Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Water is the driving force of nature, as Leonardo da Vinci once said, indicating its importance in practically every aspect of our lives. In our household endeavors, especially home improvement and gardening, one particular type of water takes the center stage – yes, you guessed it right, we’re talking about distilled water.
We can all agree that distilled water plays a significant role in our day-to-day activities. From being used in our irons to prevent mineral build-up, in our car batteries, humidifiers and even fish tanks, distilled water is more than just a fancy type of water. Its use extends to our gardens too, as it offers a safer watering alternative to our prized plants, free from chlorine, metals, and other substances found in regular tap water.
However, have you ever found yourself in a situation or about to water your orchids, only to realize you’ve run out of distilled water? Or perhaps, you’ve been considering the overall costs and environmental implications of using distilled water regularly and thought, “Isn’t there a worthy substitute to distilled water?” If you’ve nodded along or the scenario sounds all too familiar, then, Dear Reader, keep scrolling, as we’re about to embark on an exciting exploration of alternatives to distilled water.
Table of contents
- What is Distilled Water?
- Why You Might Need Alternatives to Distilled Water
- Distilled Water Alternatives
- Comparing Distilled Water and its Alternatives
What is Distilled Water?
Distilled water is water that has undergone a meticulous purification process known as distillation. This process entails boiling the water, then collecting and condensing the steam back into water. The cycle of boiling, steaming, and condensing eliminates impurities and contaminants, including minerals, bacteria, and chemicals. As a result, distilled water is often referred to as the “purest” form of water.
Common uses of Distilled Water in the Home
The perceived purity of distilled water has made it a preferred choice for a range of household applications. Let’s explore some of the most common ones.
1. Cooking and Drinking: Some people choose to cook with distilled water or drink it because the lack of minerals and impurities means it has a clean, neutral taste. It’s also used when hygiene is paramount, such as in baby formula preparation.
2. Appliances: Distilled water is often used in appliances like steam irons or humidifiers to prevent mineral scale buildup, which can affect the appliance’s performance or lifespan.
3. Gardening: Distilled water is also used for watering sensitive houseplants, as it doesn’t have the salts and chlorine commonly found in tap water.
4. Aquariums: For aquarists, distilled water is beneficial because it’s free of chlorine and heavy metals, ensuring a safe and healthy environment for fish and aquatic life.
5. Cleaning: Distilled water is a top-choice for the final rinse after cleaning, specifically for windows and mirrors, as it does not leave water streaking or spotting.
Why You Might Need Alternatives to Distilled Water
Now that we understand what distilled water is and how it’s commonly used in our homes, let’s dive into the reasons why we might be on the lookout for an alternative. There are three main factors to consider: availability, cost, and environmental impact.
Distilled water isn’t always readily available at your local store or supermarket. You might be living in an area where it’s easily purchased, or you could be in a region where getting distilled water is as big a challenge as finding a needle in a haystack. In the latter case, it’s useful to understand how to procure or create a suitable replacement for distilled water that’s readily accessible. So, even if the need arises in a pinch, you’re well-equipped to handle it with ease.
While distilled water isn’t necessarily a big-ticket item at the store, the cost can surely add up over time, particularly if you’re using it frequently for various household tasks or DIY projects. Being a purified form of water, it is generally more expensive than your standard tap water. Therefore, seeking a cost-effective alternative to distilled water could save you a tidy sum in the long haul, without compromising too much on the quality of your tasks.
In today’s era, where a lot of emphasis is on environmentally-conscious choices, the production and purchase of distilled water can have hidden environmental consequences not immediately apparent to the everyday consumer. The distillation process requires a great deal of energy in the form of heat, making it less energy efficient compared to other water purification techniques. That means a high carbon footprint just for a bottle of distilled water.
Moreover, distilled water is typically sold in plastic containers, contributing to plastic pollution. If you’re consuming it regularly, those bottles can really start to add up in the landfills, particularly if you’re not in the habit of conscientious recycling.
Distilled Water Alternatives
1. Filtered Water
First off the bat is our everyday hero – filtered water. Often overlooked, filtered water is the product of an ordinary tap or well water that has undergone a filtration process to remove impurities such as debris, bacteria, and potentially harmful chemicals. While not as pure as distilled water, it’s a close contender, particularly when using a high-quality water filtering system. The benefit of filtered water lies in its improved taste and odor, absence of harmful contaminants, and often fortified with beneficial minerals like magnesium and calcium.
Filtering out your water is a fairly affordable home project. Investing in water filter pitchers, faucet-mounted filters, or under-sink systems can aid in producing filtered water. A DIY approach could be a home-built ceramic water filter or a sand and charcoal filter. Always ensure your filter is appropriately maintained for effective function.
2. Rain Water
Rainwater, if harvested appropriately, is a wonderful alternative. It’s the most naturally soft water and depending on your region, can be of high quality. Aside from the obvious benefit of cost and availability, rainwater is beneficial for irrigation, and great for your garden, aiding in healthier plants.
Bear in mind, rainwater is not suitable for drinking unless it’s been treated. A simple rainwater harvesting system can be made using a rain barrel, a filter, and a spigot. But, it’s vital that you cover your collection system to prevent debris, and have a first-flush diverter to discard the first water that is full of impurities from the roof.
3. Mineral Water
Another option worth considering is mineral water. Mineral water is different from regular tap or spring water because it contains various minerals and trace elements that are beneficial for your health.
One of the main advantages of mineral water is its mineral content. It is naturally infused with minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which are essential for maintaining healthy bodily functions. These minerals can contribute to better bone health, improve muscle function, and support nerve transmission. Additionally, mineral water may also contain other elements such as iron, zinc, and selenium that provide further health benefits.
Another reason to choose mineral water is its potential to enhance the taste of your drinking experience. The minerals present in mineral water can give it a distinct and unique flavor profile that sets it apart from regular water. This can be especially appealing if you are looking for a more refreshing and enjoyable option to quench your thirst. Whether you prefer a crisp and light taste or a more pronounced mineral flavor, there are various brands and types of mineral water to suit your personal preference.
4. Spring Water
Spring water is a popular alternative to distilled water. It is sourced directly from natural springs, which are underground reservoirs that naturally collect and filter water from underground aquifers. Because of this natural filtering process, spring water typically contains minerals and nutrients that give it a fresh and unique taste.
One of the key benefits of using spring water is its potential health benefits. Unlike distilled water, which has all minerals and impurities removed through the distillation process, spring water retains natural minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These minerals are important for maintaining proper hydration, electrolyte balance, and overall well-being. Additionally, they contribute to the flavor of spring water, making it more enjoyable to drink.
5. Deionized Water
Deionized water is water that undergoes a special treatment to remove nearly all its mineral ions. Not as pure as distilled water, but a close second. Its high purity and neutral pH make it a reliable option, especially for household appliances, fish aquariums, and cleaning purposes.
Deionized water can be easily purchased, or you can use a deionization kit. Deionization cartridges, a cost-effective and space-efficient method, can be connected to your water source, and will capture and filter out harmful ions. Ensure to change any cartridges used, as per the providers’ recommendation, for optimal use.
Comparing Distilled Water and its Alternatives
One of the common grounds that distilled water shares with its alternatives is the primary goal; having a water source that is clean, safe, and ideally free from impurities and contaminants. The various methods we’ve discussed, from filtration to boiling and rainwater collection, all aim to achieve this.
Another similarity is their wide application in the home. Distilled water, filtered water, and rainwater are all versatile, finding their uses in everything from ironing and watering plants, to even making a good cup of coffee or tea.
Most crucially, all these alternatives can be used in the place of distilled water in common home applications. While your specific requirements might depend on the task at hand, these alternatives are generally suitable for use in a home setting where traditionally, distilled water might be recommended.
Despite the similarities, there are key differences between distilled water and its alternatives that you might want to keep in mind. One of the main differences lies in the level of purity. Distilled water, by definition, is water that has been heated to its boiling point, and the steam collected and condensed. This process removes nearly all mineral and non-mineral impurities, resulting in highly pure water.
On the other hand, methods like filtration, while effective, do not remove all impurities from the water. Filtered water, for example, might still contain some minerals, and the effectiveness largely depends on the quality and type of the filter used. However, these might not be negatives. In fact, the little minerals left in filtered water can enhance the taste, making it preferred for drinking and cooking purposes.
And rainwater, while generally clean, can pick up contaminants from the air, or the surfaces it lands and is collected on.
Lastly, there’s the difference in cost and environmental impact. Distilled water often requires more energy to produce (hence, costlier and more impactful on the environment), while methods like using filtrated, or rainwater are generally more energy-efficient and cost-effective, and, in the case of rain water, more sustainable.