The Difference Between Sterile, Distilled and Deionized Water

The Difference Between Sterile, Distilled and Deionized Water

When discussing water safety for drinking, we wonder what type of water is safe. Water safety relates to the process the water undergoes suitable for consumption. But with various available ways, we can easily get confused with what type of water we need. Here we will cover the three types of water with similarities in the process but different outcomes and uses.

What are the Similarities of Sterile, Distilled, and Deionized Water

From a water source, the water contains a handful of impurities, parasites, and microorganisms. 

The initial process of killing all these living matters is boiling. The boiling process initially kills any disease-causing living forms. This is why it is very important as a primary precaution, especially from an unknown water source.

As we go along, we will understand how each type of water has the process of boiling. One is confused with the other, and vice versa. Here all these questions will be clarified.

What is Sterile Water

The Difference Between Sterile, Distilled and Deionized Water

Sterile water is free of any living form that may be present in the water. These living forms can be bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and spores. Sterile water has an important role in medical and irrigation uses. It helps avoid the risk of contamination compared with regular water. For example, sterile water must be used in the lab to alter the research results or procedures.

Boiling for Sterile Water

When boiling for sterile water is time-specific. You need to boil the water for twenty minutes, just enough time to kill the pathogenic bacteria. This is what makes this sterilization process for drinking purposes.
Sterility is a property of water. The word itself, sterile, means no viable bacteria, viruses, or any other type of microorganisms present.

Other Processes to Produce Sterile Water

There are two other methods to produce sterile water. They are ozonation and chlorination. Unlike boiling, dead bacteria remain in the treated water to provide nutrition for any existing living bacteria. Because of this, excess chlorine or ozone needs to be in the water for the water to remain sterile. 
Ozonated water can kill the protozoa and leaves no bad taste, and It virtually creates no harmful by-products. Chlorinated water leaves a bad taste and smell. It also does not kill protozoa. In most cases, chlorine leaves harmful chlorine by-products.

How to Make A Sterile Water

You need sterile water and a sterile water container to make your sterile water. You will need to store the sterilized container in a cool location away from direct sunlight. To sterilize the container, put it in boiling water for 10 (ten) minutes. It would be best if you had the following:
  • Thermometer
  • Pressure Cooker or hermetically sealed pot
  • Stove
  • Filtered water
To start the sterilization process, you need to do the following:
  1. Fill the water in the pressure cooker.
  2. Put the pressure cooker on the stove. 
  3. Boil for twenty minutes. Maintain the temperature within the cooker at 250 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the boiling period. This time frame sterilizes the water rather than just having boiled water.
After this, you already have sterilized water. It will only remain sterile as long as it is saved in sterilized containers. For better satisfaction with using this sterile water, it is better to use the sterile water (cooled) immediately. This is to ensure that the water you are using is contaminate-free. The water can be preserved for up to three days.

What are the Uses of Sterile Water

For home use, baby bottle preparations use sterile water. Research laboratories highly use sterile water for equipment, apparatuses, and other methods. It is also recommended for those with compromised immune systems.
If used for drinking, it is safe, but it is not as purest as other processes do. Minerals, salts, chemicals, and other contaminants are not removed in sterile water.

Sterile Water for Drinking

Sterilizing water for twenty minutes makes the water safe for drinking. Again, it only removes organic impurities, which still leave the inorganic particles behind. The water may still abhor minerals, salts, and other chemicals. But, if you are sure that your water source is far from industrial plants or chemical runoffs, this could lessen the probability that your water contains heavy metals or toxic chemical materials. Or, you can switch to other water options.

What is Distilled Water

The Difference Between Sterile, Distilled and Deionized Water

Distilled water is a product of the distillation process. In the distillation process, water undergoes boiling to turn into steam. This will be captured and cooled, which becomes the distilled water. It leaves behind all the contaminants, including inorganic minerals, chemicals, and metals. Those contaminants have very high melting points and even higher ones that can’t be removed with the boiling point of the water. This results in the pure form of the water.

What is the process

Distilled water is present in nature. Rainwater is a product of the natural earth’s process. A hot day’s sun causes water on the Earth’s surface. It evaporates, creating vapor-a water in gas form. These vapors rise that form clouds. When the temperature cools, the clouds release the vapor in the form of rain.
However, when the water reaches the Earth’s surfaces, it is already full of dirt, soot, and other contaminants attached to the droplets. This makes it unsuitable for use as distilled water.

How to Distill Water

There are many ways to distill water. Distilling the water involves boiling water and collecting that in a clean container. This steam turns back into the water for safe consumption. To do this, you need to do the following:
  • Fill the pot halfway with water.
  • Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid. The cup should hang right-side-up. When the lid is upside down, make sure the cup does not touch the water.
  • Boil the water for twenty minutes. The steam then turns into liquid and should slide down into the hanging cup. This collected water becomes distilled water.
Here is another way of distilling your water. 
  • Fill your pot halfway with water. 
  • Place a receiver flask (bowl) into your pot. Make sure it floats well enough and does not sink.
  • Place your lid onto the pot upside down.
  • Boil the water for twenty minutes.
  • Put ice on top of the lid. The ice cools the distillate to speed and improves the condensation which happens in the receiver flask.  This collected water becomes the distilled water.

What are the Uses of Distilled Water

Apart from its clear use for drinking, it has many other purposes in the house. Using distilled water for ice gives clear ice cubes. In cleaning glasses, use part distilled water and part vinegar to give clean and shiny results. It also removes stains from wine glasses. When removing salt stains from sports goggles helps wash away and dissolve the salts. In rinsing the hair, using distilled water helps remove unwanted chemicals in the hair.
In research laboratories, distilled water is also highly important for molecular studies and procedures.
Here are other common uses of distilled water:
  • steam irons
  • aquariums (mineral supplements should be added to the fish food)
  • watering plants
  • car cooling systems
  • laboratory experiments
  • certain medical devices, such as continuous positive airway pressure

Distilled Water for Drinking

Distilled water is in its purest form. It is important to water for drinking only for pregnant women, children, or people with acute conditions. However, if people without special conditions should drink distilled water, they may not get the essential minerals present in water. In this case, other purified or mineral water may be a good option.

Sterile Water VS Distilled Water

Sterile water is water free from organic materials but is still not free from inorganic chemicals. Distilled water has some sterilization processes but removes both organic and inorganic contaminants in the water. Thus, distilled water gives a pure form of water. 

Both have wide uses and benefits. Yet, their use is specific to the needs and requirements of the applications.

What is Deionized Water

Deionized water, like distilled water, produces a pure form of water. But, they differ in two different ways. Deionized water underwent a deionization process. Deionization involves the passage through ion exchange material that removes calcium and fluoride ions.  It replaces them with hydrogen and hydroxyl ions which reform to make pure water molecules. It removes minerals and salts. 

Deionized water can be produced via ion exchange with cation and anion resins. This resin needs to be regenerated with acid and caustic. Theoretically, it can remove 100% of salts. However, it cannot remove organics, bacteria, or viruses except through “accidental” trapping in the resin and specially made strong base anion resins. These resins remove gram-negative bacteria. 

Another way of creating deionized water is electrodeionization. It uses electricity, ion exchange membranes, and resin to deionize water. This dissolved ions (impurities) from water. 

How to Deionize Water

Deionized water (DI Water) is often synonymous with Demineralized water (DM Water). It uses pre-treated water such as sterile or chlorinated water. This process uses a special type of ion-exchange resins. In these resins, hydrogen and hydroxide ions exchange with the dissolved minerals present in the water and then recombine to form water. Let us take a look at it on a specific level.
Organic materials and inorganic minerals are the most common contaminants in the water. They are removed through filtering methods such as physical filters, carbon filters, and reverse osmosis (RO) membranes. After this pre-treatment, the water undergoes through the DI system. This system contains two types of resins: anion and cation. These two resins attract positive and negative ions. In exchange, they replace them with H+(hydrogen) and OH- (hydroxide). H+ and OH- combine to form H2O or water.
Other filtering methods and DI resins can remove almost all impurities.
Since most impurities in the water are salts, they are easily removed with this process. This is why deionized water is highly pure water, just like distilled water. Although, this process yields quicker results and does not build upscale.

What Minerals are Removed from Deionization

In raw water, there are different kinds of minerals. The following are the common minerals found:
Calcium hydrogen carbonate - Ca(HCO3)
Magnesium bicarbonate - Mg(HCO3)2
Calcium sulfate - CaSO4
Magnesium sulfate - MgSO4
Calcium chloride - CaCl2
Sodium chloride - NaCl
Silicon dioxide - SiO2
Deionization can be expensive, but there is a cheaper option called electrodeionization. It separates dissolved ions using electricity. 


Since it is often interchanged with deionized water, it is important to know some key differences. Demineralization is removing all the minerals found in the natural water. This process is specifically done for chemical processes. Such minerals present may interfere with other chemicals during this process. This is why it is relevant for such methods.
All chemists and beauty products use demineralized water for the same reason.


Deionized water has many applications. This is particularly useful in laboratories such as autoclaves, hand-pieces, lab-testing, laser cutting, and automotive use. It is also useful in the pharmaceutical industry. 
At home, you can replace the water in your humidifier with deionized water. It can keep it functioning well by preventing mineral build-up. Also, if you want to keep your coffee machine or steam iron from getting clogged by excess minerals (hard water), DI is great water to use. It can be used for aquariums. 
For hygiene, deionized water is used in shampoo, conditioner, and moisturizers. For car washing, use DI water for windshield fluid to clean the engine and radiator. Also, use it to dilute concentrated antifreeze.
For your health, DI water supports the body when on a special diet or cleansing. Some physicians recommend DI for people with heavy metal toxicity.

Deionized Water for Drinking

Studies show that drinking deionized water may cause people to urinate more and eliminate more electrolytes from the body. DI water may also have lower pH and is also not acidic. So drinking DI water may not cause immediate health effects. There is also a small risk there could be residual traces of deionization resins in the water.

Distilled Vs. Deionized Water

Both treatments give high water purity, but using them depends on the intention of using them. Distilled water is purer than the latter since it removes all possible impurities in the water. Distilled water can be double or triple distilled and is used in almost every laboratory application. Deionized water removes all the charged ions or impurities in the water. But, it still leaves behind uncharged organic molecules such as bacteria and viruses. However, they can be removed during incidental trapping in the resin. Specially made strong base anion resins can remove Gram-negative bacteria. 

What is the Best for You?

The Difference Between Sterile, Distilled and Deionized Water

We’ve already known the three differences between the three types of water in this article- sterile, distilled, and deionized water. One may be advantageous over the other. But here, you understood how each three might be similar or different from each other. In the same way, each three has specific important qualities that are applicable for specific methods or applications. 

You can use sterile water if you are unsure of the water source and want to be assured that you are consuming water free from organic contaminants You can use either distilled or deionized water if you want to use the purest form of water. But, distilled is free from every possible impurity in water than in deionized water. This is because deionized water might still retain uncharged contaminants in the water not removed during the deionization process.

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