore, it may be slightly unpleasant to drink compared to natural (tap) water.


3). Distilled Water is a Poor Source of Hydration to the Body

Distilled water lacks electrolytic properties, because it does not contain sufficient mineral ions. This makes it unsuitable for hydration, as the body requires electrolytes to be hydrated. Therefore, it is not a good choice for people involved in intense physical activity, and others such as malnourished or sick people, who require effective hydration.  


4). May Increase the Risk of Tooth Damage

Although it has been said that distilled water protects the teeth and bones from excessive fluoride, it is also true that continuous consumption may expose the teeth to disintegration and damage.

The enamel of the teeth requires elements like fluorine in order to develop properly and be fortified. When we drink distilled water, these elements are no longer available, thereby increasing the risk of the formation of cavities and other dental problems.


5). May be Slightly Acidic

Very often, distilled water has a low pH of less than 7.0. This means that it can be acidic, and may be unfit for drinking and other applications.


6). Consumption Leads to Decrease in Body Metabolism

For the body’s metabolic process to be optimal, all possible sources of nutrients must be utilized effectively, including water.

Because distilled water lacks the essential nutrients that are present in tap water, consuming this water may reduce the metabolic efficiency of the body over time. This implies that long-term consumption may not be recommendable.


Factors to Consider Before Usage

1). Existing Needs

The existing needs is a very important factor to consider when deciding whether or not to use distilled water. This is simply because it is not suitable for purposes which require the mineralogical constituents or the electrolytic properties of water.


2). The Quality of the Available Water

Because distilled water is a purified form of water, it is necessary to assess the actual quality and level of purity of the already available water which is to be purified.

This will help to determine exactly how relevant and necessary it is, to produce and use the water.


3). The Preference of the End-User(s)

Preference for drinking water may vary with health condition and other personal factors affecting an individual. These preferences must also be considered.


4). Cost of Production

Cost considerations will help to determine how feasible and sustainable it will be to provide distilled water. This is therefore an essential consideration to make in the planning process.


5). Other Possible Methods of Purifying Water

Asides distilled water, there are other existing forms of purified water. The other possible methods of water purification that can be used in place of distillation must all be considered when making the decision to use distilled water. This approach will help to ensure that the most suitable and sustainable method is chosen.


Other Methods of Water Purification

1). Filtration

 Filtration is a relatively-effective method of water purification which is best for eliminating insoluble contaminants like particles that are present in water.

To carry out filtration, water is poured through one or more permeable media (or ‘barriers’) which allow the water to pass while preventing the passage of other contaminants in the water.

Like distilled water, filtered water does not contain any chemical additives. Rather, it is the product of a process that is based on the mechanisms of chemical absorption and size discrimination.

Filtration can be effective in removing chemical contaminants like chlorine [9], and it does not require much energy-application compared to other methods of water purification.  


2). Boiling

Through the application of heat, boiling represents one of the relatively simple and yet effective methods of purifying water.

Boiling is most effective for eliminating contaminants that are sensitive to high temperature, such as biological contaminants including bacteria and viruses [4]. Because of this, boiling is also considered to be a method of water disinfection.

In general, water boils at 100°C and above. In order to purify water effectively using this method, it should be allowed to boil for at least 20 minutes.


3). Chlorination

Chlorination is the most common form of water disinfection. After the discovery of chlorine in Sweden, in 1744 [1], the uses of this chemical were gradually developed until 1890 when it was found to be effective for disinfection of water.

Like boiling, chlorination eliminates biologic and pathogenic contaminants such as bacteria.


4). Reverse Osmosis

Basically, reverse osmosis is a process of water purification that is carried out by the use of a semi-permeable membrane through which water is able to pass through, while most of its contaminants are prevented from passing.

Reverse osmosis is usually driven by high pressure, which means that it is an energy-dependent process.

Though reverse osmosis, a wide range of contaminants including heavy metals, microorganisms, particulate matter, calcium and chlorine are eliminated from water. For this reason, it is considered by many to be the best method of water purification.


5). Ultraviolet (UV) Irradiation

The method of ultraviolet purification is one of the best ways to eliminate harmful pathogens like bacteria in water.

It is carried out by exposing water to ultraviolet rays, which destroy microorganisms and prevent them from multiplying. This method is often used together with other methods of water purification.



Distilled water is considered to be the purest form of water, as it has been stripped of basically all its constituents aside hydrogen and oxygen (which make up water).

While the high-purity of distilled water is obviously an advantage, this article has also shown that there are some disadvantages of using distilled water for various purposes.

The deficiency of nutrients and minerals in distilled water represents one of the disadvantages, as it makes the water tasteless and strips it of its electrolytic and hydrous properties.

This article has also shown that there are many important things to consider when deciding whether or not to use distilled water, such as the existing need, the quality of available water; and the cost involved in producing distilled water.

We have also given due consideration to the other possible methods of water purification that can be used.

The alternative methods discussed include boiling, reverse osmosis, chlorination and ultraviolet irradiation.




1). AWWA (2006). “Water Chlorination/Chloramination Practices and Principles.”Available at: https://www.awwa.org/Portals/0/files/publications/documents/M20LookInside.pdf. (Accessed 14 January 2022)

2). Cade, N. (2021). “When Two Tides Go to War: Purified vs. Distilled Water.” Available at: https://greatist.com/health/purified-vs-distilled-water. (Accessed 14 January 2022).

3). Campbell, B. (2021). “WHAT IS WATER DISTILLATION?” Available at: https://www.wwdmag.com/what-articles/what-water-distillation. (Accessed 14 January 2022).

4). CDC (2021). “Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene (WASH)-related Emergencies & Outbreaks.” Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/making-water-safe.html. (Accessed 14 January 2022).

5). Helmenstine, A. M. (2019). “How Is Distilled Water Made?” Available at: https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-distilled-water-609411. (Accessed 14 January 2022).

6). Isah, A. S.; Takaijudin, H.; and Singh, B. S. M. (2022). “Principles and Modes of Distillation in Desalination Process.” Available at: https://www.intechopen.com/online-first/79199. (Accessed 14 January 2022).

7). Killeffer, D. H. (1946). “Making Heat Work Overtime”. Scientific American. Vol.175, No. 4, pp. 153-156 (4 pages). Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/24960569. (Accessed 14 January 2022).

8). Qiu, Z.; Tan, Y.; Zeng, H.; Wang, L.; Wang, D.; Luo, J.; Zhang, L.; Huang, J.; Chen, J.; and Shu, W. (2015). ” PLoS One;10(3): e0121995. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0121995. (Accessed 14 January 2022).

9). Woodard, J. (2019). “Activated Carbon Filters 101.” Available at: https://www.freshwatersystems.com/blogs/blog/activated-carbon-filters-101. (Accessed 14 January 2022).

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