The 7 Best Water Testing Kits of 2021

Know exactly what's coming out of your tap with these kits

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The Rundown
Covering over 200 tested substances, this kit can test water from all kinds of sources.
TapScore is known for testing a wide variety of contaminants and for easy-to-read reports.
All the advantages of the City Water Test, plus a bacteria test.
For just a bit more than the price of testing for just lead, you can check for four metals with this kit.
Quickly and easily test any type of water for hardness with these strips.
An accredited lab test with quick turnaround for the otherwise undetectable radon gas.
Simple, fast, and inexpensive, this DIY test-strip kit offers a quick water check.

Most people have no idea what’s in the water that flows from the tap in their home. If you are connected to a city or town’s system, you can get a good idea of the base-level water by accessing or requesting a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) from your local water authority. This information is public, and levels are monitored by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (see our FAQ below for more details). However, if you're not connected to municipal water, or want more information about the water coming into your home specifically, there are a number of testing options.

Water testing kits are widely available, and they generally break down into two types of kit. One includes test strips for various common water contaminants. The other kind requires your water to be collected and sent to a lab for testing. The latter test will give you more reliable results, but it does need to be shipped out and you’ll need to wait for the information. The strip-test kits give instant results, but the information needs to be read right away and requires a fairly high degree of attention and organization—and won’t be quite as accurate.

Here we racked up the best water kits, whether you want to test strips at home or send the results to the pros.

Best Deluxe Water Test: Safe Home Ultimate Drinking Water Test Kit

SafeHome Kit

This one tests for 200 chemicals—significantly more than any other testing kit recommended here, and it’s hefty price reflects that. It’s made in the United States, and the samples you send in are checked at an EPA-certified lab.

You’ll get an emailed report within seven to ten days of when the lab receives your samples. Included in the price is shipping both ways (both the initial test kit sent to you and the cost to ship the samples to the lab). This test can be used for any kind of water, including household water, or surface water like a spring or pond. It includes testing for coliform and E.coli as well as a long list of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), 32 metals including lead, and much more.

Best for City Water: SimpleLab Tap Score Advanced City Water Test

Tap Score City Water Test

Tap Score's report is the easiest to read and understand, since the test results are presented in a graphical form (as well as a simple list, if you prefer that). The cost includes shipping both ways since you’ll be sending water into the company’s lab for testing. The report arrives via email within five days of receipt of your water samples.

Up to 108 substances are examined in the City Water kit, including a long list of VOCs, as well as 25 metals (including mercury, arsenic, lead, and chromium), byproducts of water disinfection, anions like boron and Fluoride, and nitrate fertilizers. It also covers the basics providing levels of alkalinity, calcium, pH, and hardness of water. It also provides a home test strip for chlorine since it dissolves easily and should be done at the water source immediately.

Tap Score also offers add-on tests for specific types of bacteria.

Best for Well Water: SimpleLab Tap Score Advanced Well Water Test

Tap Score Well Water Kit

The excellent report format carries over to Tap Score’s Well Water kit too. It tests for 111 substances, including all those that the City Water Test Kit includes like the basics, like calcium, Ph and water hardness, as well as anions, but includes testing for many more minerals and metals, and an expanded list of VOCs.

Importantly, it also includes coliform and E.coli tests which can make their way into well water. You can also add on any particular test you want from their list.

Best for Lead: Health Metric Heavy Metals Test Kit

Health Metric Heavy Metals Test Kit

Made in the United States and calibrated to EPA standards according to the manufacturer, this test kit offers testing for four common heavy metals including lead, for the same price that other kits only test for lead. Results are available in 15 minutes since this test is one you DIY, however it's important to read the directions very carefully to make sure you do it correctly.

You get a yes/no test for the lead if it’s over 15 parts per billion, which is the EPA’s limit for municipal water supplies, but it should be noted that there are no known safe levels of lead for children. The kit also includes two tests each for the mercury, copper, and iron.

Best for Water Hardness: SJ Wave Water Hardness Test Strips

This test comes with 150 test strips, so you can test water hardness over time, or in various locations—when traveling in an RV, for an aquarium or pool, and for home drinking or shower water too. After dipping the strip, check your results against a simple color-coded chart.

It’s inexpensive, so if you only need to know water hardness to prevent mineral buildup or ensure aquarium lines are clean, these are handy to have around for regular testing. However, it's good to be mindful that the strips can expire.

Best Radon: National Testing Laboratories Radon Test

National Testing Laboratories Radon Test

This test checks for the odorless, colorless gas that can sometimes be found in well water. With a promised turnaround of three to five business days, you won’t be waiting long for your results, and the price includes the cost of shipping it to you.

It can include return shipping if you request that option, so you can drop off your sample rather than wait at the post office to mail it. National Testing Laboratories are reputable and accredited.

Best Budget: Mosser Lee LabTech H2O OK Plus Complete Water Analysis Kit

H2O Drinking Water Analysis Kit

This simple kit DIY test-strip kit includes tests for chlorine, water hardness, pH, copper, nitrates, and more. Results are fast, but you’ll need to follow directions carefully—if you mess up, a second test for each contaminant is included in the package. But if you’re good, you could have two years’ worth of tests since they come in a resealable package for storage.

Final Verdict

If you want to test for the most contaminates possible, we suggest the Safe Home ULTIMATE Drinking Water Test Kit (view on Amazon), although it is more pricey. If you’re looking to test your well water, consider the SimpleLab Tap Score Advanced Well Water Test (view on MyTapScore.com). 

FAQs

What’s a Consumer Confidence Report?

If you pay a water bill (or your landlord does), you receive water from a municipal water supply. In the United States, that local water provider is required to meet strict limits for a list of hundreds of potential water contaminants. Those include, but are not limited to: Bacteria, heavy metals like lead and mercury, pesticides, and other chemicals that could come from factories, farms, or as runoff from roadways, or gas stations, etc. 

Where your water comes from (reservoir, ground water) as well as the exact levels of these chemicals are detailed for each water supplier in a Consumer Confidence Report, or CCR. These levels come from the water plant itself, and from testing locations in the water supply at various points. 

This information is free and publicly available at the US EPA’s CCR site where you can look up your local water supplier and get their name and contact information. Typically, most public utilities mail a CCR to each household once a year, but if you haven’t gotten one, and the link on the EPA’s site isn’t working, you can simply call the water utility and ask for a copy. Some will have an obvious link on their website. It should be free.

Where else can I learn about local water quality?

You can also check your local water supply via the Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database which applies the organization’s more stringent standards to 32 million state water records. 

Why should I test my water?

While getting a baseline on your local water via a CCR is useful, be aware that once water leaves that water authority, it can be further affected by the material making up the pipes, pipe sealants, or solders that your water travels through on its way to you. This is exactly what happened with the much-publicized stories about unhealthy water in Flint, MI and Newark, NJ in recent years. While the CCRs for those cities were good, the water was contaminated by the pipes it flowed through after it left the centralized location where it was tested. 

In the cases of Flint and Newark, lead made its way into water supplies en route to people’s taps, but other contaminants, like pesticides, herbicides, and industrial chemicals could also make their way into the water via leaky pipes, especially older pipes that might be corroded or cracked in places along the way to your house. 

If you have a well, you will have to test your water yourself, if you haven’t already—and it may be good idea to test it yearly, as droughts, heavy rains, and floods, shifting groundwater, earthquakes (even small ones), wildfire, and other events can change your water quality over time. 

Why does well water need to be tested?

If your home has a well, the US EPA does not test that water. You are responsible for testing that water yourself, and it’s recommended that you do so once a year, or any time you notice a difference in flavor, smell, or the color or turbidity (cloudiness) of your water. 

In addition, the EPA suggests that you test for radon, a colorless, odorless gas that comes from “the natural radioactive breakdown of uranium in the ground,” according to the EPA. Radon exposure can happen two ways: By breathing indoor air or drinking water contaminated with it. When it’s in the water from a well, it gets released inside your home when you turn on the kitchen tap, or take a shower. Over time, breathing radon can cause lung cancer—it’s linked to about 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Learn more about radon testing here

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Author Starre Vartan has been an environmental and science journalist for more than 15 years. She founded an award-winning eco-website and has written a book on living green.

View Article Sources
  1. "Basic Information About Lead in Drinking Water." Environmental Protection Agency.

  2. "Drinking Water Regulations and Contaminants." Environmental Protection Agency.

  3. "Basic Information About Radon in Drinking Water." Environmental Protection Agency.

  4. "Health Risks of Radon." Environmental Protection Agency.