What is distillation and how can we get distilled water? (Helpful Guide)

What is Distillation and how can we get distilled water? (Helpful guide)

If you like to drink bottled water from time to time, you probably have come across the name, distilled water on it.

Most of us don’t seem to bother it much. Some mix it up with mineral waters, while others think it is the same as Reverse osmosis or RO purified water.

The first thing is that pure distilled water doesn’t contain any mineral. Secondly, distilled water and RO water aren’t the same things.

In this article, we’ll be discussing everything you need to know about distilled water- what distillation is, how you get distilled water, does it contain minerals and many more.

So, if you’re curious to learn details on distilled water, stay tuned. We hope at the end of the article you’ll get your answer. Now, let’s begin.

What is distillation?

Let’s start with the definition of what distillation is.

Distillation of water means when you boil water to produce water vapor and then condense it to turn into liquid water again.

The process might seem vague and redundant. So, let’s look at it with a complete concept.

What is boiling?

To understand the concept of distillation fully, you need to know what boiling is. In our eyes, we boil rice, water, and many of the vegetables.

According to physics, boiling a substance means to heat it until its molecules turn into vapor.

We know that everything consists of molecules. When you apply heat to an object, its molecules absorb the energy and get more agitated.

As the temperature rises, the molecules get more and more kinetic energy, and their velocity increases. At a certain point, it becomes enough to break the intermolecular bonding.

As a result, the molecules come out of the substance and become free. That’s what we call vapor. And, the complete process is known as boiling.

Boiling points of some common elements in water

Boiling introduces us with another term, boiling point. So, let’s talk about what it is.

The boiling point of a particle defines the temperature at which the liquid form of the substance turns into vapor.

For example, if you pour water into a bowl, set a thermometer in it, and continue to apply heat, you will see that at 100O Celsius, whole water turns into steam.

That’s why the boiling point of water is 100-degree Celsius. Now, we know that the tap water we get contains minerals, salts, sands, and many other substances.

So, what are the boiling points of those? As you can realize, it is the property of an element. That’s why the boiling point would vary from one substance to the other.

For instance, a very familiar species of salt is Sodium Chloride (NaCl). It comes as a form of dissolved solids in the water. Now, NaCl starts to evaporate at 1465-degree Celsius.

Apart from the salts, many other compounds come floating into the water. You will find pieces of debris, sand, clay, sediment particles- the list goes on and on and on.

For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of objects that we find in the water and the respective boiling points. Take a look at the chart below.

Name of substanceBoiling point ( in OCelsius )
Water100O Celsius
Sand2230O Celsius
Salt (NaCl)1465O Celsius

What is evaporation?

Another process that turns liquid into vapor is evaporation. So, let’s talk about it.

Evaporation means when a liquid turns into vapor gradually without reaching the boiling point.

As we’ve already mentioned, everything consists of molecules. The intermolecular force binds those together. Now, in liquid form, the binding is somewhat weakened.

As a result, if you keep any liquid in the open, the molecules at the surface will continue to gather energy. As a result, those will get more velocity.

At some point, the energy would be high enough, and the molecules will break the bond to turn into vapor. So, you can see it is a spontaneous process.

And, this is what we call evaporation. It is happening around us every moment. For instance, if you pour water into the floor, after some time it disappears.

Some of it gets absorbed by the floor while the other part evaporates. As the temperature of our surroundings is not even close to the boiling point of water, boiling isn’t feasible here.

So, this is how evaporation works.

What is Condensation?

Now, let’s talk about condensation- what it means and when it happens.

Condensation is the opposite of boiling and evaporation. It denotes the process when the gaseous form of an object cools down and turns into liquid.

For example, when you keep a bottle of cold water in the open, you’ll see water bubbles at its surface. So, how does that happen?

We know our air consists of water steam. When the vapor comes into contact with the bottle, it exchanges heat with the bottle and cools down.

As a result, the vapor turns into liquid and produces water bubbles at the surface of the bottle. 

Another familiar example of condensation is the formation of clouds. We know water from various sources evaporates. Being light-weight, they start to go up in the atmosphere.

As they go higher and higher, they lose their heat and cool down. Then, the vapor molecules come together and form clouds. 

So, you see, condensation is happening every moment around us. To be honest, it is an integral part of the hydrologic cycle.

If you want to learn more about the hydrologic cycle, you should visit our recent article here.

Explaining distillation in detail

In the previous sections, we’ve covered the related topics of distillation. So, now, let’s explain it further.

As we mentioned earlier, in distillation, we first boil water to produce steam and then cool it down to liquid form again.

Now, why is this necessary? We already know the water we get from various sources isn’t pure at its fullest. A variety of other substances come floating with it.

We find salts, sand, debris, clay, plastics, and many more. We’ve seen that all these compounds have boiling points of their own.

For example, salts like Sodium Chloride boil at 1465O Celsius. On the other hand, sand or Silicon dioxide boils at 2250-degree Celsius.

So, when you pour your supply water into a kettle and continue to apply heat, the water will turn into steam. Some of it will happen due to evaporation, while the majority will follow boiling.

The vapor, formed in this method, would have no other particles in it. Why? That’s because sand, soil, or plastic have very high boiling points.

As a result, you get clean water steam from the boiling. Now, if you collect the vapor in a closed jar and keep it in the open, the vapor molecules will cool down and turn into water.

Water that you will get in this fashion will have little to no impurities at all. And, this is what we call distilled water.

How can we get distilled water?

In the last few sections, we saw how distillation works in real life. Now, let’s see how we can produce distilled water ourselves.

Distillation- Set up in a chemistry laboratory

For our first example, we’ll see distillation in the settings of a chemistry laboratory. To see distillation, you’ll need the following equipment-

  • Distillation flask
  • Bunsen Burner
  • Beaker
  • Flask stand

What is a distillation flask?

Before we talk about the details of the experiment, you need to learn about the distillation flask.

A distillation flask is a device that we use for conduction distillation in laboratories. It looks almost like a boiling flask with some noticeable distinctions.

So, what are those? You will see that almost at the top of the flask, there is a water condenser attached to it. 

From the name alone, you can guess what the condenser does. It is a tube-like structure surrounded by a cold water chamber. As a result, the inside remains cold.

Also, you will find that the opening of the flask, covered by a lid. Generally, it is air-tight.

The idea is pretty simple. When the water evaporates, it will only be able to enter the water condenser and not leak through the opening.

So, you can realize, the flask holds the key for conducting distillation in a laboratory environment.

How can you conduct the distillation experiment?

Now, let’s talk about the complete process of how you can make distillation happen in your lab.

  • Firstly, pour some water in the distillation flask and cover the lid. Make sure it is tight enough.
  • Next, place the flask on the stand and put the bunsen burner under it.
  • Then, you turn on the burner and start heating the flask. In a few moments, you’ll see water evaporating inside the flask.
  • As the steam is light-weight, it will collect at the top of the flask. Now, you already know, there is the entrance into the water condenser at the top.
  • As a result, vapor will enter into the condenser and come into contact with cold water.
  • Therefore, the steam will exchange heat, cool down, and produce pure distilled water into the beaker.
  • Now, when all the water gets evaporated, stop the burner. You will see there are salts and other molecules at the bottom of the flask.

So, in this fashion, you can distill water in your chemistry lab.

How can you produce distilled water at your home?

By now, you’ve seen how to do a distillation experiment in a lab. So, is it possible to produce distilled water in your home?

The answer is yes. It is possible. You will find household distillers that can do the job. Perhaps, many of you have one in your home as well.

A distiller looks almost like an electric kettle. It has two compartments.

The first one will remain at the bottom and works as a tank to contain your tap water.

The other part will stay above. It contains one small opening through which the steam can enter from the chamber underneath.

It also has an electric fan that works to take the heat off the steam. As a result, the vapor cools down, and distilled water collects at the chamber.

The whole thing runs on electricity. It takes a lot of time to distillate one gallon of water. Worry, not. Smart heat sensors will automatically shut off the system in the end.

In this way, you can produce distilled water at your home.

Some common questions regarding distillation

Now, let’s answer some frequently asked questions regarding distillation.

Does the hydrologic cycle resemble distillation?

We are all aware of the hydrologic cycle. It is one of the natural phenomena that are happening around us every moment.

So, let’s briefly describe what the hydrologic cycle is. There are so many different natural sources of water around us like rivers, lakes, fountains, and oceans.

During the daytime, water from these sources would absorb heat from the sun and evaporate. The water vapor would start to travel to the top of the atmosphere.

One thing you probably know is that as you go up, the temperature goes down. As a result, the vapor would cool down and turn into liquid.

All these liquid water would collect together and form clouds. At a certain point, those would come down to the ground in the form of rain.

The rainwater would then start traveling to its sources. As you can see, the process goes on and on in a cyclic order.

You can also realize it resembles distillation to its entirety. That’s why we call the hydrologic cycle an example of natural distillation.

One thing that wouldn’t match in both cases is the purity of the water. In distilled water, we get the purest water devoid of any impurities.

On the other hand, rainwater gets mixed with dust particles in the air. Also, there can be some other pollutants as well. But the amount is negligible.

If you would like to know more about the hydrologic cycle, you should visit our recent post here.

Does distilled water contain minerals?

Now, let’s answer another vital query. Many of us tend to mistake distilled water with mineral one while drinking bottled water. But those aren’t the same thing.

From the definition of distilled water, you can realize it cannot contain anything other than water molecules.

When the water turns into vapor, it leaves all the impurities behind. Those include the mineral contents as well.

As a result, the distilled water doesn’t hold any minerals. On the other hand, mineral water means water that has a sufficient amount of minerals or electrolytes in it.

The best example of mineral water is spring water. The water from the fountains come from the rain. They are the second most pure water after the rainwater.

Now, when it is flowing, it picks up salts and other mineral contents from the soil. As a result, you can find lots and lots of ions in spring water.

And, this is what we call mineral water. On the other hand, distilled water holds nothing other than water molecules.

Therefore, you can understand mineral water and distilled water are two completely different species of water as the distilled one doesn’t have any minerals.

Is distilled water the same as reverse osmosis water?

Another common mistake about distilled water we make is that we think it is the same thing as reverse osmosis or RO purified water. But this isn’t true at all.

Both these produce purified water and remove the pollutants. But, the techniques aren’t similar anyway. In distillation, we boil water and cool it down to bring into liquid form.

On the other hand, in reverse osmosis, we pass the water through a selective membrane which filters out all the dissolved pollutants from the water.

The household RO purifiers don’t need any energy. If your supply water pressure is high enough, you’re good to go.

Meanwhile, to produce distilled water, you need electric distillers which run on electricity.

As a result, there are fundamental differences between these two. One other thing about most household RO purifiers is that it comes with a remineralizer unit.

Therefore, you can get mineral water from RO systems. If you would like to know more about reverse osmosis, you should visit our recent article here.

Also, if you’re looking for the current best RO water purifiers, you can visit our recent review post here. 

We also have another post that discusses distilled water vs. RO purified water in detail. Check it out here.

Concluding remarks

Throughout this article, we tried to cover all the aspects of distillation and distilled water. We showed you how distillation works in nature.

Then, we showed you how to produce distilled water with a laboratory setting. We also discussed household distillers briefly.

After that, we covered some of the lesser-known facts about distilled water- whether it contains any mineral, whether it is the same thing as the RO purified water, and so on.

Did you find the article interesting? If you’re looking for more posts like this, you should visit our blog page here.

Also, don’t forget to share it in your social media account. Cheers!!!

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