pH Testing Hangzhou’s Rainwater


With all the pollution in China, and the tropical Shanghai-like weather here in Hangzhou, I cant help but wonder, “How polluted, acidic, is the rain that pours over us people everyday? (especially that I dislike umbrellas)

Well I regret that I didn’t bring pH paper with me, but how could I have anticipated the need for it, right? Well as I shopped for my weekly consumption of water, I realized that small pH strips were attached to the brand of bottled water I buy, Nongfu Spring, as part of a marketing campaign to let customers check for themselves the pH of the water they’re drinking.


I did not use the pH strips for the bottled water (I just didn’t buy the idea- especially with the scandals that happen in China, Nongfu being involved in a huge one 3 years ago- a future post will surely be about Nongfu Spring, my choice of water). Actually, I took one of the pH strips and went downstairs to record the pH of the rainwater as it rained.

Why? Because I’ve been experiencing slight itching in my scalp after it rains (makes me wonder what kind of water I shower with).

First, I need to state that pH paper, yellow-colored, changes color with various liquid substances, reflecting the respective acid/base levels according to the pH score. Lemon juice turns yellow into an orange-red shade, an acid with a 3-to-4 pH score. Baking soda gives a pH of 8, a basic level.

Let me share my findings, and why I believe they were flawed even before I started doing the experiment.

As my pictures show below, the yellow pH strip remained as it is, unchanged, indicating that the water is neutral in its acidity.

Here comes the interesting part. Since I’m very skeptical of the pH paper itself, I was interested in backing my claim with some basic evidence by pouring some vinegar on another strip of pH. Well, as I’ll show you below, the pH remains yellow, indicating that vinegar is neutral, which is clearly untrue. That was shocking, even when I had already suspected it. So I did another test with another pH strip on a cucumber, and the result was the same, YELLOW!

So I really believe that the itchiness in my scalp is a result of the rainwater (not that the water I shower in is much better), and I’ll just make sure that I’ll use the hoodie in my jacket or raincoat to minimize contact as much as possible.

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