When Should You Replace Your pH Probe?

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How often you replace your pH probe depends on how much you use it, the temperature and type of sample you are measuring, and the care and maintenance of the probe. Most people get a good 12-18 months out of a pH probe before needing to replace it. 

Measuring pH is important. A pH probe is an essential tool in a wide variety of industries and applications. Unfortunately, we do not have the technology (yet) to create a pH probe that contains electrodes that do not burn out. Just like a light bulb, your pH probe will eventually start to wear out, and you will need to replace it. 

Even though pH meters are fairly robust, they require special care and attention to function. The most expensive part of a pH meter is usually the pH probe, which is the part that often needs replacing. Proper care will only extend the probe’s lifespan, which means you will have to replace your pH probe less often. 

Why Do pH Probes Need Replacing?

Even if you are the most careful person on the planet, the most common reason for replacing a pH probe is breakage. Because pH probes have a very thin membrane, they can easily become damaged. This typically happens when a pH probe is mechanically shocked during calibration, or a foreign object damages the electrodes during installation.

Another reason associated with pH probe replacements is a plugged reference junction. If you know how a pH probe works, you will know that the reference junction is very sensitive and contains a permeable membrane that must remain open to allow fluids to pass through. If the pH probe is submerged in an environment that contains high solids, oils, or greasy fluids, the junction becomes blocked, or “plugged”. 

Overuse is another reason to grab a new pH probe. Obviously, the more you use your pH probe, the more often you will need to replace it. 

The temperature and type of sample you are measuring can also affect how frequently you need to replace your pH probe. This is why it is recommended to cool your sample, as the electrodes inside the probe degrade much faster at high temperatures which means a shorter lifespan for your pH probe. 

How much you spend on the care and maintenance of your pH probe, can also determine when you need to replace your probe.

When To Replace A pH Probe?

As a pH probe contains many internal parts, it can be difficult to know when it is appropriate to replace it. You should take a look at what you are using it for, and the quality of the probe, for example, if you choose a cheaper model, it may not last as long as a top-of-the-range pH probe!

Now, it is highly recommended that you do not wait until your pH probe is hanging by its last threads… As soon as you notice your pH probe constantly drifting or failing, this is the time to replace it. Waiting until it’s too late will only cause a headache for you and whoever you may be working with. Remember, it is always better to report issues than wait until a more serious issue occurs with your equipment. 

Usually, your probe will show some signs of warning before they completely die on you, these include:

  • The obvious one – it is physically broken. 
  • No longer holding calibration (usually for a few months).
  • It takes a MUCH longer time to get a stable calibration reading compared to when it was brand new. 

Most pH probes have a lifespan between one year and 18 months, however, some companies will replace their pH probes every 9 months. These businesses often work with aquatic life, therefore they cannot risk the effectiveness of pH probes because pH plays a large role in aquatic systems.  

If you know that you will be using a pH probe in an industrial setting, selecting an Industrial pH probe will give you twice the life expectancy of a regular Lab Grade pH probe. This is because industrial probes are larger, usually with a thick Ryton body, which is chemically inert and virtually indestructible. They also have a flat sensing area instead of a glass bulb, therefore you do not have to worry about breaking the tip and having to prematurely replace your pH probe. 

Can You Lengthen A pH Probe Lifespan?

Technically, no. One day, whether it be in one year or almost two, you will have to replace your pH probe. However, there are a few things you can do to maintain and care for your probe. 

pH Probe Cleaning & Storage

Giving your pH probe some TLC can benefit its lifespan. By cleaning your pH probe after use and storing it correctly, you minimize the risks of breakages. Remember that pH probes are one of the most expensive components of a pH meter, so it’s up to you to take good care of your probe. 

Cleaning

Soft coatings can be removed by using a squirt bottle or by vigorous stirring. If you choose the stirring method, be careful not to damage the probe. If you are working with organic chemicals or hard coatings, you will need to chemically remove the solution/substance. A light bleach solution (or 5-10% hydrochloric acid) soak can be used for a few minutes. 

Never use a brush or abrasive material to clean your pH probe, as this can damage it, and you will have to replace it. 

Storage

The number one rule when storing your pH probe is, NEVER EVER store it in water. Storing your pH probe in distilled or deionized water will cause the ions to leach out of the glass bulb and destroy your pH probe.

Now, after hearing that you may be scared to store your pH probe in any solution, but if you do that, your pH probe will dry out, and therefore you will soon need to replace it. 

Your pH probe must remain moist in a fresh storage solution for future function. Storage solutions are designed to maintain the reference salt concentration while preventing bacteria and fungus from growing inside the solution. 

If you find that cleaning does not restore the performance of your pH probe, you can try reconditioning it.

pH Probe Reconditioning

If you are required to recondition your pH probe due to aging, we recommend you use a pH probe reconditioning kit

Summing Up Replacing A pH Probe

The general lifespan of most pH probes is between 12 and 18 months. However, how often you replace your pH probe depends on how much you use it, the temperature and type of sample you are measuring, and the care and maintenance of the probe. 

If you have any questions regarding pH or are unsure which pH probe will best suit your needs, please do not hesitate to contact the world-class team at Atlas Scientific. 

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