Balancing pool chemical levels is an essential part of pool maintenance. Quoting Erasmus, a Dutch philosopher: “Prevention is better than cure.” True to this, balancing the pool chemistry ensures that the pool water remains clean and clear without accumulating a high cost from the constant wasting of water.
A pool water test kit can greatly help you check and monitor chemical parameters. But not all test kits are created equal. Thus, you should carefully consider the best pool water test kit suited for your needs.
And to help you out, we have prepared a guide to help you identify what test kit you need to use to monitor pool chemical levels and a list of the best test kits that are available in the market.
Let’s get right into it!
How Do Pool Test Kits Work?
Before buying a product, it is important to understand how it functions, giving you an overall grasp of whether it really works. And to understand means to know the science behind it. For our discussion, we will only focus on chlorine, pH level, and water hardness.
Chlorine is a good sanitizing agent of pool water because it is very reactive. That is why chlorine diluted in water is easily detected through various means. The most common method is adding a reacting reagent that changes the color of the water with chlorine. On advanced testing kits, they use light refraction to identify the approximate chlorine concentration in parts per million.
pH levels refer to how acidic or basic water is. And since pH levels are due to hydrogen ions, it means it’s directly proportional to conductivity. Thus, it can easily be measured using a voltmeter. 
Water hardness refers to how much mineral, specifically calcium and magnesium, is there in a certain volume. In a pool testing kit, chemical reagents will change the color of the pool water depending on the amount of calcium and magnesium. Laboratories, on the other hand, use titration and formulas to determine the exact hardness. 
Types of Water Test Kits to Monitor Pool Chemical Levels
There are three types of pool water testing kits that are commercially available. Our discussion below will tackle how the test kits operate, their advantages, and their disadvantages. And please keep in mind that these don’t take into account the water test kits that are used in laboratories.
As the name implies, these are test strips made of paper that have patches of chemicals in them. Paper test strips can be relied on when measuring water parameters like pH level, chlorine, water hardness, and alkalinity.
The chemical patches in the paper change color when dipped into the pool water. Then after a minute of immersion, you’ll notice that the colors of the patches on the strip will change. Then you’ll have to compare the resulting color with a colorimetric chart included in the kit.
One major drawback for this pool water test kit is the lack of ability to measure free or residual chlorine (different from total chlorine), which tells if there are enough sanitizing agents in the pool.
The next type of pool water test kit that we will talk about is liquid reagents. These liquid reagents are stored in containers that look like eye-drop products. This is because these liquids are mixed into the water sample per drop. And as the liquid reagent mix with the sample pool water, its color slowly changes depending on the chemical concentration that it’s trying to detect.
Then to get the results, there are two ways. The first one is the more traditional type, the resulting color of the water sample needs to be compared to a colorimetric chart. The second one is more advanced, the water sample will then be inserted into a machine that analyzes the solution.
There are no major drawbacks when using this type of pool water test kit. But please be reminded that they are pricier than paper test strips.
Contrary to its name, complete digital pool water test kits aren’t purely automatic. What we mean by complete is that it can measure all the needed parameters for water quality. And what we meant by aren’t purely automatic is that liquid reagents are also mixed into the water sample before being scanned by the digital tester.
The way that digital pool water test kits work is through the installed photometers. Photometers measure electromagnetic radiation that bounces off from the water sample to give accurate results.
Thus, for the photometers to function properly, liquid DPD (N, N-diethyl-p-phenylenediamine) is added to the water sample. What happens after is that DPD reacts with chlorine and ions which changes the color of the water. 
Best Pool Test Kits That You Can Use
Let’s now move on to the best pool test kit list on the market. This is an assortment of pool water test kits and is grouped according to their type. As we go through each product, we will be discussing how it is used, how it operates, its advantages, disadvantages, and applications.
Pool eXact EZ Master Kit
The first on our list, the Pool eXact EZ Master Test Kit, is the best recommendation that we have. Out of the box, you’ll receive a Pool eXact® EZ Photometer, nine various chemical test strips, a cleaning brush, a mini-dilution kit, a carrying case, and an instruction manual.
The first aspect of the Pool eXact EZ Master Kit that sets this apart from all the digital testers on the list is its certification, so it is very accurate and reliable. It has been certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Meaning this pool water test kit can be used to measure water quality, not only in a swimming pool but also in water treatment facilities.
The Pool eXact EZ Master Kit is easy-to-use and produces results quickly. What you’ll need to do is dip and get a water sample using the Photometer, dip the test strip for 20 seconds, and you’ll get the results immediately.
Overall, the Pool eXact EZ Master Kit is an excellent pool water test kit but it also comes with a price. This pool test kit costs $350 so it’s not for those who are on a tight budget.
LaMotte ColorQ Pro 11
The LaMotte ColorQ Pro 11 is a portable digital pool test kit that uses a photometer to measure free chlorine, total chlorine, bromine, pH level, alkalinity, calcium hardness, cyanuric acid, iron, copper, and even biguanide.
The ColorQ Pro 11 is an amazing pool water test kit and is a must-have, especially for a pool owner that has saltwater pools. This is because it’s one of the few testing kits that can measure cyanuric acid up to 150 parts per million. And this is crucial for saltwater pools since they need higher levels of cyanuric acid and are directly exposed to intense sunlight.
Though feature-packed and an excellent tester, reports from buyers say that the chemicals (DPD) of LaMotte ColorQ Pro 11 even when properly stored. So, it’s good to consider how much you’ll use this pool test kit in comparison to its effectiveness period.
But this disadvantage doesn’t really matter for some. For example, a pool owner or a contractor that maintains several pools will greatly benefit from using this ColorQ Pro 11 pool water testing kit as they can easily consume the chemicals in a short amount of time.
AquaChek Trutest Digital Reader
Another handy and reliable digital test kit, the AquaChek Trutest Digital Reader, is an excellent pool water test kit. Out of the box, you’ll receive a test strip reader and a test strip canister containing 25 test strips.
The way that the AquaChek Trutest Digital Reader works is that it scans and measures the test strips that it comes with. So, it’s easy to use. Just dip the test strip, wait for the color change, insert the test strip in the test strip reader, and wait for the results to come out.
You may already have an idea of what is the main disadvantage of this pool test kit. And that is, it can only read three parameters-free or residual chlorine, pH level, and total alkalinity. Though this may be disadvantageous to some, experienced pool owners or pool maintenance contractors can easily adjust the chemical levels based only on these three parameters.
Another disadvantage that you’ll need to consider is the sensitivity of the test strips. Test results that we got on the same water samples varied by a small margin due to its exposure to sunlight. So, be careful of exposure if you’ve decided to use the TruTest Digital Test Strips-NP208.
Taylor Technologies K-2006 Pool Water Test Kit
Next up on our list is a kit from Taylor Technologies that is certified by both the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The K-2006 is a complete test kit that measures total alkalinity, free chlorine, combined chlorine, cyanuric acid, water hardness, and pH level.
The Taylor Technologies K-2006 Pool Kit utilizes various approved testing methods that are proven to be effective, like the blended indicator drop test, FAS-DPS (Ferrous ammonium sulfate-N, N-diethyl-p-phenylenediamine) Drop Test, visual turbidimetric test, EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) titration, and phenol red comparator.
Another aspect worth noting about these tests is that they only have few possible external interferences that can affect the test results. This means that it will give you consistent results when testing your pool water as long as there are no significant changes in the environment.
The shelf-life of this pool water test kit is decent when compared to other liquid reagent pool water testing kits. When properly stored and kept out of direct sunlight, it can last for one year before the chemical reagents lose their effectiveness.
If we don’t consider digital pool water testing kits, we can definitely say that this is the best pool water test kit.
Poolmaster 5-Way Test Kit
Moving forward to the next pool water testing kit on our list and we’ll find the Poolmaster 5-Way Test Kit. Its 5-Way name refers to the five parameters that it can test, namely, free chlorine, bromine, pH, alkalinity, and acid demand.
Out of the box, you’ll get five chemical solutions (that will be dropped into the water sample to measure the previously mentioned parameters), a test vial with indicator scales for chlorine and pH levels, a polyethylene case, and an instruction manual.
One thing that stands out from this testing kit, is that it takes acid demand seriously. In the instruction manual included in the product bundle, there is an included easy-to-follow acid demand chart. This acid demand chart is critical as it shows how much acid you’ll need to add to the pool water to return it to the normal pH level.
Although this pool test kit can’t measure more pool water parameters, it is enough to effectively maintain the chemical levels of your swimming pool. And for a price of $25, you can’t go wrong with it. Just keep in mind to store it properly to prevent it from rapidly losing effectiveness.
AquaChek Select Connect Kit 7-in-1 Test Strips
On the top of our test strip list is the AquaChek 7-in-1 Test Strip. Inside the package, you’ll receive a canister containing 100 strips. Each test strip can measure the water sample’s total hardness, total chlorine, total bromine, free chlorine, pH, total alkalinity, and cyanuric acid.
It is super easy to use as any other test strip. What you’ll need to do is dip a pool test strip into the water. Upon removal from dipping, hold the strip for 15 seconds and wait. Compare the colors that you’ll see in the colorimetric chart on the label.
What sets this pool test kit apart from others is that it comes with a mobile app that can scan the results from the test strip and give recommendations on how to fix the chemical balance. It is totally free, and no registration is needed.
Overall, this swimming pool test kit is very accurate and reliable. It is also very affordable as it is only priced at $17 on Amazon. So it is a great deal for those who are looking for a cheap test kit.
SJ Wave 16-in-1 Water Test Kit
The SJ Wave 16-in-1 test strip is another great option if you’re looking for a cheap yet reliable pool test kit. As its name implies, it can measure 16 pool water parameters such as total hardness, free chlorine, total chlorine, iron, copper, lead, nitrate, nitrite, MPS, fluoride, cyanuric acid, ammonia chloride, bromine, total alkalinity, carbonate, and pH level.
Impressive as it may seem, it only costs around $21 and contains 100 testing strips. Aside from the testing strips, you’ll get a testing tube, a testing dropper, an instruction manual, a record chart, and an e-book about water quality.
To use the SJ Wave 16-in-1 Pool Water Test Kit, fill the test tube with water and dip the test strip. Take it out immediately and wait for a minute. Compare the resulting colors with the colorimetric chart. You can also use the dropper to drop water samples into the chemical patches in the test strip.
Although you won’t need the other parameter readings in the SJ Wave Pool Test Kit, it’s still nice to have at hand. And considering its cheap price, it’s still a good deal.
Poolmaster Smart 6-Way Test Kit
This Smart 6-Way Test Kit from Poolmaster is another great option if you’re looking for a reliable test strip. For only $11 you’ll receive a canister that contains fifty test strips. Each strip can measure free chlorine, bromine, total chlorine, alkalinity, total hardness, and pH level.
This pool water test kit is easy to use. You only need to dip it in the water sample for two seconds, then wait for the color to change, and then compare the resulting color in the strip to the provided colorimetric chart.
Overall, this pool test kit is not much different from the other paper test strip type. And it lacks other incentives that other manufacturers give out like e-books or mobile applications to help you plan out pool maintenance. But considering that the price of this pool water test kit is only eleven dollars, it’s still a good deal.
JNW Direct Pool and Spa Test Strips
The JNW Test Strips is an affordable swimming pool test kit. For only $17, you’ll have 100 strips that are able to measure total hardness, total chlorine, free chlorine, bromine, total alkalinity, pH level, and cyanuric acids.
This test pool test kit is easy to use. You’ll just have to dip it in the pool water and wait for the color of the chemical patches to change. Then you’ll have to compare the color to the colorimetric chart in the bottle to know the test results.
JNW also includes a great downloadable e-book with every purchase of the strip. This e-book is all about pool maintenance such as creating checklists and scheduling.
Varify 7-in-1 Pool Water Test Strips
The company Varify is almost an unknown company in the pool industry. But we are recommending it here, not only because their product is reliable, but also for the good cause they are doing. Varify is a partner of Water For Good, a charity that is working to help people in Africa overcome the scarcity of water. That is why some of the proceeds of Varify goes into this charitable movement.
Each canister of the Varify 7-in-1 Pool Water Test Kit has 100 test strips. Each strip can measure total hardness, total chlorine, free chlorine, free bromine, pH level, alkalinity, and cyanuric acid.
Like other paper test strips, you only need to shortly dip the test strip and wait for the color change. Then to get the test results, compare the color of the chemical patches to the provided colorimetric chart.
Tips on Maintaining the Right Chemical Levels
Before we end this article, let’s talk about some good practices that you can develop to lessen the need for chemical applications in your swimming pool. This will not only save you money but also time.
The first good practice for maintaining pool chemistry is establishing a good regular cleaning schedule. Schedule a time for skimming, vacuuming, and scrubbing. This will prevent the accumulation of dirt and debris that can affect the pool filter circulation which will negatively impact the pool chemistry.
The second good practice is using a pool cover when the swimming pool is not in use. Pool covers not only lessen the heating costs but also prevent direct sunlight from hitting the water. Ultraviolet rays from direct sunlight cut the life of chlorine in the water by half. And it also causes free chlorine to turn into gas and escape to the atmosphere.
Lastly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting seminars for chemical handling and water treatment. This will give you a better understanding of how to use chemicals for pool maintenance. 
Pool test kits are essential when monitoring chemical levels. It gives you an idea of how to move forward with your pool maintenance.
There are three types of pool test kits available on the market: test strips, liquid reagents, and digital meters. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The best pool test kit is dependent upon what your needs are.
We highly recommend the Pool eXact Master Professional Kit if you’re looking for digital meters. But if you’re looking for liquid reagents, then the Taylor Technologies K-2006 is the best choice. For the test strips category, the Aquachek 7-in-1 test strip is a good selection.
Aside from using a pool water test kit, there are some routine activities that you can do to maintain the right chemical levels. Some of these activities are regular pool cleaning, using pool covers, maintaining good water circulation in the pool filters, and attending seminars and training for water treatment.
These articles are also worth checking out. I’m sure you will learn a lot from it!
- Full Guide to Proper Cyanuric Acid Usage for Pool Owners
- A Detailed Guide to Investing in the Best Solar Pool Heater for Your Home
- Solar Pool Covers: How It Works, How to Use, & Select the Well Suited for Your Home Pool
Maintaining your swimming pool properly is an essential part of keeping it clean and healthy. You can find a variety of articles about how to take good care of your pool on our website.
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