How to Distill

Two Methods:Distilling with Kitchen ItemsDistilling with Lab Materials

Distilling can be very useful for removing impurities and minerals from a solution or water. When a liquid is heated, it evaporates into steam and rises. This process separates water from mineral deposits that remain in a liquid or solid form. Once the vapor cools, it condenses back into liquid form that is now free from impurities and can be collected and used. It can be a time consuming process, but is one that can come in very handy when you need to purify a liquid.

Method 1
Distilling with Kitchen Items

  1. Image titled Distill Step 1
    Find a large pot with a lid. The biggest pot you can get your hands on will allow you to distill larger amounts of liquid. The pot should at least be large enough to hold another smaller container like a metal mixing bowl.
    • If you have a curved lid that will cover the pot, use that instead of a flat lid. The shape of a curved lid will help in collecting condensation toward the center.
    • If you can't find a curved lid, you can use some aluminum foil and shape it over a large bowl to get a curved shape. Then you can place the foil, curved side down, over the pot and hold it in place with the lid. This will help to direct the condensed water toward the center and your collection container.
  2. 2
    Place a collection container inside the large pot. Select a container that can withstand boiling temperatures.
    • You will likely want to elevate the collection container toward the top of the pot. You can place a small rack in the bottom of the pot and prop your container on top of it. You can even use a brick or similar object since it won't be in contact with the distilled liquid.
    • You can also drill a hole in the lid and use a length of tubing to collect the distilled liquid in a separate container. However, you have to be willing to put holes in your cookware to do so.
  3. Image titled Distill Step 3
    Pour the dirty water into the large pot. Be sure not to get any of the dirty liquid into the collection container.
    • You will only want to fill the pot so that the water level is a couple inches below the height of your collection container. If the water is too close to the height of the collection container, it might splash into the container of distilled water and contaminate it.
  4. 4
    Place the lid upside-down over the pot.[1] By placing the lid upside-down, the curved angle will help direct the water vapor toward the center as it collects and and falls back into your collection pot.
    • You can also place some ice packs or cool water on top of the lid to help the vapor cool faster and return to a liquid form.
  5. 5
    Bring the water to a boil. Turn on the stove and heat the water. Monitor the temperature of the water and keep it at a slow boil. You want to avoid heating the water too much and having the dirty water splashing into your collection pot. Adjust the temperature as needed.
  6. 6
    Boil the contents until the liquid is almost gone. Do not boil the pot dry or you will risk causing permanent damage to it. Let the distilled liquid cool.
    • It may take several hours of boiling to collect a significant amount of liquid, so be patient.[2]

Method 2
Distilling with Lab Materials

  1. 1
    Pour the liquid into a distilling flask. Take the liquid you want to purify and pour it into the distilling flask. Only fill the flask between half and two-thirds full, so the liquid does not take too long to evaporate.[3]
  2. 2
    Place the distilling flask over the heat source. You can use a stand to hold the flask above the burner or heat source.
    • You may also want to use a basin filled with sand to rest the distilling flask on instead of directly over the burner. This will prevent the liquid from boiling too violently.[4]
  3. 3
    Connect the condenser. Attach one end of the condenser to the vent at the top of the distilling flask. The condenser should be angled downward to help the water flow toward the collection flask.[5]
    • The condenser has two tubes, one inside of the other. The condenser will transfer the vapor to the collection container and help to cool it back into a liquid form.
  4. 4
    Place the collection beaker beneath the condenser. Place the cup or flask beneath the opening on the end of the condenser. The liquid will drip out as the vapor cools and collect in the cup below.
    • You can also choose to connect the collection container directly to the condenser if you have the materials to do so.
  5. 5
    Turn on the heat source. Bring the water to a boil.
    • Monitor the temperature. You may want to use a thermometer to monitor the temperature and keep the water just above the boiling point so it doesn't heat too quickly. Adjust the burner level if needed.
  6. 6
    Collect the distilled liquid. Turn the heat off once the distilling flask is mostly empty. Do not heat the flask until dry as you could damage the glass. Let the liquid cool in the collection flask.
    • If you want the collected liquid to cool faster, you can place the collection container in a bath of cold or ice water.


  • Distilling a significant amount of water takes time, so be sure to plan accordingly.
  • Sniff water to see if your distillation has worked. Distilled water will have no odor.


  • Use caution when handling hot liquids and materials.

Things You'll Need

Distilling with Kitchen Items

  • Stove
  • Large Pot
  • Lid or Aluminum Foil
  • Smaller Pot/Glass Bowl

Distilling with Lab Materials

  • Heat Source
  • Distilling Flask
  • Condenser
  • Collection Beaker

Article Info

Categories: Science