In more temperate parts of the world, warmer weather is upon pool owners patiently awaiting to open their pools. As they begin to pull back their covers and get their systems running again, the considerations for maintaining clean water is starting to flood their minds.
In this article, we are going to discuss the different kinds of pool test kits available on the market. There are two different styles: test strips and liquid reagent kits.
We have also compiled a larger and broader take on the best pool chemicals available online.
Best Pool Water Test Strips 2019
Test strips are fairly simple to use: place them underwater for about 15 to 30 seconds and compare the colors to a chart provided by the manufacturer to approximate what your specific chemical readings are.
Although test strips are extremely simple to use, they can be easily compromised. If the storage bottle gets too hot or too moist, the rest of your strips will provide inaccurate readings.
The strips themselves also have a limited shelf life, so a leftover bottle will not be of much use during the next pool season.
|Poolmaster Smart Test Strips||BUDGET OPTION The cheapest of the cheap and correspondingly popular.||GO TO STORE|
|AquaChek Yellow Test Strips||EDITOR’S PICK Ideal point of entry as far as cost and accuracy are concerned.||GO TO STORE|
|AquaChek7 Pool Water Test Strips||BEST OF BEST Gives you a (almost) complete picture of your water chemistry.||GO TO STORE|
BUDGET OPTION Poolmaster Smart Test Strips
- Tests for Free Chlorine, Bromine, Alkalinity, and pH
- 50 Strip count in each bottle
This product is the most basic of basics, and is the most affordable point of entry in our water testing Buying Guide.
Inside this yellow bottle, you’ll find 50 of these 3-pad strips to measure your water chemistry. Don’t let the product claims fool you though. Most bodies of water use either chlorine or bromine as a sanitizing agent, and while the product calls itself a four-way tester, you are really only left with three useful measurements to determine the balance of your water.
What is bromine? Bromine is an alternative chemical used to sanitize water, and is often hailed for being less of an irritant to the senses.
Unlike the AquaChek Yellow test strips reviewed below, this single bottle is useful for owners who sanitize different bodies of water with chlorine and bromine. The other brand would require you to purchase a derivative product to test for Bromine.
On the bottle, printed instructions are included to demonstrate the ideal way to perform a water test. Also, a color chart is included to indicate which shades match your overall reading for each individual test.
This product has an overall rating of 4.2 on Amazon. While a majority of users give this a 5/5 rating, others voice their concerns over product quality. Some claim that the readings given should be taken with a grain of salt and double checked with occasional professional testing. Others also voice concerns about their product being defective on arrival. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself
- Limited Shelf Life
- Limited Readings
When cost is the absolute, prevailing factor, this is your choice. If you want to put more trust in your readings, a stronger investment may be required from your pocketbook.
EDITOR’S PICK AquaChek Yellow Test Strips
- Tests for Free Chlorine, pH, Total Alkalinity, and Cyanuric Acid
- 50 count
Backed by a cheaper cost and reliable brand, the AquaChek Yellow is probably the gold standard when it comes to basic, consumer water testing with strips.
Inside this yellow bottle, you’ll find 50 strips that will display four different readings. Unlike the Poolmaster Smart test strips, you will actually get four useful values with this product. These strips also will tell you what your Stabilizer level is, which will help determine if your chlorine will be efficiently used or not.
Although the listed product is specifically for use in Chlorine-sanitized bodies of water, AquaChek also makes a red bottle for use on bromine systems → AquaChek Red Bromine test strips.
This product has an overall rating of 4.4 on Amazon, which is the highest rating among test strips in our Buyer’s Guide. Nearly 90% of reviews are four stars or higher, and many consumers praise the ease of use as well as accuracy of results returned. Negative reviews usually result from logistical issues, such as receiving defective product. There is a consensus among buyers that these are the best, most straightforward strips that money can buy. An included guide on correcting water imbalances is also praised, as other products don’t often include a guide on how to treat your water. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself
- Basic Readings
- Not universal for sanitizer testing
The ideal point of entry when it comes to cost and accuracy for water testing strips.
BEST OF BEST AquaChek7 Pool Water Test Strips
- Tests for Free Chlorine, Total Bromine, Total Chlorine, pH, Alkalinity, Total Hardness, and Cyanuric Acid
- 100 Strip Count
If you’re more of a fan of details and have a curious aversion to using reagents, the AquaChek 7 is the best choice for you.
This bottle includes 100 strips for use in testing your water chemistry. Unlike other strips listed in this guide, this is the only product that offers Total Hardness testing, among other useful measurements. For owners of concrete pools, this reading is useful to help prolong the lifespan and integrity of your surfaces. This test also separates between Total and Free Chlorine, which will allow you to determine how much chlorine sanitizer can be of actual use to your pool or spa.
Although having six different readings can be a little bit of information overload, having the complete picture of your water chemistry can help maintain the long-term health of your pool and your water.
This product has an overall rating of 4.3 on Amazon. Only 15% of consumers rated this product 3 stars or below. Like other test strip products, there are concerns about the shorter shelf life of this product compared to reagent kits, as well as some skepticism over the accuracy of results. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself
- Best Overall Value
- Most Measurements for Test Strips
- Universal Sanitizer testing
- Possible Information Overload for novice testers
- Limited Accuracy
- Short Shelf Life
Although “accurate but not perfect” according to one reviewer, this test kit is the best overall value for the most information you can get in regard to your water chemistry.
Best Pool Test Kits 2019
Like test strips, the basic concept of liquid pool test kits involves mixing chemical reagents with a water sample to compare to a color chart.
Liquid pool test kits have a higher accuracy when it comes to individual chemical levels, and most offerings come in a portable and durable outer casing. Some reagents will get used more frequently due to the requirements to perform some tests and you may find that you have to replace individual pieces of your kit more often than others.
Liquid test kits are often preferred over test strips among pool and spa professionals.
|Poolmaster 5-Way Pool and Spa Water Test Kit||BUDGET OPTION Most affordable in the category.||GO TO STORE|
|Taylor Technologies DPD Complete Test Kit||EDITOR’S PICK Gold standard among professionals.||GO TO STORE|
|BEST OF BEST Two extra readings…but are they worth it?||GO TO STORE|
|LaMotte ColorQ Digital Water Test Kit||Indispensable for persons with visual impairments.||GO TO STORE|
BUDGET OPTION Poolmaster 5-Way Pool and Spa Water Test Kit
- Tests for Chlorine, Bromine, pH, Acid Demand, and Total Alkalinity
- Durable Storage Case
The Poolmaster 5-Way Test Kit is the beginner’s choice and also the best bang for your buck among liquid test kits.
Although this kit will only provide four useful measurements to pool and spa owners, its ease of testing and universal use between different sanitizers will make this the ideal kit for a pool and spa owner using both chlorine and bromine. The 5-Way kit will also provide readings for Acid Demand, which will indicate how much acid is required to lower an elevated pH level. This is a test that is not provided by the other Smart Strips offered by Poolmaster.
The testing assembly and outer casing for this kit are made of a durable plastic material, which should withstand minor falls and multi-season use.
Total Hardness is not included among the values tested for in this kit, so those with concrete pools should consider other products.
This product has an overall rating of 4.4 on Amazon. Customers praise this product as a fantastic entry into the world of liquid reagent water testing. They also say this product is much more accurate when it comes to chemical readings compared to test strips. Some buyers have reported other issues, such as broken seals and missing parts, but the overall consensus is mostly positive for this test kit. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself
- All-liquid reagents Universal sanitizer testing
- No Total Hardness Test
- 4 Useful Measurements compared to 5 Advertised Measurements
The Poolmaster 5-Way kit is the marriage of value and a disdain for test strips.
EDITOR’S PICK Taylor Technologies DPD Complete Test Kit
- Tests for Total and Combined Chlorine, pH, Alkalinity, Calcium Hardness and Cyanuric Acid
- Comparator Wheel
- Durable Storage Case with Handle
The DPD Complete test kit is the first entry in our buying guide that retails for a cost safely above the previous products mentioned. Although price can be a barrier for some buyers, this product is considered among pool professionals and savvy consumers to be one of the finest entries in the field of water testing.
Included in the package is a Comparator Wheel from Taylor, which will compare all of your measurements to indicate how out of balance your water is from its ideal level.
This kit provides seven different measurements for the consumer, including important ones such as Calcium Hardness and Cyanuric Acid.
Some of these tests will require a little bit of mental math from the consumer, and some reagents may also run out faster than others. The popularity of the Taylor test kit will ensure that restocking empty reagents will not be a logistical challenge for pool owners.
This test kit currently has an overall rating of 4.4 on Amazon. Customers love the portable case with easy, straightforward instructions inside on how to perform each individual test. They say the kit provides the most accurate readings in comparison to other cheaper options, and the wheel gives some insight on what levels can be adjusted to get the water into perfect balance. Detractors of this kit believe that it is too complicated for the pool owner interested in the very basics, and that all the tests provide a bit of information overload. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself
- Standard for Professional Use
- Balance Wheel Clear Directions
- Higher Cost of Entry
- Some mental math required
- Some bottles will need to be replaced more frequently
A higher cost, but the gold standard among pool professionals.
BEST OF BEST Taylor Technologies DPD Service Complete Test Kit
- Tests for Free and Total Chlorine, Bromine, pH, Acid and Base Demand, Calcium Hardness, Total Alkalinity and Stabilizer levels
- Durable Casing
- Comparator Wheel
- Larger 2 oz Reagent Bottles
Let’s get on the same page here, because this offering is extremely similar compared to Taylor’s DPD Complete kit. This is the DPD Service Complete liquid test kit, also from Taylor Technologies. Keep in mind — many of the same things said of the standard kit also apply here, but with some exceptions.
For about a third of the cost more than the standard DPD Complete, the Service Complete offers most of the same tests with larger bottles, and also gets you two additional measurements: Acid and Base Demand. As mentioned previously, these two help determine what treatment is needed to bring the pH values into balance.
Although you’d imagine that the increased cost could give you every measurement that your heart desires, the Service Complete kit sorely lacks in offering a liquid test for water salinity. The instructions refer to it, but to perform the test, you will have to purchase additional reagents not provided in this package.
Service Professionals who test many pools per week prefer the larger bottles and additional tests over the standard Taylor DPD Complete test kit. The two additional measurements offered also provide another degree of flexibility between the demands of the service professional, who must tailor their testing needs between many different customers and their pools.
This product currently has an overall rating of 4.3 on Amazon, slightly below what the standard DPD Complete kit scores at. Consumers shower similar praise on the Service Complete kit, with highly accurate measurements, waterproof instructions, and the comparator wheel. However, some buyers question if the additional tests are justified for the increased costs. If the standard kit seemed complicated, buyers say the Service Complete is no easier. The standard DPD Complete is referred to for the best value over the Service Complete test kit. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself
- See DPD Complete Pros above
- The “almost” complete picture of water chemistry
- Do the additional measurements and bigger bottles justify the extra cost?
- No Salt Test included
Two additional chemical readings may not be worth the extra cost in the Service Complete kit.
- Tests for Free Chlorine, Total Chlorine, Bromine, PH, Alkalinity, Calcium Hardness, and Cyanuric Acid.
- Portable Case
- Digital Readings
The LaMotte Pro7 liquid test kit is the only offering in this buyer’s guide that doesn’t require the consumer to “eyeball” the results and compare to a color chart. In this kit, the equipment instead reads the color of the water sample and provides a numerical value on the display.
To get an idea how digital testing works, take a look at this video which explains it with the Pro7:
In addition, this kit uses tablets rather than liquid reagents to test for Cyanuric Acid. They are stored similar to cold remedy pills, requiring a finger to push one out of its sealed pod. These tablets can be difficult to push through and since some foil wrappers can get weak, they can be easily compromised as well.
At more than double the price of Taylor’s standard DPD Complete testing kit, what is the price of convenience? Since LaMotte is less of a reagent standard, the cost of refilling empty reagents also will be an additional load to bear on.
This product currently has an overall rating of 4.2 on Amazon. Buyers claim the results given by the Pro7 are the most accurate in comparison to professional water testing. Although the price is the highest among all the products in this buyers guide, the ease of use is claimed by some to be worth it. Interestingly, this product is heavily recommended by those who are colorblind, since this is the only product that will work with their impairment. Negative reviewers had issues with returned and defective product, and disliked the high price compared to other offerings. Click here to see the customer reviews for yourself
- Precise readings instead of comparing colors
- No mental math required Durable Case
- Use of tablets for Cyanuric Acid testing
- Less universal use among professionals
Colorblind people aside, convenience, accuracy, and ease of use come at a high cost.
There is no one product among the ones mentioned that stands out as a clear winner. Ask yourself what matters the most to you.
Below is a quick video demonstration of how test strips work.
To get an idea how liquid testing works, this video demonstrates how to do so.
To help with choosing the best product for you, try asking yourself the following questions:
- Are you someone who is an in depth person and tends to micromanage?
- Is cost the factor, above all else?
- Do you use different sanitizers or have different bodies of water to test, such as a pool plus a hot tub?
- Do you have vision issues?
- Do you shun unnecessary complication?
- Would your storage methods make a test kit more vulnerable than the other ones?
Here are our basic recommendations for the most common circumstances.
For those who embrace simplicity and value → AquaChek Yellow
For the detail-oriented on a budget → AquaChek 7
For the detail-oriented, less constrained by money → Taylor Technologies DPD Complete
For those with visual impairments → LaMotte Pro7
And finally, some owners must consider what to do about testing for salt water. While most salt chlorine generator units will indicate when the salinity gets too low, most of the common test kits do not include salt water testing. The Taylor DPD Service Complete was the only kit listed to offer salt water testing, provided you bought the additional reagents to do so.
Finally, consider that negative reviews should be taken with a grain of salt when making your decision. Often times, concerns about defective product often stem from purchasing the product from a reseller with less positive feedback compared to the major retailers. There are always accidental logistical issues, such as shipping resulting in damaged product as well.
Analyze the ratings and consider how many people voted favorably for a product. Often times, dissenters leaving reviews are a loud and influential minority who just happened to fall on bad luck with their orders.
Of course, these are just suggestions made in consideration with common practices among pool owners. Your mileage may vary and perhaps other factors mentioned in this buying guide may cause you to choose a different product for your own reasons. But don’t let that discourage you — our goal here is to provide a general idea of what to look out for.
Most importantly, we want to provide you with the best tools to keep your pool water clear and clean for another happy season of swimming.