To distill, or not to distill?

December 15, 2017

When I moved into my new home a few years ago, I wanted to install a water filtration system under my kitchen sink. These hookups are expensive; so I did a ton of research trying to make sure that I obtained the best quality product for my money. After doing hours of internet research and reading customer reviews, I found that the type of system I wanted was just not economically practical - the affordable systems all had major drawbacks, and the superior systems were entirely out of my price range - and I ended up with a Brita filter. It seemed that Brita really was the best quality-for-cost product. It effectively removes many of the unwanted agents; but it certainly doesn’t remove them all.


Still, I was concerned about not having access to better quality water in my home. City water supplies are often contaminated with escalated levels of harmful pollutants, bacteria, and medications. Where I live, the reports of water quality are less than admirable. The same is true for many urban areas; and the expansion of fracking and other environmentally costly productions are increasing contamination of rural water supplies (and disproportionately affecting low-income and communities of color). Furthermore, many treatment facilities add chlorine, fluoride, and other chemicals to public water supplies.


There are times when I need something better than that. When I have a cold I prefer to use a neti pot to treat my sinus congestion; and there are a few (rare) instances of contaminated water in neti use leading to serious health problems. I also make medicinal herbal preparations and tinctures at home. In these careful concoctions I do not want to introduce unknown elements or toxins. I had already determined that an expensive water filtration system was outside of my budget; so I began to look into home distillation. (I have made it my mission since my college years to avoid bottled water at all costs. So, if I wanted to use distilled water, it makes sense that I would distill it at home.)


Distillation is primarily preferred over filtration for its effectiveness. A home distillation system can remove 98%+ of contaminants; versus filtration systems which remove an average of 60-80%. In distillation, the water is evaporated, then the steam is collected and recondensed. Effectively, all of the contaminants are left behind, and the recondensed steam is of nearly 100% quality. Filtration systems, by contrast, attempt to remove contaminants from the water; and need to be crafted to target the various possible contaminants through a variety of filtration methods. Thus, even the best filtration systems - which may have 5 or more distinct filtration methods in one machine - are more expensive and less effective than distillation. Various online articles like this one indicate that the energy and costs to produce home-distilled water justify the expense of the home-distillation system. (See also this article.)


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