Can distilled water grow bacteria?

Distilled water is a type of purified water that has gone through a distillation process to remove impurities and minerals. 

While it is commonly used in laboratory experiments and medical procedures, there is a debate on whether or not distilled water can grow bacteria. 

Some sources claim that distilled water lacks the necessary nutrients for bacterial growth, while others argue that it can still support certain types of bacteria.

We will explore the science behind this topic and shed light on whether or not distilled water can indeed grow bacteria.

What is distilled water used for?

  • Laboratory Applications: One of the most common uses of distilled water is in laboratory applications. Since distilled water is essentially pure H2O, it is used in experiments where impurities in water could potentially skew results. It is also used for cleaning laboratory equipment, as it leaves behind no residue or minerals that could contaminate samples. 
  • Medical Applications: Another common use of distilled water is in medical applications. For example, it is used in medical devices such as CPAP machines and humidifiers. Since distilled water is free of minerals and other impurities, it helps prevent the buildup of mineral deposits or bacteria in these devices, which can cause damage or health issues. 
  • Cleaning and Maintenance: Distilled water is also commonly used for cleaning and maintenance purposes. Since it is free of minerals and other contaminants, it is often used to clean sensitive electronic equipment such as computers and cameras. It is also used in car batteries, steam irons, and other appliances that require water for operation.

Can distilled water grow bacteria?

The answer is yes but with some limitations. Distilled water is often considered to be pure H2O, and it lacks the elements that are necessary for bacteria to grow because it has been purified through distillation thereby removing all impurities.

But the truth is that there are bacteria that can survive and even thrive in distilled water. These bacteria are able to form a protective layer around themselves called a biofilm.

This biofilm allows them to withstand harsh environments and lack of nutrients. Therefore, if distilled water is stored in a container that is not properly sterilized, bacteria may grow in the water over time.

Many microorganisms (“oligotrophs”) grow in distilled water: Pseudomonas spp., Caulobacter spp., Hyphomicrobium spp., Arthrobacter spp., Seliberia spp., Bactoderma alba, Corynebacterium spp., Amycolata (Nocardia) autotrophica, Mycobacterium spp., yeasts, and Chlorella spp.

As mentioned earlier, the big four elements, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, can be obtained from the atmosphere and distilled water. 

The rest of the elements that are required for bacterial growth, such as sulfur, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, may be obtained from other sources. 

One such source is glass. If glass-distilled water is used, the assumption would be that the only thing the bacteria come into contact with is glass. 

However, the glass may provide sources of potassium and sodium, and even bacteria that are extremely good at scavenging for the tiniest amounts of essential elements can survive in such an environment. 

Caulobacter is one example of a bacterium that is famous for growing in glass-distilled water. 

The pharmaceutical industry has to go to great lengths to ensure that water for injection is safe to use. 

Despite undergoing various filtration and distillation processes, this water is often kept close to boiling in storage just to ensure that no bacteria can grow in it. 

The bottom line is that life finds a way, and bacteria can grow in even the most unlikely places. 

Can you drink distilled water every day?

Distilled water is not recommended as a sole source of drinking water because it lacks essential minerals like calcium and magnesium that are necessary for good health.

Consuming only distilled water over an extended period can lead to mineral deficiencies and other health problems.

Two uses of distilled water

Other than the listed uses above, distilled water has other uses.

  • In humidifiers: Distilled water is often recommended for use in humidifiers to prevent mineral buildup and bacteria growth. Using tap water can lead to mineral deposits on the humidifier’s surface and can also release bacteria into the air. 
  • In aquariums: Distilled water is used in aquariums to create a safe and stable environment for fish and other aquatic creatures. It is free from any harmful minerals and chemicals that can affect the pH balance and overall health of the fish.

Drinking distilled water has side effects

The process of distillation involves boiling water and collecting the steam which is then condensed and collected as distilled water.

While distillation can remove impurities and contaminants from water, it can also remove important minerals and electrolytes that are essential for optimal health.

Thus, regularly drinking distilled water over a long period of time can lead to a deficiency in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium which are important for maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and nerves.

This can birth health issues such as fatigue, muscle cramps, and weakness.

In addition, distilled water has a neutral pH, which means that it can contribute to increased acidity in the body if consumed regularly.

This can disrupt the body’s natural pH balance and potentially lead to acidosis.

Another issue with drinking distilled water is that it lacks fluoride which is an important mineral for dental health.

Fluoride helps to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities. Without it, individuals who regularly consume distilled water may be at a higher risk for dental problems.

How to make distilled water for CPAP

When making distilled water at home for use in CPAP (Continous Positive Airway Pressure) machines, you can either use a water distiller specifically designed for this purpose or a large pot with a lid, a heat source, and a collection container.

Here are the steps to make distilled water using a pot:

  • Fill the pot with tap water. 
  • Place the collection container next to the pot. 
  • Heat the water on high heat until it comes to a full boil. 
  • Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer. 
  • Cover the pot with the lid upside down so that the condensation will drip into the collection container. 
  • Place a weight on top of the lid to create a seal and prevent the steam from escaping. 
  • Leave the pot on the heat source for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the amount of water in the pot. 

Turn off the heat source and let the pot cool before removing the collection container.

The collected water in the collection container is now distilled water which can be used in CPAP machines and other applications that require purified water.

Can distilled water kill you?

Drinking distilled water alone cannot kill you. However, if consumed regularly, it can lead to mineral deficiencies and other health issues. It is not recommended as a sole source of drinking water.

Will distilled water kill plants

As it is for humans so it is for plants. Distilled water lacks essential nutrients that plants need to thrive.

Using distilled water to water plants regularly can lead to nutrient deficiencies in the plant especially if it is the only source of water. Tap water, rainwater, or filtered water are better options for watering plants.

What Next?

Bacteria can grow in distilled water, and it is not entirely free from the elements required for bacterial growth. 

Although it may be challenging, it is not impossible for bacteria to survive and thrive in such an environment. 

Hence, it is crucial to take necessary precautions and follow proper sanitation protocols to ensure that the water we use is safe and free from any harmful bacteria.

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Last Updated on May 24, 2023 by Our Editorial Team