Drinking Water Test Kit Frequently Asked Questions

 KAR Laboratories

Drinking Water Test Kit Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

FAQ!


Answers to nearly every question we get

We ask that you please check the FAQ before calling or emailing questions

 

I sent my water sample back but haven't heard anything

How many samples/locations can be tested with one kit?

Why not just buy a $30 kit on Amazon?

Can I add or subtract tests, expedite the results, or have the kit shipped to me overnight?

Do I need a Paypal account to order?

Which kit is best for me?

Will you test my water?

Where should I collect the water sample?

Can I test the hot water?

How do I collect the water sample?

Should I remove the aerator/screen and sanitize the faucet with bleach prior to sampling?

For Lead and Copper, how should I collect the sample?

How often should I test my water?

How does the shipping work?

I can't find the yellow Information Sheet

Why should I care about how fast the results become available?

Doesn't the bacteria tests need to be run immediately?

Is ferrous and ferric iron reported?

Why isn't an Odor test included?

Why isn't a Radon test included?

Why isn't a Glyphosate test included?

Why isn't PPCP's (Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products) testing included?

Why isn't a PFC/PFAS (perfluorinated and and polyfluorinated chemicals) test included?

Why isn't a 1,4-Dioxane test included?

Why isn't a Free Chlorine, Combined Chlorine, Chloramines or Total Chlorine test included?

How do I know if my water has been impacted by PEX piping?

How do I know if my water has been impacted by Fracking?

What test methods are used?

What is the shelf life of the kits?

Another lab claims the "TICs test" (Tentatively Identified Compounds) is a scam

What is the difference between these informational testing kits and KAR's full compliance testing?

Can you tell me if my water is safe to drink?

Will the lab make recommendations?

I'm concerned that I won't be able to understand the lab report

What has the lab found in drinking water samples?

 

Q: I sent my water sample back but haven't heard anything!
A: We always send an email to you when your sample arrives at the lab which includes the date the lab results will be emailed, then another email containing your lab report (remember business days, not calendar days), and finally a courtesy email 7 days after the report was emailed, just to make sure everything was as expected. Here are the reasons, in order of prevalence, why you haven't received your kit(s) or emails from us:
1) Sample still in transit. Many customers are surprised just how slow shippers can be. Even though USPS claims 2-3 days anywhere in the USA, in our experience it's 1-8 days and even longer for weather or other transportation issues.
2) Spam filters at your ISP or email software. Check your SPAM folder.
3) Your test kit was purchased by someone else (such as a water treatment company) so our emails go the them.
You must contact them for your lab report. We cannot disclose or discuss lab data to anyone other than the owner of the data, even if it's "your" water that was tested.
4
) Wrong or incorrectly transposed email address that on the Yellow Information Sheet returned with the sample. Common examples are the letter "l" or "O" mistaken for a number and vise versa, underscores, periods, dashes, .com used for a .net address, etc. Please record information on the Yellow Information Sheet so there are no errors and no chance for misinterpretation.
5) The carrier lost your package (very rare).

Q: How many samples/locations can be tested with one kit?
A: Each kit will test one (1) water sample.
If you wish to compare two waters, such as testing the before/after effect of a water softener or point-of-use sink filter, you will need 2 kits. Despite each kit containing several bottles, all of the bottles MUST be collected at the same water tap at the same time. Occasionally, we receive kits that contain multiple source waters which trigger QC failures such as anion/cation balance calculations, sulfur/sulfate ratio or conductivity/hardness ratio. When QC fails the sample results are invalidated, time and money is wasted, and everybody loses.

Q: Why not just buy a $30 kit on Amazon?
A: For contaminants, you need the broadest possible coverage as well as the largest list of useful general water quality parameters, combined with sensitive, accurate results you can trust. KAR Kits are priced below comparable test kits, giving you the ultimate value. Kits on Amazon only test for a few things and largely lack the sensitivity and accuracy needed to make the test meaningful.

Q: Do I need a Paypal account to buy?
A: Of course not. You can use any major credit card. Just click the "Buy Now" button, then in your shopping cart, click the button that says, "Check Out - Pay without a Paypal account". You can also call our office and use a major credit card.
We prefer Paypal because it eliminates errors and automates the process, allowing us to keep prices low. Phone orders are less efficient, lack tracking information, and makes it harder (slower) for us to answer follow up questions and/or track your order. We believe Paypal is worth the 3% premium (that KAR Laboratories pays) for the service.

Q: Which kit is best for me?
A: Bigger really is better in drinking water testing. Whether you use well water, municipal water, rain water in a cistern, a natural spring, whatever - generally speaking it's recommended that you get the best kit you can afford. This recommendation is not to boost our sales. It's simple: more money equals more tests and more tests means you're better protected. In other words, the more things that are tested, the better the odds of uncovering real water problems. Conversely, if the test only looks for a few contaminants, chances are slim that you'll ever know what may be hurting you before it's too late. The exception to this advice is if you're only interested in a specific subset of tests. For example, if Lead and Copper is all you're interested in, then the KIT-90 is all you need. Be aware that one prominent water testing lab advertises "water testing for up to 400 contaminants", but when pressed, they tell you they really don't have a test kit for that, but rather, that's just how many things they can test for (at what cost, pray tell?!). If we played that misleading game, we could advertise "up to 1327 contaminants". It's marketing hype and just plain dishonest.

Q: Will you test my water?
A: We must be careful about the samples we test using drinking water test methods because a "dirty" water can wreak havoc with our lab instrumentation. This could very easily cause downtime and delays for all of our clients. If you are actually drinking the water, then no problem! Some examples of acceptable water for testing are: wells intended for drinking, rainwater from cisterns, and treated water with chemical treatment additives (fluoride, disinfectants, etc.) and/or distillation or reverse osmosis. If in doubt, please ask. 

Q: Why should I care about how fast the results become available?
A: If you're asking this question then you've likely never dealt with a water testing laboratory other than us. "Turnaround time" in the testing lab industry is the amount of time it takes to test the sample. The clock starts when the sample arrives at the lab and stops
when test results are issued. The top 3 water testing labs claim to turn around test kit results in 10 to 20 business days. Most other labs claim to be fast, but struggle to deliver test results faster than 4-8 weeks. Some labs flat out tell you it will be 4-8 weeks and hope you don't care. Then some labs don't even mention turnaround time (red flag) and all of these claims are just that - unsubstantiated claims by the seller. The turnaround time for our 4 kits are 2, 5, 8, and 10 business days, and we did that for 99.6% of samples in 2015/2016. Please realize that although we believe there is no water testing lab that is faster than us, more often than not, transit times are the majority of your wait with us - not our lab service.

KAR water test kits in 2016:
reports issued: 5526
reports on-time: 5507
reports 1 day late: 16
reports 2 days late: 3
reports over 2 days late: 0
report on-time percentage: 99.7 %
KAR water test kits in 2015:
reports issued: 2092
reports on-time: 2073
reports 1 day late: 10
reports 2 days late: 9
reports over 2 days late: 0
report on-time percentage: 99.1 %

2-year average: 99.6% on-time, as promised

Q: How does the shipping work?
A: Paypal requires that we ship to your verified address. Prepaid postage is included in the kit price, both from the lab and back to the lab. Your kit will contain the necessary packaging and postage label. Upon receiving your order, the kits are shipped Monday-Friday the same-day or no later than the next business day. We ship everything early morning, so orders received after than are shipped the next business day. U.S. Postal Service (USPS) First Class Mail is used for the Kit-90's. USPS Priority Mail is used for most bigger kits. USPS claims "3-5 days anywhere in the USA", however our experience is 1-14 days. United Parcel Service (UPS) Ground is used for bulk orders and some Kit-360's, and those ship mid-afternoon. Our experience with UPS delivery is 1-5 business days within the 48 states. We can't control the shipping process and therefore can't be responsible for shipping delays that sometimes happen. Most of the kits are small enough to fit into your mailbox. Kits requiring refrigeration are insulated and include gelled ice "bricks". Sorry, expedited shipping is not available at this time and we currently only ship to the United States.

Q: I can't find the yellow Information Sheet
A: It's in the small box, neatly folded with the plastic Ziplok bag under the 4 vials. If you misplaced it, you can download a replacement here.

Q: Doesn't the bacteria tests need to be run immediately?
A: No. The method validation procedure demonstrates that our modified SM9223B bacteria method works reliably and accurately even after shipping delays of several days. It doesn't matter if more bacteria grows during shipment or not because for these Kits, rather than counting colonies, we report Presence/Absence (Positive or Negative). Similarly, the unused bacteria sampling tube with media broth is validated for at least 6 months of holding time, unrefrigerated. Why risk doing the bacteria test yourself at home when you can trust the testing to Emily, our experienced professional microbiologist, knowing your water bacteria results will be correct and available in as little as 2 days.

Q: Should I remove the aerator/screen and sanitize the faucet with bleach prior to sampling?
A: In most cases, no, but you can if you want to. Removing the aerator is a common practice when collecting water for the purpose of a property transfer with lenders involved. Lenders want to ensure that the well water has not been impacted by septic tanks which is not the goal of our informational testing kits. Our kits are designed to inform customers of what they are actually drinking. We don't know anyone who removes the aerator and sanitizes the faucet with bleach every time they take a drink. So we duplicate the water draw with the aerator in-place, just as you would do it to take a drink. We see a whopping 39% of samples positive for Total Coliform bacteria. That's a lot of people ingesting Coliform Bacteria! Some customers become combative when they learn their water contains bacteria. The fact is, the test kit is doing it's job of detecting contaminants in your drinking water. We also offer compliance testing, and those directions of course instruct the removal of the aerator screen prior to sampling.

Q: Where should I collect the water sample?
A: It's really very simple: collect your water sample at the point that you want the lab report to represent. For example, if you want to know what you're drinking, collect water when, where and how you drink it, such as at the kitchen sink and post-filter. If you want to know the effects of your new bronze fixture in the bathroom, collect a sample at that faucet. If you want to know what's in the source water (groundwater, municipal water, cistern), collect the water at the closest point from the water source coming before any treatment devices. If you want to know what your filter(s) are removing or the effectiveness of your water softener, buy two kits and sample both upstream and downstream of the filter(s) or water softener. Don't forget to change the filter media at the recommended intervals before they become ineffective and harbor bacteria.

Q: Can I test the hot water?
A: Yes you can. Please note that the solubility of certain chemicals may be different depending upon the temperature. Additionally, some tests in the larger kits such as volatile and semi-volatile chemicals will not be accurate because original concentrations may be lost or reduced.

Q: Is ferrous and ferric iron reported?
A: We have the equipment to differentiate the various oxidation states of iron but the test would be meaningless. We test for "Total Iron" because most of the ferrous species of iron quickly oxidizes to the stable form of iron (ferric) within minutes upon exposure to the oxygen in air. For a ferrous test to be valid, the water would need to be analyzed immediately upon collection.

Q: Why isn't an Odor test included?
A: The "Odor" test offered by some kit sellers uses test strips or an inexpensive probe device called an olfactometer. They're of little or no value because of very low correlation with the human nose, both quantitatively and qualitatively. They also fall short of the sensitivity needed for most odors. For example, "rotten egg" odor is usually related to hydrogen sulfide gas and is a common complaint. The human nose is capable of detecting hydrogen sulfide as low as 0.5 parts per billion. Most laboratory equipment can't detect it at levels that low. To test for odor in a meaningful manner, a "Odor Threshold" test is needed which requires a test panel with a minimum of 5 chemists and is very time consuming. KAR Laboratories offers this test, but it's beyond the price point of these value-centric kits. Our advice: Use your nose. It's incredibly sensitive and universal.

Q: Why isn't a Radon test included?
A: It's an inefficient use of your water testing money in most cases. We think we have a better solution for the kits. Radon comes from naturally occurring Uranium in rock, soil, and water as it decomposes. Radon is a gas, it's tricky to sample in water correctly, it must be analyzed immediately after sampling (half life 3.8 days), it's expensive to analyze correctly, and USEPA hasn't even set a regulatory limit in drinking water. Keeping in the value theme of our water test kits, all of our kits analyze for Uranium detectable down to 5 parts per billion. The USEPA limit is 30 parts per billion, which means that we can easily detect Uranium at the lowest levels that really matter. Uranium test serves as an indicator of potential Radon gas problems, it's less expensive and easier to collect than Radon in water.
Finally, Radon gas in water is a relatively low health risk compared to Radon in air. If we find Uranium in your water, we suggest you pay the money to test for Radon ASAP. Testing Radon in air is cheaper, easier, and faster than testing for Radon in water. If you think you might have Radon issues, you can start by buying an inexpensive radon test kit for air in most home improvement stores.

Q: Why isn't a Glyphosate test included?
A:
It's an inefficient use of your water testing money in most cases. Our lab previously held USEPA certification for Glyphosate, but very few customers requested it, and it soon became too costly to maintain the certification. Adding Glyphosate to our test kit line would quadruple the cost of our smallest kit, and nearly double the cost of our largest kit, making them unaffordable to most of our customers. We have plans to offer the Glyphosate test as an a la carte add-on test but the method development and validation process is lengthy.

Q: Why isn't a PFC/PFAS (per- and poly- fluorinated chemicals) test included?
A: It's an inefficient use of your water testing money in most cases. Some labs will run these tests, but can't detect and report anywhere near the 2 parts per trillion toxicity levels needed for a meaningful test of Perfluorooctanic acid (PFOA) and Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). Doing it right requires a triple quadrapole liquid chromatograph-mass spectrometer (triple-quad LC-MS), and the cost for the test typically runs $300-$1200 or more per sample. Previously, our lab operated three of these very expensive instruments, but we sold them in 2010 due to the low number of requests for the tests they performed. Our KIT-360 will detect the compounds in the TICS scan but only at relatively high levels.
This may actually be useful because there are cases where people were drinking these chemicals in their water at levels high enough for the TIC method to detect.

Q: Why isn't PPCP's (Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products) testing included?
A: It's an inefficient use of your water testing money in most cases. Doing it right requires a triple quadrapole liquid chromatograph-mass spectrometer (triple-quad LC-MS). Previously, our lab operated three of these very expensive instruments, but we sold them in 2010 due to low interest for the tests they performed. The cost of the test was $1100 per sample using EPA Method 1694. Our Kit360 TIC scan and TOC test can detect many PPCP's but the level of detection in relatively high in comparison to the LC-MS procedure.

Q: Why isn't a 1,4-Dioxane test included?
A: All of our test kits EXCEPT KIT90 will detect and measure 1,4-dioxane
in the Tentatively Identified Compounds scan (TICs) however the test sensitivity of that chemical is very poor - only about 100 ug/L (parts per billion) which is not low enough for adequate protection. To achieve better sensitivity for 1,4-Dioxane, we must use a different test method called Heated Purge&Trap-High Resolution Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry-Selective Ion Monitoring. The cost is high for just that one chemical - $150 + shipping, so typically only our industrial clients order this test for regulatory compliance with discharge permits.

Q: Why isn't a Free Chlorine, Combined Chlorine, Chloramines or Total Chlorine test included?
A: They can't survive the shipping. The USEPA test method maximum holding time requirement is "Analyze immediately on-site". If they aren't analyzed immediately, they will quickly dissipate and/or react with air and light. Some kit sellers "pretend" to test these things, but it's meaningless unless it's done on-site.

Q: How should I collect the sample if I'm mostly concerned about Lead and Copper?
A: Lead is one of our most commonly detected contaminants. Lead in water usually comes from the distribution grid consisting of lead and/or copper pipes, and to a lesser extent, lead solder. If your water is corrosive (as defined by the corrosivity test included in every kit we sell) then Lead and Copper can leach into the water over time, making how you collect your water sample important to the final test result. If you want to know what's in your drinking water, try to match your sample collection process to when, where, and how you most commonly drink your water. For example, if most of your drinking water comes from the kitchen sink starting in the morning, you should collect the water test sample at the kitchen sink at the very first draw in the morning, without flushing out the faucet. That will give a worst-case scenario and is the basis of the federal Lead and Copper Drinking Water Regulations. Or, if you have well water and want to know what's in the groundwater, you'll want to flush the faucet for about 5 minutes prior to collecting a test sample, thus minimizing contributions from the pipes. Water test sampling is a compromise, i. e., collecting at first draw tends to skew the concentrations of certain other contaminants, especially volatile organics and bacteria. You get to decide what's best for your situation. But in most cases, you'll want to run the water 3-5 minutes prior to sample collection, unless your principal concern is dissolved metals such as Lead/Copper.

Q: How do I know if my water has been impacted by Fracking?
A: Kit-180, Kit-270, and Kit-360 test for 26 of 28 fracking indicator parameters described in "Water Wells in Proximity to Natural Gas or Oil Development" by the National Groundwater Association (NGWA). Kit-90 tests for 20 of 28 parameters.

Q: How do I know if my water has been impacted by PEX piping?
A: PEX pipe quality varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and the drinking water quality of water delivered through PEX piping is not well researched, and published even less. One contaminant that might be in PEX from the manufacturing process is ETBE, which is included in all of our test kits except the smallest (KIT-90). Some states regulate ETBE based upon aesthetics (odor). But there may be PEX reactant by-products created from PEX interaction with commonly used water treatment chemicals. This is where the largest kit KIT-360 can potentially detect some of those "unknowns". If you have PEX pipes (or any type of system, for that matter) in your drinking water supply, it's not a bad idea to avoid drinking from it for a couple of weeks after it's installed, then giving it a thorough flush before putting it into service. Truly though, it's probably just fine.

Q: What test methods are used?
A: Unlike most kits, these kits do not use test strips or quick & dirty, uncertified test methods. Very nearly all of the methods used are USEPA approved drinking water methods which includes EPA and Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater. Sometimes, sampling by the lab is required by regulation, and certain tests such as pH will not be completely accurate due to delayed holding times. Click on any of the Example Test Report links to see the method used for each  test in the Kits.

Q: How often should I test my water?
A: The USEPA recommends testing your drinking water at least once per year, and we believe that is generally reasonable. 11% of our customers are repeat customers. If you have a well that's near a landfill or industrial/commercial operations, you should increase that frequency. Many municipal water systems rotate their source water (well fields) several times per year, so water quality can be a bit of a moving target in those cases.

Q: How long is the shelf life of the kits?
A:
6 months from the time of purchase. The bacteria test vial contains a liquid nutrient which has been validated for storage time of up to 6 months at room temperature in our lab. We don't know beyond 6 months if the bacteria test will be valid, nor have we validated any of the tests beyond 6 months. For these reasons, the kits are considered expired if not returned within 6 months of purchase. Sorry, we cannot exchange expired kits for fresh ones. When analyzing old kits, the two bacteria test results will be noted as suspect on the lab report. After October 31, 2017, we can no longer accept expired kits.

Q: Will the lab make recommendations?
A:
Sorry we can't make recommendations for specific treatment, products, or services.
Our expertise is analytical chemistry. Too many water test sellers and labs offer much higher profit water treatment products and/or services. They often go to great lengths to hide that fact. Of course they only recommend what they sell. It's a serious conflict of interest and interferes with good, objective science. It's not always your best solution. We suggest that you get your water tested by us, then share the lab report with a water treatment company that you trust. Hint: If they use KAR Laboratories for testing, they're likely to be among the best. For privacy and confidentiality, we do not disclose the names of water treatment companies that use our lab, nor will we disclose any client information.

Q: Another lab claims the "TICs test" (Tentatively Identified Compounds) is a scam
A: TICs are included in all kits except Kit-90. TIC scans are a well established, legally defensible procedure with roots to the USEPA Superfund Contract Laboratory Program Statement of Work from the 1970's and still in existence today. TIC scans are a uniquely rare lab test because it doesn't require that you know in-advance the specific chemicals that you're looking for. In some cases, it's the only indicator of a very serious water problem. TIC's are the most labor-intensive test that we perform, requiring manual interpretation by a senior mass spectroscopist working with the NIST mass spectral library consisting of over 242,477 known organic compounds. Most labs don't offer TICs. If they do, they only offer volatile component TICs. That's because they're so labor-intensive, that the process cannot be automated.  A highly trained and experienced chemist is mandatory. Statistically, we find and report TIC's in just over 2% of the drinking water samples we analyze. TIC's are most definitely worthwhile. If a lab claims that TICs are a scam, then perhaps they just want to avoid having to test them correctly.

Q: Can I add or subtract tests, expedite the results, or have the kit shipped overnight?
A: Sorry, the kits can't be modified in any way. Deviating from our standard kit risks quality and quick turnaround for all customers. We cannot customize kits with overnight shipping, adding or removing tests, expediting results, ship outside of the USA, use a different carrier, modify the report format, or any other special request. These all require special hands-on project management which interferes with our goal to provide affordable lab testing kits to everyone.

Q: What is the difference between these informational testing kits and KAR's full compliance testing?
A: Several adjustments must be made to conform with the small kit format, the safety of sampling by non-water professionals, and transit times. Test Kit method modifications to the EPA Safe Drinking Water Act-approved methods may include such things as who collects the sample, holding times, sample size, sample preservation, reporting requirements, and QC requirements such as duplicate sampling, matrix spikes, field blanks, and trip blanks. In certain cases, these test method modifications can have minor effects on the final results. These kits cannot be used for
testing events such as regulatory, compliance, property transfers, legal evidence, or FDA-controlled products. KAR offers testing for compliance purposes too, but it is far, far more expensive - typically 4-6 times more than the kits - plus costly overnight shipping costs.

Q: Can you tell me if my water is safe to drink?
A: Technically speaking, no we can't, nor can anyone because no lab on the planet tests for the hundreds of thousands of harmful things that could be in water. If someone tells you that your water is safe to drink, they are either naive or conditioned to tell you what you want to hear. If you buy one of our kits, you can always call or email with that question, and we will tell you if your water is safe to drink based upon what we tested it for. This is why "Bigger is Better in Water Testing" and we recommend buying the kit with the most possible contaminants that you can afford. Practically speaking, these kits do an excellent job of sorting out safety issues.

Q: I'm concerned that I won't be able to understand the lab report
A: We provide a professional-grade laboratory report that includes important data such as the analyst, date analyzed, method used, and detection limits. You won't get a dumbed down, feel good pictogram or score-based evaluation. We believe that's a dangerous over simplification of a complex endeavor and is misleading. A test that says "Not Found" or "None detected" without stating the actual detection sensitivity is worthless. Yet that is exactly what most of the other test kits do. According to the hundreds of reviews we receive, the vast majority of our customers comment that our report is very easy to read. But don't worry. If you would like help, just give us a call and one of our managers will go over the results with you.

Q: What has the lab found in drinking water samples?
A: Click HERE to see the shocking things people are drinking.

 

Q: How do I collect the water sample?
A: How-To Sample Video - 3 minutes with Rachel

 

 

KAR Laboratories, Inc.