Distilled water : Does it make a difference?
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Thread: Distilled water : Does it make a difference?

  1. #1

    Default Distilled water : Does it make a difference?

    I vaguely recall distilled water being mentioned in some painting tutorial in the distant past. I was wondering, does it make a difference at all? Why would it work better than my normal tap water? And in what applications (brush wash water? In my wet palette? When thinning paints / inks? Airbrushing? In my tea or coffee?)? I know that it's apparently much better for use in coffee makers, due to the lack of minerals in it, but why else would it be better? And how would it differ from standard bottled water, or something poured through a carbon filter (like my Brita water filter at home)?

    I picked up a jug of it at my local grocery store recently, and plan on trying it out and posting the results and my impressions of it on my blog, but in the meantime, I'd like to know precisely why people have used it before, and what urban myths (if any) are circulating around it.

    Thanks.

  2. #2

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    Depends on the quality of the tap water of course. I used bottled water when I paint abroad sometimes.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kelly Kim
    I vaguely recall distilled water being mentioned in some painting tutorial in the distant past. I was wondering, does it make a difference at all?
    Yes. No. Individual mileage varies.

    A lot depends on how hard the tap water is where you are. I'm lucky to live somewhere where the water from the tap has no mineral content to speak of, others who live in areas with very hard water (many parts of England have horrible problems with calcium levels for instance) distilled water could make a huge diff.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelly Kim
    ...in what applications (brush wash water? In my wet palette? When thinning paints / inks? Airbrushing?
    If it's better than tap water where you are, all of those.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelly Kim
    And how would it differ from standard bottled water...
    It's sterile for one, so that would give it an edge for stay-wet palettes if you want to minimise their cleanup. But if you did happen to live in an area where there are really excessive levels of calcium anything's an improvement, so even a basic bottled water* would be a step up.

    *Made from purified tap water.

    Einion

  4. #4

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    Hmmm... is there a way to test my tap water for comparative mineral content? I've got plenty of test strips for my fish tank, but those measure pH, carbonate and general hardness, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. Carbonate hardness may have something to do with calcium... I'll have to educate myself a bit more on the subject (four years of English Literature at university... not a lot of useful content there!).

    Some google-fu to see if anyone else in Vancouver has tested our tap water quality would be another step, I suppose.

    So, calcium is bad for painting, eh? I guess I won't bother with thinning down my paints with milk then.

    Y'know... there's got to be a bad pun in there involving Reaper Bones somehow...

  5. #5

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    Oh, and has anyone here had any REALLY bad experiences with their tap water before? Bad enough to resort to bottled or distilled water?

    I've found that sometimes I have difficulty controlling the binding strength of my paints on my wet palette... but that might just be me (not shaking my paints enough beforehand perhaps?). Not sure what "bad" tap water would do... create a funky smell on my wet palette sponge, perhaps. Discolour my paints? Affect the opacity? Hurt my brushes?

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    Coffin Dodger / Keymaster airhead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kelly Kim View Post
    Hmmm... is there a way to test my tap water for comparative mineral content? I've got plenty of test strips for my fish tank, but those measure pH, carbonate and general hardness, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. Carbonate hardness may have something to do with calcium... I'll have to educate myself a bit more on the subject (four years of English Literature at university... not a lot of useful content there!).

    Some google-fu to see if anyone else in Vancouver has tested our tap water quality would be another step, I suppose.

    So, calcium is bad for painting, eh? I guess I won't bother with thinning down my paints with milk then.

    Y'know... there's got to be a bad pun in there involving Reaper Bones somehow...
    TDS (Total Disolved Solids) will be your biggest clue as to how good/bad your tap water is. Take a sample to the pool store or just call and ask them - they've got a pretty good idea of what tap water is running.

    Quick test - do you have spots on your glassware? Then you'd probably be better off with de-ionized or distilled water.
    Bottled water generally has a fairly high miniral content as well - filtered tap water through a carbon filter to get the chlorine out. Some bottled water does not even go that far. The chlorine in your tap water can cause issues as well - just like adding a drop of bleach in your wash water.


    Oh, and has anyone here had any REALLY bad experiences with their tap water before? Bad enough to resort to bottled or distilled water?
    Some of the water around here has very high sulpher content. Smells like old boiled eggs. Tastes about as bad.
    Last edited by airhead; 05-24-2013 at 02:21 PM.
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  7. #7

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    I had some Ball Bearings in my vallejos for agitation when shaking them up. They've been in there for years and rusted out.. Colors stayed okay. So if a ball of rust can't really change paint color, I think you'll be okay. I do use filtered water from the fridge when painting, only because 1) it's closer, and 2) it's easier to fill up a bottle and have it near my painting table.
    Around here it's a high Lithium content- which is why we have a low violent crime rate.

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    Brushlicker Milosh's Avatar
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    Here in oklahoma we have hard water. I was using tap water forever and always noticed shiny flakes on my figures. I thought it was the paint, but it turns out it was the hard water. I use distilled now and no shiny flakes.

  9. #9

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    Another quick-and-dirty way to judge your water hardness: look in kettles. Is the element furred in white after a relatively short time? Hard water.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelly Kim
    Oh, and has anyone here had any REALLY bad experiences with their tap water before? Bad enough to resort to bottled or distilled water?
    Yes. A number of the previous threads on using distilled water mention this.

    Einion

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    I use filtered water, the tap water down here can completely fur a kettle in a month.

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    Don't use white spirit when you can use turps. Minimise any adversity, impurity, inconsistancy... and for all it costs! In london the tap water has reportedly gone through an average of 8 humans before you drink it. You don't need a kettle to watch the impurities floating May be useful for textured bases.....

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kelly Kim View Post
    Hmmm... is there a way to test my tap water for comparative mineral content? I've got plenty of test strips for my fish tank, but those measure pH, carbonate and general hardness, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. Carbonate hardness may have something to do with calcium... I'll have to educate myself a bit more on the subject (four years of English Literature at university... not a lot of useful content there!).

    Some google-fu to see if anyone else in Vancouver has tested our tap water quality would be another step, I suppose.

    So, calcium is bad for painting, eh? I guess I won't bother with thinning down my paints with milk then.

    Y'know... there's got to be a bad pun in there involving Reaper Bones somehow...
    Carbonite and general both point towards the calcium in your water, there are specific tests you can get for the tank for calcium too. Generally you'll find you have a high pH if you have hard water as well. As Airhead says though TDS is a good indicator. I actually use RO water straight from the unit as my tap water is quite hard and it does make a difference.

  13. #13

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    whether painting in manchester, glasgow, nottingham, birmingham, prudhoe (newcastle), norwich, cornwall, dublin or london i use tap water and have never had any problems

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  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by RuneBrush
    Carbonite...
    Han Solo asked me to give you a message, nobody is being encased on his watch!

    Einion

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Einion View Post
    Han Solo asked me to give you a message, nobody is being encased on his watch!

    Einion
    *facepalm* carbonate even :s That'll learn me to pay more attention when I'm tired

  16. #16

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    I live in Essex, my water is so hard that every time I turn the tap on I get assaulted....BOOM BOOM.

    On a sensible note, very calcified water here and no probs with painting.

    Cheers
    Will
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  17. #17

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    I think it depends on where you live and the water supply in that area. When I lived in the States, I used tap water. Sometimes it seemed to make it hard for my paints to stick to the primer. I haven't had any problems with bottle water though.

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