How To Make Distilled Water at Home: Dangerous Business
Everyone needs clean water, but not everyone has the means to have a fancy distillation feature installed in their taps. With all the contaminants finding their way into wastewater treatment plants on a daily basis, finding clean, potable water has become a premium for homeowners.
Today, having distilled water doesn’t have to come at a price. You can create your own distillation system without having to shell out hundreds of dollars. Using some simple tools (and a little bit of care), a distiller can be created. Just be sure to follow some safety construction tips.
This guide will show you the principles behind distillation and how these principles come together in how to make a distiller. It will also teach you how to create a personalized homemade distiller for your personal use.
If you'd rather skip all the DIY and check out some of the best water distiller deals available for purchase online, click here for our curated list. Otherwise, keep reading!
How do you Distill Water?
Where do you go when you want to know how to distill water?
That fancy word attached to most mineral water bottles means that your drinking water has been purified. Technically, distillation means taking out the impurities of water through heating and cooling. To make distilled water, you need to evaporate it and then condense it.
Combining both high and low temperature processes, distillation has water go through its boiling point first. By subjecting the water to high temperatures, it starts to evaporate, changing from liquid to vapor. In this state, most of the parasites and bacteria disappear from the water because it can’t contain them in its gassy state.
Of course, you can’t drink vapor. That’s why you have to include cooling in the process. If you subject that pure water vapor to some sort of coolant that will bring down its temperature, it will revert to its original liquid state; without the impurities it had to begin with.
How To Make Distilled Water
Every water distiller in the market works on this simple principle. Although simple on paper and in theory, the process couldn’t be more delicate and complex. There are several ideas you have to understand before you can enjoy distilled water at home. So how do you distill water at home?
First off, you’ve got to think about time. How long would it take to evaporate a gallon of water? The answer to that question rests on several factors. There’s the air humidity, the initial temperature of the water, the initial temperature of the air in the area and the other things.
These factors could change at any minute and you could be looking at a good hour before you can see a few drops of distilled water.
Any commercial distillation unit will have at least two main chambers. The first chamber will take care of the evaporation. This is where your drinking water is to be subjected to heat. From that chamber, the water vapor will pass through tubes where it will be subjected to lower temperatures.
At this point, any condensed water vapor will be caught by the second chamber where you end up with distilled water. So can you make distilled water on your own? Yes.
What you Need for a Homemade Water Distiller
Too complicated? Don’t worry, this guide will teach you how to distill water at home without the complicated manufacturing instructions. In order to create a DIY water distiller, you would need two chambers as well; one for evaporation and one for condensation. You have to be careful about the materials of your chambers.
Take note that you will be using high temperatures, that means plastic and other toxic materials that can easily melt will not do.
You will also need clean, connecting tubes that will carry your vapor from the first chamber to the second one. It has to be made of the least absorbent material imaginable so that you don’t lose the water you’re trying to distill. You want your distilled water maker to maximize the water you use.
When it comes to the second chamber, it has to be just as clean as the first one. Remember, you’re handling purified water without any impurities. You don’t want to place it in another container where it’ll get dirty again. Metal or plastic should be your least favorites. Learning how to distill water at home is as simple as following some DIY instructions.
Here are some ways on how to make a water distiller:
If you’re truly on a budget and don’t want fancy home distillers, you don’t have to put up with tap water. All you need is a large pot, a smaller pot that can fit inside the larger pot and some ice. This is the easiest homedistiller available.
- Fill the larger pot with water. The amount of water you need depends on the size of the smaller pot, because the second pot is going to catch the water vapor that evaporates. You also want to make sure that the larger pot is made of stainless steel. This is because stainless steel doesn’t release contaminants when you boil water in it.
- Place the smaller pot on the surface of the water. Make sure the smaller pot doesn’t have a lot of room to float around. You want to minimize the surface area of the water. That makes it easier for evaporation.
- Flip the lid of the larger pot and place it over the larger pot. That turns the lid into the perfect spot for some ice cubes. These will take care of the condensation.
- As the water vapor rises from the surface of your drinking water, it will come into contact with the lid. Because you’ve got ice on the lid, the lower temperature will cause the water vapor to condense, returning it to liquid form.
The weakness in this design lies in the quality of water it produces. A full liter of water could only yield a cup. The water vapor could end up back on the surface on the evaporating water. You don’t have any measure of ensuring all of the water gets distilled properly.
Don’t forget about the constant need to change the ice that melts after evaporating for a while. That’s going to create a mess. There’s also the risk of the ice water dripping into the water you’re trying to clean.
It’s best to use this method when you have no other choice. Consider it as a last resort or a stepping stone to a more sophisticated system.
If you’re ready for something that requires a little more effort, you can customize your kettle by creating a special distillation attachment. You could create one for less than $20.
If you don’t already have a kettle, you can buy one from any department or hardware store. Just make sure that it’s made from stainless steel and allows to be used for long periods of time. You also want to make sure that this kettle sports a spout from which the water vapor comes out.
You remember that whistling sound that a kettle makes when the water is hot? That’s caused by the water vapor rushing out from a small opening, similar to what happens to your mouth when you whistle.
Here are the steps:
- Purchase some copper tubes and rubber attachments as well. These will act as conduits for the water vapor. You can buy copper tubes from almost any DIY or hardware store. You don’t really need a long one. About a meter would be more than enough. The pipe would cost around $5 while the pipe fittings could fetch at $3.
- Customize one end of the copper tube to accommodate the spout of the kettle. This can be done using rubber fittings. Make sure that this connection is airtight.
- Fit a spout at the other end of the copper tube that goes straight into a glass container. This should not be airtight. Since distilled water will be coming out of this spout, there should be less pressure.
- When complete, all you have to do is to fire up the stove and heat some water. The water vapor will rise to the spout. Instead of disappearing into the air, it will pass through the copper tubes where the material will automatically lower the temperature of the vapor.
Copper is a great heat conductor so you don’t have to worry about using ice cubes here. When the vapor comes out of the tube, it condenses into distilled water.
This approach is limited because you can’t distill large amounts of water. If you’re having people over and you want to make several drinks, you might have to start distilling about an hour earlier before you need it.
Since the apparatus works on a stove, expect to be burning through your fuel a lot quicker since you’re also using it for drinking besides cooking. Additionally, there’s a big risk of burning yourself when handling the copper tube. Since copper is known as an ideal conductor of heat, expect the tube to be difficult to handle when in use.
Finally, if you want a system that can handle larger amounts of water within a shorter span of time, you can construct a more concrete and efficient machine. You will need a 6-quart pressure cooker, a 3/8” copper coil, high-temp tubing, brass fitting and a bucked with a lid (preferably 2 gallons).
You can find high-quality pressure cookers on eBay or at the department store for under $30.
You can also use the one you have right now, just keep in mind that you’re going to dedicate this cooker to the whole apparatus so you won’t be able to use it for cooking anymore. The tubing and the buckets can be ordered from any DIY store such as Home Depot.
Here are the steps:
- Using the bucket as the condenser pit, you will need to fit the coil inside.
- Adjust the coil so that it fits snug inside the bucket. You want to make the coils go around the inside of the bucket . You might want to attach some steel frames to the coil so that it stays that way.
- Make two openings in the bucket, preferably at the rim and the bottom.
- One end of the copper tube sticks out of the rim and the other sticks out from the base. The top end will be receiving the water vapor from the pressure cooker while the other end will dispense the distilled water.
- That completes your cooling/condensation area.
- Customize the pressure valve in order to accommodate the silicone tubing.
- You’re going to need to attach that tube to the valve to transfer the steam from the pressure cooker and introduce it to the copper coils of your customized bucket. You might need to do that with some brass fittings or some rubber fittings. You want to make sure it’s air-tight so that no steam escapes.
- Connect one end of the silicone tubing to the pressure cooker and the other to the top end of the copper tube.
That should complete your apparatus, but before you can start using it, you need to prepare some coolant.
Here’s how to finish it up:
- Simply freeze a couple of large bottles of water in the freezer. These bottles will go inside the bucket to chill the surrounding copper coils that will condense the water vapor as they pass through.
- To use the whole thing, simply boil water in the pressure cooker and the machine will do the rest.
As you might have guessed, you will need to constantly monitor this apparatus while it’s working. That includes replacing the chilled water bottles when they heat up, watching for steam leaks and even cleaning the tubes before using. There’s also the issue of the bucket and copper coils becoming hot, so you should stay away from it while you’re distilling water.
Whatever method you choose, you will always need to make sure of the integrity of the materials that you use. Take note that you’re dealing with drinking water. You want to make sure that your materials are clean and don’t release contaminants when exposed to both low and high temperatures.
Copper, glass and stainless steel are the best choices.
Stay away from plastic, regular steel and even aluminum as these will only contaminate the water you’ve been working to clean.
At the end of the day, the best advice to use is to always ask for assistance when shopping for items. Take the time to explain your plans to the store help so that they’re aware of what materials to suggest.
There’s a reason that commercial distillers come at a price, and it’s because they’re made of safe materials that won’t dirty your water. To make DIY distilled water, you need to be extra careful in that same regard.
Distilling can also be super simple if you have the right tools. Check out this video! Just be careful and don't burn yourself...