Top Ten Pool and Hot Tub Test Strips Reviews and Buying Guide

Do you ever want a quick and easy test of your pool water that does not involve all those procedures that come with test kits but can't think of a way around them? Well, we have good news for you. Test strips will do the trick for you.With test strips, all you have to do is dip one in water, shake off the excess water, and read the results. Easy, right? It's even more comfortable than we're describing it.

As much as using test strips is an easy task, finding the best one to use can be a daunting task, especially if you are a new pool owner with no idea of what to look for in a test strip or even where to find one in the first place.

Lucky for you, we know all about test kits, from how they work to the ones that work best. We have prepared this guide to give you all the information you need before embarking on your test-kit-searching mission.

What you'll find in the guide -  Swimming Pool Test Strips

  • ​Chemicals needed in your swimming pool
  • ​Advantages of testing your pool
  • ​Ideal chemical levels for your pool
  • ​How pool test strips work
  • ​Guide on how to use strip tests
  • ​A review of ten of the best strip test kits
  • Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)
  • Conclusion

Chemicals needed in your swimming pool

As a pool owner, it is your responsibility to keep your pool water clean and clear. The following chemicals are essential in keeping your pool in the best condition possible. The purpose of pool testing is to ensure that these chemicals are in the right concentrations.

Too much or too little of anything can be dangerous, and the same goes for these pool chemicals.

1. Sanitizers

These are the chemicals that disinfect your water to protect swimmers from skin and eye infections and also to keep harmful microorganisms and algae away from your pool.

The most commonly used sanitizers are;

I. Chlorine

Chlorine is the most popular sanitizer due to its effectiveness and low cost. It works by oxidizing contaminants. Chlorine is very effective at killing bacteria, viruses, and algae. It also prevents the growth of algae in your pool.

Chlorine is available in two forms:
• Granules
• Tablets

Chlorine granules are poured directly into your pool. They work well but have a downside. Granules rely on the pool's filtration system to mix with the pool water. Sometimes, they don't mix well and might leave patches of extremely concentrated water and other spots of unsanitized water. They also take time to blend into your pool's water.

Chlorine tablets come in 1 and 3-inch sizes. They are added into pool water by the use of a floating chlorine dispenser or an automatic chlorinator.

There are two types of chlorine:
• Stabilized chlorine
• Unstabilized chlorine

Stabilized chlorine contains cyanuric acid-which is a chlorine stabilizer. If you have an outdoor pool, then this is the type of chlorine you should go for because, unlike unstabilized chlorine, it is not affected by UV rays from the sun.

Unstabilized chlorine is affected by the sun's UV rays in a way that reduces its amount in the pool, thus minimizing its efficiency. It is most suitable for indoor pools that don't come into direct contact with sunlight.

Unstabilized chlorine can also be used as pool shock that is if you shock your pool at night. It is mainly available in granular form.

II. Bromine

Bromine is the second most popular sanitizer. It works by ionizing contaminants. Contaminant ionization is the process by which the bonds between molecules of the pollutants are broken, thus destroying them.

Bromine is better than chlorine because it works faster and lasts longer in pool water, hence no need for constant refills. On the downside, as bromine breaks down, it creates bromamines. Bromamines reduce chlorine's effectiveness. They can be removed by shocking the pool.

III. Biguanide

Biguanide was initially developed as a surgical disinfectant. It works by causing the contaminants to bind together, forming insoluble clumps which are then filtered out by the pool's filtration system.

Pros
• It is gentle on your eyes, skin, and hair
• It is not degraded by sunlight

Cons
• More expensive than other contaminants
• Over time, it loses its efficacy
• It can result in clouding of your pool water
• Use of biguanide as a disinfectant also requires different pool maintenance methods, so if you're planning to switch to biguanide, you should first research it thoroughly.

IV. Minerals

Pool minerals use metals such as copper and silver to sanitize water.
When these metals come into contact with water, they release positively charged ions that destroy algae and other microorganisms by penetrating their outer membranes and exposing them to other disinfectants like chlorine and bromine.

2. Algaecides

The best way to prevent algae growth is by maintaining proper chlorine levels. With time, your pool's water might get unbalanced, and by losing its defense system against algae, get infected by algae blooms or a full out infestation.

Once your pool has algae, you can try shocking the pool, but there are some types of algae that are resistant to chlorine. When you encounter chlorine-resistant algae, like yellow and pink algae, the use of algaecides is the best chance you've got against the algae.

Algaecides kill all types of algae and prevent reoccurrence, although this depends on the type of algaecides as some are manufactured to kill a particular kind of algae.

3. Clarifiers and flocculants

Clarifiers remove pool cloudiness leaving you with a clear pool. The water clarity provided by clarifiers is temporary, and once it dissipates, the cloudiness returns. Flocculants cause the cloudiness-causing particles to clump together and sink to the bottom of the pool where they can be removed by vacuuming.

Advantages of testing your pool and Hot Tub

1. Pool testing helps in maintaining proper water balance.
Maintaining proper water balance is essential because:
• It helps the sanitizing chemicals to work effectively
• Minimizes chances of water problems like cloudiness and algae growth
• It lengthens the lifespan of your pool equipment

2. Maintaining proper PH levels
3. Maintaining an appropriate level of calcium hardness
4. Maintaining total alkalinity at appropriate levels

Ideal chemical levels for your pool

Proper water chemical balance is essential in avoiding water problems and lengthening the life of your pool equipment. Also, it saves you money on replacing pool equipment and extra water treatment costs from algae infestation.

These are the recommended chemical levels for your pool. They include;

PH: 7.4 to 7.6
Alkalinity: 80 ppm to 140 ppm
Chlorine: 1.0 to 3.0 ppm
Calcium hardness: 200 - 400
Cyanuric acid: 25 - 50 ppm

How pool test strips work

Pool test strips work by changing color when in contact with different chemicals. They turn into a specific color for every chemical hence make reading them an easy task.

Their ability to change color when in contact with chemicals is as a result of special chemicals contained in their pads at the end of each strip reacting to the chemicals in the pool water.

Guide on how to use Swimming Pool and Hot Tub Test Strips

I. Dip the strip into the pool water and hold there for the time recommended on the test strip pack. Use clean hands to avoid contaminating the water, which might alter the test results.

II. Take it out, shake off the excess water and wait for about ten minutes for the water chemicals to react appropriately with the chemicals in the strip.

III. Compare the new strip color against the color chart that came with the strips.

IV. Adjust the levels of the chemical appropriately, as indicated by the manual.

V. Run your filter pump to circulate the added chemicals effectively. You can recheck your water levels after four to six hours to ensure the levels are correct.

A Review of the Top 10 Best Hot Tub and Pool Strip Test Kits

Overview:

This is our overall best pick, with good reason.
This test kit measures seven different chemicals: total chlorine, free chlorine, total alkalinity, total hardness, PH, and cyanuric acid.


All you have to do to perform your test is dip the strip in water and wait for about fifteen seconds, then take it out and compare the new color of the strip to the color chart on the side of the bottle.


When using these test strips, a stopwatch might come in handy because holding the strips in water for more than the recommended fifteen seconds might throw the reading off.


Using your naked eye to compare the colors might not give you accurate results. For accurate results, we recommend using a digital meter. Although the digital meter takes a while to read results, the strips work in seconds. They are good to use with a digital meter as they don't cause it to wear and tear.


You should also pay attention to the expiry date on the test kit because old test strips are not as accurate as new ones, i.e., they lose their accuracy with time, especially when exposed to moisture.

Pros

  • ​Quick and easy to test and read
  • ​Have a decent accuracy compared to other test strips
  • ​Don't cause damage or wear to your digital meter
  • ​Measures seven different chemical levels

Cons

  • ​Expired and moisturized strips are inaccurate

Overview:

These test strips test for pH, total alkalinity, bromine, total chlorine, total hardness, free chlorine. They test a total of six things.


Their mode of usage is the same as that of the tool kit we've reviewed above. The numbers provided on the color chart are a range of numbers; hence the results are not very accurate. However, if you need precise results, you can use a digital meter.


They are not very reliable as sometimes you can find test results of two strips not matching. Also, expired strips and those exposed to moisture are not accurate.

Pros

  • ​Quick and easy to use
  • ​Saves your digital meter because you don't need it on every test
  • ​Measures six different chemical levels

Cons

  • ​Results are not very reliable
  • ​Expired strips are very inaccurate

Overview:

These strips test for only four things: pH, bromine, chlorine, and alkalinity. These test strips are meant for quick tests that don't require accuracy.


When using them, dip the strip in water for the pre-described time (you can use a stopwatch to ensure more accurate timing). You then compare the color on the test strip against the color chart on the bottle.


On the downside, the reagent chemicals in these strips don't react well to the passage of time; hence expired strips are very inaccurate. Also, there are some issues of bad batches being shipped from the factory by mistake.


When you purchase a bad batch, you can return it to your local store. But if you bought it from an online store, they might not take it back, and you'll have to bear the cost.

Pros

  • ​Quick and easy to use
  • ​Cause minimum wearing on your digital meter
  • It has a powerful heater that can go up to 104F quickly.

Cons

  • ​Quality control issues
  • ​Can only measure four things
  • ​Not always accurate
  • ​Expired strips are very inaccurate

Overview:

They are very cost-effective as each pack comes with 50 strips. The six-way testing also ensures that you test all vital chemical aspects of your pool. They test for free chlorine, bromine, pH, total chlorine, water hardness, alkalinity, and cyanuric acid.


They come with an easy-to-read color chart. On the downside, there are several incidents where color pads fall off and are left floating in the pool.

Pros

  • ​Affordable
  • ​Test six different chemical levels

Cons

  • ​Color pads sometimes fall off

Overview:

These test kits only perform four tests. They test for chlorine, bromine, alkalinity, and pH. Other brands offer test kits that perform up to six tests for the same value as these.


They work well, but compared to test kits from other brands; chlorine colors are not as vivid or clear. The lack of vividness in color during chlorine tests makes it harder to gauge chlorine readings.

Pros

  • ​Give accurate readings

Cons

  • ​They only test for four things
  • ​Chlorine colors are difficult to read

Overview:

They are moderately cheaper than the other 6-way test kits but come with only 30 strips. They test for pH, bromine, total hardness, total alkalinity, chlorine, and cyanuric acid.


Chlorine testing using these strips is not very accurate and could lead to over chemicalizing your pool because they give lower readings for chlorine.

Pros

  • ​Low price

Cons

  • ​Come in a small package
  • ​Inaccuracy in testing

Overview:

These strips are among the most affordable in the market. They test for chlorine, total hardness, pH, alkalinity, and stabilizers (e.g., bromine).


They have an associated Smartphone app with the color guide, but it is better to use a printed version to avoid the dangers associated with using your phone next to the pool.


Sometimes, the color on the strip doesn't match that on the color chart. The inconsistency in color matching affects the accuracy of the results and can be a bit frustrating while taking readings.

Pros

  • ​Affordable

Cons

  • ​You have to use a Smartphone app for colors
  • ​Colors don't match right

Overview:

These strips are very economical because you receive twice as many strips for the same price as other brands. They test for free chlorine, pH, total chlorine, cyanuric acid, salt, total hardness — a total of seven tests.


When using them, you need to dip the strips in water for two seconds only. However, the color change takes about sixty seconds.


During testing, sometimes colors run together, making reading impossible. However, you can overcome this by pulling the strips from the water quickly. Also, the colors on the test strip don't match close enough with those on the chart.


Although they come at a low price, it is better to spend more on another brand to avoid damaging your pool by following inaccurate results.

Pros

  • ​Cheap

Cons

  • ​Colors run together
  • ​Colors don't match accurately
  • ​They are not accurate

Overview:

The pack comes with 50 test strips. They can test for six chemical levels, namely, total hardness, total chlorine, free chlorine, alkalinity, bromine, and pH.


They are very accurate as their pads don't bleed, and color matching is easy.

Pros

  • ​Quick and easy to use
  • ​Accurate results
  • Comes with two filter cartridges.

Cons

  • ​The instructions given on the container are a bit confusing; hence can result in wrong reading, thus inaccurate results.

Overview:

They come in a pack of 50 strips. These test strips measure six different chemical levels, namely, free chlorine, total chlorine, pH, water hardness, alkalinity, and stabilizer level.


For more accurate readings with these strips, the use of their Smartphone app is recommended. The app works well for both iOS and Android phones.

Pros

  • ​Quick and easy reading

Cons

  • ​Not accurate in measuring pH and stabilizer levels

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

1. Question: How accurate are test strips?
Answer: Test strips are less accurate compared to liquid color comparator tests. However, test strips reduce the chance of human error associated with liquid color comparator kits.

Liquid kits require measuring water samples and counting the drops of reagents it takes to change the color of the solution. Test strips, on the other hand, only require you to compare the color on the test strip to that on the kit chart.

2. Question: Are test strips accurate even after the expiry date?
Answer: After the expiration date, the reliability of the test results is questionable. However, if the test strips are stored in an airtight container, they might give reliable results. Pool experts advise that you should err on the safe side and use new test strips instead.

3. Question: How frequently do I need to test my pool water using test strips?
Answer: Like with any other kits used in testing chemical concentration in pools, you should test your pool water at least twice a week. For spas, testing should be done before each use.

4. Question: How are test strips used?
Answer: All strip test kits come with an instruction manual or instructions printed on the side of the container. Before testing your pool, you should first read the instructions provided. However, all test strips work in the same method.

First, dip the test strip in water for the specified period, take it out and shake off excess water then wait for the color to change. After that, all that remains is comparing the color of the test strip to the colors printed on the side of the container and take your reading by matching.

Conclusion

​Testing your pool is not just a preventive method against water unbalance but also an economical way of managing your pool without incurring new replacements and fixing costs. Regularly checking the chemical levels in your pool will do you much good. Remember, testing is cheaper than fixing, so test it!