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Autoclaves are vital to the running of any dental surgery. Here, we look at the most popular methods of obtaining distilled water and the pros and cons of each.


Distillers work by boiling mains tap water. The water turns into steam that rises and is separated, leaving any contaminants behind in the boiling tank. The steam is then cooled down so it turns back into water and the contaminants left in the boiling tank are drained away.

It’s a fairly simple process but there are drawbacks. Regularly heating water to boiling point can require large amounts of electrical energy with distillers using in excess of 600 watts of energy to produce one litre of water, which works out at around £300 per year in electricity alone in the UK.

Distillers can also be prone to reliability issues as heating elements can suffer damage due to limescale build-up, which can cause them to fail. In fact, many distillers last only two to three years before needing to be replaced.

Their relatively low capacity may also be a drawback for larger surgeries, with distillers generally having a maximum capacity of around 16 litres per day for all but the largest commercial units.

Distilled Water

Purchasing bottles of distilled or deionised water is another option and some surgeries buy in between 10-20 litres of deionised water per day. This isn’t an especially economical solution, however, as this amount of water equates to more than €600 per year for just a small, two-surgery practice. There is also the practical issue of storing the water until it is needed and the risk of a delayed or cancelled delivery causing operational issues for the business.

There is also the question of the environmental impact. Water is heavy, meaning that transporting it is costly and carbon intensive, while the plastic waste generated by the disposable containers is another issue.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis systems force water through a fine membrane, producing 99.99% pure water and leaving impurities behind. The reverse osmosis process uses mains water pressure, which means that an RO unit doesn't require electricity, though a mains booster pump may be required for sites with low water pressure. Reverse osmosis systems do produce a certain amount of waste water in order to flush away any contaminants but generally costs are less than three cents per litre of purified water. RO units also have large maximum capacities of up to 80 litres per day.

The real benefit of a reverse osmosis system however is its longevity. Due to the lack of heating elements or moving parts, RO systems last much longer and require less maintenance than a distiller with some systems still operating reliably after 20 years of service.

Click here to see our Rhombus Dental Reverse Osmosis System and for expert advice regarding water purity please contact us.

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