Pool water should be clean, clear, and safe to swim in, but without checking the content of the water with a pool test kit, it’s not possible to know whether the chlorine level is too high, too low, or perfectly balanced. Pool test kits can also be used to check the pH level, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, cyanuric acid levels, and salt levels for saltwater pools.
Regardless of the size or type of pool the owner is trying to maintain, it’s necessary to have a pool test kit. These kits help achieve the appropriate balance of chemicals to kill bacteria and plant growth while ensuring the water is safe for people to swim in without ending up with red, aching eyes or irritated skin. Browse this list of top products to get an idea of the best pool test kit—we even tested several kits to make the shopping process easier.
- BEST OVERALL: Taylor Technologies Complete Pool Test Kit
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: U.S. Pool Supply 3-Way Swimming Pool & Spa Test Kit
- BEST LIQUID: HTH Pool Care 6-Way Test Kit
- BEST TEST STRIPS: Runbo Pool Test Strips 7-in-1
- BEST DIGITAL: ESeasonGear SALT-3000 Pool & Pond Salt Water Meter
- BEST SALTWATER: Taylor Technologies K-2005-Salt Pool Test Kit
- BEST CHLORINE: Poolmaster 5-Way Test Kit
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Pool Test Kit
DIY pool technicians shouldn’t settle on just any pool test kit without knowing their specific pool needs. Consider the type of pool test kit, the water type, and the various test elements, including alkalinity, pH, calcium hardness, and more. Read on to find more important shopping tips and details to help choose the best pool test kit.
There are three types of pool test kits that ultimately perform the same checks on the pool water, but the process varies among liquid test kits, test strips, and digital test kits.
- Liquid pool test kits are also called titrimetric pool test kits. These are the most commonly used test kits because of their relatively affordable price and high level of accuracy. However, liquid test kits may be the most difficult to use because they require the user to collect a sample of pool water, then apply the correct number of drops of the water to determine the balance of chemicals and pH in the pool water. The kits typically come with two to seven dropper bottles, each with a unique reagent to analyze the pool water.
- Pool test strips are also known as colorimetric pool test kits. They are simple to use and inexpensive, but the results are not as accurate as a liquid or digital test kit. This assessment consists of dipping the strip into a pool water sample and then matching the color to an included chart. Accuracy becomes a bigger problem if more than one person is testing the water because the color results on the strip can be interpreted differently depending on the person and their subjective opinion. These test kits normally analyze up to seven factors with just one strip.
- Digital pool test kits use a set of metallic probes to check the pool water. After being inserted into a sample of pool water, the probes reveal readings on the electronic display, allowing users to check the pH levels or chlorine balance in just a few seconds. The drawback with these devices is they are usually capable of measuring only one or two factors, so users may end up with separate digital testers for chlorine and pH level. They are also typically more expensive than liquid test kits or test strips.
The type of pool water—saltwater, chlorine, or bromine—influences the choice of test kit needed to measure the pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, stabilizer, and chlorine levels properly.
- Saltwater pools use a salt-chlorine generator to produce the proper amount of chlorine for the pool. However, this means that a saltwater pool test kit needs to be able to analyze the water for the proper amount of salt as well as check the chlorine levels, pH level, and additional factors, such as total alkalinity. The saltwater tests may come separate from the standard pool test kit, so users will need to invest in both products for proper pool maintenance.
- Chlorine pools operate with a pump and filtration system that circulates chlorine through the water to prevent bacteria and algae from multiplying in the pool water. These pools can use a standard test kit for pH and chlorine levels, or users can invest in a more thorough pool test kit that can check up to seven factors, including cyanuric acid, bromine, and calcium hardness.
- Bromine pools are essentially the same as chlorine pools except that the health and clarity of the water are managed with bromine instead of chlorine. Even the test kits that are used for these pools are the same because they share a reagent; both chlorine and bromine can be assessed with orthotolidine.
When selecting a pool test kit, it’s important to determine the factors the kit can detect. For instance, not all digital or liquid test kits are capable of measuring calcium hardness, alkalinity, or cyanuric acid. However, even a basic test kit can assess the pH balance as well as the chlorine and bromine levels.
This list is not exhaustive, but these are the most common factors checked with pool test kits:
- Chlorine levels should range between 1 and 3 parts per million (ppm) to ensure that the water is safe and won’t cause eye or skin irritation.
- Bromine levels have a slightly larger range than chlorine, with an ideal pool water solution containing between 2 ppm and 6 ppm.
- The ideal pH level of the pool water should fall between 7.2 and 7.8 on the pH scale. Water that is lower than 7 is considered to be acidic and can cause itching, burning, and rashes. Water with a pH balance above 7.8 is also dangerous because the basic solution can burn and irritate the eyes.
- Total alkalinity measures the carbonate and bicarbonate levels in the water. It should remain between 80 ppm and 120 ppm for the pool water to be considered safe.
- The calcium hardness is another common test and needs to range between 180 and 220 ppm.
- Cyanuric acid is also known as the stabilizer because it’s used to help prevent chlorine from breaking down under direct sunlight. The stabilizer should stay between 30 ppm and 50 ppm to have a balanced pool.
The accuracy of a pool test kit can vary between specific products and even between users, depending on the type of test kit.
- Liquid pool test kits have a very high accuracy level when used properly. However, these kits require the user to collect a sample of pool water, add specific reagents, then compare the color results to a provided scale. Unfortunately, this overly involved process has a lot of room for human error, which can affect the results.
- Pool test strips are less accurate than liquid test kits, though they are much easier to use. However, they are also subject to human error and the subjective interpretation of color-coded results.
- Digital pool test kits are the most accurate option. The electronic display clearly indicates the exact measurement, typically to within 1 or 2 percent. The drawback of these devices is the high initial cost and the fact that they measure only one or two factors.
Ease of Use
A pool test kit is an assessment of the chemical composition of the pool water. As with any chemical test, the methodology or ease of use can affect the outcome of the results, especially if the steps are overly involved and reliant on subjective interpretation.
- Liquid pool test kits are the most difficult to use and the easiest to botch. This is because the test involves applying liquid reagents to samples of pool water with small droppers. Applying too many drops, too few drops, or the wrong drops will affect the outcome. After this process, the results are compared to a color-coded chart, which can lead to subjective interpretations. However, if the measurement is completed correctly, liquid pool test kits are one of the most accurate options.
- Pool test strips share the same subjective limitations to their accuracy, but these tests are incredibly easy to use. Just dip the test strip in a sample of pool water, allow it to change color, then compare the colors on the test strip to the included color-coded chart.
- Digital pool test kits are accurate and easy to use. The device needs to be turned on and set to the correct menu. Once the device is ready, the user submerges the metallic testing prongs into a sample of pool water and the results of the assessment will automatically be displayed on the screen after just a few seconds, making digital test kits the best option for a single-factor measurement such as pH or chlorine level.
Our Top Picks
Make sure the pool chemicals are balanced and the pool pump and filtration system are working properly with a pool test kit. Consider these top products selected based on kit type, test elements, accuracy, and overall quality to help find the best pool test kit.
Keep the pool water clean, clear, and safe for use with this Taylor Technologies liquid pool test kit. The titrimetric kit has a comprehensive collection of reagents, allowing the user to measure a variety of factors in the pool water, including free and total chlorine, bromine, pH level, acid and base demand, calcium hardness, total alkalinity, and stabilizer (cyanuric acid) levels.
The kit is made for chlorine pools, but it can be used in conjunction with a saltwater pool test kit for saltwater pools. It comes in a blue plastic container that has a lid to keep the reagents safe while not in use—they slide into friction-fit grooves for a secure grip. It also includes a water balance calculator to quickly and easily reference the appropriate pH level, calcium hardness, total alkalinity, and more.
This kit proved to be a true chemistry experiment during testing. However, it is no more difficult to use than most of the other liquid tests, and we like that it helps determine how much of a particular product it would take to amend the pool pH, alkalinity, or chlorine levels. Our major complaint is that the rubber cap didn’t stay put during testing, so keeping accurate water levels was a bit of a challenge.
- Test type: Liquid
- Water types: Chlorine and saltwater
- Test elements: Free and total chlorine, bromine, pH level, acid and base demand, calcium hardness, total alkalinity, and cyanuric acid
- Full test kit
- Can work in conjunction with saltwater tests
- Secure reagent storage
- Vial lid is poorly fitted
Get the Taylor Technologies pool test kit at The Home Depot or Walmart.
Though it’s important to check the pool water for the appropriate chemical balance, users may not want to perform six or seven tests every time they assess the pool. This inexpensive liquid pool test kit comes in a small blue container for safe storage. It can measure only pH level, chlorine level, and bromine level, but for small residential chlorine pools and hot tubs, the basic tests are enough.
The titrimetric pool test kit includes a clear-view water testing block with a color scale that’s labeled with minimum and maximum ranges for chlorine, bromine, and pH. To test the water, just fill the block with a pool water sample, then add five drops of the appropriate reagent to each test tube. Shake the block to mix the solution properly, then check the results. The kit is simple, effective, and inexpensive, and it comes with a plastic case to keep everything secure when not in use.
- Test type: Liquid
- Water type: Chlorine
- Test elements: Chlorine, bromine, and pH
- Affordable price point
- Simple 2-part reagents
- Comes with a plastic case
Get the U.S. Pool Supply pool test kit on Amazon or at Walmart.
Liquid pool test kits such as this HTH product are an affordable option for assessing a wide range of pool water factors. The titrimetric kit comes with a clear testing block and several small reagent bottles, allowing users to test the pool weekly for up to 100 weeks before needing to replace the pool test kit. This kit can be used with chlorine and saltwater systems, though it cannot measure the level of salt in the water.
Use the kit with multiple samples of pool water to assess levels of chlorine, bromine, pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, and cyanuric acid. As a drawback, the pool test kit doesn’t come with a case to keep the reagents organized, so users need to find a safe place around the home to store the kit to avoid misplacing the testing block or one of the reagent bottles.
During testing, we found the beauty of this kit to be its simplicity. Almost all of the steps include adding the same number of drops (five) to the test sample, helping to make the testing process faster and easier. We wish it came with a case, but this kit has a relatively low number of reagents, so keeping it organized is fairly simple.
- Test type: Liquid
- Water types: Chlorine and saltwater
- Test elements: Chlorine, bromine, pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, and cyanuric acid
- Easiest liquid kit to use
- Directions were easier to understand than other kits
- 100 weekly tests’ worth of reagents
- Does not come with a case
Get the HTH pool test kit on Amazon or at Ace Hardware.
Testing the pool water isn’t likely to get any easier than simply dipping a Runbo testing strip into a sample of pool water for just 2 seconds. After removing the strip from the water, the color will change over the next 30 seconds to indicate the current chemical composition of the water. The pool water should be checked two to three times per week if the pool is used daily. If it’s used less frequently, then once a week is suitable.
The strip measures seven factors, including free chlorine, total chlorine, bromine, calcium hardness, total alkalinity, pH, and cyanuric acid, helping to ensure that the pool remains safe for swimmers. The test strip package displays the color-coded chart for reference during testing and includes 100 test strips.
Although it can be difficult to determine how much product it may take to amend a pool with test strips, these strips make testing current levels extremely easy. We found that determining pool levels with Runbo test strips is straightforward, as the strips are easy to read and compare to the chart on the outside of the bottle. And, the kit comes with a sealed pouch of refill strips, ensuring that the test strips are fresh for improved accuracy.
- Test type: Test strips
- Water types: Chlorine and saltwater, but will not measure salinity
- Test elements: Free chlorine, total chlorine, bromine, calcium hardness, total alkalinity, pH, and cyanuric acid
- Comes with 100 test strips
- Very easy to use
- Refill strips are sealed in pouch
- Doesn’t help determine the amount of chemicals needed
Get the Runbo pool test kit on Amazon or at Walmart.
This ESeasonGear digital pool tester is small enough to carry safely in a pocket or tuck into a bag with other pool maintenance supplies. However, the tester should be isolated from contaminating products, so users may want to store it in a ziplock bag. It operates on a pair of LR44 batteries (included) and has three simple buttons to control the device.
The digital water tester is designed specifically for use with saltwater pools and koi ponds. With this purpose in mind, it can measure water temperatures between 32 degrees and 130 degrees Fahrenheit and can also check the salt content of the water. The device has a salt range from 0 to 5,000 ppm, and it’s relatively inexpensive for a digital product.
Our ESeasonGear tester was ready to go straight from the box, including the batteries. Though we didn’t have access to a saltwater pool for testing, we were able to give this digital tester a whirl with a sample cup. We found that the ESeasonGear is as easy to use as it gets—it literally requires just sticking the probe end in the water. It did seem to take a while for the reading to stabilize.
However, once it did stabilize, hitting the “hold” button locked the reading in, allowing us to check the readings after removing the probe from the water.
- Test type: Digital
- Water type: Saltwater
- Test elements: Salinity, temperature
- Ready to go out of the box
- Very easy to use
- Hold button locks reading in for easy viewing
- It took a while to stabilize the readings
Get the ESeasonGear pool test kit on Amazon.
Many saltwater pool test kits include only the necessary reagents to measure the level of salt in the pool water, but maintaining a pool requires users to monitor several different chemical compositions in the water. This Taylor Technologies liquid test kit helps to maintain the chemical balance for the entire saltwater pool instead of focusing on just the salt.
The kit comes with reagents to assess the salinity or salt level of the water. It also includes reagents for measuring pH, chlorine, bromine, acid demand, base demand, total alkalinity, calcium hardness, and cyanuric acid. It comes in a blue plastic case to help organize the reagents when they are not in use and includes a water balance calculator for quick and easy chemical level reference.
This was another kit that made us feel as if we were back in high school chemistry class. But, the amount of information this kit offers saltwater pool owners is impressive. Rather than simply testing for salinity, this kit also tests for all the elements common to chlorine kits. We found that the cap to the test vial didn’t fit well, but the individual bottles fit inside the hard plastic kit, making them easy to organize. Also, this complete kit helps the user determine what and how much to add to the pool for optimal levels.
- Test type: Liquid
- Water types: Chlorine and saltwater, but primarily designed for saltwater
- Test elements: Salinity, chlorine, bromine, pH, alkalinity, hardness, cyanuric acid, acid demand, and base demand, as well as water balance calculator
- Tests more than just salinity
- Helps users determine what and how much to add to the pool
- Secure box with storage for individual bottles
- Test cap didn’t fit securely
Get the Taylor Technologies pool test kit on Amazon or at Walmart.
Chlorine pool test kits like this Poolmaster product don’t need to include reagents to measure the salinity of the water, but they do need to be able to assess pH and chlorine levels. This liquid test kit goes beyond the basics, including reagents for chlorine, bromine, pH, total alkalinity, and acid demand, which are all kept neatly organized in a small plastic container.
The titrimetric kit is equipped with a clear testing block containing two test tubes, each with fitted caps to make it easy to combine the pool water sample with the required reagents. Before testing, check the box for step-by-step instructions and a quick-reference guide to help keep track of the appropriate chemical levels.
This five-way test kit is a bit more straightforward than most liquid test kits. This is partly because this test is a bit less comprehensive than larger tests, but the trade-off is probably worth it to some folks. Also, we found that the plastic case this kit comes with is a nice feature for the price point. The test vials are easy to use as well, with the caps staying securely in place during testing.
- Test type: Liquid
- Water type: Chlorine
- Test elements: Chlorine, bromine, pH, total alkalinity, and acid demand
- Simple instructions to follow
- Plastic case keeps things secure
- Test vials are easy to read and caps stay in place
- Not as comprehensive as other liquid test kits
Get the Poolmaster pool test kit on Amazon.
Folks looking for a complete kit that will tell them everything they need to know about their pool’s water chemistry will want to check out the Taylor Technologies pool test kit. Those who’d prefer to save a bit of cash may choose the U.S. Pool Supply pool test kit for its low price point and basic test elements.
How We Tested the Best Pool Test Kits
Before we could put together a list of the best pool test kits, we wanted to perform some tests of our own. We needed to ensure that each kit could deliver on its claims and provide enough value for its price point. Admittedly, the chemistry of the pool we tested was way out of whack, but it proved to be the perfect testing point.
First, we opened each kit and followed the directions to test all the different elements. In the process, we took note of how easy they were to use and understand, and which ones felt overwhelming. Next, we compared the elements and convenience of each kit with its price point to ensure that it provided enough value. Kits that were either too difficult to use or too expensive for their purposes were tossed aside, while those that passed were given awards based on their strengths.
Using a pool test kit may seem complicated, especially if pool owners don’t know how it works, when it should be used, and if it needs to be replaced. For the answers to these questions and more, take a look below.
Q. How does a pool test kit work?
A pool test kit comes with various reagents that need to be added to pool water samples to measure the pH and chemical balance of the water. Some test kits have just two reagents, but others can have as many as seven, depending on the various chemicals the test kit is designed to detect.
Q. Are digital pool testers more accurate?
Some high-end digital pool testers can be accurate to within +/- 1 percent. Pool test kits require a person to add drops manually, which can affect the accuracy of the result. However, if pool test kits are used exactly as intended, they are as accurate as a digital pool tester and more affordable.
Q. How often should the pH level of pool water be checked?
Check the pH balance of the pool water two to three times a week, depending on the frequency with which the pool is used.
Q. Do pool test kits go bad?
Pool test kits contain reagents that can break down over time. Look for the expiration date on the product, and be sure to replace the pool test kit if it has expired.