Pool Water Testing

Learn how to test pool water and ensure the chemical levels are properly balanced

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Testing the water is an essential part of your pool maintenance routine and should always be the first step when caring for your pool. It helps identify your pool’s needs and prevents over-treating with too many chemicals.  Maintaining the proper chemical balance in your pool water also helps keep pool equipment in great condition. It can prevent surface damage and other common problems such as cloudy water and buildup of harmful bacteria. 
This guide will teach you how to assess your water for a healthy swimming season.

What You Need

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Best Ways to Test Your Pool
Best ways to test your pool

The two most popular ways to test your pool water are by using pool test strips and pool testing kits. Since your pool will need to be tested weekly, it’s important to choose the best water test kit or strips for your needs. Whichever you choose, it should test for both chlorine amounts and pH levels, as these are two of the most important chemical factors in any pool.

Ultimately, it’s best to find a kit or strips that also test for total alkalinity and total hardness. Total alkalinity can negatively affect your water’s pH, while an unbalanced total hardness can cause potential surface and equipment damage. The ideal at-home solution helps you monitor all of the above.

Whichever method you choose, it’s always a good idea to track your the chemical levels each time you test your pool. Use a journal or logbook to keep document this data.

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Using Pool Test Strips
Using pool test strips

Pool test strips are a fast and convenient pool water testing option for measuring total hardness, total chlorine, free available chlorine, pH, total alkalinity and stability. Many pool owners find test strips to be economical, simple to use and easy to read.

How to use pool test strips: 

• With clean, dry hands, remove one test strip from bottle and close it tightly.
• Dip the test strip into your pool, away from jets and at elbow depth, for 15 seconds.
• Remove the test strip from the water and compare its results to the chart provided in the package.
• Balance the water accordingly.

Tip: Your test strip container may provide general guidelines on balancing chemical levels.

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Using Pool Test Kits
Using pool test kits

There are two popular types of test kits that can be used for your pool: DPD tests and OTO-Phenol tests. DPD tests usually measure chlorine, pH, alkalinity, stabilizer and hardness. OTO-Phenol kits test for chlorine and pH. Pool test kits can be more time-consuming to use, but they are typically more accurate than test strips.

How to use pool test kits:

• Remove the tube caps and rinse tubes before use.
• Fill the tube with pool water up to the indicator lines. Make sure to take your sample in an area away from the jets and at elbow depth.
• Follow the package instructions and drop the appropriate amount of the reagent solution into the water sample.
• Cap the tube and shake gently to thoroughly mix the solution.
• Compare the water color to the chart provided in your test kit. 

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Balancing Pool Water
Balancing pool water

To maintain balanced pool water levels, adjust each of these elements in the following order:

Total Alkalinity 

• Helps prevent pH from swinging in and out of range
• Test monthly
• Ideal range: 80-150 ppm

pH

• Helps prevent swimmer discomfort, improves chlorine effectiveness and protects equipment
• Test weekly
• Ideal range: 7.2-7.6

Stabilizer

• Extends the life of chlorine by preventing chlorine burn-off due to sunlight
• Test 2-3 times per season
• Ideal Range: 30-150 ppm

Calcium Hardness 

• Helps prevent surface damage such as scale and corrosion
• Test 2-3 times per season
• Ideal range: 175-275 ppm

Free Chlorine

• Helps prevent the growth of bacteria and algae
• Test weekly
• Ideal range: 1-4 ppm