The Difference Between Distilled Water vs. Purified Water vs. Regular Water

updated: March 29, 2020

We’re all living, breathing beings. and like everything else on the planet endowed with the incredible gift of life, water is essential for our health. That’s why it’s crucial that we’re drinking water that has the fewest amount of impurities in it. The more our water is contaminated with bacteria and other toxins, the more we put our health at risk.

The trouble is, how far do we have to go to ensure the safety of our drinking supply?

Girl dirnks water.
Water is an essential part of our bodies and our lives.

Should we rely on public water sources that, for the most part, use large-scale purification processes to remove toxic particles from our water? Or, do we have to take it a step further and purchase an at-home water purification system?

The purpose of this article is to tell you about the different types of water you can drink so you get answers to these vitally important questions.

Distilled Water

To distill water, take a vat of the stuff and heat it up to its boiling point (212 degrees F). All the water will quickly evaporate, leaving behind all the nasty contaminants that can make you deathly ill. Capture the resulting steam, and you’ll have water with almost zero impurities in it.

Concept of water distillation.

Because distilled water is so pure, it’s perfect for use in science experiments where there cannot be any impurities mucking up the results. It used to be recommended for use in steam irons because it has no minerals in it to clog up all the little steam holes. This kept your iron clean as a whistle so that it took all the unsightly creases out of your clothes, helping you to look your ravishing best.

Distillation is excellent for eliminating harmful toxins like viruses, pesticides, bacteria, and protozoa like giardia, which can cause “beaver fever.” And, if the taste of chlorine in your H2O makes you feel queasy, distillation gets rid of it so you can once more savor the unparalleled deliciousness of chemical-free tap water. The immunocompromised and those with HIV, AIDS, and some types of cancers are at higher risk for infectious diseases, so distilled water is a wise choice for these groups.

One Caveat

Just because distilled water happens to be purer than other kinds of water doesn’t make it healthier to drink. The high purity level of distilled water comes at a price because while the distillation process removes almost 100% of contaminants, it also removes beneficial nutrients such as electrolytes and minerals.

For example, distilled water has almost no calcium, potassium, or magnesium. These are micronutrients that have been proven to build healthy bones, heart muscles, and nerves. Drinking water that’s woefully low in these things has been shown to significantly increase the risk of bone fractures, heart disease, and premature birth.

Consulting the physician.

Other adverse health conditions possibly caused by drinking water low in micronutrients are tiredness, muscle cramps and weakness, and heart disease.

Potassium is another mineral you’re going to get much less of if you suddenly start quenching your thirst by drinking distilled water. It’s one of the most common minerals found in tap water. It works with sodium to achieve the right water balance in the body, which helps to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. Potassium also helps with muscle function and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis and kidney stones.

Distilled water isn’t recommended for pregnant women because of its low micronutrient content. Women who are expecting require a higher amount of vital minerals and vitamins in their diet than other segments of the population.

Most people don’t consider tap water as a primary source of vital dietary nutrients. However, anything that causes a sudden and marked decrease in micronutrient intake could end up negatively affecting your health. So, if you still want to drink distilled water despite these caveats, know that you’re going to have to boost your nutritional intake of these essential minerals in other ways.

However, what you really should do is to consult with your physician before making any dietary changes. In this world full of medical uncertainties, you can never be too safe.

Purified Water

Water purifier.
Simple water purification filter.

Some people attach way too much importance in where the water they drink every day comes from. For example, there are fanatical aficionados of Fiji water who adore the stuff above all other bottled beverages. They believe that getting what they drink from some romantic and mysterious island means that their water possesses an incomparable purity no other H2O on the planet has.

The fact is, with purified water, it doesn’t matter what the source of the water is. That’s because the purification process eliminates most contaminants, bringing down the impurity load to less than 10 parts per million.

In virtually every Western country, public water sources are purified using large-scale methods. This supposedly makes the drinking water fit for human consumption.

Here are the four steps in the large-scale water purification process:

A woman fills the glass from the simple filter.
  1. Flocculattion: In this stage, positively charged chemicals are added to water to attract negatively charged ones. The negatively charged particles are all the contaminants that need to be removed from your water to make it safe to drink.
  2. Sedimentation: The particles formed from this process are called “floc,” and they settle at the bottom of the water.
  3. Filtration: The water that sits on top of the floc gets sent through various filters made from sand, charcoal, and gravel. This removes dust, bacteria, chemicals, viruses, and other impurities.
  4. Disinfection: Lastly, chlorine and other chemicals are added to get rid of bacteria and viruses.

There are regulatory bodies in each country whose job it is to make sure that there are minimum acceptable standards for this drinking water. However, one problem with trusting that the water coming out of your tap is safe is that these standards can vary wildly depending on how stringent the oversight agencies are.

Also, some of these agencies are horribly lax about doing their job of making sure the standards are adhered to. This is especially true in today’s world, where regulations keeping our food and drinking water safe are being slashed to the bone.

In the United States, the EPA has set legal limits for over 90 contaminants. However, this agency has given individual states carte blanche to come up with their own standards as long as they don’t go below these minimal standards. The problem with this is that some experts believe that the EPA standards aren’t stringent enough, which means states might allow unacceptably high levels of contaminants in their water.

Girl drinks water from the bottle.

The United States isn’t the only place where there are questions about the safety of the drinking supply. And in some parts of the globe, the problem is even worse, as there is widespread regulatory neglect. The result of all this is that WHO estimates 2.1 billion people worldwide don’t have access to safe drinking water. Even in places where there are strict water standards and large-scale purification processes are in place, the water might still not be safe enough to drink.

That’s because the filtration systems might not be working properly because of mechanical or other types of problems. And, cash-strapped municipal governments lacking manpower might not be checking to make sure that things are working as they should.

If you’re getting your H2O from a public source, you can request a Consumer Confidence Report from your local water company. And if you have your own water supply, you should be regularly testing your water. Lead, pH, and total dissolved solids should be checked once a year, and herbicide and insecticide testing should be done twice a year.

Your Own Personal Filtration System

All of these are excellent reasons why you should take it upon yourself to have your own at-home water filtration system. Although these systems can be pricey, you simply cannot rely on others for the safety of your personal drinking supply. Bottled water isn’t the best option, because this practice contributes to environmental degradation and can be vastly more expensive than an at-home filtration system.

Installed reverse osmosis filtration system.

Lead and copper could be in the water flowing into your house, which can cause irreversible brain damage. At-home purification systems also remove chlorine, which is implicated in cancers such as colorectal cancer.

Point-Of-Use (POU) systems treat only the water used for drinking and cooking.

Point-Of-Entry (POE) systems treat every molecule of water that enters a home, regardless of whether it’s for consumption. POU systems are considerably less expensive. These kinds of systems are also attached to the faucet or underneath the sink. Or, come in free-standing water pitchers like the immensely popular Brita water filters.

Most in-home water purification systems use of the following methods:

  • Filtration: These systems trap impurities using a filter, charcoal being one of the more common types.
  • Reverse osmosis: This method uses a semipermeable membrane to remove contaminants, such as chloride, copper, chromium, lead, and sodium.
  • UV Light: This kind of system uses ultraviolet light to kill harmful bacteria and viruses.

Be sure to look for brands certified by regulatory bodies such as NSF International and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). These are the regulatory bodies who make sure that water purification systems meet national drinking water guidelines.

Concept of installed reverse osmosis system.
Point-Of-Use reverse osmosis filtration system.

A home purification system will also remove fluoride from your water. Fluoride has been proven to be toxic to both brain and nerve cells, resulting in cognitive, learning, and memory deficits. To keep your water safe to drink, remember to replace the filter at recommended intervals, and perform all other required maintenance.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it! I hoped I answered every single question you have about purified vs. distilled vs. regular water. I highly recommend you purchase a home filtration system. This way, you’ll get much-needed peace of mind because the quality of your water will be firmly under your control.

You won’t have to trust what others say, which might or might not be accurate information.

The fact of the matter is, in this time of regulatory chaos and diseases like the novel coronavirus running rampant, it’s never been more important to be proactive about your health. And as far as your drinking water goes, two things you can do to make sure you stay healthy is to purchase an at-home filtration system and regularly test your water.

At-home testing is essential if you have your own water supply and don’t get it from a public source.

Daniel Pleasants is an expert on all things about home appliances. He is currently a dealer and installer of whole house water filtration systems and water softeners in the Seattle, Washington area.
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