Sunday, September 16, 2012

Why bother with distilled water in our products?

I know it's a pain to get hold of distilled water for every single crafting session, but it's necessary! "Distilled water is water that has many of its impurities removed through distillation. Distillation involves boiling the water and then condensing the steam into a clean container." (Click for more from Wikipedia!) In other words, distilled water should be free of metals, salts, and biological contaminants like bacteria and viruses. This means our products will be free of metals, salts, and contamination, too!

Why can't we use tap water? The metals found in tap water can speed up rancidity of our oils! (From this post on the mechanisms of rancidity...) Even in the absence of air, we find oxygen. Oh oxygen, you are so necessary but so annoying! Through the breaking of the double bonds, the oxygens helps the the fatty acids break down...Metal ions in the water at low levels can promote auto-oxidation. This is why we use chelating or sequestering agents like citric acid and EDTA to bind the metals so they won't be a nuisance in our lotions.

Have you ever had a glass of water from your bathroom tap? Do you notice how it always tastes sweet or soapy? My dad - the plumber - explained that years of using soap and toothpaste and so on means we get a tiny build up in the faucet thingie and it tastes funny! 

Using distilled water means few opportunities for beasties and metals to ruin your products through contamination and auto-oxidation. You still need to heat and hold your ingredients, but know that you are starting from a really really good place when using distilled water.

As an aside, my town won the award for the best drinking water in the world a few years ago, but I still wouldn't use my tap water in my products. Best drinking water doesn't mean no metal ions and no beasties!

I get mine at my local megamart in the pharmacy section for about $2 for 4 litres (3.75 gallons). Distilled water isn't the greatest drinking water...but don't take my word for it. Try it yourself! Normally I suggest you don't eat or drink our ingredients, but this one is interesting and safe. 

What about deionized water? "Deionized water, also known as demineralized water (DI water, DIW or de-ionized water), is water that has had its mineral ions removed, such as cations from sodium, calcium, iron, and copper, and anions such as chloride and sulfate...Because the majority of water impurities are dissolved salts, deionization produces a high purity water that is generally similar to distilled water, and this process is quick and without scale buildup. However, deionization does not significantly remove uncharged organic molecules, viruses or bacteria, except by incidental trapping in the resin." (Click for more from Wikipedia!) he down side of using deionized water is that the metals and impurities are removed, but the possible contamination by beasties isn't reduced.

And what about Kangen water, the one that claims to be alkaline and better for you? Do not get me started on what a bunch of hooey, hogwash, and blankity-blank-blank this stuff is. Ignore this water. Walk away. Do not believe anything the person with absolutely no chemistry background is saying about their very very expensive water system! (And don't use this in your products - alkaline water can mess up the pH of our products!)

To devotees of Kangen water...please do not comment about how wrong I am about your water. Let's keep it civil. As I always say, please provide me with a good study from a reputable source and I'll take it under consideration. 

Related posts:
Rancidity: A primer
Mechanisms of rancidity
What contaminants can get into our products?


Sciarretta Farms said...

What about RO-water? We have an RO water system in the house with a carbon filter etc.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I'm afraid I have no idea what RO water might be! Can you share?

Sciarretta Farms said...

Oh! Sorry.

Reverse Osmosis.

Anonymous said...

Reverse osmosis water is typically cleaner than distilled water. many labs have RO water machines, which produce 18Mohm or greater water (the resistance of the water is inversely proportional to the number of ions in the water (think salt)). If you have access to RO water it may be better to use then distilled water as the controls on distilled water are less specific than RO water. (even when water is distilled remainents can get through the distillation process so for lab use water is typically distilled multiple (3) times.) That being said it is not worth spending much more money on RO water than distilled water as the difference only makes a significant effect for analytical chemistry and highly sensitive products.

well that was quite a ramble.

unrelated info: if you really want to keep your products sterile, wash the non-heated containers with 3-6% peroxide and leave to air dry.

Sciarretta Farms said...

Thank you! We already have an RO water system installed in our house, it's pretty much a requirement around here due to naturally occurring toxins in the water. Natural is definitely not all good...

jbarberlondon said...

In England it's so hard to find distilled so we have to make do with deionized which, as you said, isnt ideal. Interested to hear your take on reverse osmosis as per the comments above - maybe that's a good alternative??

Anna said...

What do you think about distilling your own water using the bowl and pot technique from here?
I want to make vit. C serum in small batches (for 1 week use) and don't want to buy a fresh bottle every time for the sake of using 10ml. I could distill it twice in case it got contaminated with normal water in the process.

Anonymous said...

I have an Reverse Osmosis/DI water system from the Filter Guys:

It just hooks up to our normal water supply and I can make as much water as I need when I need it:)

VickiPS said...

For Australians, "Refresh" or "Moores" pure water is distilled water. It can be found in the drinking water section of Woolworths and some other supermarkets, for about $4 for 5 litres.

Jim Blakley said...

I gotta disagree with RO being slightly better then distilled. distillation is seperating pure h20 from all the contaminants left behind where RO is a very fine filter that is a barrier to contaminants. some important things to know include; They are constructed of all plastic and rubber compared to stainless steel construction of distillers. All plastics give off something. Many R.O. Membranes give of a chemical called 1,4-Dioxane which is a known animal carcinogen and suspected human carcinogen. R.O. membranes do not guarantee sterile water and in fact reputable R.O. dealers will not install R.O. on water of questionable water quality. Bacteria can pass through R.O. membranes in a process referred to by the water treatment trade as "membrane creep". The quality of water from R.O. deteriorates with the passage of time. (On some feed-waters quite quickly.) Not so with the quality of water produced by a distiller! There is no in-between with a distiller. It is either producing great water or no water, as when the heater is burned out. R.O.'s waste 8-10 gallons of water for each gallon produced. In other words they are “water hogs”. Distillation removes the most across every category of contaminant.

Mark Fuller said...

Reverse osmosis is essentially equivalent to deionized water when processed through an appropriately maintained system. Reverse osmosis systems need to be maintained rigourously. I can't tell you how many systems I have found that did not have the correct maintenance during plant certification. The "slime" that they can develop is almost impossible to eradicate once it takes hold.
Here in the Southeastern US using distilled water or reverse osmosis water is critical. Purdue has done some interesting studies regarding the prevalence of Pseudomonas aurigenosa south of the Mason Dixon line. It is a nasty little bug.

Mark Fuller said...

Also most RO systems have stepped up and have removed the 1,4-Dioxane from their filters. Listen to Siemens sales pitch sometime. It is a huge talking point.

Krogers said...

Hi Susan I love your blog! I very lotion making I can spend hours reading your blog. Thank you so much. What I was wondering is how long does distilled water last? How long can you safely keep a bottle around. I refrigerate it does it need to be refrigerated?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Great information, everyone! Keep the discussion going!

Hi Krogers! I'm writing up your question as today's Weekend Wonderings", which you should see after 12 pm PST!

Elizabeth Aqui-Seto said...

Susan, I ran out of lavender hydrosol and purchased a couple bottles of orange blossom water in a Lebanese store in Toronto. The ingredients listed are: Water and Orange Blossom Essence. I did attempt to ask if the water ingredient was Distilled, but of course how would the store owner know with certainty. The product is made in Lebanon. And I do have a feeling that if the water ingredient was distilled, it would have been listed as such. I also got a bottle of rose water, but from another Lebanese brand, and notice that the rose water was listed as distilled water and rose essence.

Anyway, I will not use the product in my creams and lotions as I don't want to risk any problems with bacteria. But I would like to ask if you might know if the product could be used in a heat and hold product or would you just simply not use, period.

Many thanks.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Elizabeth. I don't like to use non-cosmetic ingredients in my product for quite a few reasons, the main one being I've found they aren't preserved properly. I tried this with some aloe from a grocery store, and I had contamination in a week or two. So gross!

Elizabeth Aqui-Seto said...

Thanks Susan. Yes, when in doubt, don't risk it.