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I’m distilling my own water – here’s how and why.

So we use distilled water in our house daily for many different purposes (not drinking – for cleaners, humidifiers, nasal irrigation, water spray bottles, etc). Distilled water seems to be scarce in supply and overpriced ($2/gallon or more in some instances). Facing the same issues? Get yourself a distiller. It’s not immediate, nor free – takes you about 5 hours and $0.20-$0.25 in electricity to distill yourself a gallon of water, and it will take a little bit of your time periodically – but… you wont run out. I’m using this distiller -> (link) combined with a couple of other items. For more info and some use cases, keep reading. If you use it daily – it will take a while, but it will pay for itself.

The Unit and the Process:

Distillers are all over the place and they look nearly identical. This particular distiller I chose (link in the intro) seems to have the best overall support/success rating according to my research, and it’s built really well. Also, important – it’s UL Listed for safety.

In all honesty, my research led me to two different units on Amazon – the one I ended up buying from “Megahome” (link) and another from a company called H20 Labs (link). It appears that these distillers are nearly identical if not the same unit with a couple of small differences (one uses carbon pouches and the other uses pods, for example, the use of which on either is optional). What drew me to these units were the 565-580 watt heater core, which, on my Megahome unit, I have verified with power monitoring devices. Some of the cheaper units out there claim to have 800 and 900 watt heater cores, but that seems to be overkill and some claim that when you go any higher than you need to, you just speed up the process which can actually cause the discharge water to re-mix with the VOCs produced that you really want to release from the water.

Based on some limited research, this claim seemed to have some validity to it. On top of that, I don’t want a counter-top mounted device to go any hotter than it needs to go to get the job done. Its possible the higher wattage would also lead to overall increased power consumption – but I would need to test that theory – because hypothetically, the point-in-time consumption would be higher, but the distillation process would be quicker – so it’s possible that point would be moot because the amount of power consumed on any one distiller run would be nearly the same. In any case – I settled on the Megahome unit because, at the time of my purchase, it was the lower priced of the two seemingly identical units.

The only other thing I would recommend is getting yourself a power on timer. I use this one -> (link). This allows you to set the device to turn off after a certain amount of time – for me, I set it around 5 hours. Why? All of these distillers basically operate the same, they heat the water up and the steam goes up into the top chamber where it is cooled and it runs out into the jar as pure distilled water.

The problem is – they all basically just heat until the water runs out, and then the element overheats which causes the thermal breaker to shut the device off. That’s stupid – you’re basically waiting for it to overheat and shut off while it burns all of the nasty sediment from your water to the base of the unit. Not only does it sound dangerous, it sounds stressful to the components in the distiller, potentially shortening the serviceable life of the unit, and it’s a cleaning nightmare – as evidenced by the pictures of “distiller sludge” in the reviews on many distillers. Unless you’re distilling pond water, any sludge left behind should be mostly mineral salts and should look like, well, salt. If the sludge in your unit is brown, it’s getting burned somehow.

Further, if you overheat and burn the salts after the run, the exhaust fumes only have one place to go, which is, you guessed it, right out the nozzle pointed into your finished product.. yuck. Do yourself a favor and shut the unit off (manually or automatically with a timer like mine) before it gets to this point.

There are other distillers that have a timer, but from my research they either were not UL listed, they used oversized heating elements, or didn’t get great reviews. If a distiller choice met any of these three criterion based on my research, I eliminated it from the final selection list.

I have found that with this Megahome unit, I fill the tank to the “full” line with cold tap water, plug it in, set the timer on the plug for 5 hours and let it run. When it’s done, I basically have right around a gallon of distilled water, and there is still probably 15-20 oz of water in the tank. This gives you two benefits – it avoids overheating the heater core, and it also keeps you from burning all of the nasty sediment left behind to the bottom of the stainless steel tank. Instead, you just dump and rinse it out. There will likely be a “ring” of salts visible in the bottom of the tank right over top of the heating element even after rinsing it out – but – that’s very easy to remove periodically.

About every 4-5 runs, I rinse the unit out well and pour in about 8-12 ounces of HOT water (usually I stick some water in a mug in the microwave to warm it up to just above hot tap temp and then dump it in). I add about 1 level tablespoon of citric acid to the water (super cheap in large quantities and has lots of other great uses besides making your Coke taste great – (link) – it’s basically just lemon dust, but it’s awesome as a cleaner).

I then swirl it around and all of the deposits that were burned on to the the tank (which wont be a lot, just a white ring on the bottom) just melt away. If they don’t completely resolve on their own, I wipe the bottom with a sponge or a washcloth and repeat. I then rinse it out well, dry it, and it’s ready for the next “batch” – looking like brand new again. If you follow the directions on most of these units, you’re going to burn through citric acid and elbow grease trying to get all of the sludge out of the bottom of them because you’ve baked it on and turned it from a small white salt ring just above where the heating elements are positioned to a gross brown sludge all over the inside bottom of the unit…. so this process I’ve established prevents that.

Use Cases for Distilled Water (from my POV):

1. In tank based humidifiers, it lets you avoid scale build up and since it’s been basically boiled, it’s bacteria free and it isn’t a great environment for mold/algae to form… so you spend a lot less time (almost none, in fact) cleaning your humidifier of the nasties that tap water leaves behind.

2. For nasal irrigation – it’s pretty much the only recommended option (I think some people use RO water, but… whatever, that’s even more expensive). Some people use normal tap water, but – that’s asking for a nasty infection – google it. It’s somewhat rare, but sometimes there is crap in tap water you don’t want to be injecting into your sinuses.

3. For spray bottles – think of a spray bottle you use to wet your hair in the morning. Ever put tap water in there and like three to five days later you spray your head only to find out it smells like pure mildew? Yeah – that doesn’t happen when you fill it with distilled water.

4. Adding on to 3 – sometimes people will make cleaners at home with citric acid and water or vinegar and water…. using distilled water prevents the mix from being tainted and stinky over time…. It may eventually go bad, but hopefully, not by the time you need to refill it.

5. In your steam equipped dryer. For similar cases to 1 listed above, this keeps your dryer from scale mucking up the internal components. In fact, in any appliance or tool that produces steam (as long as it isn’t for consumption, like in a steam nozzle on a cappuccino machine), distilled water is guaranteed to be better for it long term. That includes steam mops, carpet cleaners, anywhere that running “hard water” through it may eventually cause a clog or other issue. It keeps you from having to replace that “rarely used” carpet cleaner every 2 years right when you need it most because it’s clogged all of the sudden.

6. For CPAP machines – distilled water is the only recommended type of water that is recommended for similar reasons to #2, above.

7. Some people drink it. I see the appeal – it’s pretty pure and bacteria free. The purported problem is that it’s too pure. It has no minerals, it’s absent of fluoride, and supposedly sucks minerals out of your body when ingested. I’m not a doctor, but neither are most of the people out there claiming it’s ok. In fact, most of the people peddling that theory are distiller manufacturers it seems – many of which aren’t even US companies. So – in that regard, unless your doctor tells you to do it for a specific reason – I wouldn’t. Besides the obvious, it tastes…. well… even more bland than water.  Yuck. 🙂

I’m sure there are many other use cases… but for me, these are the primaries. So far, so good… if you’re tired of paying for distilled water, consider it… it’s going to take a while to make enough distilled water to cover the cost of this unit – but, I typically go through around a gallon every 1-2 days (especially with the humidifiers in a cold, dry Ohio winter), so – it really won’t take as long as I initially thought.

Add on top that I am no longer going through several plastic bottles of distilled water every year (I’m storing it in 1/2 gallon glass containers) and the benefit is both financially and environmentally sound, which I like.

Until next time…. cheers (without distilled water in your glass 🙂)