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Filtered vs. Distilled vs. Purified Water


It’s easy to think that all water is the same, even if it looks or tastes a little different. However, that’s not the case — particularly when it comes to filtered vs. distilled vs. purified water. Here’s a quick look:

  • Filtered Water: Filtration physically or chemically reduces the presence of certain water contaminants to improve taste, odor, appearance and overall safety.
  • Distilled Water: Distillation uses evaporation to form steam; some water contaminants don’t evaporate and are left behind.
  • Purified Water: Water purification is a blanket term for many kinds of water treatment, including filtration and disinfection.

It’s true that these water types are similar — so which one is best for drinking? What should you do with the others? Can you filter, distill or purify water at home?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Distilled Water vs. Purified Water

To understand what you should grab at the grocery store — or what kind of water treatment system you’d like in your home — it’s important to know all the different kinds of water.

Distilled Water

If you’re drinking distilled water, you’re taking a sip of something that used to be steam. The distillation process involves boiling water, which causes it to shift into its gaseous state — or steam. Along the way, many impurities are left behind because they don’t evaporate.

The reduced mineral content may cause distilled water to taste different. Still, it’s generally safe to drink — so while some people prefer other methods of removing contaminants from drinking water, there are plenty of options for getting distilled water when and where you need it.

Purified Water

Pure water doesn’t really exist in nature; even the freshest spring water can contain minerals and debris that may or may not be visible. As such, it’s important to note that water purification doesn’t technically make water “pure” — pure water is more of a general term for the water that remains after some sort of filtration, distillation or other purification process.

These processes are intended to remove a broad variety of substances you don’t want in your water, including harmful chemicals, inorganic minerals and organic materials.* They include methods such as disinfection, filtration, sedimentation, coagulation and flocculation. The outcome depends on the specific treatment process, but the idea is that purified water is generally safer to drink than untreated water. In some places, water must meet certain standards to be considered purified at all; for example, in the U.S., it must not contain more than 10 parts per million of total dissolved solids.

Keep in mind that “purified water” isn’t the best descriptor. While technically correct, the term doesn’t give you much information about how the water was treated. As such, if you see water branded as purified, it’s smart to take a closer look so you know exactly what kind of water you’re drinking.

Where Filtered Water Comes In

When it comes to what you drink, filling up your glass with filtered water is usually the best choice. Filtration can remove an extensive array of potentially harmful contaminants and impurities that cause taste, odor and appearance issues as well as potential health concerns. In fact, most public drinking water can be considered filtered or purified because of the way it is treated.

But what does that really mean? Here’s a closer look:

Different Water Filtration Processes

“Filtration” is a broad category that can refer to a lot of solutions. For example, reverse osmosis (or RO) is a filtration process, but so is activated carbon filtration. A single water filter system may use one or more of these processes — which is why it’s important to read the fine print and find out which contaminants each solution will address After all, even water you’ve poured over a finely woven net could technically be considered “filtered,” even though substances like chlorine could still be present.

The good news is that most systems are clear about what they can and can’t address, how they reduce the presence of harmful contaminants, their filtration process, and what to expect. Some solutions are even certified by third-party organizations to address particular impurities, while others come with fewer guarantees.

Filtered Water or Bottled Water?

Not all bottled water is the same. When buying single-use bottled water, it’s important to look at the label. Some simply use treated municipal drinking water, while other brands may get their water from a source such as spring water. Many brands will also vary in the method of filtration used. Some options, including larger-format bottles, may be distilled instead of filtered.

Added Minerals in Filtered Water

In some cases, water filters might remove some of the mineral content you’ve gotten used to tasting. Fortunately, some systems have optional cartridges that can add minerals back to your filtered water. You can also buy mineral water, or spring water, which may be created using distillation instead of filtration.

Home Filtration Systems

A water distiller may be an unrealistic choice for your home, but filtration can be a simple solution that is well suited for drinking and cooking. The most best options for home filtration systems are:

  • Reverse osmosis filtration system: These systems create RO water, which has been sent through a tightly woven membrane to address impurities that impact taste, odor, appearance and overall water quality.
  • Whole home filtration system: These systems targeted specific water problems like iron, sulfur, chlorine and more that impact cleaning and bathing as well as drinking water.

The ideal home filtration solution depends on your needs. That’s why it’s best to start with a professional water test, which can tell you all about water quality problems ,their causes, and what filtration system will work best in your home.

The Right Water for The Right Need

Filtered water isn’t always the only choice. How do you know when to use the other types?

Distilled Water Uses

While perhaps not the tastiest solution, distillation does create clean water for certain purposes, including continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices, humidifiers, aquariums and car cooling systems. If you have these or other needs, look for water providers that offer distilled water delivery services.

Purified Water Uses

Remember that purified water is just another name for water that has been treated one way or another. It’s not the same as distilled water, but it has plenty of roles to play in your home. On top of that, highly purified water is sometimes even used for certain pharmaceutical applications and laboratory tests.

Filtered Water Uses

You can use filtered water for just about anything, from drinking and cooking to cleaning and bathing. However, if you notice other water issues — such as soap scum, mineral buildup, stiff laundry and spotty dishes — you may want to consider water softening in addition to filtration, as hard water isn’t addressed by reverse osmosis or other filtering methods.

Get Started with Water Filtration

Now that you know what kind of water you need, it’s time to make sure your tap can deliver. Water filtration and softening solutions work together to ensure your home has water you love.

Ready to upgrade your tap water? Schedule your free, in-home water test and consultation to get started.

*Contaminants may not be present in your water.

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