As experts in water leak detection as well as water damage, we are familiar with dealing with various different types of domestic and commercial water leaks, some of which water test kit strips may be potentially be used.
Depending on the source of the water leak, different types or sources of water may be involved (they may be mixed too!). For example, a waste water leak from a toilet or drainage pipes will be different to a central heating leak or all fresh tap water from a plumbing leak.
In this article we will be looking at something which is occasionally used in various applications (not just water leak detection services), which is water test strips and water test kits.
Water Test Kit Strips – Varieties
People utilise water test kit strips for a number of purposes, and with that in mind, various different types are available on the market for both professional and domestic purposes. In this particular instance, we will be looking at drinking water test kits strips.
That said, water test kit strips may come in other varieties such as:
- Pond water test kits
- Aquarium water test kits
- Hot Tub water test kits
- Swimming pool water test kits
- Water hardness test kits
- Water bacteria test kits
- And many other varieties
Each of these different water test kits, test for the presence of a number of chemicals / substances that may be present in such applications. Normally, when using the water test strips, they are colour coded and sectioned against a scale or key within the kit. This therefore allows for a simple and visual gauge to quickly check for abnormal levels or impurities on the colour coded scale, which normally also shows safe or normal levels.
Clearly more professional and scientific methods are available but these water test kits can give a good indicative measurement simply and quickly which can be handy. If you are ever concerned about water quality issues then speak to a professional in the relevant environment you are looking at, or if it is drinking water speak to you all local water supply company.
If you are interested in articles about other methods of testing water, see our posts on salt tests and pure water meter, which similarly provide useful guidance. Similarly, you may find our additional article about how to report a local water leak useful.
Drinking Water Test Strip Kits
As we mentioned earlier the water test kit strips we will be looking are for tap water / drinking water (they can apparently also be used to test well water). These particular water test kit strips, measure the presence of 16 different things.
The list includes the following metrics:
- Total Alkalinity – not to be confused with pH is a measurement of alkalinity in parts per million (PPM) which can help indicate how ‘resistant’ the water is to acidity being added, in neutralising it. The alkalinity can come from dissolved carbonates, hydroxides and bicarbonates etc.
- pH (potential of Hydrogen) – to measure acidity to alkalinity on a logarithmic scale from 1 to 14 where 1 is the most acidic and 14 is the most alkaline. Logarithmic means that going from say 7 to 8 on the scale is a 10-fold (10x) increase in alkalinity, or 100x from 7-9.
- Hardness – is a measurement of the concentration of calcium and / or magnesium salts in the water. These are normal essential minerals your body needs but the concentration levels can affect things such as scaling on kettles, washing machines etc.
- Cyanuric Acid – the chemical with the formula C3H3N3O3 / (CNOH)3 is something that can be more relevant to swimming pools, hot tubs and spas but it can be found in drinking water. It is often used as a chlorine stabiliser making it last longer when present.
- Total Chlorine – Chlorine is one of the substances people are likely familiar with in drinking water and is added carefully in controlled amounts to help prevent contamination / germs, microorganisms and viruses such as Campylobacter, Salmonella and E.coli etc. Total Chlorine is the measurement of both free and combined chlorine. Amounts included vary by country.
- Free Chlorine – further to the previous point, Free Chlorine is a separate measurement. There is an interesting guide to Free vs Total Chlorine on Forbes, in there it helps explain how Free Chlorine is the chlorine which is not yet bound to microbes or other chemicals in the water.
- Free Bromine – bromine is also a naturally occurring chemical which can help with disinfectant properties to help reduce or remove potential pathogens. For more information see the GOV.UK Guide to Bromine. Again, like other things mentioned it may be more prevalent in swimming pools and spas. On that, we do offer swimming pool leak detection locally.
- Nitrate – nitrate is another naturally occurring chemical compound which is formed from Nitrogen and Oxygen. It can be found in ground and surface water. It can be produced from the decay of plants in soil or in higher concentrations where fertilisers are utilised. Rain can rinse the nitrate out of the soil into water courses – streams, rivers and lakes etc. Consequently it can find its way into the drinking water sources.
- Nitrite – is similar in some respects to Nitrate, in fact Nitrite is NO2 and Nitrate is NO3. You can see more about this in a guide from The Chemistry Notes website.
- Iron – this is something you are also more likely to be familiar with. Iron is a relatively common chemical element with the symbol Fe (coming from the Latin word ‘Ferrum’). Because iron has been used for drinking water distribution pipes, that can affect levels.
- Chromium / Cr (VI) – Chromium comes in various forms which have various sources and risk levels associated with them. It can be toxic and has even been indicated as a potential carcinogen. It is generally found in very low levels in the UK.
- Lead – this is another substance that can be found in water and is widely known as having the potential to cause harm. Like we said with Iron earlier, lead has in the past been used for lead pipes to transmit water and so that can contaminate or add to lead levels found.
- Copper – similarly to earlier substances, copper is a naturally occurring chemical and is also commonly used in copper pipes to distribute water which can affect levels too.
- Mercury – in some respects, Mercury is similar to lead mentioned earlier. It is a naturally occurring metallic element which can occur in various forms and sources of it are sometimes linked to past industrial activity in the UK (many of which are now banned). It can have detrimental health effects, including neurological disorders.
- Fluoride – this is a substance that can be present naturally but can be added to drinking water in the UK and so may be found in water test kit samples when measuring. At the right levels, it has benefits in preventing tooth decay. It can be found in dental products such as toothpaste and mouthwash.
- Carbonate Root – this is something you likely did not predict would be mentioned in a water test kit strip sample. And when researching this article it is the one thing that seems unclear, with less articles and papers on it. That said, some suggest that it is linked to hardness and alkalinity.
For more information about drinking water in the UK see the DWI – Drinking Water Inspectorate
Water Test Kit Strips – Tested in the UK
In order to look at water test kit strips in more detail we purchased some and tested them on a local water supply from the tap, carefully following the instructions provided with the water test kit.
Below you can see the results of those tests, and the visual estimated measurements versus the provided scale in the water test strips kit:
- Total Alkalinity – 80 vs 120 (target) = Slightly Low
- pH (potential of Hydrogen) – 7.2 vs 7.2 to 7.8 = Average
- Hardness – 100 vs 250 to 500 = Low
- Cyanuric Acid – 0 vs 0 to 50 = Low (but in target range)
- Total Chlorine – 0 vs 0 = on target
- Free Chlorine – 0 vs 0 to 1 = Low (but in target range)
- Free Bromine – 0 vs 0 = on target
- Nitrate – 100 vs 0 – 10 = High
- Nitrite – 0 vs 0 to 1 = Low (but in target range)
- Iron – 0 vs 0 = on target
- Chromium / Cr (VI) – 2 vs 0 to 2 = on target
- Lead – 0 vs 0 = on target
- Copper – 0 vs 0 = on target
- Mercury – 0 vs 0 = on target
- Fluoride – 0 vs 0 = on target
- Carbonate Root – 20 vs 0 to 20 = on target
As you can see, several of the items measured in the test came back as zero.
There are some interesting observations from this test:
- Almost all of the numbers are within ‘normal’ / target ranges
- Many of the things on the list considered as potentially more harmful appeared zero
- Total alkalinity was slightly low as was hardness
- The only one which was quite high was nitrate which is interesting
In future we will look at doing some other tests using water test kit strips and comparing the results between drinking water and other potential water sources, hopefully the results will be interesting.
We did some more water testing kit experiments on others substances too, so check that out.
Water Test Strip Kits – Pros and Cons
This brings us to conclusion of this article, and the summary of the pros and cons of water test strip kits. They benefits are that they can have useful applications, are cheap to purchase, measure various things, are simple to use and give fast results.
However on the downside, they are likely not as accurate and detailed as professional specialist water testing services. After all, this is testing for 16 things, whereas is a professional test could just be looking for one thing. The other slight issues with them is that they rely on visual comparison using the human eye on often subtly different colour scales.
Sometimes it is hard to match the colours on the strip with the colours on the scales which leaves an element of subjectivity (e.g. comparing shades of green or very slight colour variations). This can give a just a ball park figure or guide, but it would be difficult to get a truly exact measurement consistently using this method.
We hope you found our guide to water test kit strips useful, here are some other related articles you may also find beneficial:
Water Test Kit Strips in the UK (FAQs)
Can I test my water at home UK?
Yes, it is possible to test the water at your home. Many retailers sell water test kit strips, which quickly, simply and easily test for a wide variety of elements to your drinking water supply out of your home taps. These strips do have some limitations but they can give a good overview of the quality of your domestic water supply in a matter of seconds. These water test strip kits cost only a few pounds, which many strips in the pack often.
Are water test strips accurate?
Water test strips are usually measured against a colour-coded scale which should be provided in the kit pack. After taking the sample, you hold the test strip up to this scale (which should show ‘normal’ ranges too) and match the colours against this, with corresponding numbers. Clearly there are some limitations to this as it relies on the human eye rather than, for example, a digital display but they can give a good indicator.
If you need help finding a water leak at your home get in touch with our team today. We offer these services to both domestic and commercial customers with commercial leak detection.