The other day we received a question from a reader in California who asked a question about free and total chlorine readings in what she called the ‘high range’.

I work at the front desk of a company that works on water lines and the guys are always complaining about ‘powder pillers’ and so today I finally asked what a ‘powder piller’ was. I learned two things today. One never ask a cranky engineer a question unless you know what your asking cuz they’re called POWDER PILLOWS and two the guys use them to test chlorine and they are a real pain to work with on a job. Do you have something else the guys can use cuz they REALLY don’t like those things nad they don’t test very high either it seems. Thanks for helping. MandyMandy113

A very interesting question, indeed, Mandy, and definitely one many people besides yourself probably would like to have answered — especially that cranky ‘ole engineer! He probably has spent years testing for free chlorine residual in water mains using DPD-Based test kits that require users to tear open a tiny foil packet and pour a pre-measured amount of reagent powder into a small test tube or vial.

Believe it or not, opening those small foil packets, often referred to as powder pillows, and pouring their contents into tiny openings using dirty, wet hands in cold, windy conditions really DOES take a lot of concentration and effort. Who knew, right?

So anyways, Mandy, other options do exist and they have a few bonuses they your co-workers, even the cranky ‘ole engineer, might appreciate. One option in particular even has approval by the EPA for use when testing the free chlorine residual in drinking water! See how he likes THEM apples. We think he will. 🙂

The SenSafe Free Chlorine Water Check test kit for free chlorine residuals in drinking water detects free chlorine residuals as low as 0.05 parts per million in a matter of seconds and requires the user to do nothing more than dip the strip into a sample, wait a few seconds, and compare the color on the test pad to a color chart.

Now before you say, “Oh great… a test strip…” let us remind you that the USEPA has thoroughly evaluated the SenSafe Free Chlorine Water Check test strips and found them more than adequate for testing free chlorine levels in municipal water supplies.

In the past test strips had color charts with hard to read colors, but this products stands as testament to the fact that times have changed and test strip technology has progressed quite far. See for yourself.

Many people (like several of the people here at Water Testing Blog) have difficulty telling the difference between different shades of colors with red in them so the fact that Free Chlorine Water Check uses a reagent that turns different shades of blue can really make a difference in how accurately a tester can interpret test results.

Testing higher levels of free chlorine

Since Mandy’s co-workers work on water lines, they most likely need to test for higher levels of chlorine (between 20 and 50 ppm) when flushing a new line or putting a repaired water line back in service. For testing like that they probably had to dilute samples 4 or 5 to 1 so they could get readable results with their dpd-based test kits. Not a fun task, especially since they would need to carry a supply of chlorine-free water with them to dilute their test samples.

As an alternative to diluting and testing with dpd reagents, SenSafe created a dip-n-read test strip that uses the same reagent as Free Chlorine Water Check, but has the ability to accurately detect up to 120 parts per million free chlorine w/ no monochloramine interference: WaterWorks Free Chlorine High Range.

12/08/2010 UPDATE: Online distributor of water quality testing and water quality improvement products FilterWater.Com recently started carrying DPD-1 ReagentStrips. If you use DPD-1 tablets or powder pillows, you owe it to yourself to take a look at the advantages offered by this product.