In recent years, pH strips have become increasingly more popular. They can be used at home to measure the pH levels of the foods and drinks you consume, as well as in the lab, for a wide range of purposes.
They're also very easy to use and relatively inexpensive if you're looking for something to start with. But, as you begin your journey of measuring pH levels, you may wonder whether the chemicals in the strip that determine the pH levels have harmful side effects.
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Are pH strips toxic for you?
Generally, pH strips aren't toxic as long as you use them as the instruction manual dictates. It is important not to consume anything that the pH strip came in touch with as it's not very healthy and may contain chemicals. Because of that, if you need to test the pH level of a certain food or liquid that you will consume after, it's best to opt for a digital pH meter that won't contaminate the food.
Also, make sure not to use the strip directly on the sample. Instead, place some of the samples on the strip to avoid any bleeding of the paper.
> A pH meter can help you determine the pH level of any food and drink you consume with very precise accuracy. Most of them are effortless to use and can help you follow a low-acid, mostly alkaline diet. We created a handy guide on how to buy the right pH meter.
How do pH strips work?
PH strips are used to measure the acidity of liquids and substances that can be liquified. To put it simply, they contain a combination of chemicals that determine the pH level of the liquid when it comes in contact with the strip. These pH indicators are often weak acids or weak bases that have assigned colors, which can be read on the strip.
The colors generally range from red to blue, but some varieties depend on the brand and the pH range.
The larger the scale is, the less precise the pH strip is, though. For example, choosing pH strips going from 0 to 14 means that you'll lose some accuracy to compensate for the colors. On the other hand, pH strips going from 0-7 might be more specific and give you more accurate results.
Because of that, make sure to check which strips you need and which suit your needs better.
To test a liquid, you simply dip the pH strip in it for two seconds and then wait ten seconds for the result. The redder the strip becomes, the more acidic it is. On the other hand, if it turns blue, it's alkaline. Again, the more colors the strips have, the more accurate readings you can get — some can even be as accurate as 0.25 pH.
These are more expensive, but it's definitely worth the investment if you need to have as accurate a reading as possible.
Is the food that came in contact with the strip toxic?
After conducting a pH level analysis, it's important not to consume the food you placed on it or the solution in which you dipped the strip. This is because the acids and bases present on the strip can leak into the solution or food, which can be harmful to your health.
Instead, take some of the liquid or food you want to test and separate it from the rest you'll eat later. After testing the pH level, make sure to throw away the used liquid or food piece to ensure that someone won't accidentally digest it.
You also may want to store the pH strips in a sealed container for two reasons. Firstly, they can expire faster if they're constantly exposed to air, which will decrease their accuracy.
Secondly, it's still something that contains acids and bases, even if very weak ones, so it's best to keep them away from food and children's reach.
Measuring pH isn't only for scientists, many people buy pH meters to test food acidity, especially those on a low-acid diet.
Here are the best pH meters on the market.
Can expired pH strips be toxic?
Expired pH strips aren't toxic. The only problem with them is that they are not as accurate as fresh, new strips. Generally, pH strips start to lose their accuracy after two years of production, but it depends on the manufacturer, so always check the expiration date.
When it comes to pH strips, accuracy is important since most of them already have an accuracy of 1 pH. Because of that, acidic foods can be easily marked as neutral or even basic even the accuracy drops drastically.
When pH strips expire, they also lose the acid and base indicators that allow them to determine the pH level. As a result, they might contain less of them than new pH strips. While this doesn't mean that foods and liquids that came in contact with expired strips can be eaten, it's something worth keeping in mind.
Are pH strips good for testing the pH levels of food?
While pH strips aren't toxic, it's not a good idea to, let's say, drink the juice you've dipped the strip in for testing. The number of chemicals isn't high, but it's best to discard the liquid for safety reasons.
Because of that, it might be hard to precisely measure the pH of food, particularly if it's hard to 'dip' the strip in, such as cheese, meat, or fruit. This also makes pH strips better for liquids, such as juices, alcohol, soups, or sauces, instead of solid foods.
For solid foods, it might be better to use a digital pH meter. These have a probe, which is often sharp, that allows you to penetrate the food and test the pH level inside.
They also don't contain any chemicals since they are computer-powered, so you can safely consume the food after testing the pH level. Another great thing about pH meters is that they are more accurate than pH strips, reaching even 0.01 accuracy.
This is beneficial not only in personal use but also in the laboratory and academic environments.
Commercially sold pH strips aren't harmful to your health as long as you follow the instructions attached to the packaging. It's also important not to consume anything that comes in contact with the strip as it might cause stomach problems.
The best way to test your food is to place a small sample of the food on the strip and after the test is conducted, discard it.