How to Test Your Pool's Sanitizer—And Keep It Free From COVID-19

This pandemic gives a whole new weight to the phrase “better safe than sorry.” We’re all navigating this new reality with pretty high stakes in terms of safety, and it can get exhausting—especially when just going to the grocery store feels like a game of that old PC classic, Minesweeper (don’t stand there!). Thankfully, the one place you don’t have to worry too much about is your own pool—and during a time this stressful, a little healthy recreation goes a long way. However, the safety of your pool isn’t guaranteed. It’s more of a contract—and you’ll have to uphold your end of the deal.

So what can you do to ensure that your pool is safe from the COVID-19 virus? It all comes down to your sanitizer. I’ll make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to the virus, explain why your pool can actually be safe, clarify how to clean your pool the right way, and show you how to test your pool’s sanitizer to make sure it’s at the right levels consistently.

A Quick COVID-19 Refresher—From the Experts

Chances are, you’ve heard a lot about the virus. After all, for better or worse, we’re all in this pandemic together. But let’s just get on the same page about a few basics, since opinions about how to slow the spread of the virus can widely diverge. And since this is a matter of health, we’re going to cut out all that word-of-mouth speculation we’ve all become used to hearing at socially-distanced outdoor hangs. I’ll source the recognized health authorities, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for every fact here.

You’re likely here because don’t want this virus (who would?), and because you get that it’s our civic duty to prevent its spread as much as possible. But in order to keep ourselves and our families safe, we’ll need to remember just how this virus spreads.

According to the CDC, this virus spreads from person to person, and the possibility of infection is higher depending on a few factors:

·       When people are in close contact with each other—within about six feet.

·       Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths and noses of nearby people, or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. In some cases, these droplets remain in the air after the infected person has left.

·       COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.

·       Though not considered the main way the virus spreads, it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.

The main way the virus spreads is through the air. But unlike some viruses in the past, it isn’t believed to spread through water. More on that coming.

Looking to extend the swim season as much as you can, so that you can safely get out and have fun? A heat pump is the answer for you—but you’ll want a powerful unit that will save you on your energy bill every month, like the Energy-Saving ComforTemp Pool Heat Pump 95,000 BTU to heat 18,000 Gallons. According to customer Steve, “Simple install and simple set up. Heated my pool from 66 to 82 degrees in about 2 complete days.”

How to test your pools sanitizer

Your Pool? It Can Be Safe From the Virus. Here’s How

It can feel like we never have a break from doing what we can to avoid the virus—and to a certain extent, that’ll be true until the pandemic is officially over. But thankfully, there’s one place you don’t have to worry about the virus, as long as you keep just a few factors in check. That stress-free place? You guessed it: it’s your own pool.

So why exactly can you be sure that your own pool is safe, especially when it seems like all we have right now is uncertainty? It’s all thanks to the sanitizing powers of chlorine, the other cleaning measures you’re staying on top of, and the fact that you’re swimming

with your household, and only your household.

Hey, I get it. Total isolation can get lonely, and exhausting. Chances are, you’ve spent a good amount of time during the pandemic remembering all those times you were too tired to go out. Sigh... those were the days. But unfortunately, now isn’t the time to have a giant pool party. This is because although your sanitizer can prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the water, the virus can still transmit from person to person through the air. As the CDC reports, the virus spreads mainly among people who are in close contact for a prolonged period of time

In order to keep yourself and others safe, it’s important to stay at least six feet away from anyone not in your household. People can spread the virus before they know they’re sick, so it’s hard to know who is infected and who isn’t. It sounds a bit like a horror movie, but it’s just the reality we’re living in right now. At least we have our pools, and each other.

Cleaning Your Pool During a Pandemic 101

Let’s be crystal clear here: the CDC reports that there’s no evidence the COVID-19 virus can survive in water. But it’s always good to err on the side of caution, especially because there’s still so much we don’t know about this virus. Just like you’d want to any year, it’s important to keep your pool clean and your sanitizer working at optimal levels.

Sanitizer is like the star in a film—it gets the most screen time and does most of the heavy lifting, but there’s no way it can perform all on its own. Its job is to neutralize harmful bacteria, including the kind that can make you sick, and when it has support, it does the job well. But it doesn’t know the first thing about prioritizing where it uses its strength to attack particles. When larger debris such as leaves, twigs, and dirt enter your pool, your chlorine will attack it just like it would any bacteria—and it’ll get exhausted in the process. The last thing you want during a global pandemic is for your sanitizer to be used up by a leaf, so it doesn’t have the strength to work on the actual microscopic bacteria floating around in your pool.

When it comes to cleaning your pool during COVID-19, it’s about consistency—in fact, that’s what it comes down to whether there’s a pandemic or not. Instead of obsessively checking your levels, it’s better that when you do balance your chemicals, you do it properly. It’s always better to maintain your pool the right way, the first time, and never skipping your weekly check in.

So same as always, you should be skimming your pool water once a day, brushing your pool’s walls and floors every few days, and vacuuming your pool—or just powering up that convenient robotic cleaner—once a week. Once you get into the right routine, it’ll feel like nothing.

To keep your sanitizer working, it’s important to shock your pool about once a week. I recommend tried and true shock like the Super Premium Sanitizing and Fast-Acting Pool Shock. Not only does it work fast in your water, but its conveniently packaged in one-pound bags, so you never have to worry about measuring yours out again. As customer W Graves says, “Perfectly good shock at a third of the regular brick-and-mortar stores’ price. What’s not to like?”

how to test your pools sanitizer

Now More Than Ever, Look for the Right Levels!

Sanitizer needs to be supported, sure. But that doesn’t mean it’s not powerful stuff. In fact, the recommended dose of chlorine in swimming pools kills most bacteria—and in under a minute. So how can you properly sanitize your pool to ensure that if the COVID-19 virus is introduced into your water, it meets its match?

We’ll turn to the CDC again for this one. The ideal chlorine combination of your pool should be between 1 and 3 parts per million (ppm). It’s essential that you make sure your chlorine concentration doesn’t fall below 1 ppm (though the World Health Organization recommends as little as .5 ppm). Go above 3 ppm and while you’re sure to wipe out the virus, you’re also vulnerable to irritation in your eyes, nose, lungs, and throat. If your pool uses bromine, your sanitizer levels should be 3 ppm at the minimum.

Just as you would when there’s no pandemic, check your sanitizer levels once a week. It’s best to aim toward the higher recommended level, just in case your sanitizer drops significantly in-between checks. If it ever unexpectedly falls too low, it’s time to troubleshoot. You can expect that algae blooms, large unfiltered debris, and a high total dissolved solids could all be culprits for a plummeting sanitizer level. Again, it’s better to fix the problem than keep dumping chlorine into your water and hoping it sticks—especially during a pandemic. 

And don’t let all those other chemicals you balance every week fall to the wayside as you focus on sanitizer. Remember, it’s called achieving chemical balance for a reason—many of these chemicals help keep your sanitizer operating, as well as keep your swim comfortable. I’d say comfort is pretty important these days, right?

Keep your sanitizer working at its highest capacity by switching to a powerful automatic cleaner that works on its own to keep your pool sparkling clean, like the Blue Torrent MyBot Inground Robotic Cleaner, which works powerfully on its own to keep your walls and floor sparkling clean. As customer David Lain says, “Very pleased. My wife loves it.”

how to test your pools sanitizer

How to Test Your Pool’s Sanitizer—In Three Quick Steps 

Unless you have a serious imbalance that you just can’t sort out, it’s not necessary to take a water sample over to your nearest pool store to get analyzed. Basic water test strips will work just fine. They’re also super quick, easy to use, and can also be more accurate than liquid test kits, since there’s less room for human error.

Another benefit of test strips is that they’re super inexpensive. In fact, I’d recommend you visit your local dot gov to see if your county gives them out for free. You’ll want strips that check for at least pH, alkalinity, and whatever sanitizer type you’ve got. If you use a salt water generator or bromine, there are test strips out there for you, too.

1.     Dip a Test Strip Into the Water

First, dip a test strip into your pool water. It doesn’t matter where you dip it, but this test strip will only be accurate as long as you have proper circulation of water in your pool—it’s one of the many reasons why I recommend a variable-speed pump.

You want to dip that strip quickly in and out. No need to hold it under for a prolonged amount of time. This is a quick test.

2.     Hold It Still

No need to shake it out—this isn’t a cologne paper. Hold the test strip in the air for about fifteen seconds, so that the sample can set and the colors on your strip can respond accordingly.

3.     Check Out Those Colors

Your test strip should be looking pretty colorful by now. Go ahead and match it up with the colors on the packaging of the box or tube it came in. The actual reading should be fairly straightforward here. 

4.     Adjust Your Chemicals 

Did the colors indicate that your sanitizer was low? Go ahead and rebalance your chemicals now. It’s a good idea to repeat these steps afterward to make sure you nailed it. 

5.     Repeat Every Week

Couldn’t have been easier, right? Good—you’re going to want to repeat this process every week for as long as you have a pool. And yes, after the pandemic ends. There, I said it. Whew. Now that’s something to look forward to.

To keep your circulation system in top shape, you’ll need a reliable, powerful, and energy-saving pump like the 2 HP Energy Star Variable Speed In Ground Blue Torrent Cyclone Pump to make sure all your water is sanitized. Plus, it comes with a free warranty, is eligible for rebates, and pays itself off in under a year. According to customer James Robinson, “Great price, quick shipping and delivery. Installed it and turned it on, and it was so quiet that we both reached down to feel if it was vibrating! Simple controls. I’d buy it again.” 

how to test your pool's sanitizer

You’re Right on Track!

Now that you can be sure that you have the right amount of sanitizer working in your pool, you’ll have a safe swim for years to come—and yes, including after this pandemic ends. That’s what we’re all on track for: a post-pandemic world. Until then, hang in there, keep cleaning, and take as many swims as you need to relieve all that stress. Enjoy.