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Test strip accuracy depends on you. (chemicals close up).

To maintain healthy pools and spas, we all rely on the accuracy of our water analysis. Methods for analyzing pool and spa water vary, but the test strip offers an approach known for its speed, simplicity and accuracy.

Although the test strip has historically been seen as less accurate than other methods of water analysis, manufacturers have made great strides over the past decade toward altering this view. In fact, while many health departments recognize only liquid kits that include a DPD indicator for water testing on commercial pools, the number of local agencies permitting test strip water analysis is growing.

As with any test kit, several factors can be controlled to ensure test validity. The following guidelines for using test strips will help you obtain the most accurate water analysis results possible. The list is brief because the procedure is simple.

* Follow the right directions.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? Still, users often inadvertently use directions from another manufacturer's strips, or directions from an older kit. Never assume that the directions on one container are going to apply to another container's strips.

* Store test strips properly.

For best effectiveness over time, store test strips in a low-humidity environment at room temperature. Only then can you be confident of accurate results all the way until the expiration date.

* Keep test strips dry.

To prevent them from reacting prematurely, test strips must be kept completely dry until ready for use. Cap the test strip bottle tightly between uses, and keep the desiccant pouch with the bottle to absorb any moisture that enters.

* Watch your fingers.

Never put a wet finger inside the bottle to save the strips' reactions for actual pool water testing. Make sure your fingers have no chlorine or other residual chemicals on them that can skew the results.

* Never use expired strips.

Test strip containers display an expiration date. Be aware of this date when purchasing and using test strips. Regardless of how the container has been stored or handled, test strips have a firm shelf life, beyond which their results may be inaccurate. Replace expired bottles promptly.

* Timing is everything.

Dip the strip into the pool, but not for too long. For most brands, the strip only needs to go under long enough to get all the pads wet; for others, the strip should be swirled around underwater.

* Take it easy.

Do not shake excess water off the pads. Simply wait the required time for an accurate reading. Some strips can be read immediately, while others need a few moments to react and offer a verdict.

Joe Sweazy is a technical service associate for Environmental Test Systems, manufacturer of AquaChek pool and spa test strips based in Elkhart, Ind.

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Author:Sweazy, Joe
Publication:Pool & Spa News
Date:Apr 5, 2002
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