How to Test Your pH Level Without Strips

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If you want to determine your water’s acidity level, you should test its pH.

One of the easiest ways to test the pH of water is to use pH strips. But that doesn’t mean pH strips are your only option available.

pH kits cost money, and if you’re ordering online, you’ll have to wait for your kit to arrive – not ideal if you’d like to know your water’s pH right now. You’ll probably also end up paying for multiple strips when you only need to use one, which is wasteful.

In this guide, I’ll be sharing ways to test the pH of water without a kit. You’ll just need a few basic tools.

πŸ§ͺ When Should I Test My Water pH Level?

You should test the pH of water in your home if you have a reason to believe it is too acidic or alkaline.

pH isn’t regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but the EPA does recommend that city water supplies are delivered at a pH of between 6.5 and 8.5.

It’s unlikely that your water will be too acidic or alkaline if it has come from a city source. However, if you get your water from a private well, your pH level might be higher or lower than recommended.

liquid ph scale

pH can be affected by a number of factors, including the weather, chemical or heavy metal pollution, and other human activities.

If your water is too alkaline, it’s unlikely to be unsafe. If it’s too acidic, however, it may corrode your pipes, resulting in metal leaching. Acidic water may also be missing healthy minerals that give water its alkaline properties.

In short, you should test your water’s pH level if you’d like to make sure that it isn’t contaminated with pollutants and heavy metals (which is more probable if you have acidic water).

βš—οΈ How to Test pH of Water Without a Kit or Strips

There are four methods of testing water pH without a kit or strips:

  1. The red cabbage method
  2. DIY testing strips
  3. Litmus paper
  4. Using a digital pH tester

Using Red Cabbage

Red cabbage might be an ingredient that you only usually associate with the holiday season, but it’s more than just a Christmas dinner side dish.

To utilize red cabbage to test water pH, see the steps below:

  1. Cut your cabbage and place the pieces in a glass bowl.
  2. Boil two cups of distilled water, then add this distilled water to the bowl of cabbage. Make sure the cabbage is completely covered, then stir the cabbage and let it sit for a half-hour.
  3. During this time, a chemical reaction will take place, and the pigment from the cabbage will change the color of the water.
  4. Pour the water through a strainer to remove the cabbage, catching the water in another bowl. This liquid can now be used as an indicator solution for your water’s pH level.
  5. Add water from your faucet to a separate container, then add a couple of drops of the cabbage pH indicator solution. The water will change color, depending on how acidic or alkaline it is. Pink or red water is acidic, purple water is neutral, and alkaline water is blue, green, or yellow.

Cabbage isn’t the only fruit or vegetable that can work as a pH indicator. Plums, blueberries, rose petals and red onions can also be used for pH testing purposes.

Using Red Cabbage

DIY pH Testing Strips

You can try using DIY pH testing strips in your cabbage juice indicator for a clearer indication of your water pH level. You can choose between coffee filters or acid-free art papers as your testing strips.

Follow the instructions below for using DIY testing strips to conduct a water pH test:

  1. Make your cabbage water following the steps above, using distilled water for the solution.
  2. Take your pH paper and dip it into the cabbage juice indicator.
  3. When the pH paper is fully saturated with the solution, remove it and place it on a clean surface to dry. Make sure to keep the paper away from alkaline or acid condensation, as this could alter the test’s results.
  4. Once the paper has dried completely, cut it into strips.
  5. Next, fill a glass of water from your faucet. You can then either dip a pH test strip in the glass or sprinkle some water onto your strip, then compare the resulting color with the universal pH color chart.
  6. Throw out your strips after 5 days. By this time , your strips will have expired, and won’t offer accurate results.

If you wish to compare your test reading to other acid and alkaline substances, try testing the pH of water mixed with baking soda, and vinegar.

Litmus Paper

The final alternative testing option is litmus paper. You can buy litmus paper from DIY stores, and it tends to be more affordable than proper pH test kits.

To try out litmus paper to test pH, see the instructions below:

  1. Prepare a sample of water from your faucet.
  2. Dip the litmus paper into your water sample to test its pH value.
  3. Watch the litmus paper change color. If you have alkaline water, the paper will turn blue. If your water is acidic, the paper will turn red. Water that is neutral (i.e. not alkaline or acidic) will have no effect on the litmus paper – it will stay the same color.
Litmus Paper

How Effective is Litmus Paper for Testing pH?

The good thing about litmus paper is that it’s quick to deliver a reading. However, it can’t tell you exactly how alkaline or acidic your water is.

The paper will turn blue if your water is slightly alkaline, and blue if it is very alkaline. It does the same for slightly acidic or very acidic water, except that it turns red. There’s no difference in intensity or shade to indicate just how alkaline or acidic your water is, so you won’t achieve the level of accuracy you’d get from a pH meter.

πŸ”Ž The Most Accurate Method to Test Water pH

If it’s important that you get an accurate reading when testing the pH value of your water, I recommend using a pH test meter.

A digital pH meter is the most costly means of testing your water, but it’s much quicker and easier than making your own pH test strips, or buying test strips from the internet.

digital ph meter
Digital pH Meter

You can use a pH meter as often as you wish. This is especially useful if you have a private well, and you’d like to make sure that your water isn’t too low on the pH scale, and therefore at a higher risk of contamination.

Many point-of-use and whole home water filters require water to be within a certain range on the pH scale (typically neutral) to operate. With a pH meter, you can test water to ensure it’s suitable for your preferred filtration system, and won’t damage the membrane or media.

In short, a pH test meter can test water better than a test strip, pH indicator solution, or blue or red litmus paper. But if you want to test your water right now, and you don’t wish to pay for a test kit, you can still use these methods to get some idea of whether your water is alkaline or acidic.

  • Brian Campbell
    President & CEO, CWS, CWR

    Brian Campbell, a WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Water Treatment Representative (CWR) with 5+ years of experience, helps homeowners navigate the world of water treatment. After honing his skills at Hach Company, he founded his business to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools to achieve safe, healthy water. Brian's tested countless devices, from simple pitchers to complex systems, helping his readers find the perfect fit for their unique needs.

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