Do you want to know what contaminants are in your water?
There are many different types of home water test kits, and they can be used for different purposes. Some tests only check for a few contaminants, while others check for dozens. The best type of kit will depend on your needs.
Home water test kits can help you determine if your drinking or pool water is safe. They can also help you evaluate how well your water treatment system is performing and diagnose problems with them. If you’re concerned about the quality of your tap water, a home testing kit is an easy way to know with certainty what’s in it without having to pay a professional to do the same thing.
In this blog post, we discuss everything you need to know about home water test kits, including what they are used for, how they work, and the different types available. We’ll also provide some tips on choosing the right kit for your needs. So read on to learn more!
What Contaminants Can I Test for at Home
There are thousands of contaminants that can be found in water. Some can make you sick, while others are just unpleasant to taste. If your home has a water filtration system, these contaminants may be removed before they reach you.
Some contaminants can only be measured using complex instruments in a laboratory. Fortunately, home water test kits can be used to test for many of the common contaminants, and most are easy to use.
Home water test kits can be used to test for the following contaminants:
- total dissolved solids (TDS)
Let’s review the six most common contaminants and the home test kits you can use to measure them.
Lead (Pb) is an extremely toxic metal that can cause severe health problems, especially in children. Lead contamination in water is most often due to corrosion from old pipes or plumbing fixtures containing the metal.
If you’re concerned about lead in your water, there are several home test kits available to help you measure it. The EPA recommends using a colorimetric kit that changes color based on the concentration of lead in your water. You can determine the concentration by comparing the color change with a standard reference sample.
Lead can be measured in parts per billion (ppb) or parts per million (ppm). If you’re concerned about lead, it’s best to use an at-home kit that measures it in ppb.
You can also use a kit to test for lead in your soil. Soil testing is important if you’re planning to garden, since vegetables and fruits can absorb lead from the soil.
If you’re concerned about lead exposure, please consult with a health professional.
Chlorine is a chemical that’s often added to municipal water supplies as a disinfectant. Chlorine can kill harmful bacteria and viruses, but it also has some negative characteristics that make it undesirable in drinking water.
Chlorine has a bad taste – some people describe it as smelling like a swimming pool. It can also cause dry skin and hair or irritate the eyes.
You can use an at-home kit to test for chlorine in your water supply. The most common type of home testing kit uses colorimetric strips that change color based on the concentration of chlorine present in your water sample. Other kits require you to add a drop of reagent to your water until it changes color. You determine the concentration by comparing the color of your sample with a standard reference chart.
Iron (Fe) is a mineral that’s often found in water supplies. It can give water a rusty or metallic taste and can also stain plumbing fixtures and laundry.
If you’re concerned about high levels of iron in your water, there are several home test kits available to help you measure it. The most common type of kit uses colorimetric strips that change color based on the concentration of iron present in your water sample. Some people prefer using liquid test kit solutions, which are often more accurate than strip tests.
You can also use a kit that allows you to collect a water sample that you ship to a laboratory for testing.
Pesticides are chemicals that are used to kill pests, such as insects, rodents, or weeds. They can also be harmful to humans and the environment. Exposure to low levels of pesticides over time can lead to health problems.
You can use an at-home kit to test for pesticides in your water supply. Home kits are designed to detect common pesticides like atrazine and simazine. The most common type of home testing kit uses colorimetric strips that change color based on the concentration of pesticide present in your water sample.
5. Nitrites and nitrates
Nitrates and nitrites are chemical compounds that contain nitrogen. Nitrites and nitrates can be found naturally in soil, water, and air. They’re also common byproducts of human activity like farming.
Exposure to high levels of both chemicals is toxic and can cause serious health problems, especially for infants under six months old.
Home test kits can be used to measure nitrites and nitrates in your water supply. The most common type of home testing kit uses colorimetric strips that change color based on the concentration of chemical present in your water sample.
Bacteria are tiny, single-celled organisms that can cause disease. They’re often found in water and soil.
E. coli is a type of bacteria that’s often found in water supplies. It can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and other health problems.
Testing for bacteria is done with a bioassay type kit that takes 48 hours to give you the results. You add your water sample to the jar, shake it, and let it sit for 2 days. If coliform bacteria are in your water, they consume the nutrients in the test which turns the water yellow. The results are either “positive” or “negative”.
Types of Home Water Test Kits
When it comes to choosing the best water quality test kit for your home, there are several factors that you need consider. There are four primary types of home water test kits available.
Each contaminant has a type of test that can be used to measure it. Knowing which type of kit you need is the first step in choosing the right one for your needs.
1. Test strips
Home water test strips are easy to use. Most kits come with instructions that tell you how to dip the strip into your sample, remove it after a few seconds, and compare the color on the strip to a reference chart.
These types of tests are quick and inexpensive, but they aren’t as accurate as other methods. Another drawback is that they only test for a few contaminants.
The most common type of home water testing kit uses colorimetric strips that change color based on the concentration of chemical present in your water sample. This type of kit can be used to test for chlorine, pH levels, hardness, and several other factors.
2. Digital meter
Digital meters are handheld devices that allow you to test your water for a variety of contaminants. They’re more accurate than test strips, but they can be expensive.
Meters typically have an electrode or special tip that you dip into the water sample. The meter measures the contaminant and displays the results on a screen.
Digital meters can be used to test for pH levels, dissolved oxygen, TDS, and temperature.
This type of home water quality testing is very simple to use and doesn’t require any special skill. Handheld meters also provide repeatable results – meaning that you can get the same results each time you test your water.
3. Color disks
Color disks use chemical reagents that change color if the contaminant is present. The color change is proportional to the concentration. You can read the result by matching the color of the sample to a color chart.
This type of kit is more expensive than test strips, but it’s more accurate and can test for a wider range of contaminants. Color disks are used to detect metals, pesticides, and other organic compounds in water.
4. Ship to laboratory kits
If you want to test for a wide range of contaminants, or if you’re not sure which type of kit you need, then a ship-to-laboratory kit may be the best option for you. The kit includes a jar or vial that you collect the water sample in. You mail the sample to a laboratory for analysis.
Lab tests can detect most contaminants including PFAS, VOCs, pesticides, lead, arsenic, and many more. Laboratory testing is the most accurate way to test your water, but it’s also the most expensive. In addition, you don’t get the results right away because you have to ship the sample to the lab and then they have to run the analysis.
Type of Water You’re Testing
When choosing a home water quality test kit, it’s important to first consider the type of water you’d like to test. It might be your tap water, well water, or your pool.
The reason for this is because not all kits are designed to work on every type of sample. Some tests are only accurate enough to use on pool water, while others are better for testing your drinking water.
There are certain tests that you perform based on the type of water. Many home kits test for a suite of contaminants to give you a better level of analysis.
1. Tap water
If you’re testing your tap water, then you’ll want to look for contaminants that are likely to be present in your public water supply. Contaminants to test for in tap water include:
- nitrates and nitrites
- VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
- disinfectant byproducts
- trihalomethane compounds (THMs)
2. Well water
Water from a well is naturally filtered by the ground, but this type of water can still contain contaminants. You might want to test for:
- nitrates and nitrites
3. Pool and hot tub water
If you have a pool or hot tub, then you’ll want to look for contaminants that are likely to be present in those types of water. You’ll also want to test for chemicals used to treat your water and keep it in good condition.
Parameters to test for in pool and hot tub water include:
- pH levels
- cyanuric acid (a stabilizer)
- calcium hardness
How Accurate Are Home Water Test Kits
Home water quality test kits are not as accurate as laboratory tests, but they can still provide useful information about the quality of your water.
Accuracy of home water test kits
In general, the accuracy of a home kit depends on the type of kit and the level of contamination that you’re testing for. Some kits are more accurate than others, and some contaminants are easier to test for than others.
Lab tests are the most accurate way to test your water, but they’re also the most expensive. In addition, you don’t get the results right away because you have to ship the sample to the lab and then they have to run the analysis.
Detection limits of home water test kits
The detection limit is the lowest concentration of a contaminant that can be measured by an analytical test. You’ll want to look for a kit with detection limits below any health standards or regulatory limits that exist in your area.
For example, lead has a very low drinking water standard due to its toxicity. The established the maximum allowable concentration of lead at 15 ppb. You should only purchase a test kit that can detect lead concentrations lower than this value. The lower the better.
Here are the contaminant detection limits for several home water test kits.
|Contaminant||Type of Test||
|Lead||Color disk (reagent)||
|Chlorine||Color disk (reagent)||
|Nitrate / nitrite||Test strip||
Positive / Negative
Considerations for Home Water Test Kits
When it comes to choosing the best water quality test kit for your home, there are several factors that you need consider:
- The type of contaminants you want to test for
- The accuracy of the test kit
- How easy the kit is to use
- The cost of the kit
- Shipping time (for laboratory kits)
Home Test Kit Procedures
Testing your water at home is a fairly straightforward process. You will need to collect a water sample and then follow the instructions on the kit to test for various contaminants.
Collecting a representative water sample
It is important that you collect a representative sample of water, especially if you are using the test kit to determine whether or not your home’s drinking water is contaminated. The water sample should be collected upstream from any treatment equipment you have – you want to test the raw, or untreated water to see what’s coming in to your home.
You should sample the water first thing in the morning before you shower or use the water. This will give you a sample representative of the water that’s been sitting in contact with your pipes.
Testing the water sample
After you’ve collected a representative sample of water, it’s time to test your sample
- Test strips: Dip the strip in the water sample for a few seconds. Refer to the instructions for the time to leave the strip in the water. Place the strip on a clean surface and wait the designated time. Compare the strip to the color chart to read the concentration.
- Digital meter: Place the meter tip in the sample and hold it there for 10 seconds (or as instructed in the directions). Remove the meter from the water and read the result.
- Color disks: Add the reagent to the water sample and stir or shake as indicated in the directions. Allow the sample to sit for 30 seconds (or as noted in the instructions). Compare the color of the water against the color chart on the kit to get your reading.
- Lab tests: For most lab-based water quality test kits, you will need to send a sample of your water off to a laboratory for analysis. The results will then be sent back to you in an email or by mail.
How do I know what to test my water for?
It depends on what you want to know. If you’re concerned about the taste or smell of your water, there are test kits that will help determine if it is safe to drink. Other tests can measure health-related contaminants such as arsenic, lead and harmful bacteria like E. Coli and coliforms. You may also need to test the water if you have a well, to ensure that it is safe for your family.
What should I do with the results?
If you are testing your own home’s drinking water, then use the results as guidance when considering whether or not to install treatment equipment in your home. If you receive lab test results and they show high levels of contaminants, then you should consider installing a water treatment system. Your local environmental health department or other regulatory agency may also be able to help guide you based on your results and the contaminant levels detected in your home’s drinking water.
Should I test my water softener?
If you have a water softener, you should test the hardness of your water at least once per year. Water softeners have adjustments that allow you to optimize the performance based on how hard your water is.
Should I test my reverse osmosis filter?
A reverse osmosis filter can remove many contaminants like lead, PFAS, and arsenic from your drinking water. If you are removing a contaminant that can harm your health, then you should periodically test your water to confirm it is removing the impurities. The test will also let you know when it is time to replace the filter.
How often should I test my drinking water?
If everything looks good in your home’s drinking water, then there isn’t a reason to do frequent testing. A general rule of thumb is to retest every year or two. If you notice a change in the taste or odor of your water, then you may want to perform another test.
Final Take on Home Water Test Kits
Home water test kits are a great way to get an idea of the quality of your water and what, if any, contaminants might be present. They’re also relatively easy to use and can give you results in just a few minutes.
In this article, we’ve covered all you need to know about home water test kits- from the different types available to how accurate they are. We’ve also included some tips on using them properly so you can get the most accurate results possible. If you have any questions or want more information, ask us a question in the comments section. Thanks for reading!