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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
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 10 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.
“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
Lead is a contaminant that causes concern, 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 additional 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
Performing water testing on well water is particularly important, since the EPA doesn’t regulate private wells and 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, hydrogen sulfide, and a guide to the total alkalinity, total hardness, and pH of your water.
Reviewers say this test kit is simple, straightforward, and provides users with laboratory-grade results. It also takes less time to process the results when compared to other test kits on this list.
"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
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, as it comes with easy-to-read strips that provide ranges for each tested contaminant. Users did comment on the fact that since the results are provided within a range only, it is not as specific as laboratory testing. However, those 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.
Best for Homes: Simple Water Tap Score Professional Home Water Test
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
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. The kit tests for chlorine, bromine, pH, acid demand, and total alkalinity. 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
If you have a salt water 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 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.
Best for Water Hardness: JNW Direct Water Total Hardness Test Strips
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.
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 for The Spruce. 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.
Water source First, you’ll want to figure out 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.
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.