Pool Test Kits vs. Pool Test Strips: How to Use Them to Test Pool Water Quality

Maintaining a clean and safe swimming pool is crucial, and testing the water is a key part of this upkeep. Regularly checking the chlorine, pH, and sometimes total alkalinity and hardness levels will ensure that your pool remains clear and suitable for swimmers.

If you have your own pool, learning how to test your pool water at home is a must, and this guide will walk you through the process.


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When and What to Check Your Pool?

Before diving into the testing process, it’s important to know what you’re looking for. Pool test kits measure free chlorine (chlorine not yet bonded with contaminants) and pH levels, with some kits also assessing calcium hardness or total alkalinity. Maintaining balanced levels is vital to prevent issues like cloudy water, skin or eye irritation, and algae growth.

To keep your pool in top condition, aim to test chlorine and pH levels at least two or three times a week. Additional testing is recommended after rain, heavy pool use, water additions, or if you notice any water quality changes. Check total alkalinity weekly unless there’s a pH change, in which case, test it each time you check pH. Calcium hardness requires monthly monitoring.

Swimming Pool Cleaner. Caucasian Worker Taking Care of the Pool.

Ideal Ranges

Here are the recommended ranges for key parameters:

  • Free chlorine: 1.0 to 4.0 parts per million
  • pH: 7.2 to 7.6
  • Total alkalinity: 80 to 120 parts per million
  • Calcium hardness: 175 to 275 parts per million

Remember, maintaining a higher level of free chlorine than combined chlorine ensures effective sanitisation. Regular testing and adjustment within these ranges will help keep your home pool inviting and safe for everyone.

Pool Test Kits vs. Pool Test Strips

When it comes to testing your pool water, you can choose between pool test kits and pool test strips, and each option has its advantages and disadvantages.

Pool Test Strips

Testing with pool test strips is the simplest method. After collecting a sample of pool water, you dip the test strip in the water, and it changes colours. You then compare these colours to a key on the test strip container. However, there are drawbacks to using test strips. They are single-use, so you’ll need to buy replacements regularly. Additionally, the results from test strips may not be as accurate as those from a pool test kit.

Pool Test Kits

Also known as liquid test kits or reagent test kits, pool test kits take a bit more time to use but offer greater accuracy compared to test strips. The process involves collecting a water sample and adding drops of different reagents to assess chlorine and pH levels.

There are two types of reagent test kits: orthotolidine (OTO) and N, N-diethyl-p-phenylenediamine (DPD). DPD test kits can check both free and total chlorine levels, while OTO test kits only read total chlorine levels. Though it takes a bit more effort, using a pool test kit provides more precise results for maintaining your pool’s water quality.

Analysis of the PH and chlorine of the water in a swimming pool in Summer. Check quality of water with test strip, comparing results.

How to Use Pool Test Strips for Checking Water Quality?

Testing your pool water with test strips is a straightforward process, though it may be less precise compared to other methods. Follow these steps to ensure you check for balanced chemical levels using test strips.

STEP 1: Prepare the Test Strip

Before using a test strip, wash your hands with soap and thoroughly dry them. Take one test strip from the packaging, and securely seal the container to prevent contamination of the remaining strips.

STEP 2: Submerge the Test Strip

Choose a spot away from jets or skimmers, preferably in the centre of the pool. Submerge the test strip at least 18 inches below the water’s surface (about elbow depth) and keep it underwater for the specified time, usually 15 seconds according to your test strip’s instructions.

STEP 3: Compare the Colors

Retrieve the test strip from the water and compare the colours it displays for each testing parameter with the chart provided on the bottle or packaging. Take note of the results for future reference, allowing you to track any changes in levels between tests.

Unrecognizable young man using a ph and cl kit to test the swimming pool water quality.

How to Use a Liquid Test Kit to Check Your Pool Water?

If you want the most accurate readings for testing your pool water, using a liquid test kit is recommended. Although it may involve a bit more effort compared to test strips, liquid test kits provide reliable results and are still user-friendly. The following general instructions are based on standard pool test kits, but make sure to thoroughly read and follow the specific instructions for your product.

STEP 1: Prep the Tubes

Remove the caps from each tube in the pool test kit and rinse the interiors to eliminate potential contaminants.

STEP 2: Collect Water Samples

Choose a pool area away from skimmers or jets. Invert the tubes and submerge them about 18 inches below the water surface before pulling them back out.

STEP 3: Add Reagents

According to the manufacturer’s instructions, add the specified reagents to each tube. Typically, the left tube measures chlorine, and the right one tests pH levels.

STEP 4: Shake and Record

Seal the tubes with their caps, gently shake or swirl to mix the reagents, and record the readings. Comparing the watercolour with the provided chart is easier if you place a white sheet of paper behind the tubes.

Final Thoughts

Regularly testing your home pool water is crucial for proper maintenance. Whether you choose a pool test kit or test strips, they help you monitor essential chemistry levels, ensuring you can make necessary adjustments to chlorine or pH. Following the outlined steps will guide you in testing your swimming pool water, whether you opt for a pool test kit or test strips.

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