Distilling Water

3.9 based on 24 ratings

Updated on Sep 30, 2013

Grades Level: 7th - 9th; Type: Chemistry


Make fresh water from salt water by using the process of distillation.

Research Questions:

  • What is an element?
  • What is a mixture?
  • How does a mixture differ from a compound?
  • What is meant by boiling point?
  • What is the boiling point of water?
  • What is distillation, desalination, and desalinization?
  • Why are we or should we be concerned about changing sea water into regular drinking water?

Is it possible to drink sea water? By itself, salt water is harmful to humans, but using a process known as distillation, salt water can become drinkable! In this experiment you will convert salt water into fresh water using distillation, which involves boiling a salt solution so that the water of the solution is turned into water vapor or water gas.


  • Table salt
  • Tablespoon
  • Sand
  • Tap water
  • Basin
  • Distilling flask
  • Thermometer
  • Liebig condenser
  • Stand
  • 250ml beaker
  • Rubber tubing
  • Rubber stopper
  • Bunsen burner or electric burner
  • Two stands
  • Tripod
  • Two clamps
  • Camera
  • Paper towels (for cleanup)

Experimental Procedure

  1. Gather all the materials you will need for this science project. You may wish to include a camera and take photos to include in your report and use on your display charts.
  2. Put on your safety equipment.
  3. Set up the distillation apparatus and shown in the diagram below. This diagram is provided by the free Wikipedia Encyclopedia. You are free to use it in your report.
  4. Start by filling you r beaker with tap water and add one tablespoon of salt. Mix well. Pour the salt water into the distilling flask
  5. Place sand in the basin and now place the distilling flask into the sand before you start heating it.
  6. Carefully place the burner under the flask.
  7. Connect the distilling flask to one end of the Liebig's condenser.
  8. Place the condenser so that it slopes downward and that it other end is directly above the beaker.
  9. Bring the salt solution to a boil. Keep an eye on that thermometer
  10. Collect the water vapor that is now turning into liquid water.
  11. Observe. You will find the water is tasteless and has no distinct odor.
  12. Write up your experiment. You may wish to include photos of the apparatus. Be certain to include your bibliography.

1: Heat source
2: Still pot
3: Still head
4: Thermometer/Boiling point temperature
5: Condenser
6: Cooling water in
7: Cooling water out
8: Distillate/receiving flask
9: Vacuum/gas inlet
10: Still receiver
11: Heat control
12: Stirrer speed control
13: Stirrer/heat plate
14: Heating (Oil/sand) bath
15: Stirrer bar/anti-bumping granules
16: Cooling bath.

Terms/Concepts: elements; compounds; mixtures; solutions; boiling point; distillation; desalinization

References: Wikipedia's Distillation page

Dr. Muriel Gerhard (Ed.D.) is a retired educator with fifty seven years of experience in all aspects of public education. She has been a teacher, principal, administrator, college professor, researcher, grants writer, change agent and science editor. She is the author of several books on education used as college texts. These include the best selling Effective Teaching Strategies with the Behavioral Outcomes Approach and The Behavioral Outcomes Handbook for Teachers and Administrators. Presently she is a consultant in science education and curriculum development, a marriage and family therapist, a newspaper columnist and an author. Her latest book, recently published, is a memoir of sixty vignettes entitled âNow That I`m Dead, I Decided to Write this Bookâ.

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