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How to Measure TDS in Water at Home Without Meter?

Measure TDS in Water at Home

Have you been hearing a lot about TDS level in drinking water? You must have because that is what all the water purifier companies are talking about. That is one feature that even consumers are going after. But, what exactly is this “TDS”? How to measure TDS at home?

What is TDS Level?

TDS stands for “Total Dissolved Solids” and it is the measure of all inorganic and organic substances that are dissolved in water. The very common inorganic substances that are found in water are magnesium, calcium, and potassium. To a certain degree, the presence of these minerals in the water is actually healthy, but when the level becomes too much, it is a cause of worry.

Why Do You Need to Check TDS?

By measuring TDS Level in water, you will be able to make sure whether the water you are drinking is pure or impure. Do you know what is the maximum contamination level advised by the EPA Secondary Regulations? The maximum TDS level in water is 500mg/liter. Whether you get your water from the nearby lake or a tank, you must make sure that it meets this mentioned level. If you see that the level is exceeding 1000mg/liter, we suggest that you do not drink that water.

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TDS – Acceptability Levels

The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) decides the acceptability levels of TDS in water. According to BIS, the TDS up to 500 mg/litre is acceptable. The following table can make things clear.

TDS Levels (mg/litre)Reasons for Acceptability/Non-acceptance
Less than 50This level is unacceptable because water with such a low proportion of TDS does not contain the required minerals for healthy growth.
50 to 150It is an acceptable level because there are industrial and other types of pollution involved
150 to 250This level of TDS is the healthiest as far as cardiovascular health is concerned
250 to 350There are places in India where the ground level water has TDS levels in this range. It is also an acceptable level
350 to 500The BIS certifies water with TDS levels up to 500 as acceptable for human consumption
Above 500 and up to 1200Any level over 500 is not acceptable for human consumption. However, you can purify this water using RO and other kinds of water purifiers. It can result in the elimination of excess TDS thereby reducing it to below 500 and making it fit for consumption.
Above 1200Water having TDS levels over 1200 is utterly unfit for human consumption.

TDS – Palatability Levels

There is a difference between the acceptability and palatability levels of TDS in water. We shall now look at the palatability levels of TDS before proceeding with measuring the amounts of TDS in water.

TDS Levels mg/litrePalatability Quotient
Any level less than 300Excellent for drinking
More than 300 and up to 500These levels are acceptable
500 to 900As you can eliminate the excess TDS by using water purifiers, it is a fair level.
Above 900 to 1200High-quality water purifiers can reduce TDS levels in this range as well. However, water having TDS level in this range constitutes poor palatability.
Above 1200It is an unacceptable range.

How to Measure TDS levels in Water at Home?

You can measure TDS levels in water using three methods. Let us look at them in brief.

1. Using Digital TDS Meter (Easiest)

The Digital TDS Meter is the easiest of all the methods used to determine the TDS levels in water. The most significant advantage of the Digital TDS Meter is that you do not have to take any readings and do calculations using mathematical formulas. You get immediate results. Let us look at the simple procedure for the benefit of all.

Digital TDS Meter

Measure the temperature of the water sample

  • Switch on the meter
  • Press the ‘TEMP’ button. You get a reading in Degrees Celsius.
  • Return to the TDS mode by pressing the ‘TEMP’ button again.

Measure the TDS level

  • Remove the protective cap and switch on the meter.
  • Immerse the TDS meter into the water sample up to the maximum immersion level. Usually, it is 2 inches. There is a marking on the meter to indicate this level.
  • There might be some air bubbles in the water. Gently stir the meter to remove these air bubbles.
  • Wait for about 10 to 15 seconds for the reading to stabilize.
  • Press the ‘HOLD’ button and take it out from the water for viewing the reading.
  • Some meters display the X10 symbol. Under such circumstances, you have to multiply the reading by 10.
  • After using the TDS meter, shake off the excess water from the meter and replace the protective cap.

You have to take the following precautions while using the TDS meter.

  • The Digital TDS meter is not watertight. Hence, you should ensure not to dip the meter beyond the maximum immersion level.
  • Do not expose the meter to direct sunlight.

Where can you get these digital TDS meters?

These Digital TDS meters are available at medical stores and other retail establishments for a few hundred rupees. You can also order them online from online retail stores such as Amazon. These meters are available in various calibrations. TDS meters are having a measurement range of even 0 to 5000 ppm.

2. The Electrical Conductivity Meter Method

We have seen that TDS constitutes both organic and inorganic salts. The Electrical Conductivity Meter method is the most common one in use today. Follow these steps to calculate the level of TDS in water.

Electrical Conductivity Meter
Electrical Conductivity Meter

Apparatus required for measuring the TDS

  • A sterilized glass beaker free of dust
  • The water sample should be around 250C
  • An electrical conductivity meter

The electrical conductivity meter works by releasing an electrical current into the water thereby measuring its resistance.

Measure the conductivity

Ensure that you keep the beaker on a flat surface. Switch on the conductivity meter and insert the measuring lead into the water.

  • The reading will fluctuate a bit for a few seconds before stabilizing. You should note down the reading after it stabilizes.
  • This measurement is the purity of water. The reading is in µS (micro Siemens). The lower the value, the purer is the water. Water in its purest H2O form has 0 µS.

Enter the data into the following formula to arrive at the TDS level in the water.

The basic formula for arriving at the TDS level in water is as follows.

TDS (in mg/litre) = KE (Co-relation factor) X EC (Conductivity)

KE, the Co-relation factor depends on various factors such as the nature of the liquid and the temperature of the water. It also depends on the atmospheric conditions. The value of KE ranges between 0.55 and 0.8. The reading from the electrical conductivity meter is EC.

  • The temperature of the water sample and the current pressure conditions are essential for determining the KE factor.
  • Water at around 250C and atmospheric pressure results in a KE factor of approximately 0.67
  • Water with less than 500 mg/litre is acceptable as per BIS.
  • However, water with higher levels of TDS in the range up to 1200 can be subject to water purification using RO water purifiers to make it fit for consumption.

Using this formula, you can measure the TDS levels in almost all liquids. However, each liquid will have a specific KE.

3. Using Filter Paper and a Weighing Scale

Calculate TDS at home

This method of measuring TDS levels in water is a conventional one. You can do it easily at home. You need not buy the electrical conductivity apparatus. Let us look at this method in brief.

Apparatus Required

  • A clean and sterilized glass beaker
  • Water sample for measuring TDS levels
  • Filter paper
  • Evaporating dish
  • A sterile stirring stick
  • Pipette large enough to collect a minimum of 50 ml
  • A weighing scale

Step-1: Weigh the empty evaporating dish

Using the weighing scale, weigh the empty evaporating dish. Ensure that the dish is completely dry and free from any extraneous particulate matter. Note down the reading in mg.

Step-2: Stir the water sample

Stir the water sample vigorously to ensure that the particulate matters, if any, distribute evenly throughout the sample.

Step-3: Collect the water sample

Using the pipette, collect a minimum of 50 ml of water sample. Ensure that you stir the liquid continuously while collecting the sample. The particulate matter should not settle at the bottom. It will not give an accurate reading. In case you find it difficult to do so, ask your companion to keep stirring the liquid while you obtain the sample.

Step-5: Extract the filtrate

Pour the water sample through the filter paper into another beaker. Repeat the procedure at least three times to ensure the collection of the entire particulate matter in the filter paper.

Step-6: Weigh the evaporating dish with the filtrate

Transfer the filtrate to the evaporating dish and allow it to dry completely. Weigh the evaporating dish along with the filtrate and note down the reading in mg.

Step-7: Use this formula

TDS = [(A-B) X 1000]/ml sample
(A = weight of the evaporating dish and the filtrate and B= the weight of the evaporating dish alone.)

Note that you had used 50 ml of water sample. Hence, the ml sample value would be 50 in this case. The final value of TDS is mg/litre

Ideally, the TDS level should be below 500 for the water to be fit for human consumption. However, you can use RO and other water purifiers to eliminate TDS if the TDS levels are more than 500. Any value over 1200 mg/litre is unacceptable according to BIS.

Why should you remove excess TDS?

We have seen that TDS is not a single contaminant. It is a mixture of various salts such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium among others. These salts are necessary for our good health.

However, the water sources in our country contain other undesirable impurities like the human and industrial waste. There are instances of the water sources being contaminated by arsenic, mercury, and lead as well.

These impurities can pose a health hazard. Similarly, TDS levels more than 500 ppm can also have a detrimental effect on our overall health. Therefore, you need to remove the excess TDS from the water before consuming it.

How do you eliminate excessive TDS at home?

You can eliminate excess TDS using three methods. Let us discuss them, in brief, to understand them better.

1. Distillation process

This process involves boiling the water and allowing ten vapours to cool down. The resultant water is bereft of TDS as the salts remain in the boiling water solution. It is the easiest method to remove TDS.

2. Reverse Osmosis process

Reverse Osmosis (RO) is a popular method of eliminating TDS. Almost all the water purifiers available on the market use this technique. This process involves the passage of water through a semipermeable membrane containing microscopic pores that allow molecules smaller than 0.0001 microns to pass through.

The TDS molecules are comparatively larger, and hence they get trapped in the membrane. RO is one of the best methods as it ensures complete elimination of TDS from the water.

3. Deionization process

The deionization process involves water to pass through two electrodes (positive and negative). The ion-selective membranes enable the positive ions to separate from the water as they move towards the negative electrode. The resultant water is pure water.

However, it is better to use this procedure after subjecting the water to RO treatment. It helps to remove the non-ionic organic contaminants.

Over to You

Even though it is possible to measure TDS level at home without a meter, it is much easier to do with the help of a digital meter. By knowing TDS level, you can take steps to reduce the level to consume pure water.

Check this informative video on TDS in water.

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