Bottled water, distilled and filtered, has continued to become more and more popular in the US, building on its meteoric rise in the late 80s and 90s. As research keeps showing that tap water might cause health issues, due to the presence of chlorine, more and more people are considering healthier alternatives.
But is distilled water any better? You probably know that it’s recommended for topping off car batteries and diluting antifreeze for use in car radiators, but should you drink it? Let’s answer these questions, along with a few others.
What Is Distilled Water?
In essence, distilled water is water with pure H2O molecules that’s been boiled and collected from a distillation column, ridding it of contaminants and impurities. Due to their higher melting point, most contaminants get left behind while the water turns into steam. The steam rises up in the distillation column and is then collected and condensed to purified water. The small amounts of impurities that go up the column with the steam are collected at different stages according to their vapor pressure.
The distillation process is settled science and people have been making distilled water for thousands of years. Throughout that time, distilled water has had many different uses.
What Is It Used for Today?
A wide variety of industries use distilled water. It can also be used in everyday tasks for which H2O in its purest form is necessary. Let’s take a look at some of the most common uses of distilled water.
This is the most common field where distilled water is used regularly. First of all, it’s used for topping off lead acid batteries in cars and trucks. These batteries require water to function properly, and distilled water is perfect due to the absence of contaminants.
Also, it’s great for cooling off and cleaning engines. There are no compounds that would cause damage to the engine, so it’s completely safe to use in coolant systems. The same goes for washing the exterior of vehicles. Hard water often leads to the buildup of limescale, which is why purified water is recommended.
In the medical industry, distilled water is also referred to as sterile water. The most common use is for cleaning the instruments in conjunction with autoclaves. Since there are no minerals that could get stuck on the surface of instruments, they’re perfectly safe to use once they’re sterilized.
Dentists also prefer distilled water to regular tap water. After a surgery, it’s much safer to rinse your mouth with distilled water, since there are no microbes that could cause infections, and it does a great job of helping you rinse out any bacteria.
Distilled water can be found in most households. More than a few chores are easier with distilled water. Ironing is a perfect example. Distilled water protects irons from limescale and ensures that clothes are safe from damage.
Many people also clean leather furniture with a cloth damped in distilled water. It’s one of the best solvents for removing surface stains, so you can clean almost anything with it. Other uses include cleaning glass surfaces, cooking, and more.
What About Drinking?
The question of whether distilled water is safe to drink has caused some buzz within both the scientific community and general population. There are many arguments that can back up the assumption that it’s good for you, and just as many that it can cause you harm. So which is it?
Well, in general, drinking distilled water isn’t highly recommended for the long term. While it’s true that distilled water is much cleaner than tap water, it still comes with some risks.
A good side of the distillation process is that it removes contaminants. The bad side is that it removes healthy minerals as well. There are various minerals that are very beneficial to our health. Calcium promotes bone strength, Selenium can reduce oxidative stress, and there are other minerals that serve other important functions.
Distilled water contains none of them. Drinking it consistently may cause mineral deficiency if you’re not getting enough from your diet, which can have many adverse health effects.
Another issue is associated with VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Since many of them have a lower boiling point than water, they will evaporate before water. In a proper distillation column, they would get collected separately from the water, but that depends on individual distillers. As a result, VOCs might get collected with the purified H2O, thereby polluting it. VOCs can cause a variety of health issues, so they should be avoided as much as possible.
The main argument in favor of drinking distilled water is that you get most of the minerals you need from food. Even though this might be true, it would require you to be very careful about what you eat to make up for the minerals you’re losing by drinking distilled water.
If this doesn’t bother you, you can give it a try. You might not like its mildly different texture and taste, but no serious harm can be done to your body unless you drink it consistently and avoid tap or mineral water altogether.
Are There Health Benefits to It?
Yes. Drinking distilled water still has some health benefits. The first one is a reduced risk of water-borne diseases. Washing your hands with distilled water can be a great idea since it’s better at flushing away harmful microbes and contains almost none of them.
Another benefit has to do with the health and appearance of your skin and hair. Hard water can damage your hair and skin due to the high mineral concentration. Purified (soft) water, on the other hand, could help your skin and hair regain their vitality.
Lastly, distilled water removes many risks associated with chlorinated water, with higher cancer risk among the most severe. Distilled water doesn’t contain any chlorine, for which it gets a lot of safety points.
The Final Word
Similar to filtered and spring water, distilled water can be a great alternative to tap water in some cases. As you can see, it serves many useful purposes and has a number of benefits.
Even though there’s no explicit answer to the question of whether you should drink it or not, the consensus is that it might not be a good idea in the long run. Other types of bottled water, such as filtered, spring, and mineral, are generally more recommended.