How to Read a Pool Test Strip Color Chart

Must Read

Heather Jones
Heather Jones
I'm Heather, an author passionate about home improvements. My writing is your guide to making homes better. Let's explore easy ways to enhance your living spaces, from small fixes to exciting projects. Join me on a journey of making your house a cozy and stylish haven.

You may have noticed that pool test strips are slowly taking over from liquid pool water testing kits. Not only are strip tests more convenient, but they are also more affordable and easily usable even for people without technical knowledge of swimming pools. Above all, strip tests give you results within seconds.

Unfortunately, the strips can be confusing, often because you need several tests for your pool, and each test can have multiple outcomes. Below we explain how to read pool test strips like a pro.

Importance of Testing Pool Water

Testing your pool water is essential to maintaining crystal clear and healthy water. It alerts you of the presence of impurities in your pool water, enabling you to act swiftly to prevent pool damage and potential harm to the swimmers. Preventing or eliminating impurities from your pool is also important in preserving the integrity of pool equipment and accessories and the pool itself.

Remember that an imbalanced pool can also promote the spread of infectious diseases.

How to Test Pool Water

Tools and Materials

  • 4-way pool water test kit
  • Sink to wash the test kit
  • Towel to dry the test kit
  • Pool water sample
Related story:
Spectacular Estate on Sunset Strip

How to Test Pool Water Step-by-Step

Shake up the pool

Circulate the pool on the pump’s high setting for at least an hour to ensure that the water is uniform throughout the pool. This is important as samples from stagnant water may not reveal the true condition of the pool water.

Immerse the strip into the pool

You only need to immerse the strip into pool water briefly, like for two seconds. In any case, the results are the same even if you immerse it for an hour.

Remove the strip from the pool

You should remove the strip from the pool with the pads facing up. And although you want to remove water from the strip, don’t shake it excessively, as this can affect the readings. Instead, hold the strip in this position (with the pads up) for about fifteen seconds.

Make a comparison to the legend

Place the strip side by side with the color chart and observe the corresponding values. Beware that the colors can be confusing, especially when taking readings for different pool metrics at a go. So, taking pictures may help.

Related story:
What are Some of the Factors that Affect Pool Color

Figure out how to balance the pool

Once you have the values, you can plan what chemicals to buy to restore pool balance. For instance, do you need more chlorine? Do you need to raise the acidity? Or do you need to reduce the alkalinity?

How to Read Pool Test Strips

Generally, you need to determine the state of three main metrics, i.e., chlorine levels, pH (acidity/alkalinity), and calcium levels (water hardness). However, you often need to measure up to seven different pool conditions. anyway, here’s how to read pool test strips;

  • Total chlorine: Total chlorine is the amount of chlorine in your swimming pool water, including free/available chlorine and combined chlorine. Your pool’s total chlorine must not exceed 1-4 parts per million (ppm).
  • Free chlorine: Free chlorine is the total amount of chlorine available for pool water sanitization. You need to measure free chlorine because combined chlorine doesn’t improve pool sanitization. The ideal figure here is also 1-4 ppm.
  • pH: pH measures the acidity or alkalinity of your pool water and is critical to the health of your pool and the wellbeing of the swimmers. For instance, extremely low or too high pool pH can damage pool accessories and cause itching. The ideal swimming pool pH is 7.2 to 7.6.
  • stabilizer: You also need to measure stabilizer levels regularly. Stabilizer tests measure the level of cyanuric acid in pool water. If you’re wondering, cyanuric acid is critical for chlorine function. It allows chlorine molecules to do their job of killing bacteria, algae, and other pathogens. Your stabilizer levels must never drop below 30 ppm.
  • Total alkalinity: Total alkalinity is closely related to the pH levels of your pool. Low total alkalinity can worsen low pH, making your pool even unhealthier for the swimmers. You need to keep the total alkalinity between 80 and 150 ppm.
  • Total hardness: Pool water hardness measures the amount of calcium and other minerals in the pool. You need to keep minerals in the pool to a good level because these minerals often react with pool chemicals to cause corrosion, thus pool staining and scaling. Make sure the total hardness is between 175 and 275 ppm.
Related story:
Astonishing Mediterranean Home in Holmby Hills

Are Pool Test Strips Accurate?

Yes, pool test strips are inaccurate. In fact, they are even more accurate than liquid test kits because they eliminate human error.


Now that you know how to read pool test strips, maybe it’s time to grab a test kit and head to your pool to check whether it’s balanced.

Latest Posts

More Similar Articles Like This