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Testing your pool water is fairly simple if you have the right tools. Pool test strips and liquid testers both use a chemical reaction to display estimated chlorine, pH, and alkalinity levels. 

Do you want to know what type of test strip is right for you? Have you been struggling to balance your chlorine because you don’t know your free chlorine levels? 

Keep reading and we’ll help you make the right choices for your swimming pool maintenance needs. 

What Are the Different Ways to Test Your Pool Water? 

There are three main ways to test pool water. These include paper or plastic test strips, liquid test kits, and sample testing by a professional. Most pool owners prefer using paper or plastic test strips since they’re the simplest method and most accurate.

Liquid test kits can be more detailed than paper test strips, but they’re easier to mess up or misread. Get professional testing if you need help getting a complete reading of your pool water chemistry.

1. Test Strips

Pool test strips are easy to use and simple to read. A pool test strip usually uses a color coding system to give you details on your current water quality and chemical levels.

Most pool test strips will show you the following in the reading: 

  • Total water hardness
  • pH levels 
  • Free bromine/chlorine levels
  • Total bromine/chlorine levels 
  • Alkalinity 
  • Cyanuric acid

Using test strips is fairly easy. The color coding should be shown on the sides of the container or in the instructions inside the bottle. 

Try to collect the water sample from the middle of the swimming pool. The center of the pool has the evenest distribution of chemicals and will give you a more accurate reading.

2. Water Sample Test at a Local Pool Shop 

If you’re unsure if your pool test is accurate, you might want to get a test from the local pool shop. Gather a water sample from the middle of your pool and keep it in a clean, sealed container. Avoid touching the water and bring it to the shop as soon as possible to get the most accurate results. 

3. Liquid Test Kit 

Most liquid water test kits use a special dye to show you the levels of your pool water’s chemistry. To use these kits, simply gather a water sample (ideally from the center) and pour it into the different tubes of the kit.

Drop several drops of dye or chemical tester into the water (use the amount of drop directed by the manufacturer). Let the sample sit for a minute and see what color each tube has turned. Check the colors against the color chart to get your pool water chemistry reading. 

What Type of Pool Test is the Best?

Test strips are the most popular and easy to use. Most people prefer using these test kits, especially because they’re affordable and give you quick, accurate results. While some people prefer liquid test kits, they’re not our personal recommendation. 

Water test kits are less accurate, easier to mess up, and aren’t as all-inclusive. Test strips show you all elements of your pool water’s chemistry, while most water kits only show general alkalinity, pH, and chlorine levels. 

Testing your pool water at the local pool shop is the most accurate test system. This method is especially good if you’re struggling to determine what your pool needs or whether your free chlorine levels are balanced. 

What Should You Look For in Your Pool Testing? 

Accuracy is the most important aspect of pool test kits. You want the reading to help you determine what your pool needs and how to improve what you have. 

Test strips are easier to use and give more detailed readings. Liquid tests are easier to mess up, making them less accurate and harder to use. 


Testing your pool water is vital for maintaining your pool’s health and cleanliness. Knowing whether your pool water is dirty, contains too much combined chlorine, or has poor pH levels will help you achieve a clear pool. 

We hope this article helps you choose the best pool test kit for your needs. While test strips are our top recommendation, they’re not the only option out there. 

If you want to know how to balance your pool’s pH, check out our other articles. We give detailed instructions on how to balance your water and keep it clean. 


Are Liquid Test Kits As Effective As Test Strips?

No, liquid test kits aren’t as accurate or easy to use as test strips. It’s easier to mess up the process and cross-contaminate than test strip. 

How Much Water Do You Need to Test Pool Water pH Levels?

Usually, you’ll want to gather at least a cup of water. You want to have enough water to immerse the test strip or fill up each test tube. 

If you’re taking a sample to the pool shop for testing, we recommend gathering at least 16oz. The staff might not need all of it, but it’s better to have more than you need. 

How Do You Test Your Pool Water Chlorine Levels?

Test strips will show you how much free and combined chlorine your pool water contains. They’re the best option. However, if you want to know exactly how much chlorine your pool has, take it to the pool store for testing.