Dr. H. Tueau’s Water Testing Basics


Myth and Reality

Understanding Pool and Hot Tub Water Maintenance / Common Myths

I need a degree in chemistry to keep the water in my pool and hot tub clean.


  • Water quality tests, strips and kits, usually take less than a minute and provide the information needed to help keep the water clean and balanced.
  • Computer programs and websites, along with experts at your local pool store, can assist with balancing recommendations.


Swimming Pools require a lot of work to clean and keep the water healthy.


  • Testing with test strips or kits is quick and accurate.
  • Automatic cleaners and sanitation systems save time and work.
  • Keeping a "routine to clean" helps water stay balanced.


Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs are maintenance free.


  • While swimming pools and hot tubs are not maintenance free, making a commitment to a regular schedule of cleaning, testing, and tending to the pool or hot tub can prevent major mistakes and imbalances.


Test strips are not as accurate as liquid kits.


  • Liquid kits require counting drops and special techniques. AquaChek™ Strips require only a dip and NO special technique.
  • Test strips do provide accurate and reliable results. First proven first in the medical industry, with tests such as blood glucose and urinalysis, the same technology is used for the pool and spa industry.


Testing Is Easy

No Chemistry Degree Required. Testing is Easy.

Maintaining the water in your pool or spa doesn't require a degree in chemistry. Test strips can, and do, give accurate test results more quickly and easily than any other method. As with any test kit, there are several factors that can be controlled to ensure the validity of the test results.

Following are some guidelines for using test strips to obtain accurate water analysis results.

  • Follow the directions that came with the kit. Sounds simple, doesn't it? However, there have been many cases where a user inadvertently used the directions that came with another manufacturer's strips or used directions from an older kit. Most inaccurate test results occur when individuals do not follow directions or follow the wrong directions! Test strips are continually improving and becoming more accurate, and you should never assume that the directions on one container are going to apply to another container's strips. In addition, not all manufacturers' test strips are the same, so it is essential to read and follow the directions on each container.
  • Store test strips in a low humidity environment at room temperature. Test strips will be most effective over a long period of time if they are stored properly. Suitable storage will give you confidence in your results until the product has reached the date of expiration.
  • Keep the cap on tight between uses. Doing this will prevent moisture from entering the bottle of unused strips. It is important that moisture not be introduced to the test strips until you use them in your pool or spa.
  • Keep wet fingers out of the bottle. The test strips won't know the difference between the water on your fingers and the pool or spa water! So, make sure that the only water your test strips are reacting with is the pool or spa water you intend to measure.
  • Do not use expired test strips. Most containers of test strips will display an expiration date somewhere on the container. Always be aware of this date when using or purchasing test strips. Regardless of how the container has been stored or handled, test strips have a definite shelf life and should not be used after the product has expired. Using test strips after this date will likely lead to inaccurate results. Therefore, replace any bottles that have expired.

Test strips are among the easiest and fastest methods for testing water. By following the above guidelines, you can also ensure that test strips provide an accurate method for measuring the properties of pool or spa water, leading to a clean and healthy pool or spa.


What are you swimming in?

In the sun and pool, you protect them with sunscreen; you make sure they have their floaties on, you insist on NO swimming after eating. But do you know how clean and healthy the water is that your family is swimming in?

Regular testing of the water chemistry in your pool or spa (hot tub) can help you keep it healthy, clean, and sanitized. Untreated or unbalanced water can become a host to all kinds of contaminants that are harmful or undesirable. Living organisms including bacteria, algae, mold, and other microorganisms may multiply, or wastes such as perspiration or suntan lotions can build up. How well pool or hot tub water is maintained is the difference between a clean, refreshing swim and skin or eye irritations.

Learning to keep your pool or hot tub in check isn't as complicated as it may seem. Pool and spa test strips are the newest innovation in water testing. A test strip is a plastic strip with a chemically treated pad, or pads that can be dipped directly into the water. The pads turn various colors and are compared to a chart for readings.

Testing with strips is convenient and hassle-free. Just dip and read the strip and you will get the information you need to determine if the water is sanitized, disinfected, and balanced properly. Test strips deliver accurate results and require no detailed chemistry lessons to use. AquaChek Pool & Spa Test Strips offer a way to test commonly used sanitizers such as chlorine and bromine, as well as other factors that play into the balance of water, such as total alkalinity, pH, and water hardness.

Use test strips to test the water often. A pool should be tested at the minimum twice a week, and more often when use has increased or when the pool environment changes, such as when it rains, when leaves blow into the pool, or when the dog goes swimming. A spa's higher ratio of "people to water volume" can cause the chemistry to change quickly, so the water should be checked and adjusted continually.

Having the right water balance can also save you money by protecting your pool or spa equipment. If the water of your pool is corrosive, it may cause etching and pitting of concrete and plaster-lined pools, and may cause the vinyl liner to wrinkle. Corrosive or acidic water can also damage the heater, pump, and filter, leading to hundreds of dollars in unnecessary repairs. If the water is over-saturated with mineral content, it will deposit excess minerals on the pool and equipment in the form of scale.

To keep your pool or spa a relaxing, stress free, clean get-away--test easy, and test often with AquaChek Pool & Spa Test Strips.


What Conditions Should You Test?

For maximum protection of swimmers, as well as the fixtures and equipment, test the following regularly:

  • Total alkalinity and pH: Total alkalinity measures the amount of alkaline substances in your water. These provide a buffer against sudden changes in pH, which is an index of the alkalinity or acidity of the water. A high pH level (too alkaline) can irritate the eyes and skin of swimmers, produce mineral scaling on the pool and equipment, and reduce the sanitizing action of chlorine. A low pH level (too acidic) can also cause swimmer discomfort as well as corrosion of pool fixtures and equipment.
  • Chlorine: Chlorine is the most popular pool and spa disinfectant. Its purpose is to sanitize (kill all disease-causing organisms), disinfect (kill all living organisms) and oxidize (destroy ammonia, nitrogen-containing contaminants and swimmer waste).

    Chlorinated pool water typically contains two forms of chorine: combined chlorine, which has used up its ability to disinfect; and free chlorine, which is still active and able to destroy bacteria, algae and other potentially harmful organic materials as they enter the water. The proper amount of free chlorine is important because it ensures ongoing, active protection for swimmers.

    Interestingly, it is an over-abundance of combined chlorine — not an excess of active, free chlorine — which causes the eye irritation and the strong, sometimes offensive odor often associated with chlorine. Many people incorrectly assume this foul smell comes from an elevated level of free chlorine. Increasing free chlorine levels by adding a large dose of chlorine or a non-chlorine shock (a procedure called superchlorination or "shocking") can actually correct this condition.

    Make sure your test kit tests for free chlorine — not just combined or total chlorine — because free chlorine is the best measure of protection for the bathers who use your pool or spa.
  • Total hardness: The amount of calcium and magnesium in your pool or spa water is called total hardness. When total hardness is too high, scale can form, causing pool filters or plumbing to clog. The water may also appear cloudy. Water that is too soft will slowly dissolve plaster walls and corrode metal fixtures.


What Should You Do After Testing?

If you detect imbalances, follow treatment recommendations that may accompany test kits or pool chemicals, or consult your pool and spa dealer. It's also a good idea to maintain a log of your test results to understand how the chemical balance of your pool or spa changes and identify recurring problems. A written record also provides an excellent reference for your local pool and spa dealer when you need professional advice.


Why is Water Testing Important?

You put sunscreen on your kids. You don't let them jump in the pool right after eating. But do you test the pool water first to make sure it has been sanitized properly?

What does it mean when your pool water has a strong chlorine smell? What happens if the pH of the water is too low? How often should you be testing the water in your spa?

Regular testing of water chemistry in your pool or spa can help you maintain a healthy and attractive aquatic environment. First of all, a proper level of sanitizer, such as chlorine or bromine, helps to protect bathers from potentially harmful microorganisms. Water that is out of balance can cause burning eyes and irritated skin, and can potentially lead to a serious illness. You should test your water frequently to ensure that it will be fun and comfortable for your friends and family.

Having the right water balance can also save you money by protecting your pool or spa equipment. If the water of your pool is corrosive, it may cause etching and pitting of concrete and plaster-lined pools, and may cause the vinyl liner to wrinkle. Corrosive or acidic water can also damage the heater, pump, and filter, leading to hundreds of dollars in unnecessary repairs. If the water is over-saturated with mineral content, it will deposit excess minerals on the pool and equipment in the form of scale.



Dr. H. Tueau’s Water Testing Basics


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Top 5 Questions

The Free Chlorine test gives no reading, but I've added chlorine. Why?

The Total Chlorine or Total Bromine pad on my AquaChek Pool & Spa Test Strip turned brown or orange. What does this mean?

I purchased an AquaChek product but have lost the color block comparison chart or it has faded. How do I get another chart?

Why add Chlorine to a salt water pool?

What's the difference between the reading my salt titrator strip provides vs. what my salt generator indicates?


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