If you are a new pool owner or are planning to install a pool soon, there’s no doubt you’re looking forward to enjoying your pool with your family all summer long. Or perhaps you’ve owned your pool for a while now, but you could use a refresher on pool care to ensure you’re getting the most out of your investment. Therefore, you must regularly check the water’s chemicals to maintain the appropriate levels. This will help decontaminate your water, reduce eye and skin irritation, prevent damage to pool equipment, keep your family safe, and help you save on pool costs in the long run

You have likely read through our pool owner’s maintenance guide by this point, but perhaps you are wondering how to use your pool test kit correctly. This guide will help you understand when and how to use a pool test kit as part of your routine pool maintenance.

Testing the Waters: Every Pool Kit is Different

There are various chemicals you want to test and track in your pool. Most standard pool test kits will cover the basic chemicals you should monitor weekly, but you may need a more comprehensive test kit for additional testing needs. 

We recommend regularly testing the following:

  • Alkalinity – The ideal alkalinity range is between 100 to 150 parts per million (ppm). Alkalinity affects the water’s pH, so it is essential to monitor them in tandem. 
  • pH Levels  – The ideal range is between 7.4 and 7.6. The pH level indicates chemical changes in the water. A pH of 7 is considered neutral, and anything below is acidic and will cause issues. Anything too high diminishes the effects of your chlorine and can cause other problems as well. 
  • Sanitizer levels – Chlorine levels should be between 1 and 4 ppm. If you use complimentary sanitizing options with your chlorine (i.e., mineral purifiers), your chlorine levels may be, ideally, around .5 – 1.5 ppm. 

If your test kit does not include these, you may need to obtain comprehensive kits to perform tests for copper, iron, and calcium (water hardness). You will also need to test your salt levels if you have a saltwater pool. 

What Are the Most Common Pool Tests? 

There are a few different types of pool kits on the market, but the most common types are liquid test kits, test strips, and digital test kits. 

  • Liquid Test Kits (Titrimetric Pool Test Kits) – Liquid Test Kits use reagents to test the pool water’s chemical and pH levels. These kits are accurate and reliable when used correctly. However, the multi-step process required does allow more room for user error, which may mean inaccurate results. 
  • Test Strips – A colorimetric test strip is generally considered the most straightforward testing kit, but not necessarily the most accurate. You will go through test strips more frequently, but they are also the least expensive type of pool test kit. 
  • Digital Test Kits – Digital tests use metallic probes to test the water and electronically display the results. They can usually only measure one or two chemicals and are typically more expensive than liquid and strip test kits. However, they reveal the results quickly, and you do not have to worry about distinguishing between colors on a color chart. 

How Often Should I Test? 

You should test for alkalinity at least once per week. However, if you’re a new pool owner just learning the ropes, you may want to consider testing two to three times per week while you test your pH and chlorine levels. In addition, you can test monthly to monitor copper, iron, and calcium (water hardness) levels. You should test salt levels monthly for saltwater pools. In addition, there are times that you will need to alter your test schedule, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Before opening the pool for the season
  • If pets or young children often swim (as they are more prone to having accidents in the pool)
  • After rainstorms, heat waves, or other significant changes in the weather 
  • After adding water to the pool
  • After pool parties or more frequent pool use 
  • Before beginning algae treatment 
  • If you have water issues such as cloudiness or discoloration 
  • Before closing your pool 

Testing is essential for maintaining appropriate chemical levels whenever there are changes to the pool and its environment. Being proactive to prevent issues keeps your pool more functional than waiting until there’s a problem to solve. 

What Items Should I Have On Hand When Testing?

When testing your pool water, there are a few things you need:

  • Your selected test kit
  • Water sample 
  • Notebook and pen or a pool care app 
  • Protective gear as needed – to protect from chemical splashback if you need to add chemicals 

Your pool test kit will contain most of the supplies you need. 

Step-by-Step Process for Accurately Testing Your Pool

1. Choose your preferred testing kit.

If you are unsure which testing kit is best for your needs, begin with multiple kits and see which style you prefer. You can even take a sample to a pool store and compare your test kit results with their results to determine if your kit is accurate. This may be a good option as you learn to use a liquid test kit or are having problems balancing your chemicals. 

Another option that many pool owners recommend is to test your pH and chlorine levels two to three times each week with the less expensive test strips. Then, during your weekly testing or after adjusting chemical levels, perform the test with a more accurate liquid test kit. 

2. Verify that the kit or its elements are not expired.

If you have purchased your test kit new, this should not be an issue. However, consider buying a new pool test kit if a kit has been leftover from a previous homeowner or otherwise was not acquired new and you are not sure if they were stored properly. 

3. Circulate your pool water.

Turn your pump to the highest setting and allow your pool water to circulate for at least an hour. Stagnant water can interfere with your results.

4. Read the test kit instructions.

While your water is circulating, it is an excellent time to read the instructions and familiarize yourself with how the test kit works. This is especially important if it is your first time using a particular type of kit.

5. Gather a water sample.

With clean hands, gather your water sample. The water should come from approximately 12-18 inches below the surface, about elbow deep. You also want to ensure that you do not take the sample near any floating chemical dispensers, skimmer, or return jets, as this could skew results. 

6. Test your water. 

Follow the test kit instructions carefully. This is especially important for the liquid test kit, which leaves more room for human error. 

7. Analyze your test results. 

Based on the instructions, you will need to analyze your test strips’ color results or liquid kit results. A digital reader will display the results for you. If your chemical levels fall within the ideal range, you are good to go. If they do not, you will need to adjust accordingly and retest.

8. Track your results.

You can use a simple notebook or planner or a dedicated pool app. This will allow you to watch for trends and learn how your pool water’s chemistry fluctuates after heavy use, weather events, etc. Understanding these trends makes it easier to anticipate changes, prepare for potential issues, and maintain the correct chemical levels over time. 

While Testing Is Extremely Important, It’s Critical You Have Pool Equipment on Hand Designed To Last Forever

Regular pool chemical testing is an essential component of routine pool maintenance. You cannot put it off until you have issues. It is best to use testing as a preventative measure to keep your water’s chemicals at the right level and your pool in optimal shape for your family to enjoy safely, all season long. One of the best ways to make sure your pool chemicals can do their job efficiently is to keep your water clean.

This means regularly raking and skimming the water to remove debris like leaves and bugs. The right pool equipment is vital for cleaning quickly and efficiently. ProTuff is proud to provide top-of-the-line pool rakes, skimmers, and telescopic poles to make your job easier. With our lifetime guarantee, you can make one purchase and know that your pool equipment will always do the job. If you have questions about our products or about pool maintenance, do not hesitate to contact us today. We are here to help ensure your pool is a clean and relaxing place you can take pride in.

Disclaimer: Pool ownership and maintenance is very complicated, and we know every situation is unique. While we’ve done our best to cover the best practices here, we encourage you to reach out to ProTuff directly at [email protected] with any specific questions you may have.

How to Use a Pool Test Kit
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