10 Common Problems a Water Test Can Detect in Tap Water
If you’re like most homeowners, you don’t think much about what could be lurking in your drinking water. After all, the US is said to have some of the cleanest tap water on earth. Plus, your water seems crystal-clear and refreshing in your drinking glass. So why even bother?
The shocking reality is that, even though your water may appear pure and pristine like water flowing gracefully from the heart of the Ouachita Mountains, it could be tainted with potentially toxic contaminants you cannot see, taste or smell. This is where a water test comes in.
A water test can detect various problems potentially affecting your drinking water quality. Perhaps your water smells like rotten eggs, sewage, or chlorine. Or maybe or you’ve noticed spots, stains, or buildup around your sinks, toilets, or showerheads. Whatever the case, a water test can help you understand what may be causing any specific concerns related to your water quality.
Continue reading to discover what problems a water test can disclose about your drinking water (if any) and several effective treatment solutions you can implement for cleaner, safer, better-tasting water.
In-Home Water Testing
A home water testing kit lets you test your drinking water at home and determine its contents in as little as five minutes or less, depending on the type and brand. The testing categories may differ from one brand or type to the next, but you’ll usually receive results related to the following water quality attributes.
1. High Chlorine Content
Most water treatment facilities use chlorine to disinfect water, thanks to the chemical’s wide-scale availability, low cost, ease of use, and proficiency at destroying germs. The high toxicity of chlorine makes it a powerful chemical that can destroy bacteria, microbes, and pathogens that can leach into your water supply. By killing these disease-causing germs, the chemical helps to make water safe to drink.
While chlorine is typically safe, high chlorine levels can affect the taste and smell of water, especially if you live close to a local treatment facility. It can also react with any organic compounds already present in the water, creating harmful disinfection byproducts. Studies show that some of these chlorine byproducts can cause stillbirths, congenital disabilities, an increased risk of kidney and liver cancer, and issues with the central nervous system, heart, kidneys, and liver.
Thankfully, a water test can determine the chlorine level in your water, so you can take steps to reduce it if necessary.
2. Water Hardness
Another problem a water test can reveal about drinking water is the high hardness level. Water hardness is the amount of dissolved calcium and magnesium in the water. High concentrations of these hardness minerals can leave white, chalky scum around your pipes, faucets, sinks, showerheads, and toilets. And yes, it looks as nasty as it sounds.
Even if you use the best-quality soaps and shampoos available, it takes longer to create a good lather with hard water. Instead of making a foamy lather, it leaves soap scum on your skin, in your hair, and on bathroom walls and shower doors. Not only that, hard water can leave streaks on dishes and impact your plumbing and the efficiency and longevity of your water heater and water-using appliances.
3. Water Acidity or Alkalinity
In-home water testing can help you determine your water’s pH level (a measure of how acidic or basic the water is). If the pH level is below seven, that means it is acidic. In this case, your water “eats away” at your plumbing as it travels to your faucets, leaving your copper pipes and plumbing fixtures thin and prone to pinhole leaks. As the acidic water travels, it brings along the metallic strips leached from your pipes. And once the water flow stops or evaporates, it deposits the materials, leaving blue-green or rust stains on your plumbing fixtures, faucets, drains, bathtubs, and sinks. Unfortunately, the problem multiplies for homes with galvanized steel or cast-iron pipes and “sensitive” surfaces. Acidic water may also taste metallic, somewhat like the water coming out of the water hose when you were a kid.
Conversely, water with a pH level of more than seven is considered basic (or alkaline). As a result, the water carries loads of minerals and impurities and offloads them as it travels through plumbing. This often leads to scale buildup on and inside your pipes and water-using appliances, restricting the water’s flow into your home and said appliances.
The hard-water-like buildup associated with alkaline water can create more extensive problems for your home’s plumbing and water-using appliances. It will leave whitish scaly deposits on your dishes, utensils, tubs, and appliances and can clog your pipes. Over time, your pipes may lose pressure, devices (like electric water heaters) may become less efficient and start to burn out, and showerheads can become clogged with scaley residue. Beyond that, high pH levels can give the water a bitter taste, especially when you make your morning coffee. It can also make it hard to get a lather out of soaps and detergents.
4. Excess Iron Content
Well users can benefit significantly from testing for iron. While there is no evidence that consuming iron-contaminated water is harmful to your health, it can wreak havoc in your household. Excess iron content in your drinking water gives the water a metallic taste and odor and can leave nasty and unpleasant stains on laundry, dishes, plumbing fixtures, and surfaces. The iron may also foster the growth of iron bacteria and other types of bacteria. So, if you notice any dark-colored reddish, brown, or yellow slime in your sinks, bathtub, or toilet tank, there might be iron bacteria present in your water. This slime can also clog pipes and plumbing fixtures and make your drains smelly.
5. Hydrogen Sulfide
If you notice that your drinking water smells like rotten eggs, you might mistake it for something else, like a dead insect or animal in your water. However, water can sometimes accumulate a chemical gas called hydrogen sulfide, which creates a horrible rotten egg odor as it is released. This gas occurs primarily in well water and groundwater. Usually, it is produced by certain “sulfur bacteria,” chemical reactions inside water heaters or with soil and rock, pollution, or decay. If you have well water, it is a good idea to test for hydrogen sulfide.
6. High/Low TDS Level
TDS, short for Total Dissolved Solids, is a measure of the combined total of organic and inorganic substances dissolved in water. It includes anything present in the water other than the pure H2O molecules.
A high TDS level in your water means it is unfit for consumption and can cause various diseases and illnesses, like nausea, lung irritation, rashes, vomiting, dizziness, etc. Drinking water with an elevated TDS amount for more extended periods will expose the body to various chemicals and toxins. It may also cause chronic health conditions like cancer, liver, kidney failures, nervous system disorders, weaken immunity, and cause congenital disabilities in the newborn.
Several studies suggest that consuming water with low TDS may cause minerals to leach from healthy tissues in the body.
Advanced Laboratory Water Testing
While home water testing can detect various problems possibly affecting your drinking water, advanced laboratory testing can test for more serious issues. Generally, this type of testing requires you to take a water sample from your tap and send it to a laboratory for analysis.
Depending on the laboratory, the test(s) you wish to perform, and various other factors, the results may come back within a few business days to a week or two. This type of testing can reveal information about the following issues and other possible contaminants not necessarily in your drinking water, such as:
7. Lead Contamination
Lead became the preferred material for water pipes centuries ago, thanks to its malleability. But today, it is widely known as a notoriously dangerous material that doesn’t belong anywhere in our homes – and especially not in our drinking water.
Lead can sneak into your home’s drinking water supply through old pipes, plumbing, and fixtures, so you want to test your water at the point of use. That’s because you cannot see, taste, or smell lead in water. A water test is the only way to detect it.
Once exposed, the metal can significantly affect childhood health and development. Almost any level of exposure to this toxic hazard can inhibit the development of children’s physical and mental abilities. Common symptoms may include slow growth, hyperactivity, hearing loss, tiredness, and head and stomach aches, to name a few.
8. High Copper Content
Copper is naturally present in the earth’s crust and the air, usually in massive amounts. Because of that, high levels of the mineral may leach into some water sources through various activities, such as farming, mining, manufacturing, municipal or industrial wastewater releases, and more, then enter private wells. The mineral can also leach from old copper pipes and fixtures into your home’s water supply. Typically, copper can leave a green-blue stain on taps, pipes, hand basins, showers or toilets, and introduce a metallic or unpleasant bitter taste in drinking water. However, the best way to be sure if copper is the culprit is to conduct a water test.
Arsenic is one of the most dangerous contaminants found in Americans’ water supply and one you want to avoid at all costs. Because arsenic is odorless and tasteless, it can go undetected without a water test. Once ingested over time (even in small amounts), it can plague the human body with dreadful symptoms such as stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, thickening and discoloration of the skin, numbness in the hands and feet, blindness, and partial paralysis. Long-term exposure to this dangerous chemical can have more chronic symptoms and can even lead to death.
10. Bacteria Presence
A water test can also detect the presence of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes potentially in your drinking water. In addition to sulfur and iron bacteria, total coliform bacteria are sometimes present in drinking water supplies. If your drinking water contains any concentration of coliform bacteria, chances are disease-causing ones, like fecal coliform or E. coli, may also be present. Issues related to these varieties of bacteria include gastrointestinal distress, illness, vomiting, and nausea.
So, you’ve tested your drinking water. Now what?
First off, we applaud you for taking the first step to achieving clean, contaminant-free drinking water for you and your family: testing your water. Now, based on the findings from the water test, you’ll need to decide on a treatment solution that will best suit your needs if it’s required.
Springwell provides excellent options that can work for different budgets and users, such as paying the total purchase price of the equipment up front or financing water filtration systems and softeners through affordable monthly payments.
We also have options for those who require whole-house protection or filtration at specific taps in their households and various add-ons and combo units for more efficient, superior water filtration.
Here are some of the components that may form part of or your entire treatment solution:
Water Softeners and Conditioners
A few common symptoms can indicate the presence of hard water: limescale buildup in pipes, water heaters, and water-using appliances, chalky white films on dishes, mineral scale buildup on water faucets and showerheads, and dry hair and skin, to name a few. Thankfully, installing a water softener or conditioner helps address these and other hardness issues.
Traditional water softeners soften water through a process called “ion exchange,” which involves replacing the hardness ions in the water with more desirable sodium or potassium ions. However, this softening technique means the system will require ongoing maintenance, as users must purchase large bags of salt to refill the brine tank from time to time. But more recently, salt-free water conditioners have gained much popularity as an eco-friendly and maintenance-free alternative.
Salt-free systems, including the Springwell FutureSoft FS1 Salt-Free Water Softener, use a physical process called Template-Assisted Crystallization (TAC) to condition water. Unlike ion exchange, TAC doesn’t use salt. Instead, it converts the dissolved hardness minerals into tiny calcite crystals that remain suspended in the water. The TAC process essentially changes the minerals’ chemical structure. That way, they won’t stick to surfaces and cause scale buildup in pipes and appliances.
Reverse Osmosis (RO) Water Filtration Systems
Reverse osmosis, or RO for short, is a process that uses intense water pressure to force the source water through a semipermeable membrane that leaves the solid contaminants behind on one side while allowing the water molecules to pass on the other side. Think of a screen door. It allows air molecules to pass through but not pests or anything larger than the holes in the screen door. In the same way, the RO membrane has tiny pores that allow the source water to pass through it while “screening” objects that are too big to pass through.
Under-counter RO filtration systems like the Springwell SWRO Reverse Osmosis Water Filter can remove up to 99% of impurities and contaminants like lead, arsenic, iron, fluoride, chlorine, and other pollutants from drinking water. As a result, you can get fresh, filtered water directly from your kitchen sink while eliminating the hassle, waste, and exorbitant cost of alternatives like single-use plastic bottles.
Whole House Water Filtration Systems
As “whole house” suggests, these systems provide water filtration for the entire home. Whole house systems treat water at the point of entry, allowing you to enjoy clean filtered water from every tap in your home.
Point-of-entry systems like the Springwell CF1 Whole House Filtration System eliminate contaminants, including chlorine, iron, hydrogen sulfide, pesticides, herbicides, haloacetic acids, and many more. For even more thorough filtration, you can add our Springwell UV Water Purification System to destroy 99.99% of harmful pathogens, viruses, and bacteria and protect your home against contaminated water.
With this unique and powerful addition, you’ll have cleaner, better-tasting water flowing throughout your home available for washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning, bathing, and other uses.
Learn More About Your Drinking Water Quality
Considering how vital water is to our health and daily needs, it’s crucial to know what’s in it and how factors like hardness, pH, and TDS affect its quality. This information can save you and your family from severe illnesses, household issues, problems with your water heater and appliances, etc.
By performing an in-home water test or sending a water sample for comprehensive laboratory analysis, you can have a complete understanding of your home’s water supply. With this information in hand, you can work directly with a professional to help you identify the most suitable treatment options for your home. Undoubtedly, this is the best way to ensure that you have cleaner, safer, great-tasting water on tap and at the ready for your entire family.
Purchase a water test kit from our website today!
Testing your water is a crucial part of ensuring it is suitable for drinking and various household uses. A water test can detect potential problems in drinking water, such as high iron content, bacteria presence, hydrogen sulfide, lead contamination, etc. Based on the test results, you can decide on a water filtration system that best addresses the problems and meets your specific needs.
Springwell offers a range of water filtration options, including water softeners and conditioners, reverse osmosis systems, whole house water filtration systems, and combo filtration units. Contact us today if you need help finding the best solution for your budget and specific needs.