Updated: Jun 28
This is a complete guide to testing home drinking water in 2021.
Use this guide for tips on testing your water quality and what to do with the results if you are concerned your tap water may be contaminated.
Let's get started.
How safe is my drinking water?
More and more homeowners have installed water filters, reverse osmosis units, ionizers, softeners, and distillers in their homes in recent years.
What is the point of improving safe drinking water when it's already supposed to be safe? Where is the problem?
A water treatment plant should not pose any real problem when it comes to drinking water. Does that make sense?
How can I test the water in my home?
If you choose to test your water yourself, various methods can be used, or you may entrust the work to a professional organization. Water testing methods generally take little time or cost little money, although some are time-consuming or pricey.
Educating yourself on water testing is an excellent place to begin before improving water quality.
You can test your home's drinking water using some of the following methods:
1. You can send the water sample to a lab.
Sending a sample of your water to a reputable local laboratory will be the best way to test all of the contaminants in your water if you aren't sure which contaminants to test for.
Compared to home testing kits, which often only test for specific contaminants, lab results will pinpoint a broader range of elements in your water.
To ensure your water is accurately tested, labs that offer water testing usually ask you to follow specific instructions. Sending samples in should be done within 24 hours. They should be refrigerated before sending.
Most laboratories provide laboratory containers, and you will receive them before your visit. Choosing a laboratory is best done by giving them a call and discussing the process of sending a sample since all of them function in slightly different ways.
Water quality testing in laboratories
The most comprehensive testing method is in the lab or having a water analysis done by a professional.
Whether you use a well water source or not, you can hire a professional to conduct your water source thorough testing.
When it comes to ensuring that your water does not have contaminants in it that could make you sick, testing your well water is essential.
To ensure your well water remains clean and contaminant-free, you'll need to factor in regular well water inspections.
A 12-to-14-month testing schedule is recommended for private water supplies.
The use of specialist equipment can allow a well water inspector to determine whether specific contaminants are present in the healthy water in safe quantities or not.
Depending on how detailed your inspector thinks the water sample needs to be, he or she may send it to the lab for examination. To know the precise composition of your water, you must request this from your inspector.
Getting your water tested professionally is still a good idea, even if you don't use water from a private source but are considering a home water treatment unit. By testing your water, you will determine what's in it and what you might want to remove. By doing this, you will be able to make an informed decision regarding purchasing the right water filter system for your household.
2. Using kits for water testing
Using a water testing kit at home is one of the easiest ways to test for contaminants.
You can test the water for different elements with different kits. For example, kits can test for pH, bacteria, sulfur, chlorine, or dissolved solids, while others test for lead, bacteria, sulfur, and chlorine.
A variety of testing kits will allow you to test for various contaminants in the same kit, but no test kit will tell you everything in the water.
Many home water testing kits fail to detect all contaminants in a single drinking water sample because a single sample supposedly contains hundreds of different contaminants.
A kit to test drinking water
To get started, choose a kit that tests for anywhere from six to ten+ contaminants if you have never used a home water testing kit before. This sort of testing kit should give you a good indication of your water quality since lead and chlorine are the most common contaminants in drinking water.
If you're concerned about specific contaminants in your water, you can pick a test kit designed for the task.
Testing kits can be used to determine how much sulfur or iron your water contains and how this will affect its taste, for example.
It's essential to keep in mind that water testing kits can't provide the most accurate picture of your water's composition, but they're an excellent place to start.
Let's look at the common contaminants that an average water testing kit can test for:
· Sediment: That is things like grit or sand, which can affect the overall quality of water.
· Hard water minerals: Those are things like magnesium and calcium, which cause limescale problems.
· Lead: That is a toxic mineral in large amounts, and it can cause your water to have a metallic taste.
· Sulfur: This is a bacterial-caused or naturally occurring element. It tends to give water a rotten egg taste.
· Chlorine: This is harmful in large quantities and can affect the taste of water.
· Iron: This mineral can affect water taste and often leaves rust or stains on surfaces.
· Bacteria: This can cause diseases and be harmful.
Test strips can be used to determine the levels of contaminants that you have in your water. You can find that the directions on how to use the strips will vary based on the kit. Be sure to read the instructions carefully, even if you have used a similar kit in the past.
You can use these test strips to test for water bacteria, pH, hardness, chlorine, and general analysis. A testing kit often comes with multiple strips made to find the various contaminants in your water.
To use the strips, you will have to dip them in a fresh sample of the water and then wait for it to turn a particular color. It could take several minutes or several seconds, even though it is best to keep the strip in the water for the amount of time listed in the instructions.
You will then compare the color on the strip to the chart provided with the strips. The chart will have various colors which show the quantities of the contaminants in the water. That will show how much of something in your water, but it may not be 100% reliable because we all see colors differently.
Test Strips for Drinking Water
If you want to save money, and want an easy way to test your water quality, then a color disk is a great way. Color disks often contain a powder or liquid reagent and a reusable plastic tube.
All you have to do is add the needed amount of reagent to the tube with a sample of your drinking water. The water will then start to change color. When it starts to change color, you have to leave it set for a couple of minutes and then place the tube inside a viewing box.
The viewing box will have a plastic color wheel that will show various colors. Rotate the wheel until you find a shade that fits the color of your water. That will indicate how much contaminant is in your water.
The color disks are often more expensive than the testing strips but often more accurate. However, there is still an issue because you may not fully match up the shade of the water to the color on the disk.
If you want to be more technical when it comes to testing your drinking water, you could use a handheld digital instrument to provide electronic readings of the contaminants found.
They will be able to provide one of the most accurate readings out of the home water testing kits on the market and are often used at an industrial level. However, there are a few cheaper digital water testing instruments too.
The most common options for digital testing include photometers, colorimeters, and digital meters. They are all delicate to use but provide precise results, which makes them worth the effort.
Before you can use a digital water tester, it will need to be calibrated. In addition, many testers will need batteries or a type of electric charge. Finally, you may need to replace certain parts based on the kit's instruction manual to maintain the water tester.
How do I remove contaminants in tap water?
Now that you have tested your water, there is a good chance that you want to remove contaminants from your water. Again, there are plenty of options that you can get to do that for you.
There are so many varieties of home water improvement methods on the market, and you will be able to find a treatment that works for your home.
The main filtration methods are listed below:
Point of Use Water Filters (POU Filters)
POU filters are designed to filter water that is used in one area of your home.
The sink faucet is usually the point of use filtration system in your kitchen sink, as clean water is a priority for drinking.
There are only three types of POU filters:
· Water filter pitchers
· Countertop systems
· Under-sink systems
All of them are designed to remove contaminants from water, but their prices and efficiency differ.
Compared with the other two options, pitchers offer the least amount of carbon filtering but are the cheapest, costing between $30 and $70.
The countertop system is a bit more expensive, as it could cost thousands of dollars, but it can remove more contaminants efficiently.
A countertop system is similar in its components to the under-sink system, but they can be more expensive if they use a reverse osmosis membrane.
Water filter pitchers
The pitchers make drinking water cleaner because they filter the water when it's added.
In filter pitchers, a carbon filter with a large surface area acts as a sponge, cleaning and removing contaminants like chlorine, heavy metals, and pesticides.
The filtration process takes around five minutes after you add water to a water filter pitcher.
You can take a filter pitcher around your home without being tied to a faucet - but remember to refill it manually after each use.
An under-sink water filter connects to a kitchen sink's cold-water line and is installed underneath the sink.
By filtering water before it reaches your kitchen faucet, contaminants are removed. Unfortunately, the filtered water that comes from some systems must be dispensed through a separate faucet.
Water filtration units under the sink cleanse and disinfect water as they filter through various filters.
Prefilters remove sediment before the water reaches the faucet, followed by one or two carbon filters that remove chemicals and organic compounds before the liquid reaches the faucet.
A reverse osmosis membrane is sometimes used in under-counter systems, removing up to 99% of all dissolved solids.
The filtered water is generally stored in a tank under the sink until you turn the faucet on.
In a kitchen countertop filtration system, you place it near your kitchen sink.
To divert water into the filtration system, connect the countertop filter to the waterline, either the cold or hot water line.
Depending on how your countertop water filter is configured, some of them will dispensing water through your kitchen sink, and others will dispense water straight from the unit.
Chemicals, heavy metals, microorganisms, and other compounds can be removed from water using prefilters, carbon filters, and post-filters.
Point of entry Water Filters (POE Filters)
Water can be filtered at the earliest point of entry into your house through point-of-entry filtration. There are various filtration types available for this type of water filter connected to the main water pipe before it is divided into individual parts of your home.
In addition to your budget, you will also need to consider the type of point-of-entry filter you want.
As an example, reverse osmosis systems, though expensive, offer the best contaminant removal - even though they are the only procedure that wastes water during the filtration process.
With a price tag of around $1,000, whole house carbon filters are more affordable but don't work quite as efficiently.
Next-generation filters offer a good balance of both, but the price is around $2,000, so they are still quite pricy.
Next-generation filter technology
Next-generation filter technology is the final way to improve water quality in a whole house.
In next-generation filtering, three filtration steps are typically used: the catalytic carbon filter, the pre-sediment filter, and the electrocharged submicron filter.
When using these filters altogether, microorganisms, pesticides, chemicals, rust, dirt, and heavy metals can be removed from the water.
Reverse osmosis systems
Among the more expensive water improvement methods, reverse osmosis filtration is also one of the most thorough.
In reverse osmosis, water passes through many filters and a semi-permeable membrane capable of removing 99.9% of total dissolved solids.
For removing more significant sediment, chemicals like chlorine, and some metals from water, reverse osmosis systems commonly include a prefilter and a carbon filter.
At high pressure, RO membranes force highly contaminated water through, trapping contaminants, allowing water particles to pass.
If you want to remove any particles that may have passed through the RO membrane, water goes through a final post-carbon filter.
Carbon filters can be used as part of the whole house to reduce contaminants in water and are among the cheapest options available.
When water is introduced into a carbon filter, larger particles and sediments are removed by a prefilter.
The water is then passed through an activated carbon filter, which traps different contaminants like copper, pesticides, and chlorine.
Water passes through one last filter before it reaches the rest of your house, cleans it, and removes any sediment.
How do I decide between the point of entry filter and the point of use filter?
It's worth considering what's most important to you before choosing between a point of entry water filtration system and a point of use water filtration system.
You will get all the same benefits from the point of entry water system in addition to a few others.
You can use a point-of-use filter if you're only interested in drinking healthy, better-tasting water but don't need the additional benefits for your home.
A water filter will help you drink and cook with clean water. Install it at the kitchen sink, and you'll have access to clean water every time. Many kitchen sink systems can also be connected to your refrigerator, ice machine, and coffee maker for additional convenience.
Point of entry water filters is for people looking to enjoy clean drinking water while taking a shower, doing the laundry, cleaning their homes, washing the dishes, and boiling the kettle.
Your home can be provided with filtered water that allows appliances to last longer, plumbing to function better, limescale to disappear, and your furnace to operate more efficiently.
As you can see, the average point of entry is significantly more expensive than the average point of use. So for a whole-house water filter, you'll need a larger budget.
You'll find similarities in all filter types, regardless of the one you choose. However, if you want to ensure they continue to operate efficiently, all systems require regular replacement of filters.
In general, you should replace most filters after six months, but it can vary depending on the specific product.
Filters in water filter pitchers, such as carbon filters, will need to be changed even more frequently - usually every four weeks.
In the end, your choice of water filter depends on your own unique needs. Trying to buy a filter system if you don't need one should not be your goal. If you're looking for more information on a filter's manufacturer, read impartial reviews before you buy it.
You can determine which contaminants to remove using a water filter by testing the quality of your water, no matter which method you use. However, when choosing a method of testing that you think will give you the best results, you will have more options if you know how to test water quality.
A lot of water testing can be done at home at a low cost. Testing kits and color wheels may not give the most accurate or thorough results, but they're great if you've never had your water tested.
To test your water more closely, you can also send it to a lab.
If you're interested in detailed information on the contaminants in your water, you can always consult the water quality report provided by your local authority.
If your water contains a lot of a specific contaminant, you can select a filtration method that can reduce that contaminant the most effectively.
You can get additional information about the quality of your water or get in touch with your public water utility company if you notice a change in your water quality. It is your responsibility to make sure your private drinking water, such as well water, is safe to consume.