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What are TDS Meters and What are their Use? The use of TDS meters for determining the purity of fresh water has become widespread over the recent 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 such devices, however, is not without complications. Contrary to what the name might suggest, the devices are incapable of measuring all the dissolved solids. Here, the working mechanism of these meters is discussed, along with what they can and cannot detect. Additionally, it gives some tips on how to best use them. How TDS Meters Work TTDS meters work as conductivity meters. They work by applying a voltage of between two or more electrodes. Positively charged ions will get attracted to the negatively charged electrode while the negatively charged ones will move to the positively charged electrode. The ions are charged and moving hence they constitute 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 only detect mobile charged ions and will not detect any neutral compounds such as alcohol, sugar, and unionized forms of silica, ammonia and carbon dioxide. The meters are incapable of detecting macroscopic particulates as they are too large to pass through the electric fields used.
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TDS Meters Using Tips Always ensure that to rinse the using end of the TDS meter before and after each use with clean, fresh water. Salt Build up on the operational tip will interfere with proper operation and any transfer of salts from one solution to the other can skew the readings.The buildup of salts is likely to interfere with proper operation and carrying over salts from one solution to another can distort the readings. Clean the electrodes by soaking the tip in acid like diluted hydrochloric acid or vinegar and then rinse it 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 instance when the reading of tap water is 231 ppm, RO water should be less than 230 ppm. Less of a drop than the factor of 10 shows that the RO membrane has a problem. When the TDS meter is being used to measure the performance of the RO/DI system, the value measured should drop to near zero. Higher values are an indication that something is amiss or that the DI resin is saturated and needs replacement. Do not agonize over a 1ppm reading from pure water since the air has some elements of carbon dioxide which get in the water and ionizes it causing a higher meter reading.