How to Use Pool Test Strips

How to Use Pool Test Strips – 4 Easy Steps

To keep your pool water clean, attractive, and suitable for swimming, you need to ensure that the chemical levels are well balanced. Sometimes, it can be easy to tell that your pool water is dirty due to algae build-up, bad smells, or the water feeling generally unclean. Other times, water quality isn’t so clear.

There are several ways to test the chemical levels of your water, including liquid test kits, digital pool testers, and pool test strips. Each of these can be used to check the balance of pH levels, calcium hardness, total alkalinity, chlorine, and cyanuric acid.

In this article, we’ll explain how to use pool test strips – the easiest method for testing pool water.

What Are Pool Test Strips?

Pool test strips are literally strips of starch paper typically made using potassium iodide, which makes them particularly good at detecting chlorine and other oxidizers. Most pool test strips test for pH, chlorine, and alkaline levels, although other test strips can detect iron, copper, salt, and bromine levels.

Test strips are the most cost-effective and straightforward means of keeping your pool well balanced and clean. Some of the leading brands of pool test strips include AquaCheck, JNW, and Clorox. In most packets, you’ll find around 50-100 individual test strips.

How To Use Pool Test Strips: A Step-By-Step Guide

Total Time: 5 minutes

Step 1 – Remove a test strip from the packet

When removing a test strip from the tub, only hold onto the white edge. Handling the test strip on the colored side could disrupt the chemical agents and provide inaccurate results.
Once you’ve successfully removed a strip, be sure to secure the lid back on the tub immediately. Being exposed to the elements for too long can ruin the rest of the strips in the tub. Being left open in humid environments – like poolsides! – can be particularly damaging to the remaining strips.

Step 2 – Lower the strip into the pool

Holding the white end of the strip at all times, gently lower the strip into the water until the entire strip is submerged. As long as your fingers are getting wet, you’re doing it right.
It’s best to submerge the strip near a return jet rather than a stagnant part of the pool – just make sure to hold onto the strip tightly when holding it near a jet!
Alternatively, you could use a bucket to scoop out some pool water and submerge the strip in the bucket. Both methods will produce the same level of accuracy and results.

Step 3 – Remove the strip from the water

Don’t hold the strip under water for long – one second will do. Upon removing the strip, give it one light shake to clear the excess water from it. However, do not shake it more than once and never blow on it or wipe it dry.
Hold the strip level as it dries, or place it on a flat surface. You should wait around 30 seconds for the best results.

Step 4 – Compare the strip with the color chart

Your strips should come with a color chart, either printed on the side of the tub or on a separate piece of paper. To see the colors most clearly, try to do this step under natural light. You should now have 6 different colors on the top of your strip, which you can compare with the corresponding colors on the color chart provided.


  • Pool test strips from AquaCheck, JNW, and Clorox.

How to use pool test strips
Lower Pool Test Strip in Pool

How to read test strip for pool?

For each of the colors on your test strip, there’ll be a corresponding color on the chart provided. Normally, the order in which they appear on the chart is the order in which they appear on the strip. For example, if ‘Total hardness’ is at the top of the color chart, then the first color band on the strip will represent total hardness, and so on.

Each color will have 5 levels on the chart, going from ‘very low’ to ‘very high’.

These different colors that appear on your strip will represent:

Total hardness

Total hardness is the number of minerals in your water. A pool should have a total hardness of between 175 – 275 ppm.

Total Chlorine

This is the total amount of chlorine you have in your water. A well-balanced pool should have between 1 and 4 ppm.

Free Chlorine

Free chlorine is the amount of chlorine available to sanitize the water, which should fall between 1 and 4 ppm.


The pH level determines how acidic the water is. The ideal pH of your pool is 7.2 and 7.6.

Total Alkalinity

This determines the alkaline level of your pool, which should be between 80 and 150 ppm.


Stabilizer is the amount of cyanuric acid in your pool, which should be at least 30 ppm.


How Often Should You Test Your Pool Water?

Swimming pool owners should test their pool water at least once per week. However, we’d recommend increasing the frequency of pool water testing if you use your pool daily. Additionally, it’s worth adding a few extra tests to your schedule if you’ve experienced particularly warm or rainy weather, or if you’re having water clarity trouble.

How long do pool test strips last?

Pool test strips typically last from 24-26 months, depending on the brand. You should be able to find the product lifespan on the side of the tub. After this time is up, the strips may start giving inaccurate readings of your pool’s chemical balance.

How accurate are pool test strips

According to Aquachek FAQ. Test strips offer comparable accuracy to liquid color comparator tests.

Final Verdict

Pool test strips may not be as accurate as the likes of a liquid test kit, but they’re handy for providing quick test results on the cleanliness and chemical balance of your swimming pool. They’re also more affordable than any other pool test kit you’ll find at the pool store, so you have no excuse for your pool having a chemical imbalance!