What is the Difference Between Distilled and Filtered Water?

Do you know that in the United States people drink two billion gallons of water each year? And when it comes to options for safe drinking water, Americans are usually confused.

Some people hold the belief that tap water is unsafe for drinking and prefer distilled, filtered, or bottled water. This post will discuss the difference between distilled and filtered and which of these two could be the safest option for drinking.

What Are Distilled and Filtered Water?

People are still confused about the type of drinking water that is safe for drinking and cooking. Unfortunately, there is plenty of misinformation about distilled and filtered water. Also, the fact that there are lots of options out there makes it even more confusing for people to decide what’s best for them and their families.

The confusion is further compounded by companies that try to convince consumers that they offer the best products for safe drinking water.

To determine what’s best for you, it is necessary that you understand the differences between distilled and filtered water.

What is Distilled Water?

Distilled water is produced by boiling water and then condensing the collected steam back into a liquid. Distillation will also remove essential elements such as calcium and magnesium, which our bodies need.

Distilled water is often produced using groundwater or tap water. After distillation, the water becomes free of bacteria and impurities (chemicals and other contaminants such as cysts).


How Do Water Distillers Work?

What is Distilled Water?

Water distillers turn water into steam to get rid of lead, viruses, and other contaminants. First, the boiling chamber is filled with tap water, then the water is heated until it boils.

As the water boils, steam rises through a vent into the condenser—a tube made of stainless steel. The steam that is collected in the condensation loop is then converted back into a liquid state.

A fan at the top of the water distiller cools the vapor, forming water droplets, which trickle down towards the spout. The water droplets are collected into a bottle or reservoir.

Minerals and microorganisms, which cannot turn into steam, are left behind in the boiling chamber.

Is it Really Safe to Drink Distilled Water?

There is one major problem with this process. Many minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and fluoride are also removed during distillation. Some researchers have reported that calcium and magnesium in drinking water may have a dose-dependent cardioprotective effect.

Additionally, a previous study suggested that calcium and magnesium in drinking water may help protect against digestive cancers (stomach, colon, rectum, and pancreas) and that magnesium may decrease the risk of developing esophageal and ovarian cancer.

Distilled water has been described as having a flat taste based on anecdotal reports. Some people might not be encouraged to drink the recommended daily amount of water due to its bland taste.

Finally, people who store distilled water in plastic containers may be at risk of consuming water with traces of plastic. This is because distilled water can pull in minerals and other substances from the container in which it is stored.

Read more about the benefits and dangers of drinking distilled water here.

What is Filtered Water?

Filtered water can be defined by the amount of impurities that it contains. Water filters use two main techniques to remove impurities from water—physical and chemical filtration.

By installing a water filter, you are sure to get water that is free from unwanted impurities that may negatively affect your health.

In physical filtration, a filter (with microscopic holes measuring about 1/1000th of a millimeter or less) is used to strain water to remove large unwanted particles, including bacteria or viruses. Chemical filtration makes use of an active material that removes particles chemically as water passes through.

Common Water Filtration Technologies

Nowadays, there is an array of filtration techniques to choose from thanks to advancements in technology. Different types of water treatment technologies are now available, including mechanical filters, absorption filters, ion exchange filters and reverse osmosis filters. These water treatment technologies all work differently, but they all produce high-quality filtered water.

Most home water filtration systems incorporate activated carbon filter cartridges. Activated carbon filters which remove chlorine, heavy metals, and other compounds that cause water to have a bad taste and odor, thereby improving the taste of water. Also, these filtration systems do not remove essential minerals in water like calcium and magnesium.

Another group of filters that can effectively remove impurities from water are mechanical filters. These filters physically remove sediment and other unwanted particles. They have an immensely complex pore structure for ultra-fine filtration and trap particles in a synthetic material in the filter.

The 5-micron mechanical model can remove most particles that are visible to the naked eye, while the 1-micron model can remove microscopic particles. However, on their own, these filters cannot remove chemical contaminants.

Another technology that is commonly used in water filtration and water softeners is ion exchange. An ion-exchange resin made up of multiple small beads is used to trap unwanted ions in water. When ions are trapped in the resin, another ion is released, hence the use of the term “exchange.”

Finally, a reverse osmosis system incorporates a semipermeable membrane that selectively allows substances to pass through. This system is effective in producing water that is safe for drinking and is usually used as part of a more complex water filtration system that uses multiple technologies.

Is Filtered Water Really Safe?

Unlike distilled water, bacteria can be present in filtered water. How does this happen?

The main problem is that water filters can become a breeding ground for the germs if they are not properly maintained and cleaned on a regular basis.

Thus, it is necessary that you clean your filter regularly and change the filter cartridges as recommended by the manufacturer to ensure that the quality and purity of your water can be affected.

What is the Difference Between Distilled and Filtered Water

The real question is, which is best—distilled or filtered water?

For daily drinking, filtered water wins. Here’s why.

In North America, water is treated by your municipality before it is distributed to homes. However, many people believe it is necessary to take an extra step by filtering their water to remove pathogens.

Although it is an investment to buy and maintain a water filter, it might be lifesaving if you live in an area where the water is not safe for drinking.

Finally, filtered water has most of the minerals that are suitable for daily drinking.

Contrary to filtered water, distilled water is stripped of essential minerals such as calcium and magnesium.

Distillation is not effective if the water is from a hazardous site or has been contaminated from a hazardous wastewater spill. During distillation, some pollutants may be able to pass through and end up in the reservoir.

Lastly, distilled water lacks electrolytes. Electrolytes are vital for the proper functioning of your body. In addition to balancing the amount of water in your body and maintaining blood pH, electrolytes help to move nutrients into your cells and waste out of your cells.

If your body does not get enough electrolytes (through food and fluids), you may experience symptoms of electrolyte imbalance, which include fatigue, lethargy, constipation or irregular heartbeat.

Jon Agarwal

Jon Agarwal works as an environmental consultant focused on water resources, and he volunteers his time for non-profit organizations. He lives in the heart of Melbourne with his beautiful wife, two sons, and three Persian cats. He particularly enjoys working part-time as it leaves him the time to work on his own writing and share his knowledge. Visit our About page to learn about the contributors of Healthy Buddys.

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