Water distillers use a simple method of purification to produce highly sanitary water for drinking and cleaning. By turning water into vapor and then recondensing it, these devices are able to catch a large number of common contaminants—many of which can pose a danger to health—such as lead, heavy metals, protozoa, and bacteria.

Here’s our review of the best water distillers available right now. We’ve taken into account product efficiency, popularity, and price, to provide you with the most up to date and helpful information out there.

How does distillation purify water?

Distillation uses the principle of evaporation to purify water—a method so simple that it’s seemingly been around forever. Alexander of Aphrodisias describes the distillation of seawater in 200AD! Contaminated water is heated, turning it into steam and leaving inorganic compounds and microorganisms behind. As the steam cools, it condenses back into water and is collected in a separate reservoir.

Water distillers with an NSF/ANSI Standard 62 certification use this process to remove minerals, metals, and micro-organisms from water. These include:

  • Sodium, sulfate, nitrate, and arsenic,
  • Calcium, magnesium, and zinc,
  • Bacteria, viruses, and cysts.

Chemical solutes that are able to boil and condense like water can make it, to some extent, through a distiller. This means that many common organic compounds such as chlorine will need to be prefiltered before distillation—easily achieved with a cheap carbon filter.

It’s worth pointing out that not all water drinkers will want to remove minerals from their supply. Calcium and magnesium can give water flavor, as well as micro-nutritional benefits, so many look to retain these elements in their eight glasses. However, water should not be considered a significant source of these minerals in a balanced diet—plus, many won’t be using distiller devices for the purposes of drinking water.

FAQs

Distilled water can be used as drinking water, however, many people who own distillers use them for other purposes. For example, some treat tap water using a distiller before filling fish tanks and aquariums, in order to minimize changes to the micro-environment. A growing use-case for distillers is to produce water for CPAP machines and medical humidifiers. Using distilled water for these devices helps maintain cleanliness, as there’s no mineral or bacterial build-up from distilled water.

While as drinkable as rainwater, distilled water may not taste so great. Because of the lack of minerals (or anything!) dissolved in the liquid, the taste can seem flat and unrefreshing.

Health concerns circulating online claim that distilled water will leach contaminants and toxins if stored in plastic containers for long periods. There is some truth to this, although concerns should be tempered by the fact that many different kinds of water will absorb traces of their containers depending on their ph level, temperature, and other factors.

Some online writers also believe that distilled water will ‘pull’ minerals and electrolytes out of the body, but again, it’s not clear that distilled water acts in any significantly different way from other water types. After all, distillation is a natural, evaporative process—the same principle used to create rainwater.

Compared with other common types of water filtration, it’s true that distillation is a relatively costly and slow operation. With water needing to be boiled and condensed, power and time are required for each batch of water.

Distilled water is produced for many industrial uses—from science laboratories and hospital procedures to cosmetics and car production. This is why you’ll often see distilled water in plain-looking bottles when compared to the competitive marketing campaigns of drinking water brands. However, all distilled water is still drinkable.

Because the distillation process itself is so simple, it’s easy to recreate the workings of a distiller without the product. Simply float an empty container inside a larger container filled with water, then cover and boil. For more effective distillation use a covering that slopes towards the collection container, and chill with ice to enhance condensation.

Depending on the design of their heating element, some distillers can become less effective over time, especially in regions with very hard water (that’s water with high mineral deposits).

As water is boiled, these minerals are left behind and can form ‘scale’ inside the appliance. This is no different from a kettle, coffee-maker, or other water boiling device, and can be mitigated with regular cleaning or pre-softening water. See our post on What exactly is ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ water? for more about water hardness.