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How to Test for Chlorine in Water

By: Craig Smith
Published on:
How to Test for Chlorine in Water

Chances are if you have city water supplying your home, it has been treated with some chemical to help sanitize it before it comes into your home. 

In most cases that water sanitizing substance will be chlorine.

Although chlorine does a great job killing worrisome microorganisms in water, too much of it can also cause some health concerns for you and your family. 

That’s why I like to see those who have homes supplied by municipal water check for the chlorine level in their water.

That’s what I would like to discuss with you here. I am very familiar with how to test for chlorine in water because I did this on almost a daily basis in my 26-years handling swimming pool water chemistry issues.      

Why is Chlorine Added to Drinking Water?

chlorine

As was mentioned, chlorine is used as a sanitizer in many water treatment plants across America. That’s because it reacts very strongly with many concerning pathogens in city water and renders them ineffective when it comes to harming your body.

Among the different waterborne pathogens that chlorine kills are viruses, bacteria, and other microbes. Among these are Legionnaires’ disease, typhoid, norovirus, salmonella, dysentery, cholera, E coli, and more.  

A complete list of how effective chlorine is against some of the most worrisome pathogens commonly found in municipal water supplies was put out by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and can be viewed here.

The proposal to first use chlorine as a water sanitizer dates all the way back to the late 1800s but its first widespread use in a municipal water system happened in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1908.

Once the practice caught on with other city water supplies, it helped to nearly eradicate such yearly killers in America as typhoid, cholera, hepatitis, and dysentery.      

Should You Test Your Water for Chlorine?

If your home is supplied by city water, then you should call your local water treatment facility and ask them if they use chlorine to help treat the water that passes through it. 

If the answer is yes, then I would absolutely recommend that you get the level of chlorine in your drinking water checked.

At the same time that you determine your local water supplier uses chlorine as a disinfectant, ask them if they can provide you with a printout of their most recent water test results or if this information can be accessed online. It should include a chlorine level reading.   

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), they have set the safe level of combined chlorine in drinking water at 4 milligrams per liter or expressed in a more familiar way, 4 parts per million (ppm).

It’s a figure that you should be keenly aware of when you decide to test your water to determine the amount of chlorine that exists in it.     

How to Test Water for Chlorine?

Fortunately, chlorine is used as a sanitizer for so many purposes that it’s easy to find ways to do chlorine testing.

That includes many good test kits being available online and limited type chlorine test strips that test for combined and free chlorine (also sometimes called residual chlorine) being available in swimming pool supply stores. 

Retail places that have sales or services related to water filtration devices should also have means of doing chlorine testing that will help you determine how much chlorine is present in your water.  

Single Purpose Chlorine Test Strips

Test Assured Chlorine Test Strips

If you only want to measure chlorine levels in your tap water and nothing else when doing chlorine testing, then I would recommend you purchase some simple test strips or a test kit that uses drops to determine the chlorine content in your water.

You can use something as simple as swimming pool test kits to do this. 

These kits will test for what is known as combined chlorine or total chlorine. Which means they measure free chlorine (chlorine that can still sanitize water) and chlorine that has been used up (free chlorine residual). 

One test kit that I like for doing this simple type of testing is the Test Assured Easy Chlorine Test Strips

These test strips work by simply dipping them into a 4-ounce water sample then comparing the color the strip turns to a chart on the package. Be sure to remember that the results with these do not measure free chlorine, so don’t use them to test your swimming pool water.

Home Water Test Kits

test-strips

For more comprehensive test results for combined and free chlorine levels and a few other concerning contaminants in water, I would go with test strips that can detect the presence of total chlorine and 14 or more other water impurities.

Once again with these test strips you will just dip them in a water sample and then compare the color change with the supplied chart to determine chlorine and other impurity levels.

A reliable test for getting comprehensive water purity results from home water testing yourself is the JNW Direct Drinking Water Test Strips 15 in 1.

Professional Lab Testing

If you are the type of person that wants the most accurate reading of the chlorine level in your water as possible, then having a lab analyze your home’s water is the best way to go.

These tests typically can detect a wide variety of water contaminants. That means they will not only give you accurate combined and free chlorine level readings but they will also give you a more complete picture of your overall water quality.

Using these kits to determine chlorine levels is easier to do than you might think too. You don’t even have to leave home to get results in less than a week in most cases. 

All you have to do is order a test sample kit online and when it comes, you just follow the directions on what level to fill the supplied water sample containers at.

Once that’s been done, you just stick the samples in the accompanying prepaid envelope and mail them to a certified water testing lab. A few days later you will get the results sent to your email.

tap-score

A lab testing company whose chlorine test kits I have used many times and really prefer is a company called Tap Score. They do a nice job of simplifying the lab testing of your water for chlorine and other contaminants.

Should I Remove Chlorine from My Drinking Water?

toxic-sign

I am not even sure this is the appropriate question to ask when you first find out that there’s more chlorine in your water than you should be comfortable with. A better question is why wouldn’t you?

Chlorine is known to cause both minor and major health issues if taken into the body in large enough amounts over time.

This includes headaches, nausea, dry skin, blurred vision, digestive problems, watery eyes, discomfort, respiratory issues such as pulmonary edema (fluid buildup in the lungs), and it also has known links to such cancers as gastrointestinal, colorectal, and more.

Even some of the byproducts that are created when chlorine reacts with organic matter (DBPs) are thought to be harmful so their amounts are strictly regulated in water by the EPA.

Since you now know chlorine is a potentially harmful substance if too much of it is ingested over time, then you should absolutely take steps to remove or reduce it from your tap water if water testing reveals its presence in unacceptable amounts. 

This is especially true given the fact that there are so many different ways available to remove or significantly reduce the chlorine levels in your drinking water and many of those methods are relatively inexpensive. 

How Do You Remove Chlorine from Drinking Water?

The most impactful way to remove chlorine from your water is to install a water filtration system or more specifically one of the best water filters for chlorine that uses activated carbon filtration in some phase of the filtration process.

Many people have the misconception that this type of filter media has a pore size that’s small enough to not allow chlorine to pass through it. Not even the best reverse osmosis filtration systems with their extremely small pore size have the ability to filter out chlorine well.

Activated carbon filter media works well to remove or reduce chlorine because it has a massive amount of surface area that’s very effective at ‘absorbing’ large amounts of the chlorine that tries to pass through it.  

The following types of water filtration systems will be impactful when it comes to removing chlorine if they contain activated carbon filtration media.

Point of Entry Filtration Systems

aquasana- POE

These are also appropriately called whole-home or whole-house water filtration systems because they will filter contaminants out of 100% of your incoming water.

In addition to keeping chlorine out of your drinking water, they will also help do such things as keep chlorine from drying out your hair and skin when you shower.

The best whole-home filtration systems usually will have activated carbon media or an activated carbon filtration stage that will remove or reduce a substantial amount of the chlorine that flows through them.

Point of Use Filters

ispring ckc

These are single or multi-stage filtration devices that are usually placed near the kitchen sink. They are mostly used to improve the quality of the water that you drink or use for cooking.

There are many different types of them. This includes countertop, under-sink, and gravity-fed water filters (such as water filter pitchers).

Just make sure when you go to purchase one to help you get rid of the chlorine in your drinking water that it will nicely perform that function. That’s because not all of them effectively remove chlorine.

Consider Purchasing a Water Filtration Setup that Removes Chlorine and More

I have been working in the field of water filtration for many years both with swimming pool water and through my involvement and research with this website.

The reality of the situation with both well and city water is if you get it tested, you will probably find some contaminants in it such as chlorine that you definitely want to get rid of.

So, getting a professional lab to test your water for chlorine and a wide range of other impurities is something that I would definitely recommend that you do.

Then be proactive and purchase the appropriate water filtration system that targets chlorine and the other contaminants in your drinking water that concern you.

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AUTHOR
Craig Smith
Craig got his start in water working in the swimming pool and spa industry. Water treatment would grow into his main career but he ended up working in the pool industry for over 26 years where much of his time was spent balancing the water in customer's swimming pools and installing water filtration equipment. Craig offers an abundance of water treatment knowledge after helping homeowners get pure water for 26 years.

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