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TDS Meters and its Uses Over recent years, there has been a widespread use of TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meter for analyzing the purity of fresh water. 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. It also gives some advice on how to best use them. How they Operate TTDS meters work as conductivity meters. The meters work by using 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. The fact that these ions are charged and moving makes them have an electrical current. The work of the meter here is to monitor how much current is passing between the electrodes as a gauge 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. These meters do not also detect macroscopic particles as they are too large to go in the electric fields applied.
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Tips for Using TDS Meters Make sure that you rinse the business end of the TDS meter prior 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 you are using the TDS meter to monitor the performance of an RO membrane, then 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 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. Readings of 1ppm should not worry you as there is carbon dioxide in the air that gets in the water and ionizes it causing the TDS to yield results of 1 or 2 ppm even in pure water.