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What are TDS Meters and What are their Use? 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 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 such devices, however, is not without complications. Contrary to what the name might imply, the devices do not measure 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. The Operation Mechanism of the TDS Meters TTDS meters work as conductivity meters. The meters work by using 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. The fact that these ions are charged and moving makes them have an electrical current. 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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The TDS meter will detect mobile ions that are charged and not detect any uncharged or neutral compounds like sugar, unionized forms of silica, carbon dioxide, and alcohol. 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 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. Ensure that the electrodes are cleaned whenever necessary by dipping the tip in acid like vinegar or diluted hydrochloric acid and then rinsing 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. If, for example, the tap water reads 231 ppm, then the RO water should be less than this. If the drop is less than a factor of 10, then this is an indication that the RO membrane has an issue. If the meter is being used to monitor the performance of an RO/DI system, the measured value 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.