Removing foreign particles is a critical step in proper pool maintenance. And while a robotic pool cleaner can pick up debris and dirt, what about all the stuff you can’t see? Those microscopic particles are why every responsible pool owner needs a pool testing kit.
Even if everything seems sparkling clean, the chemistry in your pool can be off, resulting in low-quality water. The chemical imbalance can also harm the equipment, not to mention put your health at risk. By regularly checking the water with pool test kits, you increase the overall safety and longevity of the pool.
A trustworthy pool water test kit can measure the level of chlorine, pH, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, cyanuric acid, and other chemicals in your pool. But how do you know what’s the right choice for you? In this article, we review the best pool test kits on the market and offer some advice in the form of a comprehensive buyer’s guide.
OUR TOP PICK
The liquid testing kit from Poolmaster is a user-friendly system with five numbered, color-coded bottles. We like this product because it allows you to assess the pool’s chemistry with a simple yet highly accurate approach.
Poolmaster’s 22260 5-Way Test Kit includes all the must-have items for routine pool maintenance. Each component is made with durable materials to keep your pool thoroughly clean and safe.
Testing the water chemistry is simple, thanks to the easy-to-read indication panel and spherical clear-view block. A round test block with embedded color chips is also included in the kit for optimal color matching.
To further improve the pool test’s accuracy, the readout scales are built from UV-protected color chips. Instead of being printed on the back, the chips are integrated into the polystyrene test block.
Also, step-by-step testing instructions are included in the package and some general tips on pool maintenance. There’s also a Quick-Reference Guide for the more impatient pool owner.
The state-of-the-art polyethylene case keeps the components safe between tests. Keep in mind it should be stored in a cool, dry location away from direct sunlight. The test kit case is available in two colors, black or blue, with the contents remaining identical.
- Easy to use
- Comes with a polyethylene case
- Not suitable for color-blind people
The Taylor Technologies K-1766 Sodium Chloride Saltwater Test Kit is a mighty ally to saltwater swimming pool owners.
The results are measured with argentometric testing, meaning that silver ions detect the salt and chlorine levels. Thanks to the advanced method, the top-notch pool water test kit is straightforward to use and highly accurate.
The most common issue with most saltwater test kits is that they can’t tell you how much over the appropriate salt level your pool is.
Without an adequate parameter, you’re kind of left in the dark. However, that’s not a concern with the Taylor Technologies K-1766. The saltwater drop test is far more reliable than other products of the same type.
The kit comes with a silver nitrate reagent and a chromate indicator, along with a comprehensive user manual. Keep in mind the product includes potentially harmful chemicals. For that reason, sticking to the step-by-step instructions while testing the pool water is of utmost importance.
- Easy to use
- Highly accurate
- It lasts up to 15 tests
- A bit pricey
If you want a more comprehensive study of the chemical makeup of your pool water, AquaChek Select is just the product for you. With a single dip, you’ll get as many as seven different test results. It’s quick, it’s accurate, and it’s super easy to use.
All you have to do is place the AquaChek Select strip in the water and remove it after just one second. The fantastic pool test kit can measure the total hardness, chlorine, bromine, pH, alkalinity, and cyanuric acid levels with speed and precision.
Although, like most liquid pool tests, the AquaCheck heavily relies on your ability to identify colors, it’s also the quickest and easiest testing method available.
Also, we like how the test screens for everything at once rather than using multiple strips for each round. The all-in-one approach can save you both money and time in the long run, which is the product’s main selling point.
If you’re going to use it in a spa, make sure to test it before and after each usage. It’s also a good idea to keep track of your findings after each session.
- Multiple results from one strip
- Quick results
- Highly accurate
- Easy to use
- Not for color-blind people
The fantastic SJ Wave 16-in-1 Drinking Water Test Kit can check for a whopping 16 parameters to confirm the water is lead-free and pH-safe.
Each kit includes a testing tube and dropper for quick and easy sample collection. The test can detect microscopic pollutants and foreign chemicals, ensuring a safe and healthy environment.
Unlike other similar products, the SJ Wave 16-in-1 is incredibly versatile. You can use the same strips to test your drinking, pool, spa, hot tub, and aquarium water.
If you want to make sure your drinking water is safe for consumption, this is the right pick for you. The SJ Wave 16-in-1 offers comprehensive check-ups that will keep you and your loved ones safe from low-quality water. It’s simple to use and delivers reliable results in under a minute.
The package includes 100 testing strips, all contained in 10 sealable bags. Each strip is encased with a dry agent to ensure a healthy product lifespan and consistent findings. After opening the strips, it’s best to use them within 90 days.
On the plus side, those left unopened have a substantial shelf life of up to two years. Furthermore, since the strips are packaged individually, you won’t risk damaging unused strips before going through the entire pack.
- Tests for 16 parameters
- Quick results
- 100 strips
- Long shelf life
- 90-day shelf life for opened strips
The LaMotte ColorQ Pro 7 is one of the most sought-out digital pool test kits currently on the market. Since it doesn’t involve color matching, the digital pool tester is incredibly convenient and easy to operate.
Much like other digital products, it’s on the higher end of the spectrum budget-wise. However, the test result’s reliability more than makes up for the heftier initial investment.
The test kit includes seven liquid reagents and a photometer that offers an accurate digital readout of the water’s chemical components. It also comes in a waterproof casing for optimal durability. The LaMotte ColorQ Pro 7 can measure both free and total chlorine, cyanuric acid, hardness, bromine, pH, and alkalinity levels.
Most parameters are tested using liquid reagents, except cyanuric acid levels, which are measured with tablets. As mentioned, the kit comes with a photometer and a digital display that provide concrete results. Instead of fumbling with color-matching, the results are presented as digital numbers, leaving no room for confusion.
- Easy-to-read photometer
- Waterproof housing
- Tests for six parameters
- Slightly more costly than similar kits
Whatever the size or type of your pool, a water test kit is a must-have maintenance tool. The product helps you optimize the chemical balance of the pool and eliminate harmful bacteria.
It’s the only way to make sure the water is safe for swimming. Otherwise, you can end up with irritated eyes or skin blemishes.
But how do you make sure you have the right testing kit for your pool? There are several factors to consider before placing an order, from the type of pool water to the level of accuracy you need.
To help you out, we’ve included a buyer’s guide section with a breakdown of the most critical aspects of the product. So keep reading to learn more about the process of testing the pool water.
Types of Pool Tests
Pool test kits typically come in three distinct varieties. Each type can test the chemical contents of the pool water, but the methodology varies from item to item. Here are the three main types of pool tests.
Liquid Pool Tests
Also known as titrimetric pool test kits, they are the most widespread test kits on the market. Thanks to the budget-friendly price and excellent accuracy, liquid tests are the go-to kit for most pool owners. On the other hand, they’re also slightly more demanding to use.
The method requires you to take a pool water sample and apply the appropriate number of drops to assess the chemical and pH balance. These kits usually include several dropping vials, each containing a different reagent for analyzing the variables.
Pool Test Strips
These tests are incredibly user-friendly and affordable, making them another popular choice. However, the findings aren’t always as precise as liquid pool test kits or digital testers.
The method requires you to dip the strip into a pre-collected sample and compare the shade to a color-matching chart. Since different people perceive colors differently, accuracy is especially an issue if several people are running the test.
Digital Pool Tests
These tests determine the chemical contents of the pool water by using a set of iron probes. As opposed to color-matching, the findings appear on the digital display, allowing you to interpret the chemical balance efficiently. However, the devices have an Achilles heel.
Digital pool testers are typically programmed to measure up to two variables. As a result, you may need separate devices for different parameters. In addition, they are usually more costly than strips or liquid tests.
Types of Pool Water Being Tested
Since the test kit examines the pH, chlorine levels, and calcium hardness, the type of water you have in your pool can also affect the results. When choosing a product, make sure it’s suitable for your pool. Have a look at the three types of water that can be found in most homes.
With this type of pool, the required levels of chlorine and salt are produced by a generator. Therefore, you’ll need a test kit that’s custom-made to measure the level of salt, along with other parameters. Keep in mind it’s not uncommon for saltwater tests to be sold separately.
In this instance, the chlorine is distributed through a joint effort of the filtration system and the pool pump. To properly monitor the chemical balance and prevent algae infestation, you can use the standard pool kit to check the total chlorine and pH levels.
Of course, if you’re looking for a more detailed report, you can turn to more advanced devices. Either way, chlorine pools don’t limit your choice of the test kit.
Rather than chlorine, the pool relies on bromine to maintain its purity of the pool. You can use the same test kits as chlorine pools since they share a common reagent. Orthotolidine is typically used to measure both bromine and chlorine, so any standard pool testing kit can do the trick.
Depending on the type of test kit, the accuracy of the findings can vary greatly. Also, human error is always a factor when it comes to interpreting the result.
When used correctly, liquid pool test kits provide an incredibly high level of accuracy. On the other hand, this type of testing is slightly more intricate.
You have to take a pool water sample, mix in the often dangerous chemicals, and then use the supplied color scale to interpret the findings. Color-matching breeds room for mistakes since each person uniquely perceives colors. Picking the wrong shade can significantly affect the outcome.
Pool test strips can be considered the least accurate among the three types of tests. However, the entire process is far less complex, which is why most pool owners opt for this method. Nevertheless, pool testing strips also fall victim to the subjective interpretation of the data due to color matching.
The most accurate way to monitor the chemical balance of your pool is to use digital pool test kits. The device display shows the exact levels in numerical values and is usually only off by 1-2%. However, some pool owners are put off by the hefty initial cost.
Another slight disadvantage is that digital pool testers only check for a couple of elements. But if accuracy is what you’re going for, then this is the right choice to make.
Easy to Use
Much like with any chemical testing, determining the chemical composition of pool water can be tricky. Some tests comprise several stages, and others rely heavily on subjective interpretation. The ease of use is, therefore, an essential factor when choosing a pool test kit.
When it comes to technique, liquid pool test kits are probably the most demanding. Since the process requires adding liquid reagents to tiny droplets of pool water, you need a steady hand and extreme precision. By adding too much or not enough water, you can seriously tamper with the test outcome.
Furthermore, the results are compared to a color-coded chart, leaving you to interpret them independently. But even with these slight setbacks, this type of testing still provides exact findings. Just make sure to follow the provided instructions carefully.
Pool test strips are equally susceptible to human error, but they’re far easier to use. All you have to do is dip the strip in a sample of pool water and wait for it to change color. You then have to find the matching hue on the color-coded chart, which can be difficult for some people. If you’re not confident in your color perception, maybe go for a different product.
Finally, digital pool test kits are the most precise out of the three, with an incredibly small margin of miscalculations. You simply turn it on and dip the metallic prongs into the water.
The results will then appear on the screen in a matter of seconds. And since digital test kits use numerical values, there’s no room for misinterpretation. However, you’ll only be able to measure a single variable, so if you’re looking for a more comprehensive study, go for the liquid pool test.
Are Digital Pool Tests Accurate?
We’ve pretty much covered this throughout the buyer’s guide, but let’s reiterate. Depending on the brand and device calibration, digital pool tests are highly accurate.
Instead of using a color-matching system, the gadgets translate the chemical makeup of the water into hard numbers. Since you don’t have to rely on your senses to interpret the results, you’ll have a better insight into the current condition of your pool.
The only downside to this type of pool testing is that it only works for single-variable measurements. While some liquid pool test kits can check for multiple parameters, digital testers can only look for one or two elements. So you can either get separate pH, saltine, and chlorine digital pool tests or use a different method for each chemical. Either way, one product won’t cut it in this case.
How Often Should I Check My Pool Water?
Regularly checking the water chemistry is vital for the pool’s longevity. However, the frequency with which you test can vary depending on the variable. Luckily, there’s a somewhat universally acclaimed schedule you can keep to ensure the balance is maintained.
Because chlorine is the vital sanitization element, it’s essential to monitor its fluctuation. If the chlorine levels are off, the purity of the water will be jeopardized, leading to a change of color. For that reason, you should check the chlorine levels at least two to three times a week. New pool owners should do it with more frequency, if possible, every day.
And while you measure chlorine, you should also take note of the pH levels. These elements aid each other in creating the safest swimming conditions. If the pH levels are satisfactory, the chlorine is doing its job. Since it’s such an important factor in water sanitization, you should test the pH level at least three times a week.
Homeowners with saltwater pools can mostly relax since the built-in salt generator will regulate the salt levels. Depending on the brand, you typically receive an alert when the balance is off, or there’s a malfunction. However, even with automatic tracking, it’s still advisable to check the salt levels at least once a month. If anything else, you’ll be continuously impressed by the sophisticated mechanism.
The type of weather in your region also determines the composition of your pool water. It’s always a good idea to check the pH balance or chlorine levels after a rainfall, whether it’s a trickle or a full-on downpour.
Another thing to keep track of is how often you use the pool. If you’re hosting a pool-side gathering, it’s best to check the water chemistry before and after the event. During summer, you should probably sneak in a quick test every day before the kids start splashing.
How Long Does a Pool Water Sample Last?
The amount of time you can keep a pool water sample before analyzing it is referred to as ‘holding time.’ If that period is exceeded, it can affect the accuracy of the findings. In that case, you’ll have to collect an entirely new sample and repeat the process.
Luckily, water samples have a wide duration window. One sample can last anywhere from six hours to six months. However, for optimal results, it’s best to look into the following parameters right off the bat:
- The amount of oxygen dissolved in the water
- The pH levels
- The temperature of sulfite
- The total amount of residual chlorine
How Can I Test My Pool Water Without a Kit?
If you’re ever left without a manufactured pool testing kit, there’s an old-fashioned way to test the water. Grab a red cabbage, pour some water in a pot and do the following:
- Boil the water and add the red cabbage. You need the whole thing, so no chopping or tearing.
- Stir the cabbage in boiling water for at least half an hour.
- Strain the water to remove any accumulated particles. The color of the water should now be purplish.
- Next, grab a plastic container, fill it halfway with pool water and add a few drops of the red cabbage water. The pH level will then affect the vegetable water, and it will start to change color.
If the water turns light red, there’s likely excess cyanuric acid in the water. If it’s purple, then the water chemistry is in balance. You can even use a pH color chart for reference to get a better idea.
Of course, while incredibly fun, this method is strictly for emergencies. If you want an accurate read on the water chemistry, investing in a reliable pool test kit is an absolute must.
Does Your Pool Pass the Test?
Checking the pool water is a recipe for the ultimate safe swimming experience. Even if you’re diligent in cleaning your pool, there’s not much you can do against microscopic particles. However, by monitoring the water chemistry levels, you’ll ensure a healthy, safe environment for all kinds of water escapades.
Hopefully, one of our top picks for the best pool test kit has caught your eye. If not, we’re pretty confident our buyer’s guide can help you with your purchase.
Whatever testing method you go for, make sure you use it regularly. After all, what good is a test without any results to show?