Whether it’s water your drinking, the water you give your pets, or water you use for your plants or appliances, we’ve all heard that pH is important. But have you ever asked what pH levels actually are? Let alone what they mean?
We understand how important pH levels are, so we broke down the definition of pH so you can get an idea of what’s in your water: what you’re putting into your body, what you’re giving to your friends and family, your plants, and your water carrying appliances, too.
So what is pH anyway?
Scientifically, when we talk about pH levels we’re speaking of the potential of hydrogen and hydroxide molecules in a solution, which is indicative of the water’s acidity or alkalinity.
The “H” in H2O stands for “hydrogen” and it has a positive (+) charge. pH levels tell you how many of those H(+) are active in your water. The higher the number is, the more hydrogen ions are active which means the more “basic” (or alkaline) it is. The lower that number is, the more “acidic” the water is.
So in basic terms, water (or any solution, really) can be either acidic, neutral, or alkali and pH levels are an indicator of where your water/solution lands on that scale.
There’s a 0 to 14 scale known as the pH scale that a solution- like water or juice or any liquid, really- is measured on to determine whether the solution is acidic (< 6.5), neutral (7), or basic (8>).
While we enjoy a mostly neutral pH level in drinking water, readings outside of the norm aren’t necessarily dangerous to our health. However, pH levels give you an idea of the potential particles and atoms you’re going to encounter.
Why Are pH Levels So Important?
No matter if it’s yourself, your pets, or your plants, every living thing thrives at a specific pH level.
For example, the human stomach has a pH level of 1.5 to 3.5 which is super acidic, but our blood is around 7.6 which is fairly neutral. A good pH level for plants is 5.6 which is slightly acidic, but the water we give our pets should be at a pH of 6.5-7 just like it is for us.
When pH levels are outside of their optimum range it can be harmful.
When the pH of human and animal organs are off they can’t perform the way they should, which leads to digestion and health problems. If the pH is too low in a plant its own food can become toxic. Heck, when the pH level is too high in your sicks you’ll see scaling all over your glasses, so it’s important to test the pH levels of your water as often as possible.
Acidic Levels- pH 0 to 6.5
Acidic pH levels are known as “soft” contain fewer hydrogen ions than “harder” pH levels. Because of its acidity, water with acidic pH levels can be corrosive and leach metal ions like iron, manganese, copper, lead, and zinc from pipes and plumbing fixtures. That means if your water’s got low pH levels there’s a chance that it’s got high levels of toxic metals in it.
Acidic pH levels don’t necessarily point to toxicity in a solution. It does, however, usually mean that the solution being used- whether juice, gel, or water- is pretty acidic. Acids do a good job breaking down compounds, from metal in fixtures to food in our stomachs, so keep an eye out for low pH levels in anything you consume and use.
In fact, here’s a list of common solutions with acidic pH levels:
- Battery acid
- Gastric (stomach) acid
- Lemon juice
- Orange juice
- Tomato juice
- Acid rain
- Black coffee
Now don’t be scared. Plants love pH levels more on the acidic end of the pH scale (around 5.5), and who doesn’t love a nice glass of OJ every now and again? You just have to moderate your intake and use of highly acid solutions because while it may not be immediately dangerous, prolonged exposure to too much acid will become toxic.
Neutral Levels- pH 6.5 to 7
A neutral pH level is a level that isn’t too acidic or basic in nature and offers an equal amount of hydrogen and hydroxide (base) ions. There are few things in the world that are neutral because other than hydration, neutral levels don’t offer too much in the nutrition department.
Solutions with neutral pH levels are:
- Pure water
- Human blood
As you can see, neutral pH levels are perfect for the facilitation of functions in a given organism. If, for example, blood is at the wrong pH it cannot carry oxygen to parts of the body as well as it should, which will, in turn, affect the way that organ lives and performs.
Basic (Alkaline) Levels- pH 8 to 14
pH levels in the higher alkaline fall in the “basic” category. Water and solutions with high pH levels are considered “hard”, and while they don’t necessarily pose a health risk to us or our pets immediately, solutions like hard water don’t feel, smell, or taste good.
When levels are over 8 you can see scaling when the water dries, decreased water pressure from buildup, anything prepared with that water will generally taste more bitter, and it can even stain clothes. Though some believe drinking alkaline water will increase blood flow and overall health, there’s unfortunately no strong scientific evidence to support it.
However, basic pH levels are helpful to us. Here are some of the high-alkaline compounds we enjoy every day:
- Baking soda
- Great Salt Lake
- Milk of magnesia
- Ammonia solution
- Soapy water
- Oven cleaner
- Liquid drain cleaner
What’s the Best pH Level?
By now you’re probably saying, “Okay, I know what pH is, but what level should it be for me?” And unfortunately… there’s not a clear answer to that.
The best answer is that it all depends on what you’re using the water for. Drinking water doesn’t need to be the same pH as the water you use to water your plants, and plant water won’t be the same level as what you need to wash your car.
That said, here are a few common pH levels that’ll help you understand where common pH levels should be:
- Human Blood- 7.4
- Drinking Water- 6.5-8.5 (according to EPA); optimal being 7
- Hydroponic (soilless) Grown Plants: 5.5-6.3
- Soil Grown Plants- 6.2-7.2
- Industrial Use (car washing, laundry, power washing, etc…)- around 7
If there are any solutions you don’t know the optimum pH level of, drop us a comment and we’ll find it out for you and show you where to find more info!