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Contaminants Removed by a Solar Water Distiller with Carbon Filter

Distillation is a physical process, so by using the sun to distill water it will make it ultra-pure. Nothing should be left in it except pure H20, but there are a few exceptions. People are concerned about pharmaceuticals and volatiles or pesticides, which can survive the distillation process since they are able to be distilled out with the water. Below are a few sources and information from other websites that may be useful to you in clearing this up.

Below are a few quotes or charts, with resources listed:

Distillation Treatment and Removal of Contaminants from Drinking Water

“Distillation treatment typically removes most of the dissolved materials. In addition, the boiling process kills biological contaminants. Nevertheless, there are certain volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds that may not be removed by distillation (CDPH 2009). Organic compounds that boil at temperatures greater than the boiling point of water (some pesticides) can be effectively removed from the water (MSUE 2003). Organic compounds that boil at temperatures lower than the boiling point of water (ex., benzene and toluene) will be vaporized along with the water. If these harmful compounds are not removed prior to condensation, they will remain in the purified product (MSUE 2003).”

Read more here (external link):

It is important to know that most volatiles can be removed from the product water by installing a simple carbon filter at the exit tube of the solar water distiller prior to it entering the collection vessel. These only cost a few dollars at your local hardware store. This is the most simple and inexpensive way to eliminate these contaminants once the water has been distilled and all other solids, chlorine, fluoride, microorganisms, bacteria, etc., removed. Carbon filters are made out of activated carbon/activated charcoal.

What Will Activated Carbon Remove?

“Organic chemicals are attracted to carbon the best. Very few inorganic chemicals will be removed by carbon. The molecular weight, polarity, solubility in water, temperature of the fluid stream and concentration in the stream are all factors that affect the capacity of the carbon for the material to be removed. VOCs such as Benzene, Toluene, Xylene, oils and some chlorinated compounds are common target chemicals removed through use of carbon. Other large uses for activated carbon are the removal of odors and color contamination.”
Below is the chart and its source showing exactly what volatiles the carbon filter will remove.

“Activated Carbon Adsorption Ratings

“E – Excellent High capacity. Each pound of activated carbon will adsorb an average of 33 – 1/3% of its weight in these compounds.“G – Good. Satisfactory capacity. Each pound of activated carbon will adsorb an average of 16.7% (1/6) of its weight in this compound.“CF – Call Factory for details


Adsorptive Ability


Adsorptive Ability


Adsorptive Ability


Adsorptive Ability

Acetaldehyde F Cyclohexanol E

Hydrogen cyanide

G Paint & redecorating odors E
Acetic Acid E Cyclohexanol E

Hydrogen fluoride

CF Palmitic Acid E
Acetic anhydride E Cyclohexene E

Hydrogen iodide

G Paradichlorbenzine E
Acetone G (PDF) Decane E

Hydrogen selenide

CF Pantane G
Acetylene CF Dibromoethane E

Hydrogen sulfide

G Pentanone E
Acrolem G Dichlorobenzene E Incensen E Pentylene G
Acrylic Acid E Dichlorodifluoromethane G Indole E Pentyne G
Acrylonitrile E Dichloroethane E Iodine E Perchloroethylene E
Alcoholic Beverages E Dichloroethylene E Iodoform E Perfumes, cosmetics E
Amines F Dichloroethyl E Irritants E Phenol E
Ammonia CF Dichloromonofluormethane G Isophorone E Phosgene G
Ameyl acetate E Dichloronitroethane E Isoprene G Pitch E
Amyl alcohol E Dichloroprpane E Isopropyl acetate E Poison gases G
Amyl ether E Dichlorotetrafluoroethane E Isopropyl aclcohol E (PDF) Pollen G
Aniline E Diesel fumes E Isopropyl ether E Popcorn and candy E
Asphalt fumes E Diethylamine G Kerosene E Poultry odors E
Automobile Exhaust G Diethyl ketone E Kitchen odors E Propane CF
Benzene E Dimethylaniline E Lactic acid E Propionaldehyde G
Body odors E Dimethylsulfate E Menthol E Propionic acid E
Borane G Dioxane E Mercaptans E Propyl acetate E
Bromine E Diproyl ketone E Methane CF Propyl alcohol E
Burned Flesh E Ethane CF Methil acetate G Propyl chloride E
Burned Food E Ether G (PDF) Menthyl acrylate E Propyl ether E
Butadiene G Ethyl acetate E Methyl alcohol G Propyl mercaptan E
Butane CF Ethyl acrylate E Methyl bromide G Propylene F
Butanone E Ethyl alcohol E Methyl butyl ketone E Propyne CF
Butyl acetate E Ethyl amine G Methyl cellosolve E Putrefying substances G
Butyl alcohol E Ethyl benzene E Methyl cellosolve acetate E Putrescine E
Butyl cellosolve E Ethyl bromide E Methyl chloride G Pyridine E
Butyl chloride E Ethyl chloride G Methyl chloroform E Resins E
Butyl ether E Ethyl ether G (PDF) Methyl ether G Rubber E
Butylene CF Ethyl formate G Methyl ethyl ketone E (PDF) Sauerkraut E
Butyne CF Ethyl mercaptan G Methyl formate G Sewer odors E
Butyraldehyde G Ethyl silicate E Methyl isobutyl ketone E Skalote E
Butyric acid E Ethylene CF Methyl mercaptan E Slughtering odors G
Camphor E Ethylene chlorhydrin E Methylcyclohexane E Smog E
Caprylic acid E Ethylene dichloride E Methylcyclohexanol E Sour milks E
Carbolic acid E Ethylene oxide G Methylcyclohexaone E Stoddard sovent E
Carbon disulfide E Essential oils E Methylene chloride E (PDF) Styrene monomer E
Carbon dioxide CF Eucalyptole E Monochlorobenzene CF Sulfur dioxide CF
Carbon monoxide CF Fertilizer E Monofluorotri cloromethane E Sulfur trioxide G
Carbon tetrachloride E Film processing odors G Naphtha E Sulfuric acid E
Cellosolve E Fish odors E Naphthziene E Tetrachloroethane E
Cellosolve acetate E Floral scents E Nitric acid G Tetrachloroethylene E
Cheese E Fluorotrichloromethane G Nitro benzenes E Tobacco smoke odor E
Chorine G Formaldehyde G (PDF) Nitroethane E Toilet odors E
Chlorobenzene E Formic acid G Nitrogen dioxide CF Toluene E (PDF)
Chlorobutadiene E Gangrene E Nitroglycerine E Toluidine E
Chloroform E Garlic E Nitromethane E Trichlorethylene E
Chloronitropropane E Gasoline E Nitropropane E Trichloroethane E
Chloropicrin E Heptane E Nitrotoluene E Turpentine E
Citrus and other fruits E Heptylene E Nonane E Urea CF
Cleaning compounds E Hexane G Octalene E Uric acid E
Coal smoke G Hexylene G Octane E Valeric acid E
Creosote E Hexyne G Onions E Valericaldehyde E
Cresol E Hydrogen CF Organic Chemicals E Varnish fumes E
Crotonaldehyde E Hydrogen bromide G Ozone E Xylene E (PDF)
Cychlohexane E Hydrogen chloride CF Packing house odors E     “
Here are also a few resources on pharmaceuticals in city water. Many people are concerned about these medicines that are in treated city water. Even more reason to distill your water to ensure you are drinking pure water and not chemicals.

Scholarly articles on pharmaceuticals in drinking water

(many thanks to Ivonne Santiago-Eby for providing these sources)

Review of Endocrine-Disrupting-Compound Removal Technologies
in Water and Wastewater Treatment Plants: An EU Perspective

Endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) and pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in the aquatic environment: implications for the drinking water industry and global environmental health

Learn more about how to make a solar water distiller. Yes, you can build a solar water distiller yourself for a few hundred dollars. A free ebook is available for download as well.
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