Pool Care Basics

Swimming Pool Test Kits Compared

If Trouble Free Pool Care (TFPC) has taught us one thing, it’s that you cannot guess when it comes to water testing. After all, would you trust an airplane with no gauges? You might think you know where you are (direction, speed, altitude, etc), but do you really? Of course not. Something will be incorrect. Same applies to pool water. You may “think” the water is clear and clean, but is it? A proper swimming pool test kit is the only way to be sure, and no those test strips the pool builder left you won’t cut it. Don’t be discouraged by the one-time cost of a good quality test kit because it will pay for itself in accuracy and proper chemical use that season.

Who Should Test My Water, And How?

Without question, homeowners should test their own water using their own test kit. It’s much easier than you might think. Some may say, “What about the pool store testing?” “It’s free.” “Aren’t they the experts?” Without hesitation we can tell you store testing is often flawed. Many employees are seasonal and poorly trained when using the test kits. They rush through tests with customers waiting in line, miscount droplets, fail to rinse vials thoroughly, and rely on incandescent lighting which can skew testing. Need more proof? Take a water sample to them on Monday, then another on Tuesday or Wednesday. Compare the differences. Don’t be surprised if they are quite different, especially if another employee did the tests. For some items like CYA (stabilizer), CH (calcium hardness), or salt levels, these changes are impossible. For more info on how to avoid errors in testing please visit our guide on Water Testing Errors.

Also keep in mind pool stores have an agenda – to promote and sell their products, most of which are over-priced and often times not needed in your water. Some products have no business being in your water.

Seldom can a test strip be a good replacement for a quality test kit.

I’m sure some of you might be asking “What about test strips?” Over the years we’ve discouraged the use of these as the colors are difficult to read and offer wide ranges of levels that are far too wide to be considered accurate for the pool owner. For day to day use we suggest you don’t waste your time or money on test strips. That said, some test strips do serve a purpose in pool care. For items such as Borates or Salt levels where “close enough” will suffice, test strips are a quick and inexpensive option for pool owners to utilize.

Which Test Kit Should I Use?

We recommend one of these three pool test kits – either the TF-100, the Tf-Pro or Taylor K-2006C test kit. Why those? They have proven to be user-friendly, reliable, and affordable for the typical homeowner. In addition, they contain what is called the “FAS/DPD chlorine test” which will allow you to test chlorine levels up to 50ppm. You may wonder why anyone would need to test chlorine levels that high, but it’s necessary at times to kill and remove algae and/or other contaminants you may or may not see in the water.

Swimming Pool Test Kits Compared

Where Can I Get A Good Test Kit?

The TF-100 and TF-Pro can only be found on tftestkits.net. It comes fully stocked with Taylor reagents in bulk and is considered the best values overall. The Taylor K-2006C is sold by various vendors online. If you chose the K-2006C test kit, it’s important to look for the K-2006”C” which means “commercial size” reagent bottles. You want those larger bottles. Locally, you may find the Taylor K-2005 kit, but it’s missing the all-important FAS/DPD chlorine test. So if you already have the K-2005, go to tftestkits.net and order the FAS/DPD which converts your K-2005 to a K-2006 test kit. Overseas members may struggle to find Taylor Test Kits at an affordable price but may luck out and find LaMotte ColorQ. While this kit has many issues compared to drop based test kits it beats test strips in many ways.


Accurate water testing is the foundation of TFPC. Even if you aren’t sure what to do next with the results, posting your own accurate test results in the forum is the only way its members can accurately help you. Don’t take chances on sub-standard testing products or services. Do it yourself. It’s easy, accurate, rewarding, and can easily save you money over the pool season by preventing you from wasting chemicals. As always, if you have a question about test kits or water testing, just ask us.

1 If you already purchased a Taylor K-2005 or Leslie’s 81330 DPD test kit, the FAS/DPD test can be bought separately to give you the equivalent of the recommended test kits.

2 The TFTestkits use Taylor reagents….the reagent numbers are interchangeable.