Good health hinges on the correct pH levels of the foods and water we consume. Knowing our drink’s pH allows us to adjust our water and make it safer.
I know you love testing water pH using a digital device. With a few kitchen items and natural curiosity, you can test any solution’s pH with these simple methods I will share “How to Test pH of Water Without a Kit” with you.
What You Need to Test Water pH without Using a Kit
Before I share with you how you can test the water pH without relying on a testing kit, let us go through some essential things for this activity.
- Red Cabbage
It may come as a surprise that red cabbage is an excellent material for making a pH testing solution. This vegetable contains anthocyanins, water-soluble pigments that change color when mixed with an alkaline or acidic solution.
In a neutral solution, anthocyanins retain their bluish to a purplish color. The anthocyanin solution takes on a dark purple to bluish-green hue when mixed into an alkaline solution. Try mixing this pigment with an acidic solution, and it will turn reddish.
Given that anthocyanins react to the hydrogen or carboxyl ions in a solution, you can use almost any other food item rich in this substance.
Anthocyanin-rich foods include acai berry, blackcurrant, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries, plums, black beans, purple corn, and concord grapes. You can also get anthocyanins from violet and rose petals or red apple peels.
- Distilled Water
Distilled or purified water is free of minerals that can alter its pH, having the ideal pH level of 7.0. Unfortunately, as soon as distilled water interacts with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, its pH drops to around 5.8.
It is still better than tap water, where the pH level in the US can be 4.3 to 5.3. However, the Water Systems Council says that tap water should have a pH of 6.5 to 8.5.
- Filter Paper, pH Scale Color Chart, and Litmus Paper Strips
You will also need filter paper to turn into pH test strips. An example of this is the filter paper you use in your drip or pour-over coffee maker. The paper’s porous nature absorbs the pH test solution, getting it ready for a day of testing.
A pH color chart will always come in handy for interpreting the color changes in the solution. Each shade has an approximate pH value.
Litmus paper is another material you may want to prepare for testing water pH without a kit.
Step-by-Step Instructions on How You Can Test Water pH a Red Cabbage Testing Solution
You have two ways to prepare the testing solution: the boil-and-steep method and the blender technique.
Step 1. Boil distilled water.
Pour two to three cups of pure distilled water into a pot or saucepan and place it on your stovetop. Turn on the stove to medium heat to bring the water to a gentle boil.
The amount of water you use depends on how much red cabbage you will prepare. In general, the water should be enough to cover the red cabbage in a glass bowl.
Pro Tip: Cover the pot when boiling water to reduce the entry of carbon dioxide into the distilled water and lower its pH.
Step 2. Prepare your red cabbage.
Wash the red cabbage with pure distilled water to remove contaminants. Cut it up or use a mandolin to shred it to bits. Place the red cabbage in a glass bowl and cover it with a plastic cling wrap while waiting for the water to boil.
Pro Tip: You can use blackberries, raspberries, blackcurrant, acai berries, black beans, or cherries instead of red cabbage if you want.
Step 3. Create a red cabbage-based pH testing solution.
Get your cut or shredded red cabbage and slowly pour the boiled distilled water over the cabbage, ensuring it covers the cabbage. Leave the cabbage for about 30 minutes. Ensure to stir it with a wooden spatula or spoon occasionally.
After 30 minutes, strain the red cabbage and reserve the reddish-purple liquid, which will serve as your red cabbage pH testing solution.
Pro Tip: You can process the red cabbage and distilled water in a blender without boiling and steeping to create a pH testing solution.
Step 4. Test your water using the red cabbage pH testing solution.
Pour a tablespoon or two of the water you want to test in a small transparent glass or plastic dish or bowl. Use a medicine dropper or a small syringe to draw from your prepared red cabbage pH testing solution.
Add two to three drops of the pH testing solution into your water sample and watch it change color.
Step 5. Interpret the results.
Get a pH Indicator Color Chart and compare your pH-tested water sample’s color to the ones on the chart.
A bluish color indicates a neutral pH of about 7.0. If the solution has a reddish color, it is acidic. A purplish color shows an alkaline solution.
Here is a kiddie chemistry experiment from Yucky Science showing you the different colors you get when using the red cabbage pH testing solution on various household items.
How to Make Your Red Cabbage pH Test Strips
If you intend to test your water or any liquid solution frequently, I strongly recommend making red cabbage pH test strips. These small pieces of red cabbage solution-infused paper strips are similar to your litmus paper pH test strips.
Step 1. Prepare your red cabbage pH testing solution.
Cut up your red cabbage and boil distilled water. Immerse the red cabbage in the boiled water and let it sit for half an hour before straining the vegetable bits.
Alternatively, you can place the chopped red cabbage in your blender. Add about two cups of distilled water and blend to a fine juice. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve to get only the liquid.
Pro Tip: You can microwave the red cabbage with a small amount of distilled water until you see steam rising.
Step 2. Prepare the test strips.
Get a filter paper or porous art paper, similar to parchment. However, ensure it is neutral or acid-free.
Pour the red cabbage pH testing solution into a large, shallow dish. Soak your filter paper for about ten minutes.
Dry the red cabbage pH testing solution-immersed filter paper in an environment free of alkaline or acid condensation. Cut the filter paper into strips once completely dry.
Step 3. Test any solution using the red cabbage pH test strips.
Draw about one to two mL of your water sample using a medicine dropper or a small syringe. Alternatively, you can dip a cotton bud in your water sample.
Apply the water sample over a section of the red cabbage pH test strip. Watch how the test strip changes its color. Compare the color to a pH indicator color chart and interpret the results.
I found a helpful video from Crazy Cute Experiments about how you can make your red cabbage pH test strip.
How to Test Water pH Using Litmus Paper
For your information, you can test the water pH without a kit. All you need is litmus paper. Here are the steps.
Step 1. Determine what kind of litmus paper you have.
Litmus paper strips come in two colors: pale red and light blue. While you can use either, you must understand that the strips can show different results.
For example, dipping a red litmus paper in an acidic solution will not produce any color change. The same is true when adding an alkaline solution to a blue litmus paper strip. The color does not change.
Step 2. Test your water sample.
There are two ways you can test your water sample’s pH. The first method is to dip the litmus paper strip into your water sample, while the second is dropping or swabbing the water sample onto the litmus paper.
Water Analysis & Solutions has a helpful video on how you can test your water sample’s pH using litmus paper.
Step 3. Interpret the results.
Look at the color change in the litmus paper. If the blue litmus paper turns red, your water sample is acidic. The opposite is true when using a red litmus paper. You will notice the test strip turn blue in an alkaline water sample.
If you want a more accurate pH interpretation, you can use a pH indicator color chart to analyze the test strip’s color.
Learning how to test pH of water without a kit is easy. You can use almost any other anthocyanin-rich food in your kitchen and turn it into a pH tester.
While the methods I shared with you here do not provide accurate pH readings, you will feel more confident knowing whether your drinking water is neutral, acidic, or alkaline.
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