No matter how high the quality of the water system in your city is, there will come a time that it will reach its intended lifespan. At that point, it will be less reliable in filtering and cleaning your tap water.

To play it safe, most people decide to take extra precautions in ensuring their tap water is safe for drinking by installing water filters. Two of the most popular water filtration methods that we have nowadays are reverse osmosis and distillation.

If you’re worried about the condition of your tap water at home, you might be considering installing water filters in your home. If you are torn between reverse osmosis vs. distilled water, you should read this article to find out which is the best option for you.

Reverse Osmosis Vs. Distilled Water

People from all over the world have been asking—which is the best—reverse osmosis or distilled water? Well, the answer to this question is not straightforward since there are a lot of factors that we need to take into consideration.

To ensure that you will get the right answer, we have to take note of the various point of differences between the two. The most important of which is how each method works. Lucky for you, this is the topic that we will tackle in the following sections.

How Does Reverse Osmosis Work?

Before we get to understand the process of reverse osmosis fully, we have first to clarify what osmosis means. According to Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, osmosis refers to the movement of the water in a less concentrated solution to the side of the membrane, which has a more concentrated solution. This phenomenon creates an osmotic pressure difference.

The reverse osmosis filtration process works by applying pressure (higher than the resulting osmotic pressure) to the more concentrated solution. As a result, the water from the more concentrated solution is forced to move toward the other side of the membrane with a lower concentrated solution.

It may seem like a simple process but what you have to understand is the fact that only the water molecules can pass through the semi-permeable membrane. Any contaminants or impurities that the water may have will not be able to go through the said membrane. In short, the water that goes into the second chamber is already filtered and safe for drinking. 

How Does Distillation Work?

On the other hand, distillation is a water filtration process that involves boiling of water in a container and collecting its steam through cooling tubes.

As the steam passes the cooling tubes, it is condensed and transforms into water. The resulting water byproduct goes into the second container.

All the contaminants and impurities of the water are left behind in the first container.

Differences Between Reverse Osmosis and Distillation

Given the fact that Reverse osmosis and distilled water are filtered using different processes, you can expect such types of water to have a few points of differences. These are what we will discuss below:

1. Contaminants Removed

Both reverse osmosis and distilled water are indeed filtered water. It means that both types of water have been stripped off of their impurities. However, one thing that you should understand is the fact that the methods differ in the kind of contaminants that they remove.

According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, the Reverse Osmosis process removes the most common chemical contaminants in the water, including lead, chromium, sodium, copper, and chloride. It can also reduce (but not eliminate) the levels of magnesium, arsenic, fluoride, calcium, radium, sulfate, phosphorus, nitrate, and potassium in the water.

Moreover, this process can also remove viruses (Hepatitis A and Norovirus), bacteria (Salmonella, E. coli, Shigella, and Campylobacter) as well as protozoa (Giardia and Cryptosporidium).

Distillation can also eliminate the same bacteria, virus, protozoa, and contaminants that the Reverse Osmosis process removes. Since the distillation process involves the boiling of water, it reduces the levels of necessary minerals in the water. These include magnesium, calcium, and potassium.

2. Cost

The two systems have one goal—to disinfect and purify water. But since they achieve their purpose through different methods, it is expected that the systems will vary when it comes to their price.

Between the two, the Reverse Osmosis system is more expensive with its price ranging from $200 to $500 as compared to the distillation system’s price range of $75 to $500.

Aside from the upfront cost, you also need to factor in the monthly operational cost of each system. For the RO filtration system, you have to consider the cost of filter replacements.

For the distillation systems, you should put into consideration the cost of heating the water (fuel or electrical source).

3. Maintenance 

As expected, both filtration systems require regular maintenance for them to work effectively for many years to come. You should keep this factor in mind when choosing Reverse osmosis vs. distilled water because each system requires a different type of maintenance.

For Reverse Osmosis filters, you have to change the system’s four filter elements at specific intervals (it can range from four months up to two years). Besides, you also need to wash the system’s bladder tank with a chlorine solution every six months.

On the other hand, proper maintenance of distillation systems includes regular cleaning with vinegar solution to prevent the buildup of scale. Moreover, the system’s holding tank must also be disinfected periodically.

4. Cons

With Reverse Osmosis filtration system, one obvious con is that it is not able to filter out dissolved gases like carbon dioxide, oxygen, and hydrogen sulfide. It is also not an effective treatment against solvents, pesticides, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

But according to Cornell Cooperative Extension, College of Human Ecology, NSF can certify RO systems if the presence of these gases and VOCs in the water is not too high. 

On the other hand, one common complaint people have with distilled water is that it tastes flat. This is because the filtration system does not just get rid of unwanted contaminants but also eliminates the presence of organic and inorganic minerals that give the water a refreshing taste.

According to Livestrong, other possible risks of drinking distilled water are electrolyte imbalance and mineral deficiencies. This is because this type of water has been stripped of all minerals, including the essential ones that our body needs to function correctly.

Because of this, some studies claim that regular consumption of distilled water may lead to weakness, headache, tiredness, and muscular cramps. 

Reverse Osmosis Vs. Distilled Water: Which Should You Use?

Reverse Osmosis and Distilled water are purified water, meaning they are free of contaminants, bacteria, viruses, and protozoa that we want to protect our family from. But we cannot deny that choosing between the two can be quite tricky given the fact that they have a few differences.

So who wins the battle of Reverse Osmosis Vs. Distilled water? Considering all the facts and evidence provided above, we can safely say that Reverse Osmosis water is an excellent choice for drinking water. This is because it can retain, albeit in small amounts, the body’s much-needed trace minerals, lowering your risk of experiencing electrolyte imbalance and mineral deficiency.

This is also the very reason why RO water is recommended for babies. The small levels of trace minerals in RO water ensure that your child will get the right amount of minerals without the risk of mineral overdose. 

Moreover, this water filtration system is beneficial for a wide array of functions. RO water is also recommended for aquariums because its mineral content is essential for the health, growth, and survival of fishes.

Aside from that, RO water is also used in gardening, agriculture, brewing, car wash, concrete making, and many more.  

Leslie Sawayn

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