How to Use a Traditional Analog Handheld Refractometer


Different models of traditional analog refractometers have different internal scales on which to read fluid concentrations. Some instruments have specialized scales that indicate the exact mixture of the sample being tested, while others have an arbitrary unit of measure that works like a shorthand for refractive index measurements.

The instruction manual that comes with each refractometer carefully explains the procedure for comparing refractometer readings to the actual known concentrations or properties of your specific fluid. Trained MISCO technical support engineers are always available to assist you at any time.

How to Take a Reading With a Traditional Analog Refractometer

MISCO refractometers are easy-to-use and require little or no training. They can be mastered by ANYONE in just minutes.

  1. Place a drop of sample on the measuring surface beneath the ViewPoint Illuminator.
  2. Look through eyepiece and press the ViewPoint Illuminator.
  3. Take your reading at the point where the contrast line (difference between light and dark areas) crosses the scale.


How a Traditional Analog Refractometer Works

Light passing through a liquid is slowed compared to the speed it travels in air. So once a fluid sample is placed on the measuring surface of a refractometer, the light passing through it slows and is bent.

The refractometer focuses this bent light on a tiny internal scale. The scale is magnified by the eyepiece lenses so it is easily visible.

The optics are supported by a bi-metal strip that moves lenses in response to temperature changes, ensuring that readings are accurate regardless of temperature.



Deicing (5)

What are all the different salt scales used for? I need to measure salinity content but don’t know what scale I need.

Chemically, salts are ionic compounds that result from the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. There are several varieties of salts containing chlorides, acetates, fluorides, and sulfates. The most common salt is sodium chloride (NaCl) or regular table salt. Although we have a refractometer scale that will measure most common salts, we also have an extensive list of scales for sodium chloride. You may select from scales for measuring sodium chloride concentration in percent by weight, specific gravity, freeze point, parts per thousand (ppt), g/100g, density, percent saturation, and even Baume. The most common units of measure are percent by weight, percent saturation, and freeze point. The scale that is correct for you depend on what unit of measure you are most interested in. Multiple salt scales can be programed into the MISCO Palm Abbe digital refractometer so you can just change between different units of measure as your needs change. MISCO also has scales available for the salinity of seawater.

I am looking for an refractometer to measure & control concentration of salt brine preparation for road deicing (at 23.3 %). Is your refractometer applicable to this service?

We have two options for your brine maker. First, is the Palm Abbe digital refractometer with scales for sodium chloride (NaCl). Scales are available for salt concentration as percent by weight, parts per thousand (ppt), or percent (%) saturation. There are also scales available for testing the freeze point of your brine solution. We also have scales available for measuring calcium chloride, urea, and magnesium chloride as well. The Palm Abbe can have up to five different scales so one refractometer can measure the concentration of all your deicing fluids. The second option, would be installing an inline refractometer on your brinemaker to monitor salt brine concentration in real-time. A 4 to 20 mA on the inline can be wired to a PLC and can open or close valves to draw off salt brine when it is at the proper concentration. The inline unit can measure sodium chloride, calcium chloride, and magnesium chloride.

Sodium Chloride Salt Brine Refractometer Salomete-; Sodium Chloride Salt Brine-Percent Saturation- Freeze Point in °C – MISCO Digital Refractometer

Sodium Chloride Salt Brine Refractometer Salometer- Sodium Chloride Salt Brine- Percent Saturation- Freeze Point in °F -MISCO Digital Refractometer

Full question

We just purchased a MISCO digital salometer for measuring sodium chloride concentration. We have a process that needs to mix DI water with Sodium Chloride (NaCl) to 100% saturation. I am hoping that the meter I have bought is the correct version for this job?

The MISCO Digital Salometer is a refractometer that measures the percent saturation of sodium chloride (NaCl) salt in water. The refractometer will display the percent saturation of sodium chloride from 0 to 100% as well as display the freeze point of the solution in either Fahrenheit or Celsius (model dependent). A digital Salometer overcomes many of the problems associated with traditional analog Salometers. Traditional Salometers are cumbersome to use and time consuming. They are simply a glass or plastic hydrometer with a special scale that displays degrees SAL instead of specific gravity. In use, the traditional Salometer is floated in a graduated cylinder containing salt brine. The reading is taken at the point at which the surface of the fluid crosses the analog scale divisions; the temperature must then be read with a thermometer, followed by a manual temperature correction of the reading.

There is no method for field calibrating the apparatus; it is difficult to resolve the tiny scale divisions; it must be thoroughly cleaned and dried to prevent salt residue from influencing subsequent readings; and it is easily broken. The MISCO Digital Salometer is much easier to use and much more accurate. Simply place a couple of drops of sodium chloride solution on the measuring surface, close the evaporation cover, and press the button to initiate the readings. The percent saturation is displayed nearly instantly on the large LCD display.


Sodium Chloride Salt Brine Refractometer Salometer,  Sodium Chloride Salt Brine , Percent Saturation , Freeze Point in °C

Sodium Chloride Salt Brine Refractometer Salometer,; Sodium Chloride Salt Brine,; Percent Saturation Freeze Point in °F


We have a pool with 18% salt (a mixture of NaCl, CaCl2 and MgCl2). Is there a digital device [refractometer] that can measure the % of salt in the water?

I have some concerns about your ability to measure percent salt in a multi-component mixture with a refractometer. You see, refractometers are very good at measuring binary (two-part) mixtures such as sodium chloride and water, where the refractive index value of water is a constant (static or known) and sodium chloride is the variable. However, when there are many different components in a solution, such as sodium chloride (NaCl), calcium chloride (CaCl2), and magnesium chloride (MgCl2), it is difficult to tell what the contribution is that each component makes to the total refractive index.

So, if the refractive index changes, it is impossible to say, with any certainty, which of the component parts has changed. Since a refractometer only measures the total refractive index of a solution and cannot selectively read the refractive index of one particular component. All water soluble fluids look the same to the refractometer. Therefore it will be impossible to get a reading that is meaningful.

The Palm Abbe refractometer does have scales for binary solutions of sodium chloride (NaCl), calcium chloride (CaCl2), and magnesium chloride (MgCl2), but cannot measure a mixture of all three.

I’m interested in testing calcium chloride (CaCl2) at a 30% concentration. This would be to verify identity of totes. Is this possible with a refractometer?

The MISCO Palm Abbe digital refractometer can be programmed to measure calcium chloride. In fact there are several calcium chloride scales that can be programmed into the Palm Abbe refractometer to measure calcium chloride percent by weight, grams/ 100 grams, ppt, density, specific gravity, and freeze point in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. All of the Calcium Chloride scales can measure the equivalent of 0 to 40% w/w, with the exception of the freeze point scales which measure to the maximum freeze point.

Categories: Chemicals, Deicing