How to Test the pH of Your Drinking Water + Our Favorite Test Kits

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Knowing the pH of your drinking water is important. The pH of a substance refers to its acidity or alkalinity. Lower values mean that the solution is more acid, and high values indicated that it’s more basic or alkaline.

The pH of pure water is 7, which is considered neutral on this scale. However, most drinking water is not perfectly neutral, due to various additives.

The pH of water can be related to whether or not it’s contaminated. For example, low pH (acidic) water is more likely to dissolve toxic chemicals that the water has encountered. Also, many people believe that alkalinity in drinking water has various health benefits.

Testing your drinking water is a good first step before purchasing an alkaline water ionizer, so you know the starting point of your water’s pH.

Testing Your Water: What, Why, and How

You might think that learning how to test alkaline water would be a hassle, but it’s not! You don’t have to send it off to a lab or pay for exorbitant testing by a company. In fact, you can test the pH of your water at home easily, conveniently, and inexpensively.

You can test your water at home with a simple DIY testing kit.

It takes only a couple of minutes to learn how to test the pH of water.  Water is critical to human health and survival, after all, and we put a lot of it into our bodies. What’s in that water matters and can greatly affect your health and well-being.

There are three major methods of home testing: pH meters, pH paper strips, and pH testing drops. While beyond the scope of this article, you should also know that you can test your water in other ways as well, to determine its purity, contaminants, and mineral profile. Together with pH testing, these types of tests can give you a greater understanding of what you’re drinking.

With water testing being so easy, cheap, and accessible these days, there’s no reason to overlook what could be a health risk. We’ll go over the three types of pH testing, how to do them, and some of the more popular and reliable products available.

Testing Your Water: pH Meters

The first step of learning how to test alkaline water is deciding which method you’ll use. All three of the methods we describe can be accurate and convenient.

Digital pH Meter show with an alkaline chart
Shown above is the
VANTAKOOL Digital Pocket Size Meter

One thing that’s nice about pH meters in particular is that they are infinitely reusable.  The batteries will need to be replaced from time to time, but they do typically have a very long battery life.  It’s often as simple as calibrating the device and then dipping it in a sample.

How to Use a pH Meter

Using handheld pH water meters is easy.

First, a slight disclaimer: These instructions are not universal. You’ll find that this is how most pH meters work. However, you’ll need to read the instructions that come with your specific meter to see if there are differences or to find out specifics on how the unit operates.

Step 1: Calibrate the meter.

Most meters will require pre-calibration. Typically, this involves testing the unit with a substance with a known pH – often meters come with solutions for just this purpose – and then making adjustments.

Think about it like the “tare” on a scale that makes sure it’s measuring 0 when there’s nothing on it, or accurately measuring a fivepound weight before using it to measure unknown quantities. Be sure to follow any instructions regarding cleaning the meter post-calibration.

Step 2: Collect your sample.

You want a fresh sample, as sitting out in open air can affect water’s pH. However, you’ll also want to let it sit and settle for a few moments to stabilize its temperature.

It’s a good idea to have a thermometer handy to check the water’s temperature as well, although many pH meters automatically do so.

Have the sample in a clean container and make sure there’s enough of it to cover the testing apparatus on the meter. Input the water temperature in the meter, if required.

Step 3: Test the sample.

Submerge the testing apparatus in the water. It may take a few moments for the reading to stabilize. Once it does, you’ll know the pH of your water.

Step 4: Record your measurement

It’s a good idea to keep a log book of your measurements, so you can take note of any changes over time.

The Best pH Meters for Testing Water

A quick search online shows that there are many different pH meter options available for testing your own water. Here are a few of our favorites.

  1. High Quality Water Test Meter by Sunny

Key Features:

  • Size: 6 x 1 x 0.8 inches
  • Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Price: $$

This is a great, professional-grade pH meter that’s super portable, easy to use, and affordable. It includes some nice extra perks like an auto shut-off feature to save the battery, several different display modes, and accuracy within 2%. It’s ideal for testing water’s pH for nearly any purpose: drinking water, pool/spa water, hydroponics, etc.

2. VantaKool Digital pH Meter

Key Features:

  • Size: 6.7 x 2.2 x 1.4 inches
  • Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Price: $$

This best-selling pH meter has a number of great features as well, including automatically compensating for temperature and water quality, which results in faster and more accurate pH readings. It’s ideal for a wide range of applications, including testing your tap and bottled drinking water.

3. Jellas Pocket Size pH Meter

Key Features:

  • Size: 5.3 x 1.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Weight: 0.6 ounces
  • Price: $$

This petite Jellas model is another multipurpose tester that’s great for testing drinking water, as well as for use with pools, spas, gardening, or even beer and wine making. It’s very easy to use and resolves pH to the first decimal place.

4. Apera Instruments Value Waterproof pH Pocket Tester

Apera pH Pocket Tester

Key Features:

  • Size: 7 x 1.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Weight: 3.84 ounces
  • Price: $$$$$

Despite the word “value” in the name, this is a bit of a higher-end option compared to the previously mentioned pH meters. That’s because Apera makes relatively high-end testing devices, and this is the value model compared to some of their other options.

That said, the higher price tag comes with some awesome features, including auto-calibration, buffer recognition, automated temperature compensation, a carrying case with pH 4 and 7 buffers, and more. It’s one of the most comprehensive drinking water test kits we’ve seen, so it’s worth it if your budget has a bit of wiggle room!

Testing Your Water: pH Paper Test Kits

Another way to learn how to test alkaline water is via the use of pH paper test kits.

First things first: while the term “pH paper” and “litmus paper” or “pH test strips” and “litmus strips” are often used interchangeably, they are not always the same thing.

Litmus paper usually only indicates if the tested solution is acidic or alkaline, but not to what degree, while pH papers include several different bars that will adjust in color depending on the pH of the solution. These changes in color can then be compared to a key and interpreted to determine the pH of your water.

How to Use pH Paper Test Kits

tesing the pH of drinking water

Using a pH paper test kit to test your water is quick and easy and very inexpensive.

  1. Collect a sample. Collect a sample of your water in a clean container. Make sure you get enough water to cover the whole strip, if that’s required by the brand you’ve chosen.
  2. Dip the test strip. Dip the strip – partially or entirely, depending on brand – into the sample. While it may take a few minutes for the results to register, the actual dipping should only take a couple of seconds.
  3. Wait. Wait the amount of time required by your brand of test. The instruction booklet or manual will let you know when to check the results. Longer isn’t necessarily better, so make sure you follow the directions closely.
  4. Learn your water’s pH level. Compare your results to the instructions or user manual. Different colors or bars will correspond to a key so that you can interpret the pH of your water.
  5. Log your results. It’s a good idea to test on a scheduled, periodic basis. If you’re doing this, keep a journal or notepad file with your results, so that you can track changes.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the kit that you choose. Usually, the directions will be similar to the ones we’ve listed above, but there may be differences.

Top pH Paper Test Kits

There are plenty of kits that include pH testing papers to choose from. Here are a few of the top choices available online.

  1. Drinking Water Test Kit by Test Assured

Key Features:

  • Size: 8.1 x 1.7 x 5 inches
  • Weight: 1.6 ounces
  • Get Results in 10 minutes
  • Price: $$$$

This is a wonderfully thorough kit that provides the materials for several different tests, including pH. In addition to testing pH, you can also test your water for lead, bacteria, pesticides, iron, copper, hardness, chlorine, nitrates, and nitrates.

It comes with a comprehensive instruction manual for interpreting your test results. This kit is single-use, however, it gives you a good idea of the overall quality of your water so you can determine the type of water filtration system you may need.

And read our article What’s in Your Drinking Water to find out the types of contaminants found in many city water systems.

2. Nurse Hatty pH Strips (200 ct.)

Nurse Hatty pH Test Strips

Key Features:

  • pH Range: 5.0 to 8.5
  • Count: 200
  • Length: 4.2 inches
  • Price: $$

These strips are a great deal if you’re looking to test your water’s pH or the pH of any other solution regularly. Two hundred strips means you get 200 tests!

The extra-long strip length is useful if you’re planning to test running water (or urine) without getting your fingers wet. They even come with a helpful PDF eBook with use charts, diet and health tips, and additional information.

3. Stanaway Universal pH Test Strips Roll

Stanaway pH Test Strip Roll

Key Features:

  • pH Range: 1 to 14
  • Count: 100 (estimated)
  • Lenth: 2 inches
  • Price: $

Instead of individual strips, this is a roll of pH test paper in a protective plastic case. Note that while they do use the word “litmus” in their marketing, this is indeed a full-range pH test paper with different colors for pH between 1 and 14.

You can make these rolls last quite a while if you are strictly testing the water in a container since you can tear off a small portion to use. There is a total of 200 inches in the roll. This means you can make 200 1-inch strips OR 50 4-inch strips. The flexible cutting size is a nice feature since you can customize the length to the container used for testing.

One downside is that you have to work a bit harder to interpret the results, as the colors are assigned on a spectrum. You’ll know a particular range, but it may not be possible to get the specificity you’re looking for in a reading.

4. Litmus pH Test Strips by LabRat Supplies

Lab Rat Universal pH Test Strips

Key Features:

  • pH Range: 1 to 14
  • Count: 200
  • Length: 1.8 inches
  • Price: $

These come in 100 ct. packs and are frequently sold as a two-pack for 200 strips in total. Like the Stanaway strips, you won’t be able to narrow the results down to the decimal, but you will be able to place the pH of your water in a particular range.

5. pH Test Strips by Just Fitter

Just Fitter pH Test Strips

Key Features:

  • pH Range: 4.5 to 9
  • Count: 125
  • Length: not stated
  • Price: $

These come in bottles of 100-125 and have the pH color key helpfully printed right on the bottle. They’re an excellent, affordable way to test the pH of your water. As with other strips, you are confined to a range, but these are designed to help you get as narrow a range as possible, which is a plus.

Testing Your Water: pH Test Drops

Another simple and accurate way to test the alkalinity of drinking water is by using pH test drops. The function of these is similar in concept to the paper test strips, but in a liquid form. Instead of dipping a strip and waiting for it to change color, you add a few pH test drops to the sample and the sample itself changes color.

Some claim that test drops are more accurate for testing water, as compared to strips, although it seems unlikely that this would be true across the board, as different products vary in accuracy individually.

How to Use pH Test Drops

While instructions will vary depending on what product you choose, testing pH with test droplets is always a simple affair.

  1. Collect your sample. As with any test, you want to collect a fresh sample and allow it to sit a few moments to stabilize in temperature – per the instructions that come with your product, of course. It should be in a clean container that hasn’t been contaminated. Refer to your product instructions to learn about the minimum and maximum sample size.
  2. Add drops to the water. Once you have your fresh, stable sample, it’s time to add the pH test drops according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Usually this is just a few droplets or even only one.
  3. Observe any change in color. The drops are quite reactive, so you’ll need to observe the change within a relatively small window of time as described in the instruction manual.
  4. Interpret the results. Once you’ve seen the change, check the color key provided to determine your water’s pH range.
  5. Log your results. As always, we suggest keeping a log of results so that you can track changes over time.

Top pH Test Drops

There are plenty of pH test drop options available, and we’ve reviewed some of the best for you to peruse.

  1. pH Perfect by Invigorated Water
pH Perfect Test Drop

Product Details:

  • Size: 3 1 ounce bottles
  • pH Range: 2 to 11
  • Price: $$

This product works great and is marketed as being more accurate than paper test strips. While this is difficult to determine, it is true that the color key is very easy to follow and identifies a relatively narrow pH range.

The fact that you only need a couple of drops to do the test makes this a very affordable option for repeat testing.

2. EHM Alkaline Water pH Test Kit

EHM pH Testing Drops

Product Details:

  • Size: 1 ounce
  • pH Range: 4 to 10
  • Price: $

This bottle is often paired with EHM’s water pitcher and filters but can be purchased separately. It tests water (or any other clear liquid) from a pH of 4 to 10. This is narrower than the full pH range but generally adequate for water. While the range is narrower, that can make it somewhat easier to interpret the results.

3. Think ALKALINE Water pH Test Liquid

Think Alkaline Water pH Test Liquid

Product Details:

  • Size: .5 ounce
  • pH Range: 4 to 10
  • Price: $

This is another very affordable option for those who want to test their water regularly. It tests within the pH 4-10 range. It advises four drops per test, using 1 inch of water in a standard glass.  Like the EHM test drops, this more restricted range can make it easier to identify the actual pH of your water.

Testing Your Water is a Healthy Habit

Keeping track of the acidity of the water you drink is a great habit to get into. Don’t overlook the importance of the pH of your drinking water. Your body is composed of mostly water, and the acidity of your body matters to your health.

The water you are adding to your system every day has a strong influence over your body’s overall acidity. Don’t wait until you’re experiencing a health problem to check – start testing the pH of your water today.

It’s easy to learn how to test alkaline water, it’s not expensive, and it’s very accessible. There’s really no excuse not to.

drinking water in kitchen

Have you tested your drinking water lately?