Chem Check Checkup – Don’t Forget Why You’re Testing the Water

Chemical checks at your pool have tremendous value, but with any repetitive task we often lose sight of our end goals. Here’s what you need to keep in mind next time you’re elbow deep.


Compliance – You’re likely checking the chemicals because someone told you that you have to. That’s a great reason. The health department is monitoring your water quality to prevent recreational water illness, cloudy conditions and other potential hazards to swimmers. The things they ask you to check are tremendously important. Start by following their guidelines.

Documentation – Now that you’re compliant, you should let the world know. Your chem checks are a great validator of your best practices. They show the high standard you’re holding your pool to. Make sure you’re treating your chem checks like legal documents. Send them in to the health department regularly. Even better, scan them and send them in as a digital document. They’ll be timestamped and will hold up better if they’re ever questioned.

Who’s Checking? – When it comes to checking chemicals, there’s a big difference between your 16 year old lifeguard and your licensed CPO. One of their chem checks has a lot more clout in the courtroom… and it’s not the one who’s planning for the prom. Testing chemicals is no insignificant task. Designate a handful of qualified staff to lead this initiative.

If auxiliary staff are assisting with testing, make sure they’re well trained. Use the manual that came with the test kit as your in-service curriculum. Document who you trained and how you trained them. No one should pick up a test kit, or fill out a chemical record without first being trained.

How Often? – State by state, county by county, testing rules and regulations vary. When you’re choosing how often to check, you have to meet the minimum requirement set by your health department… and then do more. Evaluate your facilities specific needs and make your own set of standards for how often you’re checking chemicals. The bottom line? You should check your chemicals so often that you’re never surprised by their values.

What Type of Kit? – Head to your local pool supply store to check out chem kits. You’ll find a big selection. You’ll find even more options if you look online. From cheap and simple, to complex and expensive, there is an awful lot to consider. Here’s the some pros and cons of the major types of test kits:

Colormetric – Pros: Easy, quick and relatively inexpensive. Cons: Subjective, with a limited testing range.

Photometric/Electronic – Pros: Higher accuracy and validity with options to track results. Cons: Highest cost, and more complex.

Titrations – Pros: Accurate, less subjective. Cons: May take longer and can be subject to user error.

Common Mistakes – Did you know a drop is a scientifically measured amount? It’s like a gallon, or a liter. In order to get an actual drop out of your test kit reagents, you need to hold the bottle completely upside down. Tipping it to the side reduces the drop size. That makes a huge difference in testing results and is just one of the many ways we make mistakes with our test kits. Want to know all the other ways? See our next suggestion.

Read the Instructions! – This seems like logical advice, but how many of your lifeguards have taken the time to read the test kit instructions? Here’s a simple training idea: Divide your team into four categories – Sanitizer, pH, Calcium and Alkalinity. Give them 20 minutes to read the instructions on their specific test category and 5 minutes to train the rest of the crew on how to accurately perform the test. Better results will follow.

Make Your Own Sheet – Now that you’re going to do a better job testing your chemicals, do a better job documenting the process. Create your own daily chemical log. List the chemical tests that are important to you, add in other operations you would like people to check (flow rates, pressure readings, chemicals added). Make a spot for initials so we know who is checking. Add a cheat sheet to the back that shows minimum levels, maximum levels and red-flags. Train your crew to use your new sheet and get better at what you do.

Need an example of a great daily chemical log? We’ve seen hundreds. Email our office and we’ll send you an Excel template that you can customize for your pool.