How To Test Water Quality At Home

Water quality scientist performs drinking water quality analysis on local water supply
Water quality testing has been an important part of science for as long as we have had techniques to test water quality.

If you have some concerns about the quality of the water in your home, it only makes sense to look into doing something about it. Yet with so many different water filters, purification systems, treatment additives, and tons of other products on the market, it can be a dizzying decision trying to figure out what you really need to tackle your home water quality problems. This is where water quality testing – be it from a lab, water testing kits, or other water quality testing equipment – can really help you make the right decisions in order to tackle your water problems.

To help you understand the issue of water quality a bit better, and to get a better idea of how to get the best water possible in your home, it is important to get a basic understanding of the issue of water contamination as a whole. A lot of factors effect the water quality in your home, ranging from where your water is sourced from, to how well it is purified, to the materials and cleanliness of the pipes used to transport it.

Who Needs Water Quality Testing?

E Coli bacteria can be a deadly water contaminantDepending on where you live, you probably get water either from your connection to a public water utility, or utilize a private well or catchment system. If you get your water from a public water utility, it is likely tested regularly by a professional laboratory to asses the water quality and contamination profile. These regular tests should be enough to detect most contaminants long before they ever reach your home. However, if you are having issues with your home water supply even though connected to a public water utility, it is possible that your home plumbing has issues such as inorganic material contamination from local plumbing.
If you get your water from a private well (especially if you are in charge of managing the well) it is vital to perform regular tests for water quality to make sure the well water is safe to drink. Improperly built or sealed/shielded wells can become contaminated at any time by animals, debris, or natural disasters. Wells which are directly influenced by other bodies of water have the potential to change composition relatively rapidly, introducing new contaminants.

How To Test Water Quality


The only way to get a truly accurate assessment of your water quality is through laboratory testing. Contact your local water authority to locate a reputable water quality testing laboratory in your area. Laboratory tests are capable of providing an in-depth examination of every contaminant present in your water, and in what quantities. The water experts who understand the chemistry of your water may also be able to provide expert advice as to the best options for water treatment in your home.

While the only way to get a truly accurate chemical analysis of your water is by submitting it to a laboratory test, there are some products on the market which can give you some idea of what is in your water. It is important to understand that these testing kits test for a very specific range of compounds and sometimes have questionable accuracy. Generally speaking, testing kits are far more useful in situations where you already know which contaminant you are looking for. If you want a general profile, water quality testing kits are not the best option as the provide at best a vague idea of your water contamination profile.

Home Water Quality Testing Kits

Home water quality testing kits are generally useful as a “first step” measure to see if your water should be submitted for professional testing. They can also be helpful in situations where minor contamination issues warrant picking up a filter. Because different filters target different contaminants, picking up the wrong filter could mean having water just as full of whatever you wanted to get rid of as before you filtered it. Applying a bit of scrutiny with a testing kit can be a good alternative to this potentially expensive game of trial and error.

First Alert (~$14) tests for some bacteria, nitrates, lead, chlorine, pesticides, pH, and hardness
First Alert (~$14) tests for some bacteria, nitrates, lead, chlorine, pesticides, pH, and hardness

The way water quality testing kits work is quite simple: water samples are placed in one or multiple tests which contain a chemical formula which will change colors in the presence of certain contaminants. While a good method of determining if a certain contaminant is present in the water, these testing kits suffer from a limited usefulness and reliability issues, sometimes returning false positives or not working at all.

If you don’t know what contaminants you are looking for, something like the First Alert WT1 Drinking Water Quality Testing Kit (~$14 on tests for a range of common contaminants, including bacteria such as E. coli, chemicals like lead, fertilizers, pesticides, and chlorine. It also provides information about pH and water hardness. Many water quality testing kits are available, all of them testing for a different set of bacteria and chemicals, so if you suspect a particular compound is the source of your water quality woes, be sure the testing kit you pick up tests for it.

If you know what compounds you are looking for specifically, you can invest in something more specific such as these “Iron Check” testing strips. On the other hand, if you really have no idea what you’re looking for and just want some general sense of water quality, a TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meter might prove handy. These reusable digital TDS meters only run about $15 or so and measure the total amount of dissolved solids within the water, meaning all of the non-organic (so no bacteria or water borne viruses are measured) and returns a number in Parts Per Million, giving you some idea of how much non-H2O is floating around in your water.

Don’t Skimp On Your Water Quality!

Water quality is a serious business, with potential health effects in the short- and long-term. Regular assessment of the quality of your drinking water through a chemical analysis of water is an important step towards maintaining clean, healthy drinking water.

Don’t hesitate to seek out professional help and expert laboratory water quality analysis. There are no products commercially available which can provide the kind of high quality water quality assessment which a laboratory can produce. While testing kits can be a great first step, should they return any positive results, seek out a professional water quality expert for an in-depth assessment.

If you’ve identified that your home has sub-par drinking water, it is essential that you do something about it! Not only does poor water quality lead to nasty taste and odor, it can have consequences for the health of you, your family, even your pets or any living thing that relies on your water. A simple, no-installation solution to improve your water quality can be provided in the form of a countertop water filter or water filter pitcher. For some suggestions, read our articles Best Countertop Water Filter Reviews or Best Water Filter Pitcher Comparison and Reviews.

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Ever wondered how pure and clean the water you drink at home is? Find out how to test your water quality with this short, simple, highly informative article.

4 thoughts on “How To Test Water Quality At Home”

  1. I’ve never tested my water before, because I’ve always just assumed that it’s tested for me by the city. I’m sure they’re good at keeping up with that, but I can see how it would be good to do on your own, because there could be something contaminating it in your house or something. Home water tests seem pretty cheap and easy to do too.

  2. It’s great to have options available for testing the water we use on a daily basis. If you’re lucky enough as I am, you’ll live close enough to the mountains and get to enjoy the spring water straight from the tap!!


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