Over 30 years, we have been advising clients on drinking water quality, contaminants, water testing, and treatment solutions. In regards to water testing, we’re often asked, “What are the best drinking water testing kits?” Should you use an in-home or do-it-yourself (DIY) water testing kit, order a water sample test kit to submit to a lab for informational testing, or have certified water testing conducted? In addition, what are the best brands and companies to work with?
Before you can answer any of those questions, you first need to ask, “What should I be testing for?” If you have any doubt, we recommend going through a process we call the “The Path to Clean Water.”
The Path to Clean Water includes 4 Levels of Drinking Water Testing. By going through each level you're able to make a more informed decision before moving on to the next higher (and often more costly) level. What level you go to depends on your specific issue.
Level 1 Testing is no cost because the first tool to test your water is YOU! Each person, by default, has four water quality sensors. These include your Sight, Smell, Taste, and Touch. You can use your senses to make observations in the moment or monitor changes over time.
These observations are initial clues that can determine an initial diagnosis. For example, if the water coming out of your faucet is brown, that may indicate Iron. If your water leaves a slimy pink residue, that may be due to Pink Bacteria. If your water smells like rotten eggs, that indicates Sulfur.
Below are some examples of clues that you can observe with your senses that can lead to an initial diagnosis. The results of those observations will then help you to determine the Best Drinking Water Test Kit for your specific issue.
Sight - Visual clues include observations if your water color is red, black, blue, green, or has flecks. Your water may leave a blue-green stain.
Smell - Odors can include sulfur, rotten eggs, and fruity.
Taste - Your water may taste salty, metallic, medicinal, or chalky.
Touch - Water may be slimy, leave a pink or blue-green film, or have a metallic sheen. Your water could be hard or soft.
In addition to observations, having readily available information about your home, such as the type of piping and fuel source, can add additional clues.
To conduct a Level 1 Self Diagnosis, we’ve developed the KnowYourH2O Self Diagnostic Tool. The tool is in the form of a questionnaire that will prompt you with questions about your water. The results of those questions are clues that will lead you to a preliminary diagnosis that will determine the Best Drinking Water Testing Kit to choose next.
Level 2 Testing is Do-It-Yourself testing that can be done in your own home using a Water Testing Kit or a handheld testing device. After you’ve done a Level 1 Self Diagnosis, Level 2 Testing can further clarify if your observations are correct and provide a cost-effective way of evaluating or identifying a problem. Level 2 testing is also used for ongoing monitoring of your drinking water quality.
The following are some examples of recommended Level 2 Testing Kits and Device and tests.
This Drinking Water Test Kit detects even the smallest amounts of Lead and Copper, it also tests for Bacteria and other crucial water quality parameters. Having unbalanced levels of Chlorine, Hardness, pH, Alkalinity, Nitrate or Nitrite can indicate serious issues.
Simple dip and read test strips for detection of pH, Total Alkalinity, Total Chlorine, Total Hardness, Ferrous Iron (Fe+2), Nitrate and Nitrite, Free Chlorine (EPA Approved), and Copper.
If you have completed Level 2 Do-It-Yourself Testing, and you would like your results confirmed by a professional, the next step is Level 3 Testing by an Independent Laboratory.
Level 3 testing uses approved laboratories testing methods and procedures conducted by a third-party laboratory or independent facility that has no vested outcome in the findings, such as selling you a treatment system.
1. The testing is completed under controlled conditions by professionals.
2. If Level 2 testing hasn’t identified a contaminant, laboratory testing can provide a basis to identify the contaminant of concern.
3. In addition to the initial reason for the testing, additional hidden contaminants or issues are often discovered
4. Level 3 Testing provides the accuracy that Level 4 Certified Testing has without the added cost. The cost of informational water testing is relatively cost effective and can be as low as a few dollars per parameter. Unlike certified testing, this testing does not require hiring a water professional to do a sample collection or the added cost of certification. Certified testing would be required if the results need to be submitted to a state or federal agency, for use in a court proceeding, or establish a legal baseline condition.
If you use City Water or Well Water – NTL offers basic to advanced testing packages to meet your needs.
Their CityCheck and WaterCheck packages include testing for contaminants such as metals like aluminum, arsenic, copper, chromium, mercury, lead, zinc, and more, plus volatile organic compounds, uranium, strontium, bromide, nitrate, fluoride, total dissolved solids, and if necessary, disinfection by-products and PCBs.
The Waterborne Pathogen Panel - A unique test that screens for seven waterborne pathogens.
Visit our Waterborne Pathogens page to learn more
First Draw and Flush Lead Test - Screens for concerns about the amount of lead that may be found in the water from plumbing fixtures.
Problem Check for Nuisance Contaminants
Radon in Water
Herbicides & Pesticides
National Testing Laboratories testing kits provide most of the information needed to evaluate a problem and, if necessary, develop a water treatment action plan, design and determine the size of the water treatment system required, or check the performance of a water treatment system.
To learn more visit our National Testing Labs Partner page
ResinTech is a global leader in ion exchange for water purification, helping distributors and operators worldwide improve their water quality. They feature high-quality and reliable testing for the “forever chemicals.”
This testing is highly recommended if you live in an area impacted by PFAS contaminants, you rely on a water provider whose source is surface water, or you are using in well water or groundwater from sites located near: manufacturing plants, agricultural areas that apply biosolids from urban areas, airports/ military bases, fire stations, fire training areas, house fires or areas prone to large fires were these chemicals may have been used or stored.
To learn more about Resintech as well as ordering Testing Kits, visit our Partner page
The KnowYourH2O team facilitates water testing and consultation services in partnership with ResinTech.
Testing Includes GenX/ PFOA PFOA PFOS PFAS PFCs (Perfluorinated Chemicals) focus testing. In addition, we offer general and premium water quality testing that includes multiple contaminants such as GenX/ PFOA PFOA PFOS PFAS PFCs (Perfluorinated Chemicals), metals, inorganics (salts), and volatile/radiological compounds.
Contact Us if you are interested.
SimpleLab (formerly SimpleWater, Inc.) is the parent company of MyTapScore.com. TapScore.com was created as a (Level 3) Information Laboratory Testing and (Level 4) Certified Outreach Testing program for private well owners, water utility customers, and professionals.
City Water Tests
Groundwater / Well Water Tests
In addition to offering general drinking water quality, they provide specialized testing for:
Polyethylene (MTBE, 2.4-di-tert-butyl-phenol)
Polyvinyl chloride (VC and VOCs)
1,4 Dioxane (ether)
Giardia and Cryptosporidium
Mycobacterium - pathogens known to cause serious diseases in mammals, also known for causing Sick Building (plumbing) Syndrome related to mold, fungus, and Legionella.
To learn more visit our TapScore Partner page
Level 4 Testing uses chain-of-custody with a water professional coming to your home or facility to conduct the water sampling process and deliver the samples to a certified laboratory.
The water professional should discuss your specific concerns and issues to determine the optimal water quality testing parameters, request appropriate sampling containers, and select the proper standard operating/sampling protocols.
Most certified laboratories prefer not to recommend which testing parameters should be selected and do not comprehensively assess the sampling results or provide general recommendations.
The KnowYourH2O team, however, provides both of these services. As water professionals, we can assist you as an unbiased third party in determining the parameters to test for and provide a comprehensive assessment of your sampling results. If you are interested, please Contact Us.