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How Often Do I Need to Get My Pool Water Tested?

Maintaining pool water chemistry is one thing many pool owners cannot stand. Not everyone was a chemistry whiz in high school, but keeping your water chemistry balanced is simple if you are willing to learn how the chemicals work together. New pool owners may not know how to keep their water clean or how often they should have it tested. Having your water tested is key to ensuring that your pool is safe, clean and swim-ready at all times. Royal Pools and More tests dozens of pools almost every day in our retail store. As experts we know exactly how to keep pool water balanced, and more importantly, we know how often you should be checking up on your water. 


What is Balanced Pool Water?

You might be thinking, “How the heck can pool water be balanced? What does balanced even mean?” Well, we won’t begrudge you for not knowing. Pool water, like everything else, require a balance of the elements that make it up. In the case of water, that means chemicals! Chemicals are put in pool water to keep it clean, clear, and most important of all safe to swim in. The same way you need to balance your work life with your personal life, a pool’s chemicals must be balanced so that each chemical can perform it’s job ensuring you loads of swim time!


Water chemistry and how to achieve balance:


Chlorine (free/total/combined) 

Chlorine levels in a pool are divided into three categories: free chlorine, total chlorine, and combined chlorine. The relationship between the three is shown in the equation: FC + CC = TC. Free chlorine is the amount of active chlorine in the pool. Combined chlorine, also known as dead chlorine, is the amount of chlorine in the pool that has been used up and is no longer sanitizing the pool. Total chlorine is simply the sum of the free and combined chlorine. Ideally your free and total chlorine should be equal, meaning there is no dead chlorine in the pool. Chlorine levels should be maintained at 1-3 parts per million (ppm). Chlorine is a chemical sanitizer that is put in pools to clean the water, fight algae and bacteria, and combat any debris or microorganisms that may enter the pool. 

Bromine (2-4 ppm)

Bromine levels should be maintained between 2-4 ppm. Bromine is another type of chemical disinfectant that combats all the same things that chlorine does. Bromine is often used in spas and hot tubs more than in pools because it is more resistant to heat than chlorine is. 

PH (7.2-7.8)

Your pool’s pH should always be between 7.2 and 7.8. pH is the measurement of acidity in water. The lower the pH, the more acidic the water is. Low pH is a big no-no when it comes to pools. Acidic water is highly corrosive and can damage pool equipment. Low or high pH can cause itchiness and irritation on swimmers. Keeping pH in line helps chlorine work better as well. 

Alkalinity (80-120 ppm)

Alkalinity levels should be maintained between 80 to 120 ppm. Alkalinity measures how susceptible your water is to erratic movements in pH. Alkalinity is essentially there to keep pH in line. If your alkalinity is out of range it can cause your pH to rise or fall too low. 

Calcium Hardness (175-350 ppm)

Calcium levels should be maintained between 175 and 350 ppm. Calcium hardness is a term for the amount of calcium in the water. Testing the calcium tells you how hard or soft your water is. Calcium is important to pool chemistry because it prevents the water from becoming too hard or soft and prevents calcium staining. 

Cyanuric Acid (30-40 ppm) 

Cyanuric acid (CYA) levels should be maintained at 30-40 ppm. CYA is important to pool chemistry because it protects and enhances chlorine sanitizing power. Think of cyanuric acid as sunscreen for your chlorine. If your CYA is above 50 ppm, however, it can prevent chlorine from working efficiently. 

Phosphates (0-500 ppm)

Phosphates can be classified as any organic or non-metal materials that contain oxygen, hydrogen, and phosphorous. Phosphates can come from a wide variety of sources including human sweat, detergent, fertilizers, water runoff, dead leaves, and many others. Too many phosphates can promote the growth of algae in your pool. You should not let your phosphates get above 500 ppm. If your phosphates climb higher than 1000 ppm, it can block chlorine from working as well. 


Testing Your Water

Test! Test! Test! Any pool professional will tell you that regularly testing your water is the best thing you can do as a pool owner to check your pool’s chemicals. There are three types of pool tests that are used in the pool industry: test strips, DPD test kits, and electronic tests. You will find electronic tests in most pool stores. They read chemicals down to the hundredth ppm and also check for phosphates. Pool professionals love electronic tests because of how precise they are, allowing us to articulate exactly what chemicals a pool owner will need to get their pool balanced. Electronic tests are pricy, but you can in fact purchase them for home use. 


Royal Pools and More recommend test strips for at home testing. They are extremely fast working and simple to use and read for the three chlorines, pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, bromine, cyanuric acid and phosphates. Test strips have little colored squares placed lined down the strip, each representing a different chemical, that change color upon contact with water. All you do is dip the strips in the water and pull it out quickly. Give it a couple seconds after pulling the strip out of the water, then compare the colors on the strip to those represented on the test strip bottle that show the correct and incorrect ranges for each chemical. Simple as that! Test strips are not recommended for those who are color-blind, as they utilize color to show the chemical ranges. 


DPD tests are rather easy to use as well. These are leveled vials showing the ranges of the chlorines, pH, alkalinity, etc. They use small tablets that change the pools water color to reflect the range the water is in for each chemical. You dunk the whole vial in the water, upon which the colors change on one half of the vial, revealing the ranges for each chemical. Then you drop a tablet into the other side of the vial, revealing the range your water is currently in. These are unfortunately also not recommended for the color-blind. 


Testing your pool water is essential. You should be testing at home at least 2-3 times a week, or every other day. Every pool is different, each has it’s own rhythm of how long it can hold chlorine, how long pH and alkalinity hold, etc. The only way for you as the poolowner to learn that rhythm is by testing the water every other day; seeing how the chemicals change and how long they stay balanced. As states above, Royal Pools and More are big proponents of test strips. They are simply the best and quickest way to test your pool water! 


Whether your pool stays balanced all summer or it has persistent algae growth, you should be having your water tested professionally by an electronic test twice a month. We recommend this simply because an electronic test can more precisely read a pool’s chemicals and tell a homeowner exactly what they may or may not need to get their pool balanced. If you’re thinking “well my pool is always balanced, why do I have to get it tested professionally?” Having a log of your pool’s balanced chemistry can actually protect you from voided warranties if, say, your heater begins to leak. When it comes to pools, it is always better to be safe than sorry.


Whether you’re a new or experienced pool owner, carefully looking after your pool water is one of the most basic and vital aspects of pool care. Neglecting your pool water could mean days, potentially weeks, of getting the water rebalanced. No one wants to lose precious summer swim time. Royal Pools and More tests pool water professionally at our store, we know exactly how difficult it can be to get a unbalanced pool back in swim condition. As long as you stay on top of your pool and your summers will be filled with fun times and great memories. Pools are a delicate product that requires a lot of care, it’s up to you to be the best caretaker possible. 


Additional Articles:

How To Properly Maintain A Salt Water Pool!

How To Properly Maintain A Salt Water Pool!

What Is A Salt Water Pool? Salt Water VS Chlorine And Pros And Cons

Written By Logan Edgemon