Tips on using a water test kit
Water testing kits are great tools for determining chemical element levels in virtually any water specimen. The types of water you plan to test and what you are testing it for will determine the best water test kit for your needs. Before buying or using your kit, take time to understand the necessary steps to accurately test water samples and to understand what certain results mean in terms of water safety.
>> What does a kit test for?
There are many different types of water testing kits on the market today, so make sure you know the one that's right for you before you buy. Water quality testing kits offer you a water quality analysis and test for specific elements within the water. Some basic kits test the pH level, while a water hardness test kit may look at the levels of magnesium and calcium in the sample. Other types of water testing kits are made specifically to detect unwanted minerals in your drinking water.
>> Types of kits available
Some of the water quality testing kits on the market today are designed specifically for aquariums, to ensure a healthy aquatic environment for your fish. Water hardness kits are great for testing the pH of the water, as well as calcium levels. There are also testing kits specifically designed for use with your swimming pool or hot tub. These test kits measure the levels of chlorine, bromine, alkalinity and pH, so you can be sure your pool or spa is appropriately sanitized.
You may also find various tests that will measure the levels of impurities or contaminants in your drinking water. These water quality testing kits will provide you with a water quality analysis which will look specifically at the hardness, pH range, iron, chloramines, chlorine and nitrate levels so you know the purity of your drinking water. Some water quality testing kits will also look for common bacteria which can sometimes be found in drinking water.
>> How to use a water test kit
Once you buy a water test kit, pull samples of your water based on the manufacturer's instructions. If you're using the type of kit which is able to analyze the sample on the spot, the kit may include other chemicals which have to be added to the water, as well as instructions on how to read the results. For example, if you're testing the pH level in a swimming pool, once you collect your sample from the deep end of the pool, you'll add the specified chemical to your sample. After mixing it well, you'll then compare the coloring of your sample to the indicator that has been included in the kit to get an instant read on how your water matches up.
You'll find that the water test kit procedure for a home water sample is a little different. Most drinking water kits will ask you to pull a sample of your water following their specific instructions and then send the sample to their laboratory. Once the laboratory receives your sample, they will analyze your sample and send you the analysis in 7-10 business days.
>> When and where to test your water
When and where to test your water will depend on the type of water you're testing. In the case of drinking water, you should test it anytime you have reason to believe there might be cause to check contaminant levels. This may be signaled by a change in taste, appearance or smell.
If you get your water from a well, you'll want to buy a water test kit to check your water at least yearly for coliform bacteria, nitrates, pH and hardness. You'll also want to test these levels every time you repair or replace any components of your well. You should also check your well water if you suspect that you have had any contamination from your septic system or if you have had a fuel or chemical spill anywhere near your water supply.
If you're testing your swimming pool, you'll want to test at least weekly, and before you add any additional chemicals or anytime you have had a heavy rain, or a lot of people in your pool. At the beginning of the season when you're trying to adjust your levels for the opening of your pool, you may test as often as daily.
>> Water testing best practices
Look for water quality testing kits in the patio and garden supplies section of your store. Just like any other chemical, the chemicals which are included in the water testing kits will expire, which could lead to inaccurate readings, so always check to see that your kits are still usable.
Do not mix and match chemicals from different manufacturers. Even if two kits say they will test for the same things, it does not mean that the testing chemicals are interchangeable. Not only can this invalidate your results, it can also be dangerous.
Read the instructions completely before using any water test kit. Sample sizes will also vary based on the test kit and the manufacturer. It's important that the sample size be correct, so that the chemical ratio will be correct. Some procedures and practices may even change from year to year with the same manufacturer, so keep yourself informed with each kit purchase.
>> What to do when the test comes back
If you have purchased a water test kit that requires you to send your sample off to the lab, you'll receive a written analysis within 7-10 business days. This analysis will give you a breakdown of what has been found in your water and provide suggestions on how to treat the problem. You'll need to follow their advice and then wait to test again. If you have concerns that there may be major problems with your water, do not drink or cook with the water until you're assured that it's safe.
When unsure of which type of water test kit is right for you, check with an associate in the garden equipment or gardening and lawn care section of your store. Water quality is important for healthy plants too, so think of a water testing kit for your outdoor water source as just as important as quality gardening tools and gardening accessories.
When you perform water quality analysis tests for your water sources, you're making clean water a priority for you and the ones you love.