How Can I Test My Water at Home with a Water Test Kit?

Posted by
John Woodard on March 19, 2019

A home water test kit helps you discover what's in your drinking water. Water may look crystal clear in your glass, but that doesn't mean there aren't microscopic contaminants floating inside. John Woodard, our Master Water Specialist, discusses your water testing options so you can find out how clean your water really is.

What is a home water test kit?

Home water test kits come in a variety of methods, styles, and shapes. They include simple test strips that you dunk in the water and swirl around for a few seconds and then compare the test strip colors to the colors on the side of the bottle. Test kits also include chemical titration tests that work for hardness and iron, a photometer, or a TDS electronic handheld meter that test for total dissolved solids (TDS) and pH or ORP (oxidation reduction potential). 

What do home water test kits test for?

Water tests test inorganics like iron, hardness minerals, and total dissolved solids (TDS), or specific contaminants like lead, nitrates, or arsenic. Since bacteria tests are limited, just test for coliform. Finding out if your water contains coliform is important because reveals bacteria and warns that your water could contain something more specific or more dangerous or harmful like e. Coli. If a bacteria test shows positive for coliform, then use a handheld UV light to further test for e. Coli. Photometers have a litany of different testing capabilities. They can test for cyanide, copper, lead, and many other contaminants. But there are some contaminants that home water test kit won't find, like cryptosporidium.

water test kits

What are the different options for home water testing?

There are a variety of options using different methods, but many tests are fairly specific to what you want to find out. For example, if you want to make sure that your water softener is working, water hardness test strips would be ideal. If you're concerned contaminants like nitrates or arsenic, then you need more specific testing. For example, an arsenic kit includes several phases of sampling water and adding different compounds in it to create a gas in the sample bottle, which then interacts with a test strip.

Another example is a bacteria or coliform test where you put a sample of water in a bottle and let it sit for 48 hours to see if it changes color. The color of the water will reveal a presence or an absence of coliform bacteria. Handheld meters are placed in water to give you an immediate test result. A TDS meter looks at dissolved solids through a process called conductivity, a little electric current between the two probes. A TDS meter also reads temperature. pH and ORP meters work best for high-alkaline systems.

How do water test strips work?

That depends on what you're trying to find.

  • If you're looking for nitrates, then you use a test strip.
  • If you're looking for bacteria, specifically coliform, you need to capture water and let it sit for 48 hours to see if it turns the color of the solution.
  • If you're looking for hardness, you can use a test strip or a titration chemical-drop method to find how much hardness is in the water. 

In most cases, test strips have an average range. The range might span from three to five or 100 to 500 depending on the contaminant. Typically, chemical tests are more accurate and give you a specific number. Photometers use test strips in the process, but because they compare colors, these tests are specific and accurate.

Do home water test kits test for water hardness?

Yes, they do. We offer different types of hardness tests. One is a test strip that shows you a range and tells you whether your water is soft or not. If you want to test your city water, a test strip will give you a range of hardness. A titration test, where you drop chemicals into a test bottle, gives a more accurate measure of grains per gallon. If you're setting up or maintaining equipment and want to make sure you've done it properly, we recommend that you use the titration test. This chemical test will give you accurate results to help you know you've set your equipment up properly.

Browse our water softeners to reduce water hardness. 

Are home water test kits reliable and accurate?

Well, the answer is yes or no depending on whether or not you follow the proper steps.

Tips for accurate water test results:

  • Make sure your test sample bottle is clean so that it doesn't have anything in it that could sway the test. 
  • Make sure your test strip is not expired. If it is, then you can't trust the accuracy.
  • When using chemicals to do a titration or any kind of other mixture, make sure the chemicals aren't expired.

If you follow instructions and make sure your test is not expired, then a home water test kit will provide reliable results.

Where can I buy a water test kit?

Well, in our opinion, is the best place to get your testing equipment, test strips, or water treatment products. Home test kits are handy tools to help you keep up with your water quality and whether or not your water treatment equipment is working properly. Test kits enable you to test your water whenever you want to, so you know that what's in that nice clear glass of water is not going to harm you.

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