Bathroom scales. Those faithful fixtures that help us keep track of our weight. They let us know when we’re making progress in our fitness programs or suffering undue setbacks.
They’re either friend or foe, depending on the figures they display on their screens.
Can we really trust them?
Today’s modern bathroom scales have come a long way since their earlier, mechanical counterparts. Electronic digital scales do more than just measure our body weight. They can also determine our body fat, lean and muscle mass, BMI, and water ratio. Newer models are even wirelessly connected and have features like smartphone integration, fitness tracking, and cloud storage.
Many dieters prefer digital scales for their greater accuracy, instant results, easy-to-read number displays, and compact designs.
If even after calibrating it, you think your scale is still the culprit, check out our reviews of the best bathroom scales for accuracy.
Prices vary according to the amount of maximum weight these digital scales can measure. The least expensive are limited to 300 pounds. Prices increase as you go up to 400 or 500 pounds. Scales with such high capacities are called bariatric scales.
Do Bathroom Scales Need to Be Calibrated?
Like most standard weighing scales, digital bathroom scales need to be calibrated. They’re precision instruments that have sensitive parts and components which, over time, and with constant handling, movement, and use, are prone to drift.
So every time you move your digital scale, you need to calibrate it again. Otherwise, your weight can be thrown off by as much as five pounds.
How to Calibrate Digital Bathroom Scales
To calibrate a digital bathroom scale, you’ll need to restore it to its initial settings or what is known as the correct “zero” reading. Check the user’s manual for specific steps. They usually involve applying some pressure and waiting until you see “0.0” before stepping on the platform.
Some digital scales have a button called “Cal,” “Function” or “Mode” that you need to press to enter calibration mode. Some have an automatic calibration feature that sets the scale to zero each time you step off or remove any weight from the scale. It largely depends on your unit’s make and model.
Calibration is integral to ensuring accurate readings. Neglecting to do so could mean your scale isn’t truly at “0”, which would give you unreliable results.
Here are some general steps to follow when calibrating a digital bathroom scale:
- Note your unit’s maximum weight capacity. It’s usually listed on the label or tag, on the user’s manual, or the manufacturer’s website.
- Turn the scale on to warm it up.
- Prepare the weights that you’ll be using for the calibration process. (See below.) Make sure they’re objects that are heavy enough to register on your scale but light enough for you to carry.
- Place the scale on a flat, firm surface without any carpet and strong air currents around.
- Locate the calibration button. Most digital scales carry one of the following codes: “Cal,” “Function,” “Mode,” or “Cal/Mode.” Press that button until the following are displayed: “0”, “0.0”, “000”, or “Cal.” When any of these digits are displayed, the bathroom scale is ready for calibration.
- Place your weights at the center of the platform. Make sure they’re not wobbling or moving.
- After the scale gives you a reading, the following words should appear on the display: “End,” “0”, or “Cal.” Some scales are designed to reset automatically when the calibration is finished. If yours doesn’t, switch the unit off and leave it for about two minutes then switch it back on.
- To see if the calibration worked properly, remove your weights from the scale. Turn off the unit and wait for about a minute. Turn it back on and choose another weight to read. If the reading is correct, the calibration was a success. If your scale gives consistently wrong values, it likely has other problems.
What Can I Use to Calibrate My Scale?
If you don’t have calibration weights, you can use household items with known, definite weights as substitutes: dumbbells, bowling balls, or unopened packs of food such as flour, sugar, or rice. These generally are five to ten pounds and should be a consistent weight.
Make sure they’re packed in thin, light, weightless paper or plastic bags. If they come in a heavy sack or metal container, you won’t get an accurate reading and you’ll have to look for something else.
Ways to Get A Better Reading on Bathroom Scales
- As mentioned above, always place your scale on a hard, level, and stable surface. Carpeting, vinyl, linoleum, and other soft floorings can cause slight variations in the reading. Ideal surfaces would be ceramic or porcelain tiles, concrete, and hardwood.
- Make sure the batteries are fresh. Low batteries are one of the most common causes of inaccurate readings. Faulty power adapters may also cause fluctuations.
- Look under your scale to see if all its legs or corners are touching the floor. Clean its bottom, paying attention to each leg and padding to see if there’s debris collecting around them, or any kind of obstruction that could cause an imbalance.
- When using your scale, remain still. Moving and shifting your weight can cause inaccuracy. Once you step onto the platform, don’t move until your weight is locked in and displayed on the LCD screen.
- Be consistent in your weighing protocol. Use only the same scale, and keep it in the same place each time. Weigh yourself at the same time of day — preferably first thing in the morning after doing numbers 1 and 2, and before eating or drinking. And make sure you’re not wearing any heavy clothing or accessory. Weigh yourself naked or in just your underwear.
Read our other article to find out why some scales are not accurate and how to increase their accuracy.
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