Utahns hunt for distilled water for medical needs amid shortage

Feb 3, 2022, 9:46 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 3:51 pm

Utahns are scrambling to find distilled water after noticing many local grocery stores are constantly out of stock, and some limit how much a customer can purchase.

Many people use distilled water for specific purposes, like CPAP or BiPAP machines, baby formula, humidifiers and neti pots.

Just as quickly as the Hemingway couple walked into Home Depot in Sandy Thursday, they walked right back out.

They’d been on the hunt all morning and afternoon around the south end of the valley.

“We’re looking for some bottles of distilled water for a BiPAP machine,” Paul Hemingway explained.

Unfortunately, they came out empty-handed after only finding bottles of purified water.

“I never had trouble getting distilled water until this last couple weeks,” Hemingway said. “Now everybody’s out of it.”

In addition to Home Depot, he couldn’t find any at Walmart, Dollar Tree, GNC or Smith’s.

“I saw signs at Smith’s saying because of the shortage of water, you’re limited to buy two at a time,” Hemingway explained.

Nate McCulloch, manager at the Salt Lake office of Advantage Home Medical Equipment, explained that they’re hearing from clients who can’t find distilled water, asking what they can do.

Advantage Home Medical Equipment specializes in sleep therapy and respiratory care, selling both CPAP and BiPAP machines.

While the chambers on the machines that take distilled water are small, McCulloch explained they usually must be filled on a daily basis.

It can be dangerous to use any other kind of water.

“Distilled water is stripped of any elements, anything that might cause bacteria to develop or form,” McCulloch said. “If people aren’t keeping their equipment clean, then there’s potential for respiratory bacterial infections.”

When clients call asking what to do next, McCulloch described how he’ll suggest checking stores someone may not be looking in, like Target, Walgreens, or Macey’s — and checking often.

“There’s a lot of places around that may have it, you just have to look beyond where you maybe shop normally,” he said.

Some customers have told him they will go early in the morning, in an effort to catch freshly stocked shelves. Others will call around before heading to the store.

If someone runs out, McCulloch advises them to check with their physician on what they can do instead.

“You might just have to go without until you’re able to find some,” McCulloch said. “It’s a sticky situation.”

Going without is not a desirable option for Hemingway, who said he suffers from severe complex sleep apnea.

“I have to use distilled water every night in my machine,” he said.

As he left Home Depot, he said, “the search goes on.”

Later Thursday evening, Hemingway sent an update — he indeed found two jugs of distilled water at Peterson’s Fresh Market in Riverton, thanks to a tip from the Nextdoor app.

“Hallelujah,” he said. “At least I’m happy for a couple/three weeks.”

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Utahns hunt for distilled water for medical needs amid shortage