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Beginner’s Guide: How to Use a Pool Testing Kit

Many people are unsure about how to test their pool water. For this reason, we have put together a step-by-step guide for you. This article will show you the right way to use a pool water testing kit and answer questions like: What is pH? How often should I test my pool’s water? And how do I use my kit correctly? To ensure that your swimming experience is safe and enjoyable, please follow these steps carefully.
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As a pool owner, you want to make sure that your water is safe for swimming. To do this, you will want to test the water regularly.

There are many steps involved in testing your pool’s water, and each requires a different type of testing kit. If you are new to pool testing, it may seem complicated and overwhelming. But don’t worry. We will break down the process for you in this article.

Why testing your pool water is essential?

If you have a pool, it is essential to test the water and sanitize it regularly. If chlorine levels are not maintained properly, bacteria and algae can grow inside the pool, causing health problems for swimmers who come into contact with it. Chloramines cause odors and also cause skin irritations such as dermatitis or eczema.

Without regularly testing your pool water, you may not realize that something is wrong until serious problems arise. Test kit results are much more reliable than just guessing when to add chemicals based on appearance alone. It also ensures that swimmers in your pool don’t come into contact with dangerous bacteria or viruses.

to test your pool

How often do you need to test your pool?

You should test the water once per week. This will allow you to catch potential problems with your pool before they become too severe.

You should especially keep watch for high levels of chlorine, which indicate that the water is not properly circulated.

While some people test their pool every few days to ensure safe and clean swimming conditions, this can be a waste of time if you have a fully automatic system in place. It would constantly remove these excess chemicals from your pool anyway.

A step-by-step process for accurately testing pool water

To test the water using a pool test kit, you first need to have the right equipment and follow these steps:

Gathering a proper water sample

Gathering a proper water sample

First, you need to gather a proper water sample. If the pool has been used in recent hours or days, it should be drained until just before halfway full for collecting your water sample. This way, there is still enough depth but not too much to cloud up the test results.

You then want to scoop out about 100 milliliters of water from the deepest part of the pool and suck it up into a container. You can use a bucket or cup, but many people prefer to use one-gallon zip-lock bags because they’re easier to squeeze out just enough water for testing without having extra liquid in excess that you have to dispose of later.

When collecting your sample, try your best not to introduce any foreign substances into the water. Things like hair, lint, or soap can cloud up results and make them inaccurate.

Once the water is in its proper container (preferably a clean one), seal it tightly closed with a zip lock or standard clip-seal top. Ensure no air is left inside as this will produce faulty readings due to chemical reactions between gases found naturally in our atmosphere and pool chemicals within the liquid sample itself. If you are using a zip lock baggie, make sure there are no holes because if it is, you could have problems with tests. 

Then, bring out samples and place them in a cool spot that won’t be too hot or cold for testing. This could include basements or garages depending on local climate conditions. 

After all, is set up and ready to go, it’s time for the fun part… testing the water!

How to use water testing kits?

To test your pool water using a kit, you simply use the reagents provided in the kit to place drops of water on specific spots on each card. The color changes will indicate

whether or not there are any problems with your water quality. You can then compare your results to the included color chart to get an accurate reading.

Testing for the basics: Ph, Alkalinity, Chlorine, Cyanuric Acid, and Calcium Hardness

Testing for Alkalinity

Testing for Alkalinity

The alkalinity of your pool water is important because it determines how well your pool water is buffered against rapid pH changes. A high alkalinity level will help to prevent large swings in the pool’s pH, while low alkalinity can result in very unstable readings that bounce from too acidic to too basic and back again repeatedly during swimming hours.

Testing for Alkalinity is easy to do with a water testing kit. You can use either liquid or test strips, but the results will be similar regardless of your chosen method. 

Simply put your pool-specific reagent into the section labeled “Alk”, shake it up, and then dip your strip in for five seconds before comparing the color on the strip against our included comparison chart to see if your levels are within range. 

The alkalinity of your pool water should be checked weekly during the swimming season to ensure that it remains within an acceptable range for optimal safety and clarity. However, you may need to test more frequently when shocking or heavily to use algaecides to maintain excellent results. 

The ideal range for alkalinity levels is between 80-120 ppm (parts per million).
If you find that your alkalinity falls below this recommended range, add baking soda or sodium bicarbonate until it reaches an appropriate level.

Testing for pH, Cyanuric Acid, Calcium Hardness, and Chlorine

Testing for pH, Cyanuric Acid, Calcium Hardness, and Chlorine should be done at least once a week. This ensures your pool is safe to swim in as well as looking great.

pH levels should be between seven and eight. Keep in mind that the pH will naturally drop over time so check your levels every few weeks to account for this change.

Cyanuric Acid should always fall within the 40-100ppm range, but it is important not to let too much build up as it can damage equipment if allowed to get out of hand. The ideal level is 60-80ppm. If you have a problem with algae then cyanuric acid may need increased attention or replacement altogether

Calcium Hardness should always stay below 200 ppm however some people do prefer higher calcium levels which could mean testing twice per week instead of once

Chlorine is the most important test of all as it sanitizes your pool and ensures clean water for swimming in! Testing chlorine every week helps ensure that your pool stays safe and free of any bacteria or algae growths. Chlorine levels can range from 0-20 ppm but more than 20 ppm isn’t great either — these high amounts are usually caused by overuse of products such as bleach which kills off too much bacteria causing an imbalance within the pool.

Testing for copper in pool water

Testing for copper in pool water

When testing for copper in pool water, it is important to test the water when you are adding chemicals or using shock. Copper can be found in many types of cleaners and other items that may find their way into your swimming pool. 

If you suspect that your Copper levels are too high, don’t panic. You can always lower the level of water by simply draining a small amount and refilling with clean tap water. If you’re testing regularly more chemicals need then any problems should be spotted early enough so as not to cause damage to pool equipment or people’s health.

If copper has been detected at very high concentrations (over 500 ppm) there may be some effects including possible skin irritation but usually, the only real concern is the greening of the pool and tubing which will need to be cleaned before usage. 

If copper has been detected in very low concentrations (under 50 ppm) then there should never be an issue with swimming at all, however, it’s still a good idea to let your eyes adjust after long periods underwater so as not to damage them.

Testing for iron levels

Testing for iron levels

Iron is a mineral that when at high levels, can turn your pool green or red. It’s important to test for iron so you know if there are any issues with having too much or too little of the mineral in your water. 

The easiest way to test for iron levels is using a water testing kit or with an at-home strip test. To use one of these methods follow the instructions on how long to leave the product in your pool water and then compare the color change after time has passed against results listed on package recommendations.

Remember that different tests can provide different readings so make sure they are similar before calling out high iron levels as the reason behind green pools.

The best way to remedy high iron levels is by adding a sequestering agent. This will prevent further discoloration of the water but also won’t remove what is already there so it’s important to test for iron before using this type of product.

Testing for salt levels

Testing for salt levels

This is one of the most common water tests because salt levels are important for both chlorine generators and SWGs (Salt Water Generators). 

You should test for salt levels in your pool water at least once per season

If you’re using an SWG, then it’s also highly recommended to do this weekly during the winter months — when there is no risk of dilution from rainfall and high usage rates (like after an event or holiday weekend). This will help keep things running smoothly because if levels are too low, then not enough chlorine gas will be produced by the chlorinator/SWG; which means more time spent maintaining free chlorine manually with tablets or sticks. It can also cause problems like cloudy pool water due to a lack of proper disinfection. 

To test for salinity levels use a pool water testing kit or a refractometer. Most saltwater pools have salinity levels between 2300ppm and 4000 ppm but the ideal level for your pool will depend on how it’s being used — so follow manufacturer instructions if you’re not sure what to aim for.

When measuring salinity, test all around the pool because concentrations can vary quite dramatically; even within smaller areas like swim-up bars and partially submerged benches that get lots of direct sun exposure, etc.

Tips for testing pool water

  • Always read the directions. Different kits have different instructions for use, so always follow them carefully
  • Allow enough time to complete test accurately — some tests need up to 20 minutes to work properly before you can record results
  • Always enter your result in the box provided on the strip or card exactly as indicated by color changes/numbers on it (or markdown measurement units if not given)
  • Always close the kit properly after use to prevent contamination of test strips/cards and possible damage due to humidity. If you do not intend on using it again, keep it in its original package or put it into a resealable bag with desiccant packs inside (to absorb moisture).

Always wash hands after handling test strips/cards and before eating or drinking anything.

clear pool

Summary

Pool testing kit instructions can be a bit confusing, but understanding the basics of how to test pool water is important. It ensures that the pool is safe to swim in and can also help you determine when it’s time to do a full cleaning.

Pool water testing kits are easy to use and will give you a good idea of how safe your pool is for swimming in. The acidity (pH) level, alkalinity (TA), calcium hardness (CH or DH) and chlorine levels can all be measured using these simple tests that require only drops of the sample into the test vials provided with most kit options.

The more complex multi-test kits usually include tests for stabilizer/cyanuric acid (CYA), salt content, total dissolved solids (TDS), boron, copper, and iron along with pH & TA measurements. There may also be additional chemical reagents depending on what type of contaminants need to be tested for at home pools.

FAQ

🔎 How do pool test kits work?

Pool test kits work by adding a certain amount of pool water into each test tube or vial. Each kit has instructions on how much sampling is required for an accurate reading, but it usually requires anywhere from one to five samples depending on the number of tests being done and what’s being measured.

🗓 How long do pool test kits last?

Once a pool test kit has been opened, the chemicals should only last about six months before they start to degrade and render inaccurate results. Unopened kits can usually be stored for several years though so it’s best to buy a new one if you haven’t tested your water in a while or when starting up a new pool.

👀 How often should I test my pool?

Testing pool water should be done weekly during the swim season and every other week in winter. For saltwater pools, testing is recommended twice a month as more chemicals need to be monitored. If your pool isn’t being used all year round, you can test less often but it’s important to make sure that pH levels stay around neutral (pH of ~77) or lower for best sanitation results when people start swimming again.

🤓 How do I read my kit results?

Pool kits usually have charts showing what each number means so they’re easy enough to interpret even if you don’t know much about chemistry. General guidelines include:

  • Alkalinity — greater than ppm indicates proper chlorine dosage needed.
  • pH —below ~77 indicates a need to add acid, above this it may be necessary to add chlorine or other chemicals.
  • CH/DH — Calcium Hardness should ideally run between 200 and 400 ppm for plaster pools and 50-100 ppm for fiberglass ones. If calcium levels get too high it can cause staining problems so keep an eye on these values if you have white plaster surfaces in your pool area.
  • CYA level should stay under 30ppm if possible as anything higher increases the chances of photosensitivity (sun burning). Note that saltwater pools require lower concentrations of CYA than traditional chlorine types due to additional sanitizers in use at the pool site.

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