3 Ways to Test Your Tap Water Quality

Despite the EPA requiring local water companies to meet strict water quality standards, research has shown high levels of pollution and harmful chemicals in our drinking water. There are several reasons why your water quality may not be what’s necessary for optimal health and hydration, and here are just a few of them:

  • Not all water companies comply with EPA requirements — many choose to pay the fines rather than stall equipment to reach necessary levels.
  • The EPA doesn’t test for or regulate every potential contaminant that ends up in the water supply.
  • Not all water safety tests are done properly, and some are not reported to the EPA.

Fortunately, thanks to modern technology, you can take matters into your own hands. If something has made you question the quality of your tap water, there are a few ways you can test it. 


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Hire a Professional.

Contact an experienced water tester in your area to come test the quality of your tap water. They’ll come out to your house, collect water samples, and test them in a lab for anything that could be contaminating your water.

To find a professional in your area, the EPA offers an easy-to-use free database that allows you to find a certified water testing facility near you. Learn more on how to find a certified lab here. Another way you can find a certified lab is by Google searching “test my water” and your city or zip code. This will bring up testing facilities nearby and give you options of labs to contact.

If you haven’t had any luck, look for a “home inspector” and inquire if they do environmental testing in addition to their typical inspections. “Water tester” and “water professional” don’t tend to get you very far on search engines. However, home inspectors can often offer a free consultancy and provide you helpful plans if you’re having trouble getting started.

Working with a professional who is familiar with your city has its benefits. They should know exactly what questions to ask and what types of tests to run. If homes (and their public or private water systems) in your area are typically affected by pollution or other factors, they’ll know how this should impact their choices in the lab.

The drawback to professional water testing is the expense. Certified labs tend to cater to large industrial customers, and thus, lower-paying individuals aren’t always their priority. You may happen upon companies that offer free testing in your area. Just beware that those companies often use their free tests to get their foot in the door to sell you their treatment plans.


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Buy DIY Testing Kits.

If you want a cheaper alternative and full control over the process, consider getting a DIY water testing kit. Water testing kits are often used by people who want to run a preliminary test to see if their tap water may be contaminated before they invest in professional testing. At-home testing kits can also provide some quick peace of mind if you’re not actually sure anything is wrong. These tests are often found online at marketplaces like Amazon or big box hardware stores.

When using these kits, you typically just need to dip a strip of test paper into a sample of your tap water. The testing kit will include a guide on how to read your results. 

At-home tests are incredibly convenient, but they have a couple of drawbacks. First, you’ll need to do some of your own research to know which tests to select in the first place. For example, are you testing for lead, arsenic, farming chemicals, etc.? You’re unlikely to find a catch-all test, which means you’ll need to know what may be the underlying problem. 

Second, to cover your bases, you’ll probably need to buy more than one kit because different kits test for different things. To make sure you know what you’re dealing with, you’ll need to get one for lead, one for farming chemicals, etc. Finally, while the kit may tell you that a heavy metal exists in your water, it’s unlikely to tell you which one or how to fix it. You’d learn that information from professional testing.  


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Professionally Test Your Kits.

The third and final choice is a hybrid option. It combines both features of the at-home testing kit with the certified lab results. For this option, you collect a water sample at home and send it into a lab to be tested. There are a couple of ways this can be done. 

  • Through a free municipal water testing program 
  • On your own dime through a private lab

Before you spend any money, research whether your local government or water suppliers offer free at-home testing. If they do, they’ll supply the collection kit and cover the lab tests. New York City has their own testing program, as do many other municipalities. Check your area first before you spend any money!

If your municipality doesn’t offer this service, you’ll need to find a company that offers an at-home kit with professional testing. They’ll provide you with water vials and a mail-in kit. After that, you’ll need to collect vials of your tap water at home and mail it back to the lab using the provided supplies. 

That’s it! In a couple of weeks, you’ll have an easy-to-read report that includes the contaminants in your water or any local environmental water hazards you should be aware of.

This option is a great middle-ground if you can find a convenient provider in your area with a good (or free!) price point. 

Final Thoughts

Clean water is a right and a necessity! Consuming treated and filtered water will protect you from diseases and water-borne illnesses. If you’re questioning the safety of your water, don’t hesitate to have it tested. Do a little research to see if you have a free municipal water testing program. If not, at-home test kits can be a great first step before you pursue professional testing.