Hands-on Review of the AquaScreen Drinking Water Test Kit
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Do you want a quick and easy way to find out what might be lurking in your drinking water?
Home water test kits, though not as accurate as testing done in a professional lab, are good for getting a general idea of your water quality.
In January 2020, Silver Lake Research Corporation, a diagnostics company in California, released a new at home drinking water test kit called AquaScreen.
You can use it on municipal tap water, well water, or any other water source you drink from. And all but one of the eight tests take ten minutes or less to do.
It's touted as being the most sensitive and accurate home test kit available, although I have no way of verifying that.
But, I did have a chance to try it out, and overall I was impressed by the quality of this product.
Just want to know how much it costs?
Otherwise, scroll down to learn all the details about this test kit and my experience with using it in my home.
What's in the AquaScreen test kit
The kit contains 8 tests, including:
- pesticides (specifically atrazine and simazine)
- bacteria (coliform)
- total hardness
- total chlorine
- total nitrate + nitrite
You also get pipettes and vials, plus detailed instructions for conducting the tests and reading the results.
They give you two of each test, so if you mess up the first time, you'll get a second chance.
Or, you can run the tests twice if you'd like to verify the results.
Unopened test packets can be saved for later, but that doesn't include the lead and pesticide tests. You'll have to use them immediately.
What else you will need
Timing is important when you're doing the tests, so you'll want to have a clock with a second hand or a digital timer.
You'll also need a clean small glass or cup to hold your water sample.
And, by the way, if you're testing water from the tap in your house, it's best to remove the aerator before running the water. That's because if the aerator has collected some gunk, it could contaminate your sample. So you might need to use water from a bathroom sink since many kitchen faucets these days don't have removable aerators.
Finally, you need to have the ability to distinguish slight variations in color in order to read some of the test results. The colors are clearest in natural light, so it's a good idea to stand next to a window when you're doing it.
My experience using each of the tests
Disclaimer: I'm not a scientist, and these tests were not conducted in a controlled environment. I followed the instructions to the best of my ability, but the results may be flawed due to human error.
I ran the tests in my home, using water from the bathroom sink, and I wrote down the results.
Then I compared the results with those of a professional test that had been done on our water last year. Our water comes from a 185 foot deep drilled well, so it's unlikely that anything has changed since then.
I also compared the results with other home test kits that I had previously tried out. You can read about those here: Can You Trust Home Water Test Kits? Here’s What I Found.
So, here's how each of the tests went:
Lead and pesticide test
The lead and pesticide test comes in its own sealed packet.
For this test, you add seven drops of your water to the test vial and swirl it around for a minute. That mixes in the detection material, which is already in the bottom of the vial.
Then you put the lead strip and pesticide strip into the solution and let them sit there for ten minutes before reading the results.
The way you read the results is by comparing the two small lines that appear on the strip. If the bottom line is darker than the top line, or if the top line doesn't show up at all, it's negative. If the top line is darker than the bottom, or if they're both the same, then it's positive.
It was a bit hard for me to tell, but they both appeared to be negative. The lines weren't solid the whole way across, which made it a little tricky. I would prefer something easier to read, where the change is more obvious.
The professional didn't test for pesticides, so I can't make a comparison there.
This bacteria test is identical to every other home bacteria test I've tried.
You put water straight from the tap into the prepared vial, shake, and then let it sit undisturbed for 48 hours in a warm place.
You're supposed to keep the sample at a temperature of 70 to 90 degrees. My house is never that warm at this time of year, so I put it under a heat lamp, using a 60 watt light bulb. That kept it within the required temperature range.
The solution starts out purple. If it's still purple after 48 hours, that means no bacteria was detected. If it turns yellow, though, that means bacteria is present.
If you get a positive reading, you might want to repeat the test after disinfecting your faucet. It's possible that the bacteria were lurking in your faucet, not your water supply.
My sample stayed purple, indicating no bacteria in my water. That agrees with the professional test.
A word of caution: Be careful when adding water to the vial. The line and numbers on the side of the vial are nearly invisible, so it's easy to overfill it. I messed up on my first try and had to start over again with a fresh test. Use a very slow stream of water - basically a fast drip - to avoid overfilling.
Nitrate and nitrite test
Here we have two test pads on one test strip. One pad is for nitrite, and the other is for total nitrate + nitrite.
It's a simple test. You just dip the strip in your water sample for a couple of seconds, then wait one minute before reading.
To read, you compare the colors of the pads with the results chart in the instructions.
My results were 0 for nitrite and 0.5 for total nitrate + nitrite.
The professional test gave my water <0.01 mg/L for nitrite, so that's about the same. It didn't test total nitrate + nitrite, but it did test nitrate at <1.0 mg/L.
Recommended Reading: Nitrates and Nitrites in Drinking Water Groundwater and Surface Waters (The Water Research Center)
pH, total hardness, and total chlorine test
This 3-in-1 test strip is also easy to do. Just dip in water, wait 15 seconds, and compare the pad colors to the results chart.
My test showed 0 for chlorine, which is correct since I'm on well water, and we don't disinfect it. And that matches the professional test.
For pH, the result was somewhere between 7.5 and 8. (It's hard to tell the difference between those shades of orange on the chart.) The professional test said our water was 8.04, so that's about the same.
This falls in the EPA recommended range of 6.5 - 8.5, so no problem there.
The hardness reading was also difficult to pinpoint because the colors on the chart are so close. It was between 120 and 250 ppm. That's quite a bit higher than the professional test result, which put our hardness at 85 ppm.
So, the AquaScreen test would lead me to believe that our water is hard to very hard, while the professional reading puts it in the moderately hard zone.
You should know that hardness is considered a secondary drinking water standard by the EPA. It's not considered a risk to human health, but can cause problems like mineral buildup on appliances and difficulty getting laundry clean.
The AquaScreen instructions state that the recommended maximum level for hardness is 50 ppm, but that's not an EPA standard. So I have to ask: Who is making this recommendation? Water softener companies?
At any rate, it's useful to know your water hardness, but this might not be the best test to use to determine it.
Recommended Reading: Hardness of Water (USGS Water Science School)
Where to buy AquaScreen test kits
If you're an Amazon shopper, you can check the price and availability here.
You can also purchase AquaScreen kits directly from the AquaScreen website. If you'd like to test your water on a regular basis, you can sign up for a monthly subscription and receive a 25% discount.
AquaScreen pool and spa test
Need to test your pool or spa for bacteria?
AquaScreen now has a rapid bacteria test that gives you almost instant results. Unlike the drinking water bacteria test, this one uses a strip that you can read after just 10 minutes.
It's available in a 2-pack or 10-pack from the AquaScreen website, and you can also sign up for a monthly subscription.
Or, check it out at Amazon.
Please note that this tests only for bacteria.
Verdict: Good for a general idea of your water quality
If you have no idea of the quality of your drinking water, the AquaScreen test kit is a great place to start. It's also good for occasional monitoring if you've already had your water tested by a professional.
First of all, it seems to give accurate results, with perhaps the exception of hardness.
Plus, it comes with everything you need, including detailed instructions that are easy to follow. And since it comes with two of each test, you don't have to worry about making a mistake and wasting your money. If your first attempt fails, you have a backup.
I would suggest, though, that if any of the tests reveal a possible problem, you get a professional lab test done to verify your results. You want to make sure you know exactly what's in your water before investing in an expensive water filtration system.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a free AquaScreen test kit in return for my honest review. I have not - nor will I - receive monetary compensation from AquaScreen or Silver Lake Research Corporation for this review. All opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the manufacturer and/or its affiliates, in any way.