The 9 Best Pool Testing Kits
This wiki has been updated 30 times since it was first published in August of 2015. Keep the water in your swimming pool clean, crystal clear, and healthy for your family by testing it regularly using one of these handy kits. We've included reagent-based options for greater accuracy, strips for ease of use, and a couple of digital models that eliminate any guesswork. By knowing your water's makeup, you can avoid wasting money on unnecessary chemicals. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 02, 2019:
There is no doubt about it, maintaining a pool can be costly. It gets even more costly if you can't test you water yourself and instead rely on the recommendations of your local pool store about which chemicals you need and how much. The LaMotte ColorQ Pro 2058 and LaMotte ColorQ Pro 7 2056 offer the most accuracy you can find in a testing kit, since they are both digital and give a definitive readout, rather than relying on color matching. Of course, these are also somewhat expensive, so if you don't run a commercial pool service or aren't overly concerned if your levels are off a little bit, they may not be a worthwhile investment. For the home user who wants to be able to test both free and available chlorine, we recommend the Taylor Technologies Complete K-2006. Unlike many other options, it relies on FAS-DPD powder for testing chlorine levels, which are more accurate than liquid reagents. The Poolmaster Basic Collection and Valterra Blue Devil are both reasonable choices for the home owner who doesn't want to spend a lot of money, but still wants to be able to keep abreast of five chemical factors in their pool water. While we feel liquid reagents are a better option than test strips, some people just don't want to deal with trying to figure out how to use them. For those people we have included the AquaChek 7-Way and Poolmaster 6-Way 22212.
"Don't Go Near The (Untested) Water"
Or for an even easier option, just stick a testing strip in the water and watch it begin to change color just a few seconds later.
If you're a fan of The Beach Boys, you'll recognize that as the opening track on their 1971 album Surf's Up with a little parenthetical added by yours truly. It's good advice for pool owners, especially considering the delicate chemical balancing act that's required to keep pool water in its sweet spot.
When that balance is perfected, the skin and eyes of a given swimmer won't suffer, and any and all potentially harmful bacteria hasn't a chance to profligate.
Just how dangerous is it to leave pool water untested, and thereby, untreated? Well, I'm reminded of a scene in one of 1997's two volcanic disaster films, Dante's Peak. It's late in the movie, and the family at the center of the drama has to cross a lake that's been subsumed by sulfuric acid. The vile water eats through their paddles and begins to disintegrate the hull of their rowboat. To save the day, the grandma jumps in the water and pulls the boat ashore, the water doling out second and third degree acid burns over the majority of her body.
Now, your pool probably isn't going to reach those levels of carnage, but the image is a powerful cautionary one that ought to get you testing your water on the regular.
The best part is that the testing process is supremely easy. You simply grab some water from the pool, mix in a specified amount of reagent provided by the kit for whatever element you're testing, shake it up, and compare the resulting color to the included chart. Or for an even easier option, just stick a testing strip in the water and watch it begin to change color just a few seconds later.
Each reagent will react to the presence and amount of a specific chemical or acidity, so you can use the same kit to test for a variety of levels.
How To Scare Your Kids With A Pool Test Kit
I've got news for you, news that very well may not be news. If you have both kids and a pool, those kids pee in that pool. There's no way around it. It's a law of the universe that the stuffed shirt academics in their ivory towers simply don't want to codify – probably because they still pee in the pool.
I've got news for you, news that very well may not be news.
Now, there's no way to specifically test for the presence of that unique additive in your pool. These test kits can measure pH balance, bromine levels, overall alkalinity, calcium hardness, and more, but the measurements don't tell you why a certain number is what it is.
Here are some ideal measurements (ppm stands for parts per million):
- pH: 7.2 - 7.8.
- Chlorine: 1.0 - 2.0 ppm.
- Bromine: 3.0 - 6.0 ppm.
- Total alkalinity: 80 - 120 ppm.
- Calcium hardness: 180 - 220 ppm.
- Cyanuric acid: 40 - 80 ppm.
- Total dissolved solids: Below 5000 ppm.
You can easily increase or reduce the amount of chlorine you add to the water or try to soften it with salts when needed, but the test kit won't come out and say that your pool's pH balance is off by a millionth of a point because somebody peed in the water.
Kids don't know that, though. And that's where the fun begins. Next time you want to test your pool's levels, wait until the kids are happily swimming. Wordlessly, head outside and begin the process, casting critical looks in their general direction. At this point, they should already be terrified.
As you note the results, let out a big sigh and shake your head some. Trust me; you don't need to say a word. If they ask, simply say that you're testing the water for contaminants. Then go back inside. Those kids will never pee in the pool again.
Testing For Clarity, For Modernity
Before swimming pools were the sanitary containers of chlorinated water we've all come to rely on in the blistering heat of the summer, they were a luxury afforded only by the noble classes. There were public baths and hot springs throughout the ages, as well as swimming centers for fitness among Greek athletes, but pools constructed for recreational swimming didn't enter the public sphere until the late 19th century.
If you do all of your own pool care, you need to own a test kit.
Just because the filthy serfs were restricted access to the pools of their wealthy overlords doesn't mean the private pools of history's super-rich were all that clean. Roman emperors and senators often had pools that were intentionally populated with fish and other creatures, resembling indoor ponds more than any identifiable swimming pool. Imagine the colors your test kit would put out if you measured some of that water.
Now that it's become imperative for us to keep our swimming water free of the kinds of microorganisms that can kill you long before you realize they've gotten inside you, test kits have become a vital ubiquity.
If you do all of your own pool care, you need to own a test kit. But even if you have someone that comes around on a weekly basis to care for your pool, it's still a good idea to test against their potential incompetence from time to time.