Complete Water Testing Guide for Your Pool

Everything you need to know about pool water testing

Regular pool inspections are a vital part of owning a pool. It is essential for maintaining clear, algae-free water. Additionally, it is crucial to maintain a proper chemical balance in your pool, since improper water chemistry may damage your pool and its equipment. Improperly balanced water may cause eye pain and hair discolouration. To get an accurate reading, you’ll need a test kit, pool water testing strips or a digital tester.  Toronto Pool Supplies is here to answer any questions you may have.

How Often Do You Test Pool Water?

Test the water at least once per week, or more often if the pool is extensively used. If you are new to pool management, you may wish to test the water 2-3 times each week until you get used to the variations. It might be helpful to choose one day each week for regular water testing. This goes for saltwater pools as well.

How Long Can Pool Water Sit Before Testing?

Not long.  Letting the water sit makes the testing less accurate because the chemicals settle to the bottom.  Set aside enough time to complete the process fully.  

What Do You Test Pool Water For?

The primary pool chemicals to monitor are pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness, and chlorine (sanitizer). In some instances, it may also be necessary to test for metals and stabilisers. Here are the proposed levels for maintaining a pool’s balance:

TestRange
pH7.2 – 7.6
Total Alkalinity120 – 150ppm
Calcium Hardness200 – 250ppm (Concrete Pools)
Calcium Hardness175 – 225ppm (Vinyl Pools)
Free Chlorine1 – 3ppm
Free Bromine3 – 5ppm
Metals: Copper0ppm
Metals: Iron0ppm
CYA30 – 50 ppm

Which Test to Buy

There are four primary methods for testing your pool’s water, each with distinct advantages:

Pool Water Liquid Drop Tests

Test Kits

The liquid test kits consist of a testing container and reagents, which are contained in dropper bottles. They are often quite precise and test for all important substances. The majority of pool pros recommend this kind of examination.

How to Use a Liquid Test Kit

  1. Utilize the clean, empty testing container that comes with the package
  2. Remove the sample away from the vicinity of jets and skimmers.
  3. Submerge the container upside down to the elbow, then remove the sample.
  4. Add liquid reagents in droplets, as instructed per the kit’s instructions. Typically, the left (yellow) side measures chlorine while the right (red) side measures pH.
  5. Seal the container and shake vigorously. If possible, refrain from touching the surface with your hands, since acids on the surface may alter findings.

Test Strips

Test Strips

Test strips are simple and quick to use, but less reliable than liquid test kits due to their expiration date. In the long term, test strips are somewhat more costly than liquids due to their single-use nature.

The only problem with test strips is that you won’t get an exact color. You need to eyeball the color matches each time you test the water. For example, you might think the alkalinity is set to 150 ppm but the color doesn’t match perfectly to the strip.

How to Use the Test Strips for Pool Water Testing

  1. Use a clean, empty cup.
  2. Take the sample in the middle of the pool away from jets and skimmers.
  3. Dip container upside down until elbow deep, then take the sample.
  4. When it changes colour, match it to the sample in the test kit to determine levels in the pool.

Pool Water Testing Electronic and Digital Testers

Electronic Testers

The third method is the use of a digital pool water tester. A digital tester incorporates the advantages of both test strip and test kit methods. When calibrated correctly, it is incredibly precise and simple to use. A digital pool water tester is the most expensive of the three pool water testing alternatives, but the expense may be justified for you.

Pool professionals love these because they quickly and very accurately test for free chlorine, total chlorine, bromine, pH, alkalinity, calcium, and more.

How to Use the Digital Testers

  1. Calibrate the tester.
  2. Use a sample deep in the pool.
  3. Some operate by having you collect pool water samples and then having you simply dip the tester into the sample.  For others, you will collect water samples and insert them into the device itself for it to display your test results.
  4. Read the results on the tester for the chemical levels. 

With a Professional

If you are having difficulties balancing your pool or do not know how to address chemical imbalances, you should bring your water to a professional. Since a specialist will manage the diagnosis and therapy, this makes obtaining the correct chemical as simple as possible.

How to Provide a sample to a Professional 

  1. Use a clean, empty water bottle (12 oz – 16 oz).
  2. Take the sample in the middle of the pool away from jets and skimmers.
  3. Dip container upside down until elbow deep, then take the sample.
  4. Have it analyzed. 

Salt Water Testing

If you already possess a salt water pool, you should familiarise yourself with the fundamentals of pool maintenance. Checking the chemical levels of your pool on a regular basis ensures that your pool is ready for use and safe for swimming.

Even if your saltwater pool system makes the pool easier to maintain overall, you still need to understand how to correctly test the water. So, you’ll be able to detect imbalances before they become major problems, and you’ll know what actions to take to bring your pool to a safe and functional condition.

Checking the chemical levels is part of routine pool care, so when the time comes, it is an easy task. Simply buy some affordable pool water test strips, or use a digital water tester if you like.

You also have the option of having it examined by an expert. This is one option if you want the most comprehensive and accurate measurements of your pool’s chemical levels.

What are you testing for?

Free Chlorine: This level indicates whether or not the water is clean and safe for swimming. The purpose of your previous levels is to support this one. 1-3 parts per million (ppm) is often adequate in a saltwater pool.

pH:  This level indicates whether water is acidic or alkaline. When it is out of balance, the Free Chlorine in the water is unable to perform its job effectively, which may damage the comfort of swimmers and lead to scaling or erosion in the pool. Typically, 7.5 is excellent, and it is vital to maintain it between 7.2 and 7.8

Total Alkalinity: A correct amount ensures that your pH does not fluctuate rapidly.

Salinity:  This degree of salinity allows your salt chlorine generator to function properly and maintain your Free Chlorine level. The range varies per model, but the optimal amount is often between 3000 and 4000 ppm. This is the sole level of water chemistry that is “specific” to saltwater pools.

Stabilizer: This level “coats” your Free Chlorine to prevent it from disappearing as a result of the sun’s rays. However, if the amount is too high, Free Chlorine may become useless. In general, a range of 30-50 ppm is effective in the majority of situations.

Methods of testing your saltwater pool

Test Strips

When opting to test your pool’s salinity and other chemistry values such as pH, alkalinity, and chlorine, testing using pool water test strips is the most cost-effective alternative. Typical directions on test strip packaging are as follows:

  1. Dip a strip into the water, but do not let it soak; instead, dip and remove the strip.
  2. Wait several seconds for the system to “read the levels.”
  3. Match the colour it changes to the colour shown on the container or in the directions.

By observing the colour, you can determine your levels and make the necessary adjustments.

You are responsible for judging the tiny colour variations and matching them to the colour reference on the product label. Therefore, this strategy involves some generalisation and guessing.

Test Kits

Typical water chemistry test kits include chemicals and containers. This form of testing requires a chemical set and may take a considerable amount of time, but it is considerably more accurate than test strips. Depending on the quantity being measured, the precise testing procedure might vary, but normally you must count the number of drops of reagent you apply, then observe any response or colour change.

To test the water in your pool using a liquid reagent kit:

  1. Fill the provided vials with saltwater pool water samples, then add the liquid reagent according the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. After mixing the reagent with pool water samples, the samples’ colour will change.
  3. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for clarification on how to interpret the test findings.
  4. To assess the salinity of your pool samples, compare them to the supplied colour chart.

 Digital Water Testers

These electronic water chemistry analyzers are an excellent combination of accuracy and portability. Fully electronic testers will offer instant readings for six crucial pool chemistry levels. Although some electronic tests still need reagents, they are exceedingly exact and simple to use.

When using a digital water tester to determine the salt concentration in a pool:

  1. You will dip a test strip deep into the water of your pool.
  2. Hold it in place, then put it into the designated location on the digital water tester.
  3. The digital water tester will provide many values, including the salinity of your pool water, within 15 to 20 seconds.

Pool Water Testing Tips for Every Pool

  • Sample deep in the pool.
  • Ensure that the pool has been operating for at least fifteen minutes. An hour is perfect.
  • Ensure liquid kits are filled to the “fill” level on the column.
  • If possible, mix the solution using a cap; acids from the hands might alter the findings.
  • Rinse in a sink, not the swimming pool. 
  • Testing strips must be kept in a cold, dry location.

How to Add Chemicals Safely

  • Always read and adhere to the chemical’s instructions to guarantee its safe usage.
  • Wear safety gear and equipment, including gloves, boots, and glasses.
  • Handle chemicals in an area with adequate ventilation.
  • When transferring or measuring chemicals, use separate metal or plastic measuring cups for each substance. Never use wood scoops.
  • Protect chemicals from water and moisture, such as a cup of coffee or water. Even returning the wet scoop to the pail may trigger a reaction.
  • Always dilute chemicals by adding them to water, never the other way around unless instructed to do so on the container’s label.
  • Do not combine different chemicals.
  • Do not return spilt chemicals to their original containers.
  • Do not smoke when working with chemicals.
  • Do not expose to fire or heat.

Toronto Pool Supplies

Learning how to be your own pool guy or gal has never been easier. What’s even better is all featured products in this article are available to be delivered to your doorstep. So, sit back, relax, and get started with our super simple DIY pool water test guide, then visit our store and buy water testers for your pool!

Chlorine Alternatives for Your Swimming Pool

Chlorine shortage may be bad news for pools this summer due to chemical  plant fire - ABC7 San Francisco

With the approaching of summer, it is no surprise that the demand for chlorine is increasing. Due to the high demand this season,  we are facing a chlorine shortage in Canada. In the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to stay home. The more time we spent at home, the more demand there was for home improvements, such as backyard swimming pool installment. Now, chlorine pricing rates have spiked and people are looking for chlorine alternatives for their hot tubs and swimming pools.

Chlorine is considered one of the most common products to treat a swimming pool; it improves water quality by eliminating harmful fungi and bacteria. However, there are chlorine substitutes for swimming pools that are just as effective when it comes to making pool water suitable for use. Below, we have listed some safe and effective alternatives to chlorine for swimming pools that are sure to clear up the troublesome microbes in your pool water.

Ozone

This gas is considered a great eliminator of viruses, fungi and bacteria —an ideal pool water treatment option. This product takes little energy to function and it does not leave residue. 

To use this non chlorine option in your pool, an ozonator device is required, which captures oxygen from the air, breaks down these particles, and directs the ozone into the water. It is necessary to leave the device on for 6 to 8 hours daily.

Salt water

Salt water is a natural way to treat a swimming pool without chlorine. Salt is less aggressive on the skin than chlorine, causing less irritation of the skin, less eye redness, and less dryness of the hair. Treating pool water with salt is a process that involves fewer chemicals and provides a self-cleaning aspect that stands out among non chlorine pool treatments. It is worth mentioning that the artificial smell characteristic to chlorine pools decreases when opting for a non chlorine-filled pool. That is, this resource is a natural alternative to pool chlorine.

Non-chlorine shock

Another non chlorine alternative is the chlorine-free shock—a quick and cheap alternative. Chlorine-free shock is another effective chlorine substitute for water treatment. It takes about 15 minutes for the pool to become swim-safe and you can add it directly to the pool water at any time.

PHMB

The last alternative for cleaning the swimming pool without chlorine is PHMB. For those who use contact lenses, PHMB is part of their cleaning solution. This option is extremely effective; it is immune to UV rays, pH and temperature variations, and there is no odor! It is a great choice if you have just filled the pool and have not yet added any treatment products.


For more information on how to navigate the COVID-19 chlorine shortage, please visit: https://torontopoolsupplies.ca/blog/tips-to-navigating-a-chlorine-shortage/.

Tips to navigating a Chlorine shortage

We are ready to open our backyard pools for a second summer of the covid19 pandemic.  Last year saw more new pools built than the last decade of construction. Families are trading their vacations for staycations and using their backyards as playgrounds to burn off energy. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that with the increase in backyard pool use, there will also be shortages of pool parts and chemicals.  Everyone needs chlorine and the supply is having trouble keeping up with the demand.

Consider upgrading your sanitation system

If you’ve been contemplating upgrading your sanitation system this may be the final push that makes you commit.   Perhaps the cost has been one of the factors keeping you on the fence. Consider the price of chlorine is likely to increase sharply to reflect the demand on the now strained supply. If you are building a new pool, these new state of the art systems – salt generators, UV, and Ozone sanitizers – require less chlorine that a chemical feeder system does. 

Install a salt generator system

Salt generators reduce your chlorine demand by nearly 50% and they produce clean water that is gentle on the skin and eyes.  Instead of the chemical chlorine, salt (NaCl) is added to the pool water and as it passes through an electrically charged cell the sodium (Na) and the chlorine (Cl) is separated. The naturally produced chlorine is used to kill off any harmful bacteria and keep your pool water clean and clear. 

Don’t shy away from UV and Ozone systems

UV and Ozone systems have been around just as long, but have often been regarded as complex, expensive and even unstable.  These systems have undergone major advances in the last 2 decades, now built as single vessel systems that makes it easy to install and replace as needed. These systems can reduce your demand for chlorine by up to 50% on their own as well. 

How an Ionizer can help

Adding an Ionizer to any existing sanitation system will also help reduce your chlorine demand – by up to 90%! Ionizers help stabilize the pH of your water, which is one of the most common issues that backyard pool owners encounter with salt water sanitation systems. By keeping your pH well balanced, the chlorine is able to do its job more effectively.

Invest in a variable speed pump

Whether you decided to upgrade to any of these systems or not, a variable speed pump will also reduce your chlorine demand.  Salt generators, UV and Ozone all require continuous circulation, making it necessary to use a variable speed pump.  But a chemical feeder will also run much more efficiently with a VSP because the water will never be stagnant. Stagnant water permits bacteria growth almost immediately. Running a single or dual speed pump for 8-12 hours a day means there are 12-16 hours of downtime in which these harmful bacteria start to grow and build up. 

Plan ahead and order early, don’t get caught in the chlorine shortage of 2021.  If you can, consider purchasing a larger supply that you typically do and store it in a dark dry place.  Taking care of your pool water – ph, total alkalinity, chlorine and algae – to ensure that it runs as efficiently as possible will save you money and lost swimming time.  Reach out to your pool professionals today to make your plan for the 2021 backyard pool season.

Get ready for opening day

Spring seems to be here to stay and that means opening day is now in sight. It’s time to take inventory and make your spring cleaning list. You want to have adequate time to get everything you need. More people are staying close to home this year, and many are starting to see the benefits of having a backyard swimming pool.  If this is your first summer operating a pool there is still a lot to do before you dive in.  If you are a seasoned pool operator let’s review some important steps that can save you time and money in the long run. 

Order your pool chemicals

This year it’s extremely important to place your orders early.  With the increase in pool and spa owners and the global shipping delays, it’s time to consider placing those orders a few weeks earlier than you normally do.  Check your inventory, if you have expired or improperly stored chemicals then make a plan to dispose of them safely.  Not sure what you need to get your water ready? There’s more than just chlorine needed to balance your pool, you’ll need to treat your waters ph, alkalinity and calcium hardness as well.  If you’d prefer to have a professional get your pool ready, check out this list of options in your area.

Clean up outdoors

Spring cleaning isn’t just for inside the house. Cleaning up the yard and dusting off the deck will help keep a lot of unnecessary debris out of your swimming pool.  Its best to do yard and deck work while the cover is still on.  Safety is paramount, this is a great time to inspect. To keep your family safe, check on the condition of your ladders, handrails, diving board and waterslide anchors. 

Remove your pool cover

Don’t get ahead of yourself with this task, there are few steps to take before you roll back the cover.  Clean all of the debris and excess water off of the top and let it thoroughly dry out.  The more debris you can keep out of your pool the less work your filters will need to do once they are up and running. Ensuring your cover is dry before you store it away will increase the lifespan of your cover. 

Clean your basin and fill your pool

These two tasks can be done simultaneously.  Using a garden hose, start to fill your pool to operating level. At the same time, use a leaf skimmer and get any surface debris you can. Once leaves and twigs get into the water there will be some breakdown that will contaminate your water before the large pieces get to the bottom. Give the sides a good brushing and vacuum the debris that has settled on the bottom. Your filters will take care of the rest but it’s best to remove anything you can to increase the lifespan of your filter media and the units themselves.

Start filtration

Let the filters run for a day or so to mix all of the new water in with the old and then you’ll want to perform a test to see what needs adjusting.  Before you add chlorine it’s important to balance your waters alkalinity and ph and calcium hardness.  Once these levels are within range its time to shock your pool and wait for the chlorine level to fall.  Once within range, you are good to take the plunge.  

 

Enjoy your backyard pool this summer, but keep a close on your water quality every couple of days.  If you are able to catch things before they get out of the safe range, then you can likely maintain your water without having to close your pool for long. 

Tips to keep a hot tub running in Winter

Are you considering closing the hot tub for the winter? Don’t do it!  Hot Tubs are the perfect at-home remedy to beat the winter blues.  Winding down after a long work day (or week), when your happy hour options are limited, means your Hot Tub is the perfect getaway.  Hot tubs are hardy, they are built to withstand the cold temperatures and heavy snowfalls that winter brings us.  Despite what you might think, hot tubs are not more difficult to care for in the winter.  Let’s breakdown the basics of keeping a hot tub running in the winter.

Follow a plan

Hot tub maintenance should follow a basic plan. If you’re paying attention to the water quality every 3-4 days and keeping the water well balanced, you should be able to avoid most surprises. It’s a good idea to drain and clean your hot tub every 3 months (more or less depending on use), so plan to give your Hot Tub a drain and clean before winter starts.  This way you won’t need to do a drain again until the coldest part of winter has passed.

Invest in a solid cover

A hot hub cover is not where you want to cut costs. Having an air tight seal on your hot tub means you can keep the snow and debris out of your water. It will also keep the heat in so that you can hop in any time you like. A good cover will save you in energy costs too because your heater will not have to work as hard to keep your water warm.  Do a thorough cover inspection in the fall to be prepared for winter. If you have any small cracks or notice any amount of water trapped in the cover then you need to repair or replace your cover before winter sets in.  Throughout the winter, its best to keep snow and ice off your cover, to avoid it causing permanent damage.

Install a heat timer

Depending on the model of hot tub you have, you may need to add a timer to your heater. If the temperatures are going to stay below freezing for long you should set a timer to turn the heater on every 20-30 minutes, and check it regularly.  This will help you avoid frozen water lines, and some unexpected surprises at the most inopportune times.  If you own a Jacuzzi hot tub, they have taken care of this for you. When you see the temperatures falling, activate Freeze Protection, or F3 Standard Mode.

Keep a hose nearby

Water loss is inevitable, but it happens so gradual that it can get missed in your weekly walkabouts.  If your water level drops too low it can lead to air locks, frozen pipes and burnt out pumps. When you winterize your outdoor water lines before the cold sets in, leave a hose out that you can run inside and top up your water levels as needed.

Have a supply of spa chemicals

When the snow falls and the cold temps set in, we start to question every trip out of the house – do I really need that?  Don’t get caught needing the right chemicals to balance your hot tub just as you’re putting your feet up for a winter weekend in. It’s important to keep your hot tub water well balanced to maximize the life of your heating and filtration system. Most hot tub owners know they need to keep their chlorine in check to reduce skin and eye irritations, but it’s important to remember that the pH and Alkalinity also play a role too. ph and Alkalinity levels impact your chlorine’s effectiveness and the life of your pumps and filters. Having a supply of chemicals for the winter season and a regular maintenance plan should yield you clean and clear water whenever you’re ready to slip in. 

Buy a reliable test kit

Keep your test kit handy, so you can get a full picture of your water quality.  A test kit should give you accurate readings for Chlorine (or Bromine), as well as your pH and Alkalinity. Test your water every 3-4 days and make minor adjustments as you need. 

Relax and enjoy your winter hot tub time

That’s it! It is both beneficial and efficient to keep a hot tub running in the winter. If you stick with a basic maintenance plan and keep an eye on things regularly, your hot tub can become part of your regular self-care plan. So grab your toque, a drink and your favourite playlist, and head out to enjoy your backyard winter oasis.

 

 

The Importance of Closing your Pool Correctly for the Winter 

Each autumn, pool owners have the sad task of shutting down the pool for winter. Closing the pool signifies the end of the summer, and a weekend full of a lot of work. After seasonal care, maintenance and small repairs, it can seem daunting to have to clean and close everything correctly.

You may be tempted to cut corners as you move through the process of closing down your swimming pool. But, closing each component of your swimming pool correctly at the end of the season is absolutely essential to keeping it in great shape. Neglecting important parts of the closing process can lead to damage, repair bills, and a delay in opening the pool next summer. Worse than that, every time you damage a component of your swimming pool, you shorten the life of your investment.  Continue reading The Importance of Closing your Pool Correctly for the Winter 

New Homebuyer’s Guide to Pool Maintenance

If you’ve purchased a home with a swimming pool, congratulations! A swimming pool can add so much to your home each summer – encouraging your family to socialize, exercise, and spend more time together. But before you dive in and enjoy your new pool, you’ll need to be sure you understand each of its components and how to operate the pool correctly. We’ve put together a homebuyer’s guide to pool maintenance so you can learn tips and tricks on how to properly and cost-effectively maintain your pool and familiarize yourself with your pool equipment.

With a little work when you first take over the pool, you can ensure your swimming pool operation is easier and more cost-effective for many summers to come. Continue reading New Homebuyer’s Guide to Pool Maintenance

How to Remove Foam from your Swimming Pool Water

Most pool owners are frustrated when their swimming pool isn’t looking its best – and sometimes, the problem with your pool can be very confusing when it first emerges. If your water is crystal clear but you have a layer of foam on top, it can be baffling.

While it is natural for your return jets to form some bubbles as they return water to your pool, these air bubbles should dissipate quickly. A layer of foam that sticks around in your swimming pool water means there is an issue with your water. Continue reading How to Remove Foam from your Swimming Pool Water

How to Cut your Solar Cover to Perfectly fit your Swimming Pool

The right solar cover can add up to 17 degrees to your average swimming pool temperature over the summer. But, a solar cover needs to be the right size and shape for your swimming pool for it to work correctly. Solar covers come in a variety of sizes, but most of them are rectangular or oval in shape. If you have an oddly-sized pool or an irregular pool shape, you may need to cut your solar cover to fit your swimming pool correctly.

Luckily, it is very easy to cut a solar cover to fit any swimming pool.

Continue reading How to Cut your Solar Cover to Perfectly fit your Swimming Pool

How to Remove Pollen from your Swimming Pool

Each summer, the “pollen count” or “pollen load” in each neighbourhood is different. If you have a lot of trees near your pool and an active spring, pollen can be produced so intensely that it can create a huge mess in your swimming pool. It is easy to identify and resolve a problem with pollen in your swimming pool, once you know what to look for. With a little research and work, you can make your swimming pool crystal clear again. Continue reading How to Remove Pollen from your Swimming Pool