Fluoride, or sodium fluoride, is now added to hundreds of public water supplies across the US, with recent data from the CDC estimating that 62.9% of the population is currently served by a water system that fluoridates their drinking water. Fluoride occurs naturally, too, in both surface water and groundwater supplies.
The low fluoride levels in most drinking water supplies are intended to prevent tooth decay and shouldn’t affect human health, but prolonged exposure to high fluoride concentrations may lead to health effects like dental and skeletal fluorosis.
If you’re keen to get a fluoride measurement in your drinking water, you’ve come to the right place. Here, our water treatment experts have shared our top recommended methods of fluoride testing to use at home.
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🔬 Pay For a Certified Laboratory Test
The most accurate way to measure fluoride in your drinking water is to use laboratory testing.
This method provides exact information about your water’s fluoride levels, measured in parts per million (PPM) or milligrams per liter (mg/L). The only setback is price – lab tests for fluoride usually start at around $60.
Hundreds of certified laboratories provide fluoride testing in the US. Most labs will send you the equipment you need to collect drinking water samples at home. You’ll then send your water sample back to the laboratory, which will perform in-house testing on your sample.
Here’s how to take a sample of your water to send to a lab:
- Order your preferred fluoride laboratory water test.
- Wait for the sample kit to be shipped to your home.
- Take your water samples following the instructions in the box.
- Ship the samples back to the lab and wait for your results.
Helpful to Know: The turnaround time for an official lab test for fluoride is typically 5-7 days, which means you should have your results within a week of returning your water samples to the lab.
It’s your choice whether you want to buy a lab test exclusively for fluoride, or you want to test fluoride and other common contaminants in your water sample. Specialized tests can also differentiate between synthetic and naturally occurring fluoride.
Our recommended testing lab, Tap Score by SimpleLab, offers packages that are tailored to well and city water. As well as testing your water’s fluoride levels, these packages also test for common well or city water contaminants, such as hardness, TDS, heavy metals, chlorine, iron, sulfur, and other chemical and metal contaminants.
🧪 Use a Home Water Test Kit
A more affordable but less precise alternative to lab testing is to use an at-home drinking water test kit.
DIY test kits can give you an indication of how much fluoride is in your own home’s drinking water, and they typically cost $15-$30, depending on what they test for. The most commonly used DIY kits use test strips that change color depending on the concentration of contaminants in water.
You probably won’t find an individual DIY test for fluoride. Most fluoride test kits also detect other common contaminants, like chlorine, lead, copper, pH, nitrite, nitrate, hardness, and more.
Here are instructions for testing your water with a DIY fluoride test kit:
- Unbox your test and place the testing strips on a clean surface.
- Take a sample of testing water from your faucet, making sure the cup or container is clean.
- Dip a test strip into your water.
- Wait for the strip to change color based on the level of fluoride detected.
- Compare the color of the strip to an included color chart or wheel to get a rough estimate of how much fluoride is present.
DIY fluoride test kits can help you to understand whether or not your drinking water contains fluoride, and can indicate fluoride levels from 0-100 PPM. But it can only give you an indication of your fluoride concentration in ranges; for example, around 10 PPM, around 25 PPM, around 50 PPM, and so on.
Still, they’re a good option if you don’t want to get a precise reading of fluoride, you’re just curious, or you want to compare your fluoride reading to the data in your area’s annual Water Quality Report.
Here is our list of the best fluoride water test kits in 2024. Check them out and read our reviews!
📇 Use a Fluoride Test Meter
A less popular option for getting a reading of your water’s fluoride content is to use a fluoride test meter.
Electronic fluoride readers typically use a fluoride ion-selective electrode. When this sensor comes into contact with the water sample, fluoride ions in the water interact with its membrane, which generates an electric potential or voltage.
The meter measures this voltage, and the magnitude of the voltage indicates the concentration of fluoride ions in the water.
To use a fluoride test meter to detect fluoride in your tap water supply, follow these instructions:
- Unbox and calibrate the test meter according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure to calibrate the meter properly, or it won’t deliver an accurate reading.
- Take a sample of cold water from your faucet in a clean container.
- Dip the end of the meter into your water and wait for a reading to show on the display screen.
- Repeat the process 3 times to ensure the readings are consistent.
Fluoride test meters usually give a fluoride reading in PPM. These can be used again and again to test for fluoride in drinking water, and they produce near-instant results, without having to ship the water to a lab. But they’re expensive upfront, often costing $150-$200+.
We don’t recommend fluoride test meters for most people who just want to get a one-time reading of the fluoride in their tap water. They’re too expensive, and calibrating the meter is a hassle and easy to get wrong.
Still, if you want to be able to regularly test for fluoride – such as if you have a private well and want to check that it sustains optimal levels of fluoride – a fluoride test meter might be better for you in the long run.
📝 Interpreting Your Results
Once your results are in, you can decide whether you want to take any steps to reduce fluoride in your water.
This is your own choice – you might feel OK about drinking water with a low fluoride level, or you might want to drink fluoride-free water based on what you know about fluoride’s potential health effects, including dental fluorosis (see the CDC for more information), which is particularly likely in children.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a legal limit of 4.0 mg/L for fluoride to protect public health and ensure drinking water quality. So, if your water’s fluoride level exceeds this limit (which is only really likely if you’re on a private well with naturally occurring fluoride), you should definitely take action against this contaminant.
If you do decide to address fluoride in your water, your best option is to purchase a water filter that can remove this contaminant.
There are a few different options to consider, including:
- Reverse osmosis systems – These remove a range of impurities, including up to 99.99% fluoride. The RO process is one of the most effective methods of purifying water.
- Water distillers – These countertop systems purify water by boiling it until it evaporates, then condensing it into a separate container. Water distillation is another of the most effective treatment methods, for removing fluoride and most other impurities.
Certain countertop water filters and gravity filtration systems, like water filter pitchers, can also reduce or remove fluoride in drinking water. There’s no certification specifically for fluoride removal, but you can check to see if a filter has third-party testing to support the manufacturer’s fluoride removal claims.
📑 Final Word
We hope this guide helped you to choose a method of measuring fluoride in drinking water that’s best for your budget and needs.
To summarize, we recommend a lab fluoride analysis to get a super-accurate fluoride reading of your water, or a DIY kit using testing strips for quick, affordable results. We don’t typically recommend fluoride testing meters as they’re expensive for what they are, but they’re still an option to be aware of.