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A Guide to TDS Meters The use of TDS meters for determining the purity of fresh water has become widespread over the recent years. Many aquarists use the TDS meters to determine if the processes used to purify tap water like reverse osmosis or reverse osmosis/deionization are working properly or if deionizing resins require replacement. Using these devices, however, does not come with complications. Contrary to what the name might suggest, the devices are incapable of measuring all the dissolved solids. This article describes how these devices work, what they detect and don’t detect. Additionally, it gives some tips on how to best use them. How they Operate TTDS meters work as conductivity meters. They work by applying a voltage of 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. These ions have an electric current because they are charged and are moving. The the meter then monitors the amount of current passing between the electrodes hence gauging the number of ions 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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How to Use TDS Meters 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 instance when the reading of tap water is 231 ppm, RO water should be less than 230 ppm. If the drop is less than a factor of 10, then this is an indication that the RO membrane has an issue. When the TDS meter is being used to measure the performance of the RO/DI system, the value measured should drop to near zero. If the values are higher, it only means that there is something that is not operating well or the DI resin is becoming saturated and requires 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.