How Does Water Distillation Work?

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Water is life. No living thing can survive without water, plants, human beings or animals. Did you know that the highest percentage of our continent space is covered with water?

However, although we have so many oceans, seas, rivers and many other water sources, not all water is safe for consumption for the living things or efficient for use in chemical and biological laboratories.

Some minerals found in water can hinder or alter some chemical and biological processes in the laboratories.

Water can be Polluted with Bacteria, Microbes or Harmful Chemicals

In addition, drinking some water can send you to a death bed because of the minerals, viruses, protozoa, bacteria, or other organisms contained in that water.

Contaminated water can cause disorders such as skin rashes, vomit and diarrhoea, sick stomach, reproductive problems such as infertility or developmental problems.

Therefore, it is important to ensure your drinking water is safe. If you are not able to access clean drinking water, there are many water purification methods.

Some of these methods are natural, for instance water distillation, while some are artificial and include adding some minerals to purify the water. In this article, we will discuss water distillation and how it works.

Water distillation is a process of water treatment and purification for commercial or domestic use. Simple water distillation requires source of heat, a condensing plant and a receiving reservoir to receive condensed water.

History of Water Distillation

Water distillation was discovered by early man as far as 200 AD. It was a process mostly used to treat sea water, which is salty, into clean pure water for consumption. When the salty sea water is heated, it evaporates and leaves the salt and other minerals contained in the water behind.

However, distilling water was very expensive because it required a lot of heat, time and money in the olden days. Very high energy levels are required to heat volumes of water to the boiling point, and a significant amount of time is required to wait for the water vapor to condense back into liquid water.

It is not until World War II, when Klein Schmidt was invented which helped to make the process cheaper and faster. Today water distillation has become fast and efficient way for people to get pure water distilled from seawater. It is done through a flash-type evaporator and use of modern technology to condense the vapor.

How Water Distillation Work?

How Water Distillation Work?

Water distillation is a water decontamination method that uses heat to vaporize water, separating it from other contaminants. In a distillation process, water is heated to its boiling point, 100ºC or 212 F, which is relatively low compared to other minerals.

The heat of the water is maintained at boiling point, to maintain water in vapour form and to prevent other elements from vaporizing as well. Water distillation process also helps to separate water molecules from any disease causing organisms, germs, viruses or bacteria, including the tiny microscopic organisms.

Once the water has vaporized, it is channelled through condensing pipes. This drops the water temperatures, allowing the water to cool and return back to its liquid state. The liquid pure water is collected in a receiving jar or tank.

Heating the water to 100ºC and maintaining as vapour requires a lot of heat and resources. Throughout history, there has been attempts to use solar heat for water distillation in order to save the environment. Solar power is more environmental friendly and natural compared to using other power sources.

What is Filtered Through Water Distillation?

Water distillation achieves up to 98% clean and free of contaminated water safe for domestic and commercial use. The process reduces the levels of water components within the water. As water is heated, and condensed, the elements are not able to travel with the water during the process.

Most of them, metals, sediments and biological contaminants, have high boiling points, more than 100ºC, and therefore as water vaporizes, they are left in solid form while living organisms die. When water distillation is used alongside other water purification processes such as carbon filtration, the process can effectively remove most, if not all water contaminants.

Water distillation filters the following contaminators from the water:

  • Biological contaminants such as germs, bacteria, protozoan and viruses
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Arsenic
  • Radon
  • Asbestos
  • Radium
  • Fluoride
  • Benzene
  • Nitrate
  • Hardness components such as magnesium and calcium

Water distillation is effective, and with modern technology, it is a cost effective process that has become popular among business owners and homeowners to achieve clean water.

Types of Water Distillers

Water distillation can be used for both large scale by companies or for basic water purification at home. There are majorly three types of water distillers, household, plumbing and commercial distillers.

1. Household distiller

This is a simple water distiller that you buy for use in the house or in the office to collect pure clean water. The household water distiller is a small single effect apparatus that you can easily set up in your house or in the small kitchenette counters of the office.

To purify water, you pour in a specific amount of water in the distiller, then through the use of power, the water is heated to boiling point, then condensed and collected in a reservoir for domestic use, mostly to drink.

2. Plumbing distillers

Water is supplied to homesteads through a plumbing system. With the many water contaminants present in the water, and compromised water companies, it is not easy to trust water supplied to our homesteads. To save your family from water related diseases, you can have plumbing distillers installed into your plumbing system.

The plumbing distillers distil water that gets into your house making it safe for use and drinking. This is an effective and cheap way of distilling water for use in the house. However, since the separated sediments collect at the bottom of the boiling chambers, the plumbing distillers need to be cleaned and maintained often.

3. Commercial distillers

These are large water distiller plants that allows gallons of water to be heated into vapour and condensed at a time in a short period of time. Commercial distillers use multiple effect distillers to attain millions of gallons of water in a day for commercial and industrial use.

Water Distillation Applications

Water Distillation Applications

Water distillation process is applicable in our world today to achieve water that is free from ions and other contaminators. The process of water distillation is especially common in most households to achieve clean drinking water.

The process is also used in biological and chemical laboratories. Non purified water can cause interference in chemical reactions or leave mineral deposits after boiling.

To avoid this anomalies, water is distilled in the chemistry laboratories to achieve accuracy results in chemical reactions. For instances, ions found in non-distilled water can extremely decrease the lifespans of lead-acid batteries used in trucks and cars.

Therefore, distilled water is required in the cooling systems of automotive to ensure engine components last longer.

Water distillation is also used in certain biological processes. For instance, while setting up an aquarium, you need water that has no minerals that could affect the life of a fish.

In the medical field, water distillation is used to control impurities and limit the level of minerals interfering with medical equipment. For instance, distilled water is used in Constant Positive Airway Pressure technologies that humidify air for breathing.

Another application used in the past was to increase water density that helped during takeoffs of airplane jets.

Advantages of Water Distillation

Water distillation has immense advantages and applications. Some of the general advantages include;

  1. It is a relatively cheap process.
  2. It is an effective water purification method for small purposes.
  3. The water distillation plants can be recycled.

Disadvantages of Water Distillation

Some of the limitations associated with water distillation include;

  1. Water distillation requires a very high amount of energy to heat and maintain water at boiling point especially in large scale distillation.
  2. Some of the unwanted minerals in water, such as herbicides, have boiling points that is equal to water, 100ºC. Therefore, as water vaporizes, they also vaporize and condense back during cooling making it difficult to separate some water sediments through water distillation.
  3. Water distillation process requires a lot of care and caution to ensure unwanted elements do not mix with water. Therefore a slight mistake can lead to contamination.
  4. Distilled water is tasteless because it does not contain oxygen.
  5. Distilled water removes most water minerals that may be useful for the wellbeing of living things.
  6. Distilled water is known to have very high levels of acidity.

Wrapping Up

Water distillation, despite the few mentioned disadvantages, is an effective method of water purification. Water distillation is applied in most industries to achieve almost 98% pure water.

It is a simple process that uses heat to vaporize water that is separated from other sediment and then condensed back to liquid form.

Although a very high amount of energy is used to heat the water, there are now modern inventions such as solar energy to make the process more environmental friendly and relatively cheaper.


This is George, the Aquaman, editor at AquaMantra. I'm a water quality analyst by profession, and used to work at one of the largest water bottler company.
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