You can do a simple pH water test without a pH testing kit. A water pH test kit typically contains pH test strips, indicator drops, and a pH test meter.

how to test your ph level without strips

If you do not have a kit, purchase a fresh red cabbage and a bottle of distilled water to make a pH indicator. A water-soluble pigment flavin (an anthocyanin) in the cabbage gives it the red color.

With only the cost of the red cabbage and distilled water, this simple pH test will give quick results sufficient for many household needs. This test is not suitable for testing commercial products you intend to sell.

How to Test pH of Water Without a Kit Using a Red Cabbage

Cut up or grate a red cabbage and place it into a clear glass bowl. Boil about two cups of distilled water in a separate pot. Pour the boiled water over the cabbage. It should just cover the cabbage. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon and leave the cabbage in the water for about 30 minutes.


A chemical reaction in the cabbage causes the pigment molecules to change the color of the distilled water. Next, strain off the liquid which has become a purplish red color. This liquid is now your pH indicator solution.

Pour a small amount of the water you are testing into a separate clear plastic or glass container. Put a few drops of your indicator solution into the water you are testing.


The watercolor will change and give you either an acidic (red or pink), a neutral (purple), or a basic alkaline (greenish-yellow, blue, or bluish-green) color measurement. Match the color of your water against a color chart to determine the approximate numerical value on the pH scale.

The numbers on the pH scale range from 0 to 14. Pure water has a pH neutral level of 7. Numbers lower than 7 indicate an acidic level, and numbers higher than 7 show a basic or alkaline level.

Try experimenting with other vegetables and fruits to make pH indicators such as red onion, blueberries, plums, turmeric, apple or grape skins. You may also use red rose petals.

You can also make your own pH testing strips from the cabbage juice indicator. Use filter paper such as coffee filters, or acid-free art paper. Immerse the paper into the cabbage juice indicator you have made. Soak the paper until thoroughly wet. Remove the paper and allow it to dry in a neutral environment free of acids or alkaline condensation.

After it has thoroughly dried, cut the paper into strips. Use a cotton swab to smear a sample of the water you want to test on the test strip. Then compare the color of the strip to the pH color chart.

More About Testing Strips

Litmus paper strips you can buy will only give an acidic or alkaline response. Litmus paper comes in red and blue. Red litmus paper turns blue if your water is alkaline or base. Blue litmus paper turns red if your water is acidic. If the water is pure or neutral, the color of the litmus paper will not change.

ph testing strips

Using pH testing strips such as these water pH test strips from Med Lab is more accurate than litmus paper. A pH testing strip will return a more accurate color result that defines how acidic or alkaline a substance is. Place the pH testing strip in a plastic or glass tube. Pour enough of the water you are testing to cover the pH test strip. After a few seconds pull out the test strip and match the colors to the pH color chart.

Testing strips need to be kept dry at room temperature. The expiration date of the strips is shown on the accompanying color chart, which is usually three to six weeks.

The Most Accurate Way to Test Water pH

A digital pH meter is the most precise way to test water pH. Testing with a meter reduces the chance of an error by the person testing. My goto meter is the pH Meter from Dr. Meter.

Because people see colors differently, the person may not choose the correct color. A meter also removes the possibility of contamination by mishandling the test strips, using outdated strips, or storage issues of the strips that can affect the accuracy of the reading. Ph-Meter-digital.

A pH meter does not rely on color changes but measures the total amount of hydrogen-ion (acid) in water by dipping a glass electrode into the water. It displays the numerical pH value.


To be sure your reading will be correct, verify the accuracy of the meter with an established pH substance before you perform the test. After verifying the meter, rinse the probe tip with double deionized water, and dry with a clean tissue or cloth before using it to test your water.

After pouring your test water into a small clean container, let it sit for a few minutes to stabilize the temperature. Because temperature affects the pH, you will need to determine the water temperature with a thermometer.

This needs to match the default temperature of the meter, so input the water temperature into the meter. Dip the probe into the water sample so that it completely covers the tip of the probe. Wait for the meter reading to stabilize.

Pure water will rate close to 7. Acid water will be less than 7. Basic or alkaline water will be more than 7.

How Does Water Become Acidic or Alkaline?

Water with a neutral pH level of close to 7 has better taste, is the most healthy for your body and your household pipes. Acid rain, pesticide contamination, the type of minerals in rocks of the geological area, and metal leaching from pipes affect the pH of water.

Depending on the level, alkaline water may have a soda or bitter taste and can cause pipe corrosion.

Water pH levels of 9 or above may corrode copper, aluminum, zinc, iron, and brass. You may find deposits on your dishes and have difficulty lathering soap from hard alkaline water.

Acidic water has a metallic or sour taste. If the pH measurement of your water is less than 6.5, it may have toxic levels of metals like manganese and iron. Pipe breakdown can occur from acidic water and leach metals from your pipes. You may notice bluish stains on your laundry and in your sink from this soft water.

How Do You Neutralize Water pH?

Acidic substances are used to neutralize base alkaline water, and base alkaline substances are used to neutralize acidic water.

Here are three ways to neutralize the pH condition of water in your home:

• A filter may be placed at the point where the water enters your home. The substance used to neutralize alkaline water is calcium carbonate which is the carbonic salt of calcium. A synthetic magnesium oxide substance neutralizes acidic water.

• An injection system can be installed where the water enters your home. Soda ash can be injected to neutralize acidic water. Acetic acid such as what is found in vinegar, citric acid or alum, is used to neutralize high alkaline levels of water. Injection systems require more maintenance than a filtering system.

• A water distillation system is effective to neutralize the acidic pH of drinking water. The distiller heats and eliminates the acidic particles and forms steam that is free from acid.

• Electrolysis is used in a water ionizer system. It separates the alkaline and the acidic parts of water. The alkaline part of the water is used for drinking, while the acidic water can be used for washing and cleaning. Ionizers are more expensive than neutralizing filters and neutralizing solutions.

All Biological Organisms Have a pH Condition

This includes your body and the saliva in your mouth. The health of your teeth and gums can be affected by your pH saliva.

A pH level of 5.5 or less can cause the production of unhealthy bacteria in your mouth and result in tooth decay. The same basic principle is true for your entire body, so it makes sense that you drink water that is as close to pure as possible.

Take sips of pure water when eating acidic foods to rinse the acid from your mouth. Rinse your mouth with soda water, and then rinse your mouth with pure water.