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A Guide to TDS Meters The use of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) meters for analyzing the purity of fresh water has become popular in the past few years. Many aquarists use them to determine if tap water purification systems such as reverse osmosis (RO) or reverse osmosis/deionization (RO/DI) are in optimal working condition, or if deionizing resins need to be replaced. The use of these meters, however, is not without complications. Contrary to what the name might imply, the devices do not measure all the dissolved solids. In this article, we will look at how these meters work, what they detect and what they don’t. Additionally, it gives some tips on how to best use them. How they Operate TDS meters are, in reality, conductivity meters. TDS meters work by utilizing a voltage between two or more electrodes. Positively charged ions move toward the negatively charged electrode while the negatively charged ions move toward the positively charged electrode. The fact that these ions are charged and moving makes them have an electrical current. The the meter will then assess the amount of current passing between the electrodes as a measure of how many ions are in the solution.
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TDS meters can detect mobile charged ions and not the neutral compounds. The meters do not also detect macroscopic particulates as they are too large to move in the electric fields applied.
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TDS Meters Using Tips Make sure that you rinse the business end of the TDS meter prior and after each use with clean, fresh water. If there is built-up salt, then this will interfere with the readings, and the carryover of salts from one solution to another can alter the readings. Clean the electrodes when necessary by dipping the tip in acid and then rinse them well in water. If is heavily covered in organic material, soaking the tip in bleach or alcohol may help. If the TDS meters are being used to measure RO membrane performance; the measured value should drop by at least a factor of 10 from the starting tap water. For example, if the tap water reads 231ppm, the RO water should be less than 23ppm. Less of a drop than a factor of 10 shows that there is a problem with the RO membrane. If the TDS or conductivity meter is being used to monitor the performance of an RO/DI system, then the measured value should drop to near zero. If you record values higher than this, it means that something is malfunctioning or that the DI resin has become saturated and needed replacement. Do not worried over 1pm because while the value of pure water is below 1ppm, there is a lot of carbon dioxide in the air that gets in the water and ionizes hence the reading on TDS may show results of 1 or 2 ppm.

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