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.
- BEST OVERALL: Safe Home Ultimate Drinking Water Test Kit
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: JNW Direct Drinking Water Test Kit
- BEST FOR DRINKING WATER: Varify Complete Drinking Water Test Kit
- BEST FOR WELL WATER: Health Metric 8-in-1 Well Water Test Kit
- BEST FOR HOT TUBS & POOLS: JNW Direct Pool & Spa Test Strips
- BEST FOR HARD WATER: JNW Direct Water Hardness Test Strips
- BEST DIGITAL TESTER: HoneForest TDS Meter Water Quality Tester
- ALSO CONSIDER: Health Metric Tap & Well Drinking Water Test Kit
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 water testing kits listed in this guide use testing strips to detect contaminants. Most of which include 100 to 150 tests, while some have only one 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 to 17 types of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
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.
Our Top Picks
The picks listed below take into account several factors in addition to overall quality and value. Here are our choices for best water test kits on the market across various categories, enabling anyone to maintain healthy water in their home.
With thorough testing from an EPA-certified lab, the Safe Home ultimate drinking water test kit checks for 200 contaminants as well as 12 physical properties, seven types of inorganics, 31 metals, 20 pesticides and herbicides, 78 volatile organics, five trihalomethanes (or TTHMs), and 47 volatile tentatively identified compounds (or TICs). The lab testing fee is included with purchase, taking only 7 to 10 business days for results.
Plus, this company is so dedicated to clean and safe water that it donates a portion of every kit purchased to clean-water initiatives around the world. Finally, the company’s e-learning center covers over 200 pages worth of tips for keeping water clean and identifying any contaminants that may be permeating water.
- Type: Viles/lab testing
- Contaminants detected: Inorganics and organics, metals, pesticides and herbicides, TTHMs, and TICs
- Compatible water type: Household water, well water, springs, lakes, streams, and cisterns
- Tested in an EPA-certified laboratory for accuracy; only takes 7 to 10 business days for results
- Manufacturer makes donations to clean-water initiatives around the world with every kit purchase
- Purchase gives users access to 200 pages of water management tips and contaminants to avoid
- Some users may find PDF results a little hard to follow
Some users report that the brand’s website may be hard to navigate
Get the Safe Home water test kit at Amazon or Safe Home.
For a comprehensive test kit that doesn’t break the bank, look no further than JNW Direct’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 Direct 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.
- Type: Testing strips
- Contaminants detected: Iron, copper, lead, fluoride, pH, and cyanuric acid, among others
- Compatible water type: Tap water and well water
- Tests for 15 contaminants, including iron, copper, lead, fluoride, pH, cyanuric acid, and alkalinity
- Easy to use; testing instructions clearly labeled on the bottle
- Mobile app as well as an e-book included for added user-friendliness
- Reliable and trustworthy manufacturer; results available within minutes of testing
- Bacteria test not included with this kit; must be purchased separately
- Users have reported inaccurate results and difficulty using this test
Get the JNW Direct drinking water test kit at Amazon.
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 abovementioned 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.
- Type: Testing strips
- Contaminants detected: Lead, bacteria, mercury, fluoride, iron, and others
- Compatible water type: All water sources
- Tests for 17 major contaminants including lead, bacteria, and mercury, among others
- Comes with 100 testing strips for long-term use and reliability
- Most test results available in minutes (except for bacteria, which takes around 48 hours)
- Bacteria results take 48 hours; may take too long for some users’ preferences
- Some users have reported pesky mislabelling on the instructions and bottle
Get the Varify water test kit at Amazon or Varify.
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.
- Type: Testing strips
- Contaminants detected: Coliform bacteria, nitrate, nitrite, hydrogen sulfide, water hardness, and pH, among others
- Compatible water type: Well water
- Tests 8 parameters commonly found in well water including nitrate, hydrogen sulfide, and water hardness
- Fast and easy well-water testing; results process in around 10 minutes
- Directions are included with purchase for added convenience and user-friendliness
- This kit is built for well-water testing that follows EPA guidelines
- Users reported difficulty using this kit; may be too tricky for some users
Get the Health Metric water test kit at Amazon.
These test strips from JNW Direct have seven-in-one testing capabilities that are great for anyone looking to keep their pool or hot tub water clean and safe. They can be used to test chlorine levels, hardness, bromine, free chlorine, pH, cyanuric acid, and alkalinity.
Testing is really easy. All a user needs to do is dip a test strip into the water. Color-coded results are typically available in seconds and can be checked against the handy color-coded chart that’s included. For added convenience, one purchase comes with 100 strips and a convenient e-book with tips for keeping a hot tub and pool clean.
- Type: Testing strips
- Contaminants detected: Hardness, chlorine, bromine, free chlorine, pH, cyanuric acid, and alkalinity
- Compatible water type: Pool and hot tub water
- Checks for 7 different types of water conditions and contaminants, including hardness and alkalinity
- Easy to use with results available seconds after test strip is dipped in water
- Includes 100 test strips, a color-coded chart to interpret results, and an e-book
- Does not test for bacteria; may not be suitable for some users’ testing needs
- May not be suitable for use by those who are color-blind
Get the JNW Direct pool and spa water test kit at Amazon.
Hard water can lead to dry hair and skin as well as kidney problems in dogs over time. JNW Direct’s water hardness test strips can help users determine how high those water hardness levels are so something can be done before health issues surface. This water test kit includes 150 test strips that can detect the hardness of all water sources, including water softeners, dishwashers, showers, aquariums, and more. This pick provides accurate results seconds after dipping a test strip into the water. It comes with a color-coded results chart and a convenient e-book full of tips and tricks for keeping water hardness to a minimum.
- Type: Testing strips
- Contaminants detected: Water hardness
- Compatible water type: Household water sources and aquariums
- Comes with 150 tests; suitable for long-term use with ample quantity provided
- Suitable for use in most household water sources: water softeners, dishwashers, showers, aquariums, and more
- Provides results in seconds; comes with a color-coded chart to read results
- Comes with an e-book for tips and tricks on keeping water soft
- Results must be checked against a color chart; may not be suitable for users who are color-blind
Get the JNW Direct water hardness test strips at Amazon.
HoneForest’s digital water tester is as accurate as it is affordable. This versatile tester is suitable for use with tap water, well water, aquarium water, and pool and spa water.
It measures total dissolved solids (TDS) between 0 and 9,990 ppm, electrical conductivity (TD) from 0 to 9,990 microsiemens per centimeter (µs/cm), and temperatures between 32 and 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Once inserted into a water sample, the water tester will display and auto-lock these parameters on the LCD screen in seconds. To preserve the battery life, it will automatically shut off after 2 minutes.
This tester is constructed with a durable probe made of titanium alloy and includes a leather bag for storage and transport. The main drawback of the tester is that it doesn’t measure pH. However, the impressive features and capabilities still provide an excellent value for the price.
- Type: Digital
- Contaminants detected: Dissolved solids, temperature, and electrical conductivity
- Compatible water type: Tap water, pool water, well water, and aquarium water
- Easy-to-read LCD screen is more convenient to read than other testing kits
- Automatic 2-minute shutoff is built-in; helps to preserve battery life
- Includes leather carrying bag for safe storage as well as portability
- Has an affordable price point compared to other water testing kits
- Does not test pH levels or other common contaminants; may not suit some shoppers
Get the HoneForest water test kit on Amazon or HoneForest.
Health Metric’s tap and well drinking water test kit tests for nine parameters with strips and solutions developed in accordance with EPA standards for accuracy. The kit actually includes separate tests for the different parameters to maximize the accuracy of each individual test of a water supply. It includes one test each for lead, copper, and bacteria as well as two tests each for chlorine, nitrate, nitrite, pH, total alkalinity, and hardness.
Health Metric also offers customer support to assist users with the testing procedures and answer questions about the process. Although this kit may be more accurate than those that test for every parameter on a single strip, testing each parameter individually is more time- consuming and labor intensive. Another downside is that this kit is expensive, especially considering it only includes enough components for a handful of tests.
- Type: Testing strips
- Contaminants detected: Lead, copper, bacteria, chlorine, and nitrate, among others
- Compatible water type: Tap water and well water
- 2 separate tests are included for ample accuracy and reliability
- This water test kit is EPA compliant for reliable and accurate testing
- Comes with a 30-day complete satisfaction money-back guarantee
- Labor-intensive compared to similar options; may be tricky for some users
Get the Health Metric water test kit at Amazon.
What to Consider When Choosing a 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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