Water Chemistry: Proper Testing Equipment

by Mark Zalewski

Proper water chemistry is essential for a swimming pool to be safe and clean for swimmers. Maintaining this water chemistry will save you, the pool owner, lots of time and money. In order to ensure an accurate test, owners must have fresh testing strips or reagents and as we enter a new swim season, any old test strips or reagents need to be replaced. No matter what type of testing equipment you are familiar with, Wild West Pool Supplies will have what you need, in stock.

The first question the pool owner needs to ask is… What am I testing for? The most common maintenance kit will test for the following:

  • Total Chlorine
  • Total Bromine
  • Free Chlorine
  • pH
  • Alkalinity
  • Cyanuric Acid
  • Total Hardness

It may seem confusing but all of these variables interact with one another.

On occasion, the pool owner will also need to test for these other elements:

  • Salt
  • Metals
  • Phosphates
  • Total Dissolved Solids

If you’re confused or overwhelmed right now, please do not worry. Wild West Pool Supplies will be your guide to everything you need to know about your pool and spa.

Here is a little breakdown of the types of products available to you.


Reagent testing is a very common type of testing by most pool and spa professionals. The two leaders of reagent tests are Taylor and Rainbow. Typically, using reagents will be the most accurate test compared to the other types of testing however reagents can be a little more difficult to use.

Reagents, combined with pool water, will change color depending on the test. Using a color code comparator, the pool owner can verify if specific variables are within range or not. Make sure you reference the manufacturers manual when using reagents as they can vary between brand.

Reagents are very sensitive to temperature, so it is imperative that the reagent testing kit be kept in doors out of direct sunlight, as the testing chemicals will render faulty results if damaged.

Reagents will test all of the variables listed above as well as other uncommon tests that can be helpful to determine specific pool issues.


Test strips are another effective way to test your water chemistry. Test strips can test for the same seven variables listed above, but all on one thin strip. This makes the test very easy to conduct compared to liquid reagents. Strips also use a color scale to determine the levels of each variable, and like reagents, test strips are also sensitive to heat and sunlight.

Although strips have been thought to be not as accurate as liquid reagents, the technology is spawned from the medical field where strip testing is used in pregnancy, and many blood tests.

There is no answer to which test is better. When it comes to water testing, the only answer is “Test your water regularly to keep it safe and clean for swimmers”. A common practice among many is to have both liquid reagents and test strips. Strips, for a quick easy look into the chemistry of the water during the week and reagents to corroborate the results in the event of an unsafe environment.

Why? When safety is the ultimate goal wouldn’t you want to have the most accurate answer?