How to Check the pH (Potential Hydrogen) in Water


The pH of water indicates whether it is acid, basic or neutral -- an important measurement whether you're talking about the health or a creek or the condition of your swimming pool. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, pH is a measure of the relative amount of free hydrogen and hydroxyl ions in the water. The pH scale ranges from 0 (acidic) to 14 (basic), with 7 considered neutral. If you have a swimming pool or aquarium, it's essential to know the pH of the water so you can create optimum conditions.

Things You'll Need

  • pH test strips (home testing)
  • pH meter with electrode (commercial testing)
  • Clean sampling container
  • Clean your sampling container with deionized water and a phosphate-free, residue-free cleaner. You most likely will get a false reading if the container has residue from a cleanser or rinsing agent that isn't phosphate-free.

  • Collect a sample of the water. If you're getting a sample from a faucet at home, let the water flow for a few seconds before filling the container. This gets rid of any impurities that may have accumulated if the tap hasn't been turned on for a while; the impurities can change the pH of the water. If sampling from a pond or well, take the sample from area that does not look stagnant.

  • Let the sample sit in an area with normal room temperature, and allow the water to come to that temperature. You will get a false reading if the water is too hot or cold. Skip this step if you are using a pH meter with a temperature compensation feature.

  • Dip a pH test strip into the water sample and wait for a few seconds, or as directed on the test-strip container. Remove the strip and compare its color to the pH chart on the package. If you're using a pH meter, place the electrode into the sample and view the digital readout of the pH value.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can purchase pH test strips at a swimming pool supply shop; don't use litmus paper -- the results are not as defined.
  • Most laboratory supply companies offer pH meters with electrodes. Although they are a little costly, they offer much more precise measurement of pH.
  • Some pH strip containers may have a temperature compensation chart attached.

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