The 8 Best Water Testing Kits of 2021

Keep an eye on household water

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The Spruce / Chloe Jeong

Our Top Picks
This mail-in kit will screen for over 200 contaminants and provide detailed results in under 10 days.
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This kit tests for lead, mercury, copper, and iron—all in under 15 minutes.
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This well water testing kit covers all the bases, and takes just five minutes to get results.
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Runner-Up, Best for Well Water:
Watersafe Well Water Test Kit at Amazon
This kit utilizes easy-to-read strips to give you information on 10 different containments.
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Your results will include not only contaminant levels but also water treatment advice, setting it apart from other kits.
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The kit tests for chlorine, bromine, pH, acid demand, and total alkalinity.
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Use these strips if you suspect any issues with your salt-chlorine generator.
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Hard water affects appliances like your dishwasher, hot water heater and more.
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Water testing kits are an easy way to gain valuable insight into the quality of the water you rely upon for drinking, cooking, bathing, laundry, and more. These kits generally use either test strips submerged into a water sample or drops that react with various contaminants if present. Other testing kits require you to mail a submission into a laboratory. While these tests are usually the most comprehensive, they're also the most expensive.

To help you find the best solution for your needs, here are the best water testing kits available now.

Best Overall: Safe Home Ultimate Drinking Water Test Kit

SafeHome Kit

Approved Use: Drinking | Tests For: Over 200 Contaminants (6 in-organic substances, 12 physical properties, 32 toxic metals, 20 semi-volatile organic compounds, and 130 volatile organic compounds) | Time Until Results: Under 10 Days

What We Like
  • Screens for over 200 contaminants

  • Includes an at-home coliform test

  • Provides detailed results

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

If you’re concerned about the safety of your drinking water, a water testing kit is an easy way to find out if there are contaminants in the water. According to Rick Andrew of NSF International’s Global Water Program, the primary contaminants found in drinking water are lead, arsenic, bacteria (coliform), cysts and viruses, chlorine, chloramine, chromium, fluoride, nitrates and nitrites, PFOA and PFOS, Total Trihalomethanes (TTHM) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

For one of the most comprehensive water testing kits on the market, consider the Ultimate kit from Safe Home. This mail-in water testing kit will screen your sample for over 200 contaminants and provide in-depth results. The kit tests for 6 in-organic substances, 12 physical properties, 32 toxic metals, 20 semi-volatile organic compounds, and 130 volatile organic compounds. It also includes an at-home test for coliform (bacteria) and instructions on how to complete it.

The parent company to Safe Home is Environmental Laboratories, which is one of the largest EPA-certified drinking water labs in North America. So when you mail your sample in, you can have confidence in the quality of analysis performed. And while everyone loves instant results, most people receive their results within ten days of submission. This kit is on the pricey side, but it provides the in-depth testing that you can rely on when making big decisions about the safety of your water supply and what type of home water filters to invest in. 

Expert Buying Tip

“It’s important to understand that not all filters can reduce all contaminants. Once you know what contaminants are in your water, you can find a certified treatment solution to address your specific water quality concerns.”—Rick Andrew, NSF International’s Global Water Program

Best for Lead: Health Metric Heavy Metals Test Kit

Approved Use: Drinking | Tests For: Lead, Mercury, Copper, and Iron | Time Until Results: Under 15 Minutes

What We Like
  • Takes under 15 minutes to complete

  • Easy to use

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't provide detailed results

Lead is a concerning contaminant, especially in the wake of community-wide health scares related to lead contamination in drinking water. In addition, other heavy metals like mercury and copper raise their own health concerns. The Health Metrics Heavy Metals test is an informative way to rule out or confirm the presence of lead and other metals. 

This water testing kit for lead, mercury, copper, and iron takes under 15 minutes to complete. While there is one lead test included in the kit, you can test for the other three metals twice and receive quantified results for the presence of these metals. For lead, the test is of a pass/fail nature, which is the case for virtually all at-home lead water testing kits. The EPA has set a limit of 15 ppb for lead in municipal water supplies and this testing kit will indicate whether your water contains lead above or below the 15 ppb threshold. 

According to users, the test kit is easy to use and provides peace of mind if your lead is below the EPA limit. If not, it’s a small investment to make in order to know that you need to have a more in-depth analysis done and implement steps to improve your water quality and reduce exposure to lead.

Best for Well Water: Health Metric Well Water Test Kit for Drinking Water

Approved Use: Well Water For Drinking | Tests For: Bacteria, Nitrates and Nitrites, Manganese, Hydrogen Sulfide, Total Alkalinity, Total Hardness, and pH | Time Until Results: 5 Minutes

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Provides detailed results

  • Takes under five minutes to complete

What We Don't Like
  • Color-coded system can be confusing

Performing tests on well water is particularly important, since the EPA doesn’t regulate private wells, so bacteria, along with nitrites, nitrates, and hydrogen sulfide, can easily affect your water source. This well water testing kit covers all the bases to give you peace of mind regarding the quality of your well water. It provides insights into the presence of bacteria, nitrates and nitrites, manganese, and hydrogen sulfide, plus a guide to the total alkalinity, total hardness, and pH of your water. 

This test kit is simple, straightforward, and provides users with laboratory-grade results. Providing results in just five minutes, it also takes less time to process compared to other test kits on this list.

Expert Buying Tip

"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."—Sydney Evans, Science Analyst, Environmental Water Group

Runner-Up, Best for Well Water: Watersafe Well Water Test Kit

Approved Use: Well Water For Drinking | Tests For: 10 Different Contaminants (Lead, Pesticides, Bacteria, and Hardness) | Time Until Results: 10 Minutes

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Tests for iron, lead, pesticides, and other toxins

  • Easy to use

What We Don't Like
  • Not as specific as laboratory testing

Another option that provides dependable results is the WaterSafe Well Water Test Kit. This easy-to-use kit gives you information on 10 different containments without having to send in water samples and wait for the results. It tests for copper, iron, lead, nitrates, nitrites, bacteria, and also toxins from fertilizers or pesticides—a common concern for well water.

Using this kit is simple and fast, as it comes with easy-to-read strips that provide ranges for each tested contaminant. Since the results are provided within a range only, it is not as specific as laboratory testing. However, reviewers who compared their test results to laboratory results found the values from the Watersafe kit to be in line with the lab’s findings, adding to the reliability of this kit.

What Testers Say

"Though it’s fairly simple to use, this testing kit is a lot more complex than a one-strip test. It took us about 45 minutes to perform all of the tests...It would probably take the average user about a half hour to do the testing. Be sure to follow the instructions to the letter, or you may end up with improper results."—Sage McHugh, Product Tester

Best for Homes: Simple Water Tap Score Professional Home Water Test

Approved Use: Drinking, Cooking, Bathing, Laundry, and More | Tests For: Over 100 Contaminants | Time Until Results: Within 10 Days

What We Like
  • Screens for over 100 contaminants

  • Provides detailed results

  • Gives personalized water treatment recommendations

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

If you’re looking for a water testing kit for your home, the Tap Score Activated Home Water Test is a pricey but informative option. This mail-in water testing kit will screen your sample for more than 100 different contaminants utilizing a network of EPA, ISO, and ELAP laboratories. You receive results within about 10 days and contaminants are quantified so that you can have more insights into your home’s water quality. 

A major benefit of the Tap Score water testing kit is the fact that your analysis includes water treatment advice and the support of a team of water engineers and experts. The company states that it is not affiliated with any water treatment companies and provides objective advice on how to tackle troublesome contaminants or improve the general quality of your water for drinking, cooking, bathing, laundry, and more. Reviewers that have taken advantage of personalized recommendations from the Tap Score team have found the experts to be helpful and this service is what really sets apart this water testing kit for homes. 

Best for Pools: Poolmaster 22260 5-Way Swimming Pool Chemistry Test

Poolmaster

Approved Use: Pools | Tests For: Chlorine, Bromine, pH, Acid Demand, and Total Alkalinity | Time Until Results: 5 to 10 Minutes

What We Like
  • Uses drop reagents instead of paper strips

  • Has five testing options

  • Affordable

  • Great for beginners

What We Don't Like
  • Chlorine results can be difficult to determine

Take charge of your pool chemistry with this water testing kit for pools. The Poolmaster 5-Way Swimming Pool Chemistry Test covers all the essentials you need for routine monitoring and maintenance of your pool. This kit quickly tests for chlorine, bromine, pH, acid demand, and total alkalinity, and it uses drop reagents versus paper strips. While both can be effective testing methods, some feel that drop reagents provide more accurate testing results.

Some people have critiqued the chlorine test for making it difficult to determine free chlorine versus total chlorine. This kit contains the essentials you need to affordably monitor your pool chemicals in between trips to the pool store for more in-depth testing. Reviewers point out that even if you’re a novice to pool testing, you shouldn’t be intimidated with the help of this kit that walks you through each step of the testing process.

Best for Salt Water Pools: AquaChek 561140A Salt Water Swimming Pool Test Strips

Approved Use: Pools | Tests For: Any Issues Salt-Chlorine Generators, Sodium Chloride | Time Until Results: Under 5 Minutes

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Easy to use

  • Takes under five minutes to complete

What We Don't Like
  • Only comes with 10 testing strips

If you have a saltwater pool, you enjoy the silky, smooth water thanks to the power of a salt-chlorine generator. While the generator will typically display a reading for the salt level of the system, if you suspect a problem, you may want to begin your troubleshooting by checking the salinity of your pool water and comparing it to what the display on your salt chlorine generator states. 

Use AquaChek Salt Water Swimming Pool Test Strips to ensure that your system is functioning properly and your pool has the proper salinity. Just be sure that you follow the directions and only immerse the strip in 1 inch of water. Reviewers consistently find these strips to be super simple to use and a valuable detection tool for suspected problems with their salt chlorine generator, and it takes under five minutes to complete.

Best for Water Hardness: JNW Direct Water Total Hardness Test Strips

Approved Use: Dishwasher, Hot Water Heater, and More | Tests For: Hardness | Time Until Results: Under 5 Minutes

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Takes under five minutes to complete

  • Comes with 150 testing strips

  • Easy to use

What We Don't Like
  • Color-coded system can be confusing

Wondering whether your home has hard water or if it has gone ‘soft’? Understanding this can help you assess whether or not your water softener is working properly or if you need to take other precautions to ensure a longer life for appliances like your dishwasher, hot water heater, and more. These total hardness test strips from JNW Direct will help you understand your water hardness in moments.

While some reviewers had trouble reading the test results or failed to see any change in test strip color, the company has a track record for replacing defective products. Many other users have been very happy with the quick results from these testing strips and the affordable price. These water hardness test strips are best suited to giving you an approximate range of your water hardness.

Final Verdict

Our best overall pick is the Safe Home ULTIMATE Water Quality Test Kit (view at Amazon), which is a comprehensive kit that screens for over 200 contaminants and includes an at-home coliform test. If you're looking to test well water specifically, check out the Health Metric Well Water Test Kit (view at Amazon). It's affordable and takes just 5 minutes to complete.

What to Look for in a Water Testing Kit

Water Source

First, you’ll want to pinpoint what type of water you’re testing—is it from a well or public water supply, or is from your pool or faucet at home? Water tests are often formulated specifically for various water sources, testing for the most common contaminants found in that type of water, so you'll want to narrow your search accordingly.

Testing Procedure

You’ll also want to consider the testing procedure when purchasing a water testing kit. If time isn’t a concern, consider a kit that you send out to a testing facility, as those options are often more comprehensive. However, if you want the results quickly, an at-home kit will give you answers immediately.

Contaminants

Some water testing kits can detect a wide variety of common contaminants, such as lead, chlorine, copper, iron, and more. Others just test for one or two contaminants and are usually less expensive. If you know what substance you’re testing for, you may want to go with the latter option, but if you want to know generally what’s in your water, a broader kit is probably the way to go.

WaterSafe Well Water Test Kit

The Spruce / Sage McHugh

FAQs

What do water testing kits test for?

Types of contaminants tested for in your water will depend on what kit you buy. Some tests screen for over 200 contaminants while other more budget-friendly options test for just one or two. Some of the most common contaminants that water testing kits look for are chlorine, copper, lead, arsenic, nitrates, and iron. You may also want to look for a kit that tests for coliform. Coliform is a bacteria that could indicate a recent contamination of your water with soil or feces. If you find the presence of coliform in your water, you'll want to further test it for E. coli.

How do water testing kits work?

Water testing kits work in a variety of ways. Some (more expensive) kits are mailed to an outside laboratory while other cheaper options use a simple test strip method. If purchasing a mail-in kit, you fill a set of containers with water samples and ship them off to a laboratory to be tested. If using a kit with strip testing, the kit will usually come with detailed instructions and a color-coded guide on how to test for each contaminant. Results are much quicker with an at-home kit — some in as little as 15 minutes.

How accurate are water testing kits?

The accuracy of your water testing kit will vary by manufacturer, but if you want the most detailed, accurate information, your best bet is a test sent to a lab of professionals. If opting for a home kit, you'll first want to make sure you know what kind of water you're testing before purchasing. At-home water tests are usually designed specifically for certain water types (pool, faucet, etc.), so you'll want to make sure you get the correct kit for the kind of water you want to test to ensure accuracy.

Why Trust The Spruce?

This roundup was written by Erica Puisis, who has been researching strategies to improve everyday life and health, including water testing and filtration options, for more than three years. A purveyor of one of life’s most essential elements, Erica has tried reverse osmosis systems, water ionizers, and gravity filtration pitchers to stay hydrated and keep healthy. To make this list, she considered each kit's water source, testing procedure, and contaminants (or lack thereof).

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