What is Distilled Water Anyway, And How is It Different?

Written by Megan Martin
Updated: November 7, 2022
© iStock.com/megaflopp
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Believe it or not, shopping for the right type of water for you can be difficult. After all, a single stroll down the water aisle in your grocery store can show that there are dozens of different types of water, each claiming to be different. This includes distilled water. Now, at first, you may ask yourself “what is distilled water anyway?”. We’ve answered this question and more below.

Ready to find out just what sets distilled water apart from other types of drinking water? Let’s dive in!

About Distilled Water

Water, Distillation, Alcohol - Drink, Scientific Experiment, Examining
Distilled water is boiled to remove impurities.


Distilled water is one of many different types of purified drinking water that you can create or even purchase. This type of water is boiled to remove impurities—a process we will talk about in further detail below.

How is Distilled Water Created?

water ice steam
Only water molecules can travel from liquid to gas and to liquid again.


In order to understand how distilled water is created, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the water cycle and how water can change forms.

There are three main states of matter: gas, liquid, and solid. For most substances, they can become each one of these states of matter depending on the temperature. Let’s keep using water for this example. When it reaches below freezing, water turns into a solid: ice. At its normal temperatures, water is a liquid. When it gets hot enough to boil, water can turn into steam, which is a gas. In the water cycle, the water will move through each of these stages to continue its journey.

In order to take distilled water, you’ll need to begin with water in a liquid state. Then, you’ll boil it, which creates water vapor. Often, when it comes to cleaning water this way, you’ll use a lid or some other container to capture this water vapor, which will then cool and turn back into a solid form. 

Because only the water molecules can travel from liquid to gas to liquid again, any impurities that were originally in the water were left around. This includes solids and even dissolved substances like salt. And, because the water is reaching boiling temperatures, it can also kill any bacteria or other types of pathogens living in the water.

Oftentimes, after a natural disaster, people are encouraged to distill their water for safe drinking. You’ll also find that this is common while camping or otherwise traveling without a clean water source. 

The Origin of Distilled Water

Distilled water has actually been around for quite a while. In fact, there are some sources that trace the use of distillation as a way to purify water all the way back to two thousand years ago, to the days of Ancient Rome. Julius Ceaser has even been cited as one of the first people to use it according to some sources. Alexander of Aphrodisias and Aristotle were thought to have taken part in distillation at well. 

As a result, distilled water has almost always been a major method of securing fresh water to drink. However, it wasn’t until around World War II that water distillation became a commercial venture. During this time, it was common to find seawater being distilled to remove salt and pathogens and turn it into safe drinking water. Once we switched away from Roman’s solar distillation methods which used the sun’s power, distillation became a costly adventure, even though it allowed for more purified water. As a result, though we’ve distilled water for thousands of years, we’re still working to perfect the process. 

Is Distilled Water Healthier?

Drinking Water, Contamination, Pollution, Lead, Drinking Glass
Distilled water is not necessarily the healthiest.

©iStock.com/Yury Karamanenko

Although distilled water is known as one of the purest forms of water, it’s not actually the healthiest. In fact, distilled water is overall fairly neutral: not unhealthy, but not healthy either. 

This is because the process of distilling water does more than just remove sediment and harmful bacteria; it also removes the helpful minerals and electrolytes that can be found in water. These minerals can be essential, and they can be difficult to acquire through other methods. However, it’s still best to distill unclean water for safety purposes, as it’s better to sacrifice some minerals than risk gaining a parasitic guest!

Some of the minerals you can find in water before the distillation process include:

  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Sodium
  • Copper
  • Flouride. 

Benefits of Distilled Water

Although distilled water does lack certain nutrients, it’s still beneficial. In fact, as the purest form of water, it can also be the safest. This means that when it comes to things such as natural disasters and emergencies or mixing formula for a baby, distilled water can be important to assure that there is no risk for bacteria, viruses, or other harmful pathogens. 

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Water, Distillation, Alcohol - Drink, Scientific Experiment, Examining
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About the Author

I'm a writer with almost five years of experience. I recently graduated from Wingate University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a double minor in biology and professional and technical writing. I love everything animals and nature related! The American kestrel is my favorite animal, but I also like sharks and alligators. In my free time, I like to watch documentaries and explore nature.

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