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The TDS Myth

With every  glass of water, parents in Fayetteville, NC unknowingly served their children forever chemicals. The residents of Flint, MI poisoned their bodies with lead while innocently sipping from their taps.

Contaminated water is scary, we get it. Horror stories like these have families turning to TDS meters to measure the quality of drinking water. Moms and dads want peace of mind and instead they are receiving misinformation.

In this article,  we will teach you why you should not rely on a TDS meter alone to indicate the condition of your drinking water. Plus, we will include alternative solutions to your water problems.

distillata driver carrying bottles up driveway

What is TDS?

TDS is an acronym for total dissolved solids. Referring to the parts per million (ppm) of dissolved substances in water. These substances latch on as water travels through the hydraulic cycle. The main components are calcium and salt but can also include:

  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Carbonates
  • Nitrates
  • Bicarbonates
  • Chlorides
  • Sulfates
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Fluoride

Do your faucets have white residue around the spout? That is an example of dissolved solids. In this case, they have attached to and built up on your faucet.

But, there is more to the story.

Harmful metals are also dissolved solids. So is arsenic and anything else that will…dissolve…in water. The existence of dissolved solids does not determine the caliber of drinking water. It depends what the dissolved solid is.

How does total dissolved solids get into water?

The first way that solids get into our water is mother nature. Our water travels great distances before arriving in our glass. Everything that it touches can add compounds that become dissolved solids. Examples include rocks, other water sources, lead pipes, runoff, and infrastructure. Solids are also added to water on purpose. Such as electrolytes (dissolved salts), fluoride, and minerals.

Are TDS and hardness the same?

No, TDS and hardness are not the same. Since both involve the measurement of minerals this is confusing. But, hardness only addresses calcium and magnesium. The more of each in your water, the harder it is. Total dissolved solids define the level of all solids in the water. If there is a high level of calcium and magnesium it is “hard.” That does not mean it will have a high TDS as other minerals contribute to that number.

Another difference is the effects of each. Hard water inhibits soap foam. So, if you have hard water it is likely that your clothes and dishes are not clean after washing. High TDS, on the other hand, can cause bad taste and smell.

distillata water bottle delivery on front porch

Is TDS in water harmful?

You are asking the wrong question. Let’s revisit the examples of dissolved solids listed above. On one hand there are beneficial minerals such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. On the other hand, there are poisons such as lead. The type of dissolved solids matters. Not the mere fact that they exist.

This does not mean that a high TDS can not cause issues. But, in general, if you are using a reliable water source the problems are merely aesthetic. High TDS can affect the taste, smell, and appearance of water. And, it can damage appliances and sinks.

What is a good TDS number?

The EPA has declared that TDS is not a good indicator of health risk. As such they have chosen not to establish a limit. Rather they offer a guideline of <500ppm. Around 150-250 ppm is a good number to shoot for (assuming that the solids are safe).

Use this water TDS chart as a guide.

TDS to pH Conversion

TDS and pH have an inverse relationship. The lower the TDS, the higher the pH. This has to do with the conductivity created by dissolved solids in the water. You can also correlate acidity with TDS and pH. A low TDS and high pH = more alkaline water.

getting water from bottom load water cooler

TDS of bottled water

Our bottled water is tested for TDS on a regular basis. You will see the results vary greatly. The top two are purified waters (<1ppm). The latter are filtered waters which maintain a healthy mineral content.

How to reduce TDS in water.

Our customers who enjoy the taste of lower TDS water choose to drink distilled or reverse osmosis water.  Both types are available in a variety of sizes. The most popular are 5-gallon water bottles dispensed through a water cooler.

If you would like to reduce the TDS of your tap water there are two hassle-free solutions.

Whatever route you take, please never rely on TDS alone to test the reliability of your water. It simply does not tell the whole story.

Additional resources:

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