How to Read pH Indicator Strips Correctly (Water, Saliva, Urine)

Last updated Nov 29, 2021

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

In today’s article, I’m going to teach you how to read pH indicator strips the right way for water, urine, saliva, and other liquid tests. I’ll also show you the most accurate pH test strips and which indicator strips to avoid.

Since we’re in the business of testing alkaline water here, there are certain guidelines to follow to ensure you get the best results. There’s more to running an accurate pH test than simply dipping an indicator strip into your liquid sample.

You may also want to test saliva, urine or other interesting liquids, which requires a slightly different approach than water.

Since I’m in a good mood today, I’m going to show you everything you need to know with a surprise at the end. But don’t skip to the surprise because that wouldn’t be any fun.

Are you ready? Let’s get started.

First Things First

The first and most important thing you want to do is invest in a set of reliable pH indicator strips.

Click here #ad or the image below to view the most accurate pH test strips for testing water:

Click here #ad or the image below for reliable strips specifically designed for saliva and urine:

Finally, click here #ad to check out a set of pre-cut strips if you don’t like the idea of tearing off your own strips:

All of these test strips are accurate and come with all the pieces you need to get an accurate pH reading.

The problem with other strips – and I’ve seen this happen time and time again – is they don’t give accurate pH readings for alkaline water.

People also use strips incorrectly, then claim alkaline water brands are acidic. I’ve seen instances where a person measured a pH of 5.5 with the same water brand a person measured a pH of over 9.5 using a calibrated meter.

How to Read pH Indicator Strips

Now that you know which pH indicator strips are the best ones to use, I’ll explain how to read them.

Here’s what you need:

  • pH color chart (preferably with a black line to get a clearer reading for water samples)
  • Capped sample tube
  • pH indicator strips
  • Nitrile gloves

All of those items (minus the gloves) come with the pH test kit that I listed first above.

Here are the steps to get an accurate reading and how to read the strips:

  1. Tear a 3″ piece off the test strip roll
  2. Place the 3″ piece inside the sample tube
  3. Fill the tube at least halfway with your sample
  4. Put the cap on the tube
  5. Shake the sample tube
  6. Wait one minute
  7. Put the tube in front of the black strip on the included pH chart
  8. Match the color of the sample to the color on the pH chart
  9. Record your reading

I recommend purchasing the first kit because it allows you to accurately test liquids in the widest pH range. Other indicator strips don’t give you the same range as the Hydrion strips.

pH Colors

When you read the strip, it’ll range somewhere between a purplish color and a reddish color. The purplish color represents an alkaline pH of 10 or above while a reddish color represents an extremely acidic pH.

Tip: If you’re unsure about the liquid you’re testing use gloves during the test to be safe.

Bonus Tips

Here are several tips to help ensure you get the most accurate reading:

  • Use nitrile gloves while you test because any moisture on your fingers could skew the test results
  • Make sure the sample tube is completely dry
  • Run the test in a well-lit room
  • Dipping the paper into the sample gives you less accurate results
  • Be sure to read the instructions included with each kit for best results
  • Check the label on the strips to make sure they’re the correct strips for the liquid you want to test. For example, the first pH strips I listed are the most accurate strips for testing water.
  • Check the expiration date

The Surprise

I’ve run a ton of pH tests in my life, and I’ll tell you upfront that pH indicator strips are the least accurate option.

You’re better off investing in a decent digital pH meter or pH tester drops.

Both of those options are less messy and give you more accurate results.

pH tester drops are about the same price as the strips.

A digital pH meter will last longer and give you the most accurate results.

If you take care of the meter by storing it properly, it should work indefinitely.

With the strips and tester drops, you end up rounding up/down the pH in .5 increments because it’s impossible to determine the exact pH just by looking at the result.

Digital pH meters measure pH all the way down to the hundredth and cut out the guesswork.

Video Guide

I couldn’t find a video to show you how to read pH indicator strips inside a test tube, but I did find a video showing you how to do it by dipping the strip into your sample:

The key to getting the most accurate result (if you must dip the paper) is to make sure you tear off a long enough piece.

Final Thoughts

Now you know how to read pH indicator strips using a pH chart.

There are two methods: the dip method and the test tube method.

I prefer the test tube method. Depending on what type of liquid you’re testing, you might find that the dip method works just fine.

I’m a science nerd, so I like to get the most accurate results. If you’re only looking for a ballpark number, feel free to cut corners a bit.

However, if you’re testing alkaline water, be sure to use the first strips I mentioned above, a digital pH meter or tester drops. If not, you could easily become disgruntled when the alkaline water you paid a pretty penny for shows an acidic pH.

Once you run a few tests, you’ll get the hang of it. It’s fun to track pH and know the exact pH of a liquid.

I hope my article taught you how to read pH indicator strips to get the most accurate results.