If you’ve got a dehumidifier at home, you might have thought of ways to use the water that collects in its tank.
After all, what a shame to throw all that water down the drain. And, if you live in a place where potable water is hard to come by, you may even have wondered: is that clean-looking water drinkable?
The water in your dehumidifier is not clean enough to drink because it may contain contaminants from the air and the dehumidifier tank. A dehumidifier removes water vapor from the air, but the water this process produces is not free of the microorganisms that may have existed in the humid air.
In the rest of this article, I’ll examine this topic in more detail and explain why the water in your dehumidifier is unsafe to drink.
While at it, I’ll also touch on how dehumidifiers work and suggest ways to use that water.
For tips on reducing humidity in your home without using a dehumidifier, check out our article about this here.
First, let’s look at how dehumidifiers work because that’s central to the question of whether the water that drips into their tanks is drinkable.
Dehumidifiers remove moisture from the air to reduce humidity levels. They do this in two ways:
Condensation is the process by which water vapor becomes liquid water when it comes into contact with a cold surface.
For example, when you take anything out of a freezer, you’ll soon see water droplets on it. That’s caused by condensation of the water vapor in the air.
Most dehumidifiers work by condensation. A fan in the dehumidifier draws humid air from the room and sends it over cold coils.
The water vapor in the air condenses on the coils, and another fan blows the drier air back into the room.
The water droplets drip from the coils into the tank of the dehumidifier. A medium-sized portable dehumidifier can collect more than two gallons (9 liters) of water daily. However, this may vary depending on run time and the relative humidity and temperature in the room.
The condensate water is technically clean because it comes from water vapor. When the water originally evaporated and became vapor, it left behind all its impurities.
In a way, it’s similar to distilled water, which is produced by evaporating (boiling) water and condensing the water vapor. Distilled water is safe to drink, although the distillation process also removes all its minerals.
Why, then, is the water from a dehumidifier unsafe to drink?
In the distillation process, condensation happens immediately after evaporation and in an environment with no impurities. With a dehumidifier, the difference is that the water vapor was circulating in the damp air before entering the appliance.
Damp and humid places are breeding grounds for microorganisms like viruses, bacteria, and fungi such as mold and mildew. Traces of dust and dirt particles may also be present in the air.
When the water vapor in the air undergoes condensation in the dehumidifier, the contaminants may stick to the condensate water. The contaminants will be more concentrated in the water than in the air, making the water unsafe to drink.
In addition, traces of lead and other residues from the coil, tank, and other components of the dehumidifier may also find their way into the water.
If you leave the tank uncleaned long enough, you’ll see accumulated residues, dirt, and mold in it. That’s evidence of contaminants in the water.
Manufacturers recommend regularly cleaning the tank and the coils to prevent your dehumidifier from becoming a habitat for mold and other microbes. However, cleaning the tank and coils will not make the water drinkable.
Some dehumidifiers remove water vapor from the air with a desiccant material like silica gel or zeolite. Let’s look at how they work.
The damp air that the fan draws into the dehumidifier goes through a rotor (rotating wheel) containing the desiccant. The desiccant soaks up the moisture, and dry air is blown back into the room.
The water is removed from the desiccant by a heating process that evaporates it. The water vapor then goes through a cooling medium, becomes water, and drips into the tank.
In some desiccant dehumidifiers, the water vapor is directly ejected to the outdoors via a duct, leaving no water.
The water from a desiccant dehumidifier is likely cleaner than that from a condensate dehumidifier. It had evaporated in the dehumidifier before it was cooled, making the process akin to distillation.
However, the water is still not safe to drink because it could contain traces of the desiccant material and residues of the dehumidifier component materials.
Mold, mildew, and other microorganisms could also be present in the water unless the tank is kept extremely clean.
Water from any dehumidifier is not drinkable, but that’s no reason to throw it down the drain.
You can use the water in several ways, provided you regularly clean the appliance’s coils and tank.
Here are some ways you can use that water:
You can use dehumidifier water to water the plants in your garden. It’s a good substitute for distilled water, which is recommended for plants like orchids.
Instead of buying distilled water, you can use the water from your dehumidifier. As I explained earlier, it’s somewhat like distilled water, just that it’s not drinkable.
However, avoid using dehumidifier water for plants you’re growing for food. Otherwise, traces of lead and other harmful particles in the water may find their way into your food.
Water from the dehumidifier can be mixed with detergents and used to clean floors and wash clothes. You can even use it to wash your car.
However, ensure that you clean the dehumidifier tank regularly; otherwise, you could spread mold spores around the house. Detergents typically do not kill mold spores.
Also, do not use dehumidifier water to clean your cookware, utensils, and crockery to avoid contaminating your food.
Home appliances like steam irons and steam mops make household chores easier, but cleaning up the limescale that accumulates in them is another matter. The limescale deposits come from minerals in the water you pour into their tanks.
Water from your dehumidifier is ideal for these steam appliances because they are almost mineral-free. That means your steam appliances will work more efficiently, and you won’t have to clean them so frequently.
One of the most convenient ways to recycle water from the dehumidifier is to use it to flush toilets. You can simply pour the water into the toilet bowl or refill the tank with the water after you flush the toilet.
Since toilets are flushed a few times daily, you won’t have to worry about storing the water.
If you want to drink water produced from the air, the dehumidifier is not your go-to machine.
You must get an atmospheric water generator (AWG), which extracts moisture from humid air and turns it into drinkable water. AWGs are usually used in areas where potable water is not readily available.
If you’re keen on an AWG, I recommend the Nu Water 30 Atmospheric Water Generator from Amazon.com. It produces up to 8 gallons (36 liters) of water daily and dispenses cold and hot water.
Along with water generation, it dehumidifies and purifies the air.
You can use dehumidifier water in many ways around the house. The fact that it isn’t safe to drink shouldn’t worry most of us who have access to clean, drinkable tap water.
However, if you live in an area where clean drinking water is not readily available, I suggest you get an atmospheric water generator.
If you enjoyed this article, you might be interested in our article, “How Long Does It Typically Take To Dehumidify a Room?“