Water Testing Kits are an easy way to gain valuable insight into the quality of the water you use every day for drinking, bathing, cooking, and laundry. The modern water test kits available today are a breeze to use, with a clear visual if any contaminants are present. Some of the fancier versions require you to mail in your sample to a lab in order to get the best, comprehensive results.
To help you navigate which test kit would suit the needs of your household, we spoke with Sean Bates, owner of Florida Water Testing. He spoke to the differences among tests that give you instant results at home and those that you need to send to a lab, which tend to be more expensive and take longer for results. He noted, “Professional labs can provide you with numbers of contaminants present, which home tests do not.”
After speaking with Bates, we researched dozens of water testing kits and evaluated them on ease of use, accuracy, value, and direction clarity. Here are the best kits available now.
Safe Home Ultimate Drinking Water Test Kit
Tests for 200+ contaminants
Easy to use
Assurance of accuracy
Results are not instant
If you have concerns about what may be present in your tap water, this test has you covered. Not only does it screen for the primary contaminants found in drinking water, such as arsenic, lead, coliform bacteria, and chlorine, it gets sent out to a professional lab to ensure accurate results. The instructions are easy to read, and tests can be knocked out in one afternoon. The shipping fee to mail out your sample to the lab is included with the purchase.
Safe Home is an EPA-certified drinking water lab and offers a quick turnaround on results in as little as a week. The kit is a little more expensive than some of the other tests that made the list, but if you have real concerns about your water, you can’t beat the quality of the screening offered. The lab will even provide you with suggestions for filters and other items to improve the safety of your tap water.
Price at time of publish: $400
Approved Use: Drinking water | Tests For: 200 Contaminants (6 inorganic substances, 12 physical properties, 32 toxic metals, 20 semi-volatile organic compounds, and 130 volatile organic compounds | Time Until Results: Under 10 days
Varify 17-in-1 Complete Water Test Kit
Easy to use
Multiple tests in one box
Color-coded results might be hard to read
If you need results faster than a lab can promise, you can still get good results with simple home kits. The top tested color-coded-results test is from Varify Premium Drinking Water. This kit helps makes testing your water a less-expensive endeavor, with 100 test strips in one bottle. The test screens for 17 common contaminants including Mercury, lead, fluoride, copper, sulfate, zinc, hydrogen sulfide, chlorine, and nitrates. In addition, it will provide readouts on your water hardness, total alkalinity, and pH. The bacteria test looks for multiple types, including those commonly associated with water contamination and E. coli.
The metals and common contaminants test takes a mere 15 minutes, with the bacteria test showing the best results after it is sitting out for 48 hours. Keep in mind that color-coded tests can be hard to read, compared to some other options, but aside from that one drawback, we think this test is a great budget-friendly choice.
Price at time of publish: $30
Approved Use: Drinking Water | Tests For: Heavy Metals, Bacteria, Alkalinity, Water Hardness, pH | Time Until Results: 15 minutes for metals, 48 hours for bacteria
Best for Homes
Tap Score Advanced City Water Test
Screens for over 100 contaminants
Not a great test for well water
No instant results
If you primarily use a city water system, this test is designed with you in mind. It screens for more than 100 different contaminants that are common in city water. Like the Safe Home kit, you mail in your results to a network of EPA-certified laboratories, and you should have your results in about five days. The results are quantified, showing you exactly how much of one or more of the contaminants might be present in your drinking water.
The analysis also comes with objective advice on how to take care of any water issue noticed during your screen. The manufacturer is not affiliated with a water treatment company but will offer you advice on how best to use your water to help keep your family safe.
Price at time of Publish: $265
Approved Use: Drinking, Cooking, Bathing, Laundry | Tests For: Over 100 Contaminants | Time Until Results: Within 5 Days
Best for Heavy Metals
Health Metric Heavy Metals Test Kit
Easy to use
Does not offer additional water testing for contaminants
Lead in water is still a concern for many across the continental U.S. In small amounts you can not see it, smell it, or taste it, making it a silent danger. Other metals, such as mercury and copper, also find their way into freshwater systems, and can be equally hard to distinguish once they hit your tap. The Health Metric Heavy Metals Test is an easy way to rule out the possibility of heavy metals in your drinking water.
The kit tests for lead, mercury, copper, and iron and is completed in a mere 15 minutes. While there is a lead test included in the test kit, you can test for the other three metals twice and receive quality results. The lead test offers a simple pass/fail display, making results deciphering a breeze. The EPA limit of 15 ppb in drinking water will trigger the pass/fail mechanism of the test. For those who love instant results, the Health Metric Heavy Metals test can offer you peace of mind in a 15-minute window and allow you to take the next steps of having a more in-depth analysis done if you do end up failing the lead test.
Price at time of Publish: $34
Approved Use: Drinking | Tests For: Lead, Copper, Mercury, and Iron | Time Until Results: 15 Minutes
Best for Hard Water
JNW Direct Water Hardness Test Strips
Easy to use
Multiple uses in one container
The color-code system can be confusing
Not as accurate as a test submitted to a lab
Water quality matters when it comes to the life of your hard-working dishwashers and hot water heaters. Hard water can diminish the output these appliances are capable of, reducing their lives and costing you money. The JNW Direct Water Total Hardness Strips are an easy way to know in minutes if you have hard water.
The kit comes with 150 strips, so you can easily do multiple tests, which adds value to the already affordable price. It only takes five minutes to see results and understanding them is as easy as matching the color of your strip to the convenient color-coded key. While it is not as accurate as a kit sent to a lab, it can give you an idea and starting place if you identify that you have hard water.
Price at time of publish: $15
Approved Use: Dishwater, Hot Water Heater | Tests For: Hardness | Time Until Ready: 5 minutes or less
Best for Wells
Health Metric Well Water Test Kit
Detailed, lab-grade results
Fast results (five minutes)
Uses a color-code system to verify results, which can be confusing
If you are on well water, the EPA does not regulate its contents. Bacteria, nitrites, nitrates, and hydrogen sulfide can easily affect your water quality. The Health Metric Well Water Test kit covers all the bases to ensure that your water meets standards. It screens for multiple bacteria types, nitrites, nitrates, manganese, and hydrogen sulfide, and provides insight into the alkalinity and water hardness.
The kit is easy to use and boasts laboratory-grade results that you do not have to wait for. In as little as five minutes, you will be able to have an improved outlook on your water health.
Price at time of publish: $35
Approved Use: Well Water for Drinking | Tests For: Bacteria, Nitrites, Nitrates, Manganese, Hydrogen Sulfide, Alkalinity, Total hardness, and pH | Time Until Results: 5 Minutes
Best for Pools
Poolmaster Pool & Spa 5-Way Test Kit
Easy to use
Drops instead of paper strips
The chlorine test can be difficult to determine free vs. total chlorine present
Keeping your pool water safe is easy with the Poolmaster 2260 5-Way Testing Kit. This pool kit covers all the essentials you need for the maintenance of your pool. The kit tests for chlorine, bromine, pH, acid demand, and total alkalinity, and it uses drop reagents versus paper strips. Drop reagents tend to be easier for those who struggle to compare the color-changing paper strips to the color-coded results.
Some customers report that this test doesn’t indicate free chlorine versus total chlorine, so if that is what you are looking for, you may need to do an additional test.
Price at time of publish: $17
Approved Use: Pools | Tests For: Chlorine, Bromine, pH, Acid Demand, and Total Alkalinity | Time Until Results: 5 to 10 minutes
The best overall water testing kit is the Safe Home Ultimate Drinking Water Test Kit, which is a comprehensive way to screen for over 200 contaminants and bacteria. If you have a well, we recommend the Health Metric Well Water Test Kit due to its accurate results with just a five-minute wait time.
What to Look for in a Water Testing Kit
When selecting a test, make sure it reflects the water you plan to sample. If you have well water, that will require different tests from someone who is on city water. Pool water also has its own set of parameters that need to be monitored. The Poolmaster Pool & Spa Test Kit is our top pick for testing pool water. Water tests are formulated specifically for the water source you are testing, and make sure to include the common contaminants that are problematic for that source. If you are checking for water hardness, that may apply more to your appliances that use water, like the dishwasher, than your everyday drinking water. Our top pick for hard water is the JNW Direct Water Hardness Test Strips.
"Individuals who receive their water from a community water supply or water utility should have access to an annual consumer confidence report or water quality report... Individuals using private well water do not have access to this kind of information, as private well water is generally not required to be monitored for contaminants. These families may want to have their well water tested annually by a state-certified commercial drinking water laboratory," notes Sydney Evans, Science Analyst at the Environmental Water Group.
Different tests have different procedures that directly influence the amount of time you may need to wait for results. If time is not a concern, and you want the most accurate results, choosing a test that requires submittal to an EPA-certified water testing lab is recommended, like our best overall, the Safe Home Ultimate Drinking Water Test Kit. However, if you suspect that your water is contaminated, and want the piece of mind of fast results, an at-home test can offer results in as little as five minutes.
Some water testing kits can detect a wide variety of contaminants, from heavy metals to bacteria. Others are based on just a handful of those parameters, which leads to a reduced-price tag. If you know what you want to test for, you might not need a comprehensive kit. If you are unsure, investing in a kit that screens for hundreds of possible contaminants might be the way to go.
Are home water test kits accurate?
The accuracy of water testing kits varies by the manufacturer and how easy the results are to interpret by you. If you want the most detailed interpretation or have concerns about harmful heavy metals in your water, sending it to a professional lab is recommended. At-home water test kits are designed for specific water types, so the first step in achieving the most accurate result is choosing the right kit for your needs. Sean Bates of Florida Water Testing notes, “Home paper strip tests may overestimate the number of contaminants present, so for the most accurate results, always choose a professional lab.”
How often should I test my water?
City water is tested regularly through a quality-control process, and you will be notified if there is reason to believe there is a contaminant present. Therefore, there is no set time you need to be checking your water. However, if you suspect hard or soft water or have other concerns, it’s always a good time to test! For well water, once a year is recommended for the major contaminants as well as pH.
How do I know what type of contaminants I should test for?
Depending on what your water source is, you will be on the look out for different contaminants. For those with well water, it is recommended that you check for total coliforms, pH, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and nitrate once a year. For those on city water, Sean Bates of Florida Water Testing, says, “Resources like www.ewg.org feature tap water databases searchable by zip code. These show the current amounts of contaminants like arsenic or lead present in water in your area. The website also tells you how to get rid of contaminants and whether reverse osmosis systems may be for you.”
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Amanda Rose Newton, an entomologist, a freelance writer, and garden reviewer for The Spruce. As an avid homesteader and traveler, she is constantly on the lookout for the best strategies to improve everyday life. She had the pleasure of speaking with Sean Bates, owner of Florida Water Testing, for insights on what consumers need to know when selecting a water test kit. To make this list, Amanda Rose tested each product for ease of use, accuracy, and direction clarity.
For further perspective, we also spoke with Sydney Evans, a science analyst at the Environmental Water Group.