Distilled water is important for all sorts of reasons, including filling up fish tanks, laboratory experiments, and replenishing humidifiers.
However, if you need to use distilled water regularly, the cost of purchasing it can add up over time.
Luckily, distilled water is easy to make at home, as long as you have a few supplies. If you’re wondering how to create distilled water yourself, keep reading.
We’ll show you some ways of creating it in this article, including the things you should know before attempting to make distilled water.
You’ll also learn how to make distilled water from mud and plants, in case a water supply isn’t in sight.
Distilled water is always a good thing to have on hand in case of an emergency. Learn how to make it for yourself below!
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Things You Should Know Before Making Distilled Water
Before we cover the methods, you should know that distilled water shouldn’t be drunk, especially if you’re making it yourself.
Distillation does kill microbes, but it will still leave heavy metals in the water.
Unless the water is processed to remove these minerals, you’ll end up drinking them, despite trying to avoid them in the first place.
Distilled water will also extract any minerals from any substance that it touches.
For instance, if you keep homemade distilled water in a plastic container for a long period, chemicals from the plastic can leak into the liquid, affecting its drinkability.
If you want to purify your water supply so you can drink it without worrying about contamination, water filters may be a better solution.
These filters can neutralize your household’s water supply, removing contaminants such as chlorine, fluoride, lead, arsenic, mercury, and many more.
Homemade distilled water may not be the best for drinking purposes, but it’s better for tasks like steam ironing, filling aquarium tanks, chemistry experiments, and replenishing humidifiers.
Nevertheless, distilled water is always better than none in an emergency, which is why it’s always a good idea to learn how to make it yourself.
Making Distilled Water At Home
The Distillation Process
Before we cover the different methods of making distilled water, you’ll need to understand what occurs during the distillation process.
A common belief is that distillation and boiling water are the same process. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
While both processes involve heating water to high temperatures, they differ greatly.
Distillation does require you to boil water, but this water will turn into a vapor, which will then condense and turn into a liquid.
Alcohol brewers also use this process to extract liquor from fermented alcohols.
Boiling water, on the other hand, involves heating the water until bubbles form around the sides of the pot or pan.
People have been using distillation for hundreds of years, but in the modern world, distillation plants carry out this process on an industrial scale.
They carry out this process in different ways, such as fractional, vacuum, steam, and simple distillation.
Making Distilled Water Using Steam
The first method of making distilled water involves using steam.
- Begin by pouring water around halfway into a large stainless steel pan. This pan or pot should have a lid and a five-gallon capacity.
- Place a bowl in the pot. This will collect the distilled water, so ensure that it floats and is large enough to hold the liquid.
The bowl should have room for air and water vapor to circulate on top and around it.
- Next, put the lid upside down on the pan. The lid’s handle should either be inside or on top of the smaller bowl.
Put the pan on a burner and turn the stove to medium-high heat.
- The water doesn’t need to boil, but it isn’t an issue if it does.
- Put some ice cubes or a cold pack on the lid.
- Once the water starts heating up, water droplets will form on the lid. The cold material will make it easier for the droplets to form.
These droplets will drop back into the bowl, leaving you with distilled water.
Making Distilled Water For Camping
If you’re out camping, you can use the same method above to make distilled drinking water.
A campfire will suffice, but don’t use a camping stove, as the propane gas could contaminate the water.
You may not have ice when you are camping, but snow will do the same job.
Only extreme campers indeed tend to camp in the snow, but these individuals are more likely to distill their water compared to less experienced campers.
Advice For An Emergency
If there is an emergency, you should fill all available containers with tap water before the water supply is cut off. Cover these containers to avoid spilling water later.
You’ll need this water to drink and cook with, so it should be fine for these purposes as long as you boil it first.
If this water has come from another source (not the tap) or has been lying around for over a few days, you should distill it to remove impurities.
Remember that snow is water, so you can melt and distill it too, or use it as a cold substance for the distillation process.
Keep in mind that this is advice for an emergency, as you wouldn’t drink snow water unless it was necessary!
Gathering Snow And Rainwater
Precipitation is a natural distillation process. This involves water from the sea and lakes rising into the air, condensing into droplets, and falling to earth as rain.
Collecting rainwater is one method of storing distilled water.
Snow is another form of distilled water, as the water evaporates, condenses, falls as rain, then freezes as snow.
This is just like the steam process outlined earlier, as the water rises, condenses on the lid, then falls into the bowl.
Catching snow and rain in a clean container as it falls should be fine to drink later unless you live in a polluted area.
If you plan on gathering snow from the ground, you should always distill it before drinking.
That being said, rain and snow will collect any debris and pollutants from the air and anything they hit as it falls, so distillation may be a good idea regardless.
One of the best ways of gathering rain and snow is simply by putting out clean vessels when it snows or rains, then storing the water for later as the weather stops.
Once you have collected the water, cover the containers and leave the water alone for a couple of days.
This is enough time to let any sediment, grit, or dirt sink to the bottom of the vessel.
Now, you can pour off the clean water from the container, taking care not to disturb the sediment at the bottom.
You can use this water for washing, cooking, or drinking, but to be on the safe side, you may want to distill it anyway.
Purifying Natural Precipitation Distilled Water
Precipitation in low pollution areas creates purer distilled water, but in cities and urban areas, this water contains impurities such as dust, dirt, and pollutants.
If you have distilled rainwater, it’s a good idea to process it to remove any impurities.
- To do this, store your precipitation (rainwater) in a vessel.
- Let the sediments sink to the bottom of the container.
- Using a coffee filter, pour this water through the filter into a different container. The filter will catch any sediment and allow the purified water to flow through.
In most cases, you probably won’t need to drink rainwater unless you’re in an emergency.
Nevertheless, this is a good method to know about if you often need distilled water and live in a rainy location.
You can also opt for charcoal or ceramic filters, as these will help purify the water even further.
Making Distilled Water From Mud And Plants
Nature enthusiasts will appreciate this one! While it isn’t likely that everyone will need this method, it’s a good idea to be aware of it.
This method is ideal for those that worry about becoming trapped on a hike without water, including people that travel to rural areas a lot.
It may be worth practicing this method, especially if you live in a location with a poor water supply, or often find yourself in risky situations.
To make distilled water from mud and plants, you will need:
- Mud, green plants, or anything in your surroundings that is wet
- Coffee can or similar container
- Plastic film or saran wrap – a plastic bag will do as well
Once you have gathered these, you can follow the steps below:
- Begin by finding the sunniest area you can find, then dig a hole in the ground.
Try to do this in a place that gets the most amount of sunlight over the day. Remember that this will naturally take a lot of time.
- The hole should be slightly wider than the width of your coffee can, or container.
- Put the coffee can in the middle of the hole, ensuring that there is enough room around it.
- Use the plants, mud, or other wet substances to fill the area around the can.
- Next, place the plastic tightly over the hole, stretching it so no holes are left.
- Use stones or any heavy objects around you to seal the plastic as tightly as you can. The goal is to make this airtight.
- Place a stone on top of the plastic wrap, taking care to avoid moving the stones holding the plastic down. The stone should make the plastic dip in the center.
- The natural greenhouse effect will make the water from the wet plants evaporate and form on top of the plastic.
The droplets will then fall into the coffee can due to the dip the pebble creates in the wrap.
- After a few hours or days have passed, you’ll notice distilled water inside the coffee can. Remember, the sunnier the location, the quicker the process.
The Bottom Line
Now you know how easy it is to collect distilled water! All you need is boiling water and a few containers to collect the condensed water.
This is a great method to be aware of, but if you only need distilled water occasionally, a water filter is a better way of ensuring your drinking water is free from contamination.
The first method above does assume that you have electricity for the stove, but remember that you can always collect precipitation if you find yourself without power.
If you need to survive in the wilderness for whatever reason, you can extract water from anything wet, like mud and plants!
Whether you’re camping outdoors or in a real-time emergency, knowing how to distill water is always a good skill.
Even if an emergency is unlikely, tap water can go bad at any time, but distilling water will ensure that you’ll always have water on hand.