The Best Water Test Kits of 2022

Ensure your home’s water is clean and safe to use with the best water test kit.

By James Fitzgerald | Updated Apr 6, 2022 2:52 PM

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The Best Water Test Kit Option

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Certain volatile organic compounds in water can wreak havoc on one’s health and home appliances if they aren’t detected and eliminated. For example, lead can leach into a household’s water supply through lead-containing pipes and plumbing fixtures, potentially causing a host of dire health consequences.

A water test kit can reveal if you need a water filter, shower filter, or water softener for your home. Read on to discover how to choose the best water test kit for maintaining healthy water in your home and discover some top-rated options on the market. We did a deep dive into specifications, features, and customer reviews to create this list of favorites.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Varify 17 in 1 Premium Drinking Water Test Kit
  2. BEST BUDGET: JNW Direct Drinking Water Test Strips 15 in 1
  3. UPGRADE PICK: Watersafe Drinking Water Test Kit
  4. BEST FOR WELL WATER: Health Metric Well Water Test Kit for Drinking Water
  5. BEST FOR LEAD: Health Metric Home Water Test Kit
  6. BEST FOR WATER HARDNESS: Varify Premium Water Hardness Test Kit
  7. BEST DIGITAL INSTRUMENT: HoneForest Water Quality Tester
  8. ALSO CONSIDER: Health Metric Drinking Water Test Kit
The Best Water Test Kit Option

Photo: Depositphoto.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Water Test Kit

Before choosing the best water test kit for your home, it’s important to be aware of the types of water kits available, the contaminants for which they test, and several other factors. Keep the following considerations in mind when searching for the best water quality test kit for maintaining a healthy water supply.

Type 

Three main means of testing are utilized in water test kits.

  • Test strips are small and thin single-use strips that change color to indicate the presence of a contaminant. They can also provide a rough estimate of the concentration of a contaminant by the shade and brightness of the color. A single strip may only test for a single contaminant or may test for several contaminants. Test strips are one of the most common, affordable, and easiest water testing options.
  • Color disc kits are less common and more expensive than test strips, but they’re generally more accurate. They work by introducing a powdered “reagent” to a water sample to change its color and indicate the presence of a contaminant.
  • Digital instruments use a metal electrode to measure the level of raw impurities in a water supply. Most commonly, digital instruments measure total dissolved solids (TDS) and electrical conductivity (EC). TDS refers to inorganic salts (like calcium, magnesium, and potassium) and is measured in parts per million (ppm). EC refers to the amount of dissolved materials that conducts electrical current and is measured in microsiemens per centimeter (µS/cm). Some digital instruments will also measure the water’s pH and temperature. They don’t, however, test for specific compounds or contaminants unless you purchase a device that is specifically calibrated for that purpose, such as a colorimeter for chlorine.

Contaminants 

The EPA regulates 90 contaminants known to cause biological harm; water test kits can test from one to over 200 contaminants. The most common contaminants, also referred to as parameters, checked for by water test kits include:

  • Lead: Lead can cause cardiovascular issues, hypertension, decreased kidney function, brain damage, and reproductive issues in both men and women.
  • Chlorine: Elevated levels of chlorine can cause stomach aches and vomiting, diarrhea, and dry itchy skin. It can also corrode plumbing pipes, fixtures, and appliances.
  • Bacteria: Coliform bacteria (like E. coli) is the most common type of bacteria for which water test kits check. E. coli can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, fever, headaches, fatigue, and even death.
  • Pesticides: When present in a drinking water supply, pesticides are usually found in trace-level amounts. Although trace levels of pesticides won’t cause acute toxicity, such as nausea, convulsions, and chemical burns, they can cause chronic toxicity from long-term consumption. This can lead to cancer, birth defects, and damage to the central nervous system or liver.
  • Nitrates and nitrites: These elements can cause nausea, abdominal cramps, headaches, and increased heart rate.
  • Iron: Elevated iron levels can lead to poor skin health, digestive issues, and a condition called hemochromatosis that can damage the heart, liver, and pancreas. However, elevated iron primarily causes plumbing issues, since excess iron leaves a residue that can create clogs in pipes, fixtures, and appliances.

Water Source 

Some contaminants are more common in certain water sources than in others. Iron and bacteria, for example, are more common in well water than tap water, while elevated chlorine is more common in tap water than well water. As a result, some test kits are designed to accommodate specific water sources by testing for the most common contaminants found in that source.

The most common examples are test kits specifically for well water, tap water, aquarium water, and spa and pool water. These specialized kits are usually more affordable than those that test for every possible contaminant.

Accuracy 

A water quality test kit’s accuracy will vary by manufacturer, but most are calibrated to EPA testing standards to ensure they’re as accurate as possible. Some kits have even been verified for accuracy by EPA-certified laboratories.

A test strip is the least accurate, mostly because matching the colors on the strip to the contaminants indicated can be subjective and prone to user error. However, test strips that test for individual contaminants tend to be more accurate than strips that test for a wide range of volatile organic compounds.

Color disc kits are usually more accurate and provide more precise measurements of contaminant concentration but can be prone to the same subjective misinterpretations. Digital instruments are often calibrated to be accurate down to +/- 2 percent of 1 ppm and µS/cm, but they don’t measure the presence of specific compounds.

Testing Procedure 

Each type of water quality test kit offers a different testing procedure. For test strips, dip the strip into the water you want to test, and wait for the color to change. Then, match the color on the strip to the provided color chart that indicates the presence (and relative concentration) of the contaminant. The strip can take anywhere from 1 minute to 48 hours for the color to change depending on the contaminant being tested.

For color discs, the water sample is placed inside a plastic box with a viewing window that displays the water sample next to a “reference color” that becomes duller or brighter by turning a dial on the box. To determine the concentration of the contaminant for which you’re testing, simply turn the dial until the reference color matches the water sample. The concentration will usually be listed on the dial.

Digital instruments just need to have their electrode set into the water being tested, and the TDS and EC will display on the LCD screen in a matter of seconds. With each testing procedure, you can often read the results in minutes, with the exception of a bacteria test, which usually requires a wait time of 48 hours.

Our Top Picks

Keep reading to explore some of the best water test kits on the market in various categories for maintaining healthy water in a home.

Best Overall

The Best Water Test Kit Option: Varify 17 in 1 Premium Drinking Water Test Kit
Photo: amazon.com

Varify’s drinking water test kit tests for 17 parameters, including lead, fluoride, iron, copper, mercury, chlorine, nitrite, nitrate, pH, total alkalinity, hardness, aluminum, sulfate, zinc, and manganese, in addition to bacteria.

The kit includes 100 test strips that each test for the first 16 of the previously discussed parameters, plus two tests that check for the presence of bacteria. Both the test strips and the bacteria tests are created in compliance with EPA testing standards.

The test strips are ready to analyze in minutes, and the bacteria tests are ready to read in 48 hours. Varify also offers 24/7 support via live chat or email to assist with the testing process and answer consumer questions or concerns. Additionally, 5 percent of all test kit sales are donated to the Water For Good nonprofit organization that combats water shortages in Central Africa.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Testing strips
  • Contaminants Detected: Lead, bacteria, mercury, fluoride, iron, and more
  • Compatibility: All water sources

Pros

  • Tests for 17 major contaminants
  • EPA-compliant
  • Comes with 100 testing strips
  • Results in minutes

Cons

  • Bacteria results take 48 hours

Get the Varify water test kit on Amazon.

Best Budget

The Best Water Test Kit Option: JNW Direct Drinking Water Test Strips 15 in 1
Photo: amazon.com

For a comprehensive test kit that doesn’t break the bank, look no further than JNW’s drinking water test kit. It tests for 15 parameters on a single test strip: iron, copper, lead, fluoride, pH, cyanuric acid, total alkalinity, residual chlorine, total chlorine, bromine, ammonium chloride, total hardness, carbonate, nitrate, and nitrite. The ideal EPA standards for each parameter are marked directly on the bottle for quick and easy reference.

JNW also offers a mobile app to track and monitor the results of water tests and includes an ebook that provides ideas about how to improve the quality of drinking water. The main drawback is this kit doesn’t test for bacteria, making it better suited for tap water than well water.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Testing strips
  • Contaminants Detected: Iron, copper, lead, fluoride, pH, cyanuric acid, and more
  • Compatibility: Tap water and well water

Pros

  • Tests for 15 contaminants
  • EPA standard compliant
  • Instructions clearly labeled on the bottle
  • Mobile app and ebook included

Cons

  • Bacteria test not included

Get the JNW water test kit on Amazon.

Upgrade Pick

The Best Water Test Kit Option: Watersafe Drinking Water Test Kit
Photo: amazon.com

Watersafe’s drinking water test kit is one of the only kits on the market that has had the accuracy of its lead test independently verified by an EPA-certified laboratory.

The kit tests for 10 separate parameters per test strip, including lead, bacteria, pesticides, copper, chlorine, nitrate, nitrite, iron, pH, and water hardness. The catch? It’s expensive, and the kit only includes enough components for a single test. However, the peace of mind from knowing the results are as accurate as possible may be worth the higher cost for some buyers.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Testing strips
  • Contaminants Detected: Lead, bacteria, pesticides, copper, chlorine, and more
  • Compatibility: Tap water and well water

Pros

  • Tests for 10 contaminants
  • Verified in an EPA-certified laboratory
  • Comes with information guide

Cons

  • Only includes 1 test
  • Pricey

Get the Watersafe water test kit on Amazon.

Best for Well Water

The Best Water Test Kit Option: Health Metric Well Water Test Kit for Drinking Water
Photo: amazon.com

This well water test kit from Health Metric is specifically formulated for well water’s unique risks. Well water is not regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, making this test uniquely for well water testing. In addition to testing for the standard parameters of nitrate, nitrite, water hardness, pH, and total alkalinity, this kit tests for manganese, hydrogen sulfide, and coliform bacteria.

The tests are developed in accordance with EPA standards, and the results for most of the parameters are available within minutes. Health Metric offers live support from EPA experts to answer consumer questions.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Testing strips
  • Contaminants Detected: Nitrate, nitrite, water hardness, pH, and more
  • Compatibility: Well water

Pros

  • Test for 7 common well water contaminants
  • EPA standard compliant
  • Results process in 5 minutes
  • Directions included

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Some users reported difficulty using this kit

Get the Health Metric water test kit on Amazon.

Best for Lead

The Best Water Test Kit Option: HoneForest Water Quality Tester
Photo: amazon.com

Lead contamination is a leading health concern as it can cause blindness, illness, issues during pregnancy, and even death. Ensuring that there is no lead and other heavy metals in your water can help prevent these health issues. For the best lead test, the Health Metric Home Water testing kit is highly sensitive and provides results in 15 minutes.

Compliant with EPA standards, this lead test can be used on well and tap water and is color coordinated to tell you the exact metal that is present in your water. Though it does not detect any contaminants other than metals, this copper, iron, mercury, and lead test is easy to use and comes with an instruction manual.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Testing strips
  • Contaminants Detected: Lead, copper, iron, and mercury
  • Compatibility: Tap and well water

Pros

  • Results in 15 minutes
  • EPA standard compliant
  • Instruction manual included

Cons

  • Tests for heavy metals only

Get the Health Metric water test kit on Amazon.

Best for Water Hardness

The Best Water Test Kit Option: Health Metric Drinking Water Test Kit
Photo: amazon.com

Hard water can dry out skin and hair while also having an unpleasant taste and odor. To check how hard the water is in your home, or to make sure your water softener is functioning, the Varify Premium Water Hardness test kit comes with over 150 strips that measure from 0 to 425 ppm and 0 to 25 GPG. Providing results in 30 seconds, this kit’s hardness testing chart is easy-to-read and right on the bottle.

This EPA standard compliant hard water test kit is also affordable and comes with an extended shelf life to test your tap, well, pool, and spa water whenever necessary for over 2 years.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Testing strips
  • Contaminants Detected: Water hardness
  • Compatibility: Pool, spa, well, and tap water

Pros

  • Comes with 150 testing strips
  • EPA standard compliant
  • Measures 0 t0 425 ppm and 0 to 25 GPG
  • Free ebook included

Cons

  • Does not test for contaminants or pH levels
  • Some users noted that the case is not waterproof

Get the Varify water test kit on Amazon.

Our Verdict

Choosing the right water testing kit can be daunting as there are so many currently available on the market. One of the best overall is the Varify 17 in 1 test kit which is EPA standard compliant and comes with 100 testing strips. Able to detect lead, bacteria, mercury, fluoride, iron, and more, this kit can be used on all water types and results process in 1 minute.

Alternatively, for a smaller price tag, the JNW test kit comes with 100 testing strips to measure the level of iron, copper, lead, fluoride, pH, cyanuric acid, and more in your water. Compatible with tap and well water, this kit is EPA standard compliant and comes with a mobile app and ebook for instructions.

How We Chose the Best Water Test Kits

Ensuring that your tap, well, pool, and spa water is clean and uncontaminated is easy and fast with the right testing kit. Selections for the best water testing kits available depended upon testing type, water source compatibility, the number of tests included per kit, how many contaminants can be detected, and how quickly results are processed.

As it is the easiest way, many of the above water testing kits use testing strips to detect contaminants. Most of which include 100 to 150 tests, while some have only 1 highly sensitive test. With these strips, levels of lead, fluoride, iron, copper, mercury, chlorine, nitrite, nitrate, pH, total alkalinity, hardness, aluminum, sulfate, zinc, manganese, and bacteria can be detected. Though most kits test for a select few of these contaminants, some test for 15-17 types of volatile organic compounds.

Though each of these water testing kits is meant for varying types of water sources, most are compatible with tap and well water while others are meant for pool and spa water. For added convenience, many of the above tests can process results in 30 seconds to 15 minutes. However, be advised that bacteria test results can take up to 48 hours.

FAQs 

Still have unanswered questions about water test kits? Find answers to several of the most frequently asked questions about water test kits below.

Q: How do I know if my water is safe to drink? 

Using a water test kit can indicate if your water is safe to drink by determining if it has toxic levels of various contaminants.

Q: What should I test my water for?

To ensure your water is clean, you should check it annually with a bacteria, nitrites and nitrates, iron, lead, and chlorine test.

Q: When should I test my water? 

Water testing in your home should be done every 2 years. But, you should also change your water if you notice problems such as a change in smell, taste, or color.

Q: Are home water test kits accurate?

The accuracy of home water test kits varies by manufacturer, but many are highly accurate and developed in compliance with federal EPA standards.