We used to have little information about what’s in our water. We relied on our government to thoroughly filter and test it before reaching us. In reality, many contaminants don’t comply with healthy authority standards, and some of them aren’t even regulated (1).
Fortunately, today, we don’t have to depend on third parties to check the quality of our water.
The best water test kits are available to detect any potential bacteria, chemicals, heavy metals, or other impurities. These packs, however, can differ in terms of accuracy and which components they can uncover.
- 3-year warranty
- Measure electric conductivity
- Digital display
- Fast results
- Contains 50 strips
- Large color chart
- No lab test required
- Fast results
- Easy to understand
- Accurate results
- EPA-certified labs
- Includes bacteria testing
- Free e-book
- Measures five parameters
- Incudes 100 strips
- Fast results
- Wide test range
- Easy to use
- Complete water test
- Sensitive lead test
- Suitable for various sources
Signs That You Need to Have Your Water Tested
Every year — around July — you should receive, in your mail, a water quality report from your community water supplier (2). This should give you a good indication of how healthy it is. Regardless, a few signs and circumstances should induce additional testing:
Private Water Supply
Typically, you’re pulling your tap water from a public source. Before reaching you, it goes through extensive tests to ensure its quality meets safety standards.
If you’re getting your water from a private well, however, you’re responsible for checking its quality. In this case, a thorough check might not be optional.
Typically, it’s recommended to test well water once a year. Keep in mind, however, that some contaminants may require more frequent testing (3).
Are you prone to recurrent digestive upsets? Then your water might be contaminated with bacteria or an excessive amount of sulfate (4). Contaminated water can also cause neurological and reproductive complications.
For this reason, if you have a baby, a pregnant or nursing female at home, a preventive test might be a good idea. Look for nitrate throughout pregnancy and during the baby’s first six months.
Your Plumbing Contains Lead
It’s also recommended to assess your water quality if your household plumbing — such as pipes — contains lead. High amounts of this metal in your drinking water can result in kidney and cardiovascular dysfunctions (5).
While you’re testing lead content, it’s a good idea to also check copper and pH levels.
Questionable Taste, Smell or Appearance
Visual or olfactory signs can be the easiest ones to detect. If the water tastes or smells different, have it tested.
The same rule applies if it looks cloudy or stains your clothes. In this case, test your water for hardness, chloride, manganese, sulfate and iron content (6).
Types of Water Test Kits
When shopping for test kits, you’ll find mainly six types:
Color Disk Kits
These products can detect impurities and chemicals such as chlorine, silica, or iron. Because they’re more expensive and less user-friendly than most other types, they aren’t the most commonly used method to test the water.
These kits generally test one chemical at a time. They consist of comparing two narrow transparent tubes in a “comparator box.” One tube is filled with your plain tap water, while the other one contains a mix of water and powder.
Turn the small wheel on the comparator box, until you get the exact amount — mg per liter — of the tested chemical.
- Better color comparison than strips.
- Fast results — within one minute.
- Accurate measure.
- Typically only tests one contaminant.
These test kits might be one of the most affordable and user-friendly types. They can also identify a large number of impurities.
The package typically contains a large number of strips, each representing one test. Dip it into a glass of tap water. In a few seconds, pads on the strip will change color.
Compare then the apparent color(s) to the manufacturer’s chart to know the level of various contaminants. Some products, however, are designed to only detect one specific compound or category, such as heavy metals or hard water.
- Easy to use.
- Immediate results.
- Colors can be subjective and may not always match the chart.
TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) Meters
Also called hand-held or digital testers, they’re both efficient and simple to operate. These devices measure the overall level of inorganic compounds — such as sulfate or chloride — present in the water.
They’re barely larger than a pen and provide accurate results showing as digits on a screen. Keep in mind that they measure contaminants in PPM, or parts per million. They don’t differentiate each chemical or detect bacteria.
Some models also measure the water temperature, which can be useful when checking on a swimming pool. They can also measure electrical conductivity, which is mainly determined by its salt concentration. The purer the water, the lower the electrical conductivity reading is.
- Digital display.
- Immediate result.
- Some models indicate temperature and electrical conductivity.
- Require batteries.
- Some models need to be calibrated.
These testers are explicitly designed to identify various types of bacteria present in the water. They aren’t meant to detect metals or chemicals.
Fill up the transparent container included in your kit with your tap water — it usually turns purple. Leave it to incubate for 36 to 72 hours, and keep it away from sunlight.
Consult the notice for the results. Generally speaking, if the water turns yellow, bacteria is present.
- Easy to understand results.
- Simple instructions.
- Can take up to two days to get results.
Some testers are meant to be sent to a laboratory to be analyzed by experts. You’ll have to fill in a form and drop off — or mail — your testers. It can take about six days before receiving the results.
Lab tests are considered the most accurate method to test the water, and generally provide advice on a treatment solution.
- Most accurate method.
- Provide treatment advice.
- Results provided by experts.
- Take the longest to receive the final evaluation.
This kit is designed to only measure the lead content in your water. Although they’re strips, they’re built differently from the regular ones.
The package contains a pipette to slowly drop water in a narrow vial. Only pour the capacity of one pipette inside the tester. Place the strip inside and wait for 10 minutes without touching the paper or the container.
One or two blue line(s) will slowly appear; if the left one is darker, the result is negative. If, however, the right one — or both — is darker, your water contains lead.
- Easy to use.
- Focuses on one metal for the best results.
- Results can sometimes be challenging to interpret.
Choosing the Best Water Test Kit
Selecting the best kit for your needs involves a few important criteria:
Private Versus Public Source
You first want to determine if you’re pulling water from a private well or a public source. This will impact which contaminant you’ll be looking for. You’ll also find products specifically designed for well water testing.
In addition, if you need to test the water in a pool, spa or jacuzzi, you’ll find products dedicated to this purpose.
Consider how accurate you’d like the results to be and how fast you’re expecting results. If you only want an immediate and overall evaluation, strips or a TDS meter might be a good choice. If, however, you need detailed results, you might want to wait a little longer and get your tests assessed by a certified lab.
List of Contaminants
Even within a single testing method, products will detect various types of impurities. Make a list of the most important contaminants you’d like to check. It could be heavy metals, bacteria or even specific chemicals.
You’ll find complete kits, including several methods of testing. They may represent a more substantial investment, but they’ll cover most possible contaminants.
The Best Water Test Kits of 2021
Testing your water can quickly become intimidating. With many products available, which ones are best? Be assured that we’ve looked at each option, evaluating their accuracy, testing method, limitations and the number of contaminants they can detect.
These are the best water test kits on the market.
1. HoneForest TDS Meter Water Quality Tester
This digital tester might be ideal for anyone looking for quick results. Although it won’t tell you which impurities are present, it’ll give you an overall idea of how healthy your water is.
The electronic pen can measure three elements. First, it’ll detect the amount of total dissolved solids — TDS — present in the water. This number is indicated as “parts per million” or PPM, so the closer to zero the reading, the healthier the water is.
On top of that, it’ll also assess the water temperature and electrical conductivity. These two measures are often used when controlling quality in a pool or for aquaculture.
For easy readability, the screen is lit by a green LED light. You’ll even be able to proceed when it’s dark outside!
- 3-year warranty.
- Measure temperature and electric conductivity.
- Digital display ensures good readability.
- Unlike other digital models, it doesn’t measure pH levels.
|Type of test kit||TDS meter|
|Contaminants detected||Total dissolved solids|
|Checks for bacteria||No|
|Result Speed||3–5 seconds|
2. Health Metric Premium Water Hardness Test Kit
The health of our appliances and plumbing hardware also matters.
Hard water can cause significant mineral build-up, potentially clogging pipes over time.
Besides, your skin and hair might feel and look drier.
This kit is specifically designed to test how hard your water is. It includes 50 strips, which can be used within a year.
Just make sure to keep the lid tightly closed and don’t handle them with wet hands to prevent moisture from getting in.
- Place the strip in a glass of water for one second.
- Let it sit for another 30 seconds.
- Compare the colored pad to the chart to determine the hard water level.
Results come both in parts per million (PPM — 0 to 425) and grains per gallon (GPG — 0 to 25).
- Results within 30 seconds.
- Contains 50 strips for the same amount of tests.
- Large color chart for good readability.
- Shades in the chart are very similar. Some users report having difficulty with color matching.
|Type of test kit||Strips|
|Checks for bacteria||No|
|Result Speed||30 seconds|
3. Coliform Bacteria Test Kit for Drinking Water
If your main concern is the presence of bacteria in your water, you might not need a kit testing a multitude of chemicals or heavy metals.
This product is specifically designed to unmask three pathogens: total coliform, fecal coliforms and E.coli bacteria (7).
A detailed guide is included in the package with step by step instructions.
You’ll be able to test water whether from your faucet or a well.
- Fill the container.
- Close the lid.
- Shake it for 20 seconds.
- The water should turn purple.
- Place the jar in a room not colder than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep it still and away from the sun for 48 hours.
- If the water changes to any other color, it’s contaminated.
- No lab testing required.
- Takes seconds to complete.
- Users appreciate how easy the results are to understand.
- Only detects three types of bacteria.
|Type of test kit||Bacteria Test|
|Checks for bacteria||Yes — three types|
|Result Speed||Up to 48 hours|
4. Safe Home Premium Drinking Water Test Kit
This kit enables you to check impurities with one of the highest accuracies and can identify a long list of 50 contaminants. You get an included vial with each purchase, saving you from using your own container.
Shipping to the EPA-certified laboratory is free when using USPS. You’ll then receive the results via either the post office or by email, as per your preference.
Reports are easy to read and indicate clearly your water’s safety level.
Furthermore, the package includes an in-home bacteria test:
- Place water in the dedicated jar.
- Wait for about 24 hours.
- If the water turns green, it detected the presence of bacteria.
Finally, you’ll also receive advice on various solutions if your water needs treatment.
- Most accurate results.
- EPA-certified labs conduct the tests.
- Includes bacteria testing.
- Advice on possible treatment solutions.
- Some users had to wait for three weeks to receive the outcome.
|Type of test kit||Lab testing and home bacteria testing|
|Checks for bacteria||Yes|
|Result Speed||Bacteria: About 24 hours
Lab test: Not indicated
5. JNW Direct Spa Test Strips for Hot Tubs
This kit only focuses on essential parameters for spas.
Keeping an eye on these measures should make your spa equipment more durable, but also easier to maintain.
Besides, the container comes with 100 strips, so there’s excellent value for money to be had.
You’ll be able to test saltwater and freshwater pools, not just hot tubs.
It checks five elements to ensure the equipment’s longevity:
- Water hardness.
Finally, this product comes with a free downloadable e-book. It contains useful information about spa and hot tub water.
- Free informational e-book.
- Checks the five important water quality parameters for spas.
- Comes with 100 strips.
- Colors seem to bleed to the next square pad, making reading difficult.
|Type of test kit||Strips|
|Checks for bacteria||No|
|Result Speed||Not indicated|
6. Watersafe 10-Parameters Easy Water Test Kit Strips
If you’re looking for a kit that’s both easy to use and gives immediate conclusions, this product might be worth trying.
The package contains strips to test and retest your water. Use one of them to identify:
- Nitrate and nitrite.
What’s awesome with this DIY water test kit is aside from it’s made in America, it’s kit has also been validated by EPA-certified laboratory for accuracy so you can be sure that this meets professional standard.
Reviewers appreciate how easy the strips are to use and report good readability with the colored chart.
- Money-back guarantee.
- Simple to use.
- One time use only.
|Type of test kit||Test strips|
|Checks for bacteria||Yes|
|Result Speed||10 minutes|
7. NovoBlue 14-in-1 Home Water Test Kit
Have you just found out what nasties could be in your water?
If you’re looking to test it for anything harmful, this complete kit looks for 14 contaminants.
These include bacteria, but also metals and other impurities.
The strips can detect 12 different compounds, from chloride to sulfate, copper, or iron. They’re highly sensitive to provide the most accurate readings.
You’ll also get a lead test with your purchase:
- Using the pipette, fill up the vial with tap water.
- Drop the lead strip inside for about 10 minutes.
- A blue line will appear and can be checked with the manual to determine if lead is present.
Finally, a bacteria test is also included. If, after 48 hours, the bottle turns yellow, either yersinia, E. coli, Enterobacter, Citrobacter, Klebsiella, Serratia, and/or Hafnia are present.
- Complete water test.
- Sensitive lead test — 15 parts per billion.
- Suitable for spa, pools, tap and well water.
- Some users found that the strips didn’t always match the chart.
|Type of test kit||Strips, bacteria, lead|
|Checks for bacteria||Yes|
|Result Speed||Lead strip: 10 mins; Regular strips: 10 to 30 sec; Bacteria: 48 hours|
|Product||Best||Type||Contaminants detected||Checks for bacteria||Result Speed|
|HoneForest TDS Meter||Digital||TDS meter||TDS||No||3–5 seconds|
|Health Metric Hardness Test Kit||Hard Water||Strips||1||No||30 seconds|
|Coliform Bacteria Test Kit||Bacteria Detection||Bacteria Test||None||Yes||48 hours|
|Safe Home Drinking Water Test Kit||Lab Test||Lab||50||Yes||24 hours|
|JNW Direct Spa Test Strips||Spas||Strips||5||No||N/A|
|Watersafe 10-Parameters Easy Test Strips||User-Friendly||Strips||8||Yes||10 minutes|
|NovoBlue 14-in-1 Home Test Kit||All-Round||Strips||14||Yes||Depends on contaminant|
Water Test Kit Uses — Do’s and Don’ts
Here are a few additional essential guidelines to keep in mind:
- Read instructions: Each kit comes with specific directions to follow.
- Wash your hands: Before and after proceeding with the test. This could significantly impact the outcome.
- Keep a timer nearby: All methods require a certain amount of time for incubation — from a few seconds to a few days.
- Maintain your kit closed: Only open it when you’re ready to use it, whether it’s a bacteria container or a paper strip. Air could alter the material and results.
- Use water from a regularly used faucet: Kitchen and bathroom faucets are best as they’re generally used daily.
- Double-check: If you’d like to have a second opinion, repeat the test to ensure both evaluations match.
Are Home Water Test Kits Accurate?
As we discussed, water kits come in various forms offering different levels of accuracy.
Test strips’ colors don’t provide exact numbers. They display a color that can sometimes be misread — especially for any who are color-blind or color-deficient. They’re great at indicating your water quality but won’t give you an exact measure.
As for digital testers, they’re able to detect the overall level of pollutants — in PPM. Yet, they won’t identify individual contaminants.
So for the most accurate results, lab tests are recommended. They’re conducted by chemists who know precisely what to look for and can best identify but also measure impurities and bacteria. Ensure that the laboratory you choose is certified by your state (8).
Uncontaminated water is critical for maintaining good health. This is even more important if you have children at home, especially newborns. If you don’t trust your water quality, using the best water test kits should make you feel more confident and safer.
Although many options are available, choosing the best one for your needs isn’t complicated. First, determine how fast you need the evaluation and how accurate it needs to be. If you decide on a home kit, make a list of contaminants you’d like to assess.
All tests are generally a simple and smooth process, accessible to anyone. Make sure, however, to refer back to our do’s and don’ts list to ensure accurate results.