13 Alternatives To Using Distilled Water For Plants

Distilled water is free of contaminants, making it one of the best to use on plants. The drawback is that distilled water is costly, especially if you have many plants. It is also not always available. It is best to consider other water sources when distilled water is not an option. 

Alternatives to distilled water for plants include:

  • Rainwater
  • Reverse osmosis water.
  • Bottled purified water.
  • Cooled boiled water.
  • Dehumidifier water.
  • Aquarium water.
  • Boiled cooking water.
  • Banana peel water.
  • Bottled spring water.
  • Sparkling water.
  • Well water.
  • Melted snow
  • Tap water.

In this article, I’ll discuss the alternatives to distilled water in detail. I’ll also highlight the precautions when using other water options.

1. Rain Water

Rainwater is the best for plants because it is soft, oxidized, and nutrient-rich. The impact of rainwater is usually evident within a short time because the foliage is greener and the plants appear healthier. The primary reason for this is the high dissolved oxygen levels, which boosts root mass.

Apart from rainwater, distilled water is the other source with high levels of dissolved oxygen. That’s why these two water sources are the best for plants and are easily swapped for optimal plant growth.

The challenge with rainwater is it is only available during specific seasons. You also need to collect the water, which can be difficult if you live in an apartment or have a flat root with no gutters. 

The quality of rainwater also drops over time. However, if you store it in a sealed rain barrel, away from light, you can use it for some time.

2. Reverse Osmosis Water

Reverse osmosis (RO) water is another great option for your houseplants. The advantage is RO water is so pure because it is free of all ionized minerals. It is also free of chemicals, such as fluoride and chlorine. 

Like distilled water, when you use RO water, your plants are safe from toxicity, which slows growth. 

The downside is RO water is too pure. It is great because the soil and bacteria remain unaffected when you water your plants. However, it lacks minerals and nutrients essential for plant growth. 

So, even if your plants initially appear to be thriving, they will eventually slow down because the RO water doesn’t add value to the soil. Like with distilled water, you will need to alternate with mineral and nutrient-rich alternatives, like rainwater or tap water.

Fortunately, RO water will flush out the salts left behind by tap water, reducing the risks of plant damage. 

3. Bottled Purified Water

Purified water is very similar to distilled water. If anything, distilled water is a form of purified water because it is stripped of minerals and impurities. However, bottled purified water contains minerals of less than ten parts per million (10 mg/l). 

Distilled water hardly has any minerals. If it does, it is not more than one ppm (1 mg/l). So, bottled purified as a good alternative to distilled water because it has similar benefits. The limited minerals are a plus because plants will utilize them without the risk of salt build-up in the soil. 

4. Cooled Boiled Water

Tap water is not the best for plants because it contains minerals, heavy metals, and chemicals (chlorine and chloramine). The chemicals kill soil microbes, while the minerals cause salt buildup. 

Despite its effect on plants, some people turn to tap water because it is the cheapest and most accessible option. Instead of using the water as it is and risking plant damage, you should consider using cooled boiled water. 

When you boil tap, germs, bacteria, and viruses will be eliminated. This water is also free of chlorine and other chemicals used in tap water treatment. The absence of these contaminants makes cooled boiled water safer for plants. 

The other benefit of cooled boiled water is the pH is slightly acidic, at 6.4, which is great for plants. The temperature also helps to prevent shock in plants, especially when other alternatives, such as rainwater, are too cold to use. 

The downside is cooled boiled water requires advanced preparation because you need to give boiled water sufficient time to cool. Plants that are sensitive to tap water, like calathea, will still be affected by cooled boiled water because boiling doesn’t affect mineral concentration in the tap water. 

5. Dehumidifier Water

You don’t have to dispose of the water in your dehumidifier reservoir. You can use this water on your plants. Dehumidifier water is soft water but is regarded as “gray water” because it is used water that should ideally go down the drain. 

However, you don’t need to waste it if it is clean. You can use it on your plants. Since it is soft water, it has elevated levels of dissolved oxygen, which is great for the roots and optimal plant growth. 

You can ensure you get clean water by keeping your home dust-free and the coils in the humidifier cleaner. 

One of the challenges of dehumidifier water is some of the water droplets in the air may contain fungi spores. If you use this water on plants with root rot, it may make the situation worse.

6. Aquarium Water

If you have a fish tank, you can collect and use this water on your plants instead of discarding it. Not only will you be getting good water for your plants, but you will also be fertilizing them. It also doesn’t hurt that you are recycling the water. 

Aquarium water is great for plants, but you shouldn’t rely on it exclusively as a source of fertilizer. Sometimes the water has sufficient organic fertilizer for the plants, but if you refresh the water quickly, the nutrients may not be sufficient for your plants. 

However, there are instances when aquarium water is not ideal for houseplants. Avoid using aquarium water when;

  • You have used chemicals to control the water pH. 
  • The water is too dirty, possibly because you haven’t changed the water for a long time. Although dirty water signifies higher nitrogen levels, the concentration is problematic for your plants. 
  • The aquarium has salty water. 

Aquarium water has its benefits and drawbacks. You still have to create a balance when using it for your plants, especially if you recently fertilized your houseplants. 

7. Boiled Cooking Water

The other little-known yet effective water to use on your plants is boiled cooking water. Most of us drain leftover cooking water used to boil pasta, potatoes, vegetables, eggs, corn, rice, or tea. However, important nutrients and vitamins from the food remain in the water.

Nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium are some of the nutrients washed from the plants into the water. For example, vegetable water contains nitrogen, oxygen, iron, and calcium. These nutrients will help plants grow more foliage and manufacture plant cells. The iron will help keep the leaves green and shiny. 

Water from boiled potatoes contains phosphorus and minerals. This water will encourage bacterial growth in the soil. It will also stimulate overall plant growth and keep pests from the plants. 

The nutrient levels in boiled cooking water are low, so you can fertilize your houseplants every time you water them. You only need to ensure you don’t overwater your plants in a bid to add as much fertilizer as possible.  

The boiled cooking water should be cooled before use. You also shouldn’t add salt water before collecting the water for your plants. 

8. Banana Peel Water

Bananas are rich in magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium. Instead of disposing of the peels, you can soak or boil the peels to extract most of the nutrients and then water your plants. The nutrient level in the water is low, so it is safe to use this water on your plants regularly.

To prepare banana peel water;

  • Cut the banana peels (1 inch/2.54cm) and put them in a bowl of water.
  • Allow it to sit for 2 – 3 days. Stir it occasionally. 
  • Boil the peels for half an hour. 
  • Strain the water, and discard the peels.
  • Allow the liquid to cool before adding fresh water. 
  • Water your plants. 

Soaking will help soften the banana peels and the nutrients will leach out. Some people use the water as it is without boiling, which is also fine. However, boiling gets through the tougher fibers, extracting more nutrients. 

Since the boiled banana peel water is rich in nutrients, diluting will allow you to water and fertilize more plants.

9. Bottled Spring Water

If you go to the store and fail to get distilled water for your plants, you can use bottled spring water. It is free from common contaminants like lead, bacteria, and chlorine. However, it has minerals, including calcium and magnesium, which are retained when the water is bottled. 

So, as an alternative to distilled water, bottled spring water is great. However, it may be just as costly, so if the reason you want to try a different water source is cost, it may not be the ideal solution. 

Bottled spring water’s other challenge is its high mineral and sodium levels. If you use it to water plants regularly, it will increase soil salinity and hinder plant growth.

Undoubtedly, bottled spring water is a great alternative. However, you have to use it sparingly. It is best interchanged with RO or distilled water because it will introduce beneficial minerals into the soil. 

10. Sparkling Water

Although not cost-effective, sparkling water adds macronutrients into the soil, stimulating plant growth. The carbon dioxide in sparkling water also boosts nitrogen levels in the soil.

Some studies show that when you use carbon dioxide-infused water on your plants, they grow faster.  Plants absorb the minerals in sparkling water quickly, resulting in faster leaf growth and a general improvement in plant health. 

However, this sudden change in your houseplants’ appearance can be deceptive. Since the plants absorb the nutrients quickly, the soil is just as quickly left bare. Over time, the plants become weaker. Additionally, plants become dependent on carbonated water for sustenance. 

You can opt for sparkling water occasionally to give plants the nutrients they miss when you use distilled water. 

  • Boosts soil nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, hydrogen, and oxygen levels.
  • Carbonated water triggers fast plant growth.
  • Increases soil pH levels. Calcium is then stripped from the soil, making it unfit for plants.
  • Continuous use eventually weakens the plant.
  • Expensive.
  • Over time, plants become vulnerable to pests and diseases.

11. Well Water

The other water source you can use for your plants is well water. It is free of chlorine and other chemicals that are harmful to plants. However, the mineral concentration in well water is high, although it varies from place to place. 

The suitability of the water for your plants will depend on the mineral concentration. 

You can test the mineral content in well water using test strips or digital meters. You can also taste the water. You shouldn’t use it on your plants if it is too salty.  

Fortunately, you can set up filters, preferably RO filters, to make the water safer for your plants. 

12. Melted Snow

Melted snow is almost as good as rainwater. As it falls, it collects nutrients, such as nitric oxide, a great fertilizer for plants. It stimulates healthy root growth and boosts plant resistance to diseases. 

When collecting snow for your plants, avoid areas where it may have come into contact with contaminants. 

However, you shouldn’t collect snow from areas where it comes into contact with contaminants harmful to plants. For example, snow close to the driveway or public road may contain some salt. 

The downside is snow melts slowly. So, you need to give it a few days before it is ready for use. You also need to ensure the water is not too cold because it will shock the plants, resulting in stunted growth. The ideal water temperature for plants is between 62 and 72 °F (17 and 22 °C).

You can collect snow in a rain barrel, seal it and use it over an extended period. When stored correctly, melted snow will serve you for a long time, and your plants will thrive.

13. Tap Water

Tap water should be one of the last alternatives to distilled water because they are so far apart. However, if you have no other option, you can use tap water to ensure your plants don’t go without water for too long.

Fortunately, water quality varies from place to place, depending on the mineral levels and the chemicals present. Some houseplants are also not as sensitive to tap water, so you may get away with using it instead of distilled water.

However, if you have spider plants, dracaenas, or even lilies, you should avoid using tap water because they are sensitive to fluoridated water. Calatheas and prayer plants are extremely sensitive to chlorine. 

You can make tap water safer for plants by collecting it and allowing it to sit for at least 24 hours for the chlorine to evaporate. You can also set up filtration systems to remove chloramine, fluoride, and minerals from the water. 

This video guides you on how to improve tap water quality for your plants.


You can use several types of water on your plants besides distilled water. Some water sources, like purified and reverse osmosis water, are the closest in quality to distilled water. 

Some sources are more beneficial because they are nutrient-rich. Examples include rainwater, aquarium water, melted snow, banana peel water, boiled cooking water, dehumidified water, and in some cases, tap water. 

As all water sources have pros and cons, you’ll have to decide what works best for your plants and how to control the negative effects, such as salt buildup in the soil.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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