How to Test for Soil pH With a Hand Held pH Meter


A soil’s pH is a measure of its acidity or alkalinity. A pH of 7.0 is balanced. Most plants thrive in a soil that has a pH of 6.5 to 7.5, which means that the plants can absorb all of the nutrients available in soil at this pH. Knowing your soil’s pH is the first step in improving your landscape with soil amendments. Once you know your soil’s pH, you can adjust the pH by adding sulfur to lower the pH or lime to raise it.

Step 1

Dig a 1 qt. soil sample from up to 10 locations throughout your landscape using a soil auger.

Step 2

Collect each soil sample in a separate container.

Step 3

Visually inspect your pH meter for damage including cracks in the housing, salt or algae on the probe that may impede the meter’s performance.

Step 4

Place three clean containers on a counter. Fill one with distilled water. Fill the second with the pH 7 calibration solution. Fill the third with the pH 4 calibration solution.

Step 5

Rinse the probe in water and turn the meter on. Dip the probe in pH 7 solution and allow the pH reading to settle. Adjust the pH reading dial on the top of the machine until the probe reads pH 7. Rinse the probe again. Dip it in pH 4 and allow the readings to settle. Adjust the pH 4/10 screw on the top of the machine until the probe reads pH 4.

Step 6

Mix an equal amount of distilled water to each soil sample.

Step 7

Insert your pH probe into a sample and take a reading from the meter. Clean the probe in between each reading by soaking the probe in distilled water and then shaking it clean.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil auger
  • Sterile plastic containers
  • Distilled water
  • pH 7 buffering solution
  • pH 4 buffering solution


  • University of Minnesota Extension: Soil Sampling, Soil Testing, and Soil Test Kits
  • Oregon State University Extension: Acidifying Crop Production
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute: Use of a pH Meter

Who Can Help

  • Better Grow Hydro: How do I Calibrate My pH Meter?
Keywords: soil pH testing, using pH kits, soil testing meter

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."