Distilling dirty water, and even seawater, into drinkable water is one of the oldest methods of water purification. By heating a contaminated source of water, capturing and then condensing the pure water vapor, water untainted by chemical or biological contaminants is produced. Any heat source, including solar heat, is suitable for this process. Distillation of pure, drinkable water is a safe process when correctly done. Home distillation of alcohol to produce brandy, moonshine or other alcoholic distillates is both illegal and unsafe.
Things You'll Need
- 1 gallon (or larger) metal pot with tight-fitting lid (such as a pressure cooker)
- Stainless steel feed-through fitting with barbed end, at least 3/8-inch inner diameter
- Drill and drill bit sized for threaded side of stainless-steel feed-through
- 3-foot (or longer) plastic hose with inner diameter to match feed-through barbed fitting
- Heat source (stove, fire or solar oven)
- Source water (from tap, sea or lake)
- Glass jug with at least one-third the volume of your metal pot
Homemade Water Distillation
Drill a hole in the lid of your pot for a tight fit for the stainless steel feed-through fitting. (If you are using a pressure cooker, the pressure relief post will work. Skip Steps 1 and 2)
Thread the stainless steel feed-through fitting into the hole, with the barbed end facing outside the pot.
Thoroughly wash the pot, lid, hose and glass jug in soap and (preferably clean) water. Allow to air dry.
Fill the pot approximately third-fourths full with source water.
Place pot onto stove (or over fire, into solar oven, etc.) and heat to 200 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly hotter (approximately 100 degrees C).
After water vapor (or steam) has come through the feed-through fitting for at least five minutes, carefully attach your hose to the fitting. (Note: this step allows any contaminants with boiling points below water to be vented away and not condensed into your processed water.)
Place the other end of the hose into the glass jug. Condensing water vapor will drip into the jug as pure water.
When the dripping water slows or stops, remove the pot from heat.
Allow the pot to cool for at least 30 minutes before opening and cleaning the pot and hose.
Tips & Warnings
- Place damp cloth around the condensing hose or lay the hose in a cool (source water is fine) bath midway to the glass jug in order to increase the efficiency of vapor condensation.
- After you have done this process two or three times, modify the cooking time to avoid cooking all of the source water away (and scorching the pot interior).
- Distillation of alcohol by private citizens is illegal in most states and dangerous in all states. Do not try to make your own brandy or moonshine.
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