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The Best Pool Test Kits of 2023 – Tested by – Bob Vila

By Timothy Dale and Tom Scalisi | Updated May 16, 2023 12:17 PM
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Photo: Tom Scalisi
Pool water should be clean, clear, and safe to swim in, but without checking the content of the water with a pool water 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 testing 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.
Photo: Tom Scalisi
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. Pool test 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.
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 Taylor pool test 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 Taylor test kit proved to be a true chemistry experiment during pool water 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.
Product Specs
Get the Taylor Technologies pool test kit at Amazon, The Home Depot (2-pack), 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.
Product Specs
Get the U.S. Pool Supply pool test kit at Amazon or 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.
Product Specs
Get the HTH pool test kit at Amazon or 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 pool 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 water testing strips are fresh for improved accuracy.
Product Specs
Get the Runbo pool test kit at Amazon or 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 water 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.
Product Specs
Get the ESeasonGear pool test kit at 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.
Product Specs
Get the Taylor Technologies pool test kit at Amazon or 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.
Product Specs
Get the Poolmaster pool test kit at Amazon.
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.
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.
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:
The accuracy of a pool test kit can vary between specific products and even between users, depending on the type of test kit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Check the pH balance of the pool water two to three times a week, depending on the frequency with which the pool is used.
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.
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
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