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TDS Meters and its Uses 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 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. The use of these meters, however, is not without 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. It also offers some tips on how to best use the TDS meters. How they Operate TTDS meters work as conductivity meters. They work by applying a voltage of between two or more electrodes. Ions that are positively charged will move towards the negatively charged electrode while the positively charged electrode will attract negatively charged ions. 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 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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Tips for Using TDS Meters 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 when necessary by dipping the tip in acid and then rinse them well in water. In case it is heavily covered with organic material, it is appropriate that you soak the tip in alcohol or bleach. 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. If the drop is less than a factor of 10, then this is an indication that the RO membrane has an issue. 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 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.