Test Your Water's pH Level Without a Kit

How to Test Your Water’s pH Level Without a Kit

Although there is a wide range of pH test kits on the market, there are some alternative options for testing your water’s pH level without a test kit

The options are simple and use items that are readily available at a local store. This article will discuss how to make and use pH indicator solutions and strips using red cabbage or litmus powder.

Options for Testing Water pH Level Without a Test Kit

Red Cabbage pH Indicator Solution or Strips

Plants such as roses, red cabbage, berries, grape skin, apple skin, blueberries, turmeric, onion, plums, and tomatoes contain a chemical known as anthocyanins.

This chemical is purple in neutral conditions (pH 7.0) but changes color when exposed to either acidic or alkaline conditions. The procedure described below for testing water pH using red cabbage can also be done using other plants that contain anthocyanin.

What You Need

  • 1 red cabbage
  • Knife/grater
  • Wooden spoon
  • Distilled water
  • Stovetop
  • Cooking pan
  • Clear glass bowl
  • Strainer
  • Filter paper

Instructions for Making a Red Cabbage pH Solution

  1. Grate or chop a quarter of a head of red cabbage
  2. Put grated or chopped red cabbage in a clear glass bowl
  3. Boil 2 cups of distilled water in a cooking pan
  4. Pour the boiled water into the clear glass bowl that contains the grated or chopped red cabbage. The water level should be such that it just covers all the red cabbage
  5. Let the cabbage sit in the water for at least 30 minutes and stir occasionally
  6. The hot distilled water will draw the anthocyanin chemical compound from the red cabbage causing the water to change color to purplish-red
  7. For a more concentrated solution, blend the red cabbage with the distilled water. Keep blending until all the cabbage is absorbed in the water
  8. Strain off the liquid to obtain a dark purple solution. This is your pH indicator solution

How to Test the pH of Your Water Using the Red Cabbage pH Indicator Solution

  • Put a small amount of the water you want to test in a clear glass or plastic container
  • Add a few drops of the red cabbage pH indicator solution
  • Notice the color change

If the water is neutral, the red cabbage pH indicator solution will remain purplish red. However, if the water is alkaline, the solution will turn either greenish, yellowish, bluish, greenish-yellow, or bluish-green depending on its alkalinity level.

On the other hand, if it is acidic, it will either become red, pink, or violet. To determine the exact level of acidity or alkalinity, match the water color change against a pH scale.

If you’d like to regularly check the pH of your water, you can either store this red cabbage pH indicator solution or use it to make pH testing strips.

How to Make Red Cabbage pH Indicator Strips

  • Take a filter paper such as acid-free art paper or coffee filters and dip it in the red cabbage indicator solution.
  • Let the paper soak for some minutes until it assumes the color of the solution
  • Remove it and leave it to dry in a neutral environment free of alkaline or acidic vapors. For the best results, leave the filter paper to dry overnight
  • Once the filter paper has dried, cut it into strips. Finger length and width are ideal

Store the strips in a cool, dry place, preferably in an air-tight container, to protect them from contamination by acid or alkaline gases or vapor in the environment. Also, do not leave the strips in direct sunlight as it may cause them to bleach

How to Test Your Water’s pH Using a Red Cabbage Indicator Strip

  • Put a water sample in the container
  • Dip your filter paper strip into the water sample
  • Wait for the reaction to complete and compare the color of the test strip against the pH color chart

Homemade Litmus Solution or Strips

What You Need

  • Dry litmus powder
  • Clear glass container
  • Wooden spoon
  • Filter paper
  • Distilled water

How to Make a Litmus Indicator Solution

  1. Buy dry litmus powder either from online e-commerce or a chemical supply store
  2. Heat a cup of water
  3. Pour the water into the clear glass container
  4. Begin to add the litmus powder in hot water as you stir
  5. Continue to stir until all the litmus powder is dissolved. If the powder is not dissolving completely, you may need to heat the solution as you stir. The final solution should be violet-blue

You may either use the litmus solution to test a water sample or make litmus paper strips using the solution.

How to Make Litmus Indicator Strips

  1. Take an acid-free art paper or filter paper and submerge it fully into the litmus solution
  2. Leave it to soak for a few minutes until the entire paper is thoroughly coated
  3. Remove the paper from the solution and let it dry in the open air without exposing it to alkaline or acidic environmental elements
  4. For the best results, leave the filter paper to dry overnight
  5. Once the filter paper has dried, cut it into strips. Finger length and width are ideal
  6. Store the strips in a cool, dry place, preferably in an air-tight container away from direct sunlight

How to Use the Homemade Litmus Paper or Solution to Test Your Water pH Level

  • Put a small amount of the sample water in a clear glass or plastic container
  • Add a few drops of the homemade litmus solution in the water or dip a litmus paper strip into the water
  • Wait for the color change to complete, and then compare the final color with a pH color chart

The Most Accurate Method of Testing Your Water’s pH

Although the above-discussed methods of testing your water pH without a pH kit will give you a sense of whether the water is acidic or alkaline, it may not provide a high level of accuracy. The most accurate method of measuring water pH is using a digital pH meter.

There is a wide range of digital pH meters available on the market at different prices and product feature specifications. However, all of them have a similar pH measurement mechanism.

How to Measure Your Water’s pH Using a Digital pH Meter

  • Put at least 100 ml of the sample water in a glass
  • Dip the pH meter inside the glass and leave it for about a minute
  • Read the pH value of the water as provided on the pH meter display
  • If the value is below 7, then the water is acidic. If it reads 7.0, the water is neutral, and if it reads above 7, the water is alkaline

close up of ph analysis strips with a strip inserted in a graduated tube with water.

Why You Should Test Your Water’s pH

Ideally, the safest and healthiest water to use and drink should be within a 6.5 to 8.0 pH range. At this pH level, the water tastes good, has a balanced level of minerals, and causes minimal damage to the plumbing system.

Water contamination such as acid rain, pesticides contamination, high level, and metal leaching from pipes, among other factors, can alter the pH of your water.

If the water is extremely acidic or alkaline, you may need to take measures to neutralize it to make it safe for use and consumption.

For instance, water that has high mineral deposits is usually alkaline. If the water pH level is above 9, you may notice that it tastes bitter, leaves deposits on your dishes, and causes soap not to lather.

On the other hand, acidic water usually has a sour taste and a slippery texture. It has high levels of magnesium and iron and may cause laundry to stain and accumulate metallic components along the plumbing system. It may also cause rusting, leaching, and blue or green stains on copper elements.

It is particularly important to test the pH of your water if its source is a well. This is because well are more exposed to contaminants, especially if it is located near a factory, dry cleaner, farm, gas station, junkyard, landfill, or the local dump.

Unlike municipal water, which has been pre-analyzed, tested, and processed to meet the recommended health and safety standards by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), well water does not go through a similar extensive process.

Also, well water content can vary with the changing climatic and environmental conditions. Therefore, it is important to regularly test its pH and mineral levels to ensure that they are within a safe range.

How to Correct the pH of Your Water

Before beginning the neutralizing process, it is important that you first purify the water. Purification can be done by passing the water through a filter that eliminates sediments and then through a distiller, removing toxins.

The next step is to test your water’s pH level using the DIY methods discussed above or a pH test kit. Once you have determined the acidity or alkalinity level of your water, there are some steps that you can take to neutralize it or adjust it accordingly. This can be done through the various pH adjustment devices on the market, including:

Neutralizing Filters

A neutralizing filter is a device that is designed for correcting low pH/ acidity in water. It does this by adding neutralizing elements in the water. Typically,the neutralizing elements are calcium carbonate for water whose pH is above 6 and magnesium oxide for water whose pH is below 6.

One disadvantage of this method is that it increases the water hardness, which may require that the water is also passed through a water softener. Besides, the neutralizing filter may cause a loss of water pressure.

Sodium Hydroxide/ Sodium Carbonate Injection

This is another neutralizing option for acidic water. When injected, the sodium carbonate and sodium hydroxide raise the water pH to about 7.0 (neutral level).

Unlike the neutralizing filters, this method does not cause water hardness. Furthermore, this option can be set up so that you can disinfect the water by adding a chlorine solution.

On the downside, sodium hydroxide or sodium carbonate treated water contains high sodium levels, which is not ideal for people with heart disease or on a low-sodium diet.

If you are injecting the sodium hydroxide manually, you need to wear protective gear as it produces harmful vapors and can cause chemical burns.

Acid Injection

Acid injection works for lowering alkaline water to around 7.0 pH level. This is done by injecting a solution of white vinegar, alum, or citric acid into the alkaline water.

The chemicals and tools used for injecting the acid should be handled with care to prevent chemical burning or poisoning hazards

Fresh Lemon Juice

If you’re neutralizing the acidic water for consumption purposes only, you may use fresh lemon juice instead of soda ash or neutralizing filters.

It is best to squeeze lemon juice or add pieces of lemon to your water just before drinking it. This is a great option if you are on a low-sodium diet.

Conclusion

You don’t have to wait until you notice corrosion in your faucets, a bitter or sour taste, a slimy texture, or a foul smell in the water for you to check its pH level.

Testing the pH level of your water as early on as possible will help you know whether the water is safe for consumption.

It will also help you to take the necessary measures to neutralize your water pH before it begins to cause damage.

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Amanda Perkins

Amanda began her career as a technical writer for a healthcare group in 2008. Years after getting married and starting a family, she joined her husband Joshua on the Water Filter Authority journey to educate other families and households about safe, affordable, and effective water filtration systems.