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Wednesday, April 16, 2014


How prevalent is the use of ATP (Meters) Hygiene Monitoring Systems currently within the cleaning industry? What are the downsides and is it a cost effective measurement tool for cleanliness?


Answer #1:
The use of ATP and measuring devices is a new concept in the cleaning industry and is part of a trend toward customers requiring some form of scientific validation that the service specification has been met.
I think the use of advanced quality assurance inspection techniques or what some are calling (Integrated Cleaning Measurement -ICM) and test equipment (measuring devices -MD) will continue to find use and acceptance in the industry.
In the past, we looked at it and said, "Looks good to me," now we know that what we can't see is more hazardous to our health that what we can see. If it looks dirty, it is, we don't need a meter to tell us that. Testing isn't needed everywhere, but when there are critical areas, complaints, or you want to prove/validate that the processes you are using are actually working, any one of 40 or so tests are now available.
Downsides are: false readings, misunderstood readings, and the cost. Meters are close
to $1000.00 and swabs are one or two dollars each.
I recently conducted a seminar on "Advanced Quality Assurance Inspection Techniques" for the University of Washington Custodial Dept. Mgt. staff as they are going to begin using ATP, particle counters, and other measuring devices in the real world work environment.
With ever increasing pressures to reduce costs, it's important that we use processes that work and at the same time, don't waste resources doing work that isn't needed or is actually soiling the surface; without scientific testing, we are just guessing.

Bill Griffin, President

Answer #2:
For actual use in daily office cleaning and many other common settings, ATP testing is costly and can induce a misleading sense of security.
First, there is no need for focused antimicrobial cleaning efforts in most of the spaces cleaned daily because either the occupants are not suffering from weakened immune systems or the recontamination of the space is rapid and no specific pathogen has been singled out as a threat. In other words, we live in a sea of microbes and attempting to remove them or reduce their numbers makes no sense unless there is a real danger imposed by their presence in a specific setting.
While there is a genuine concern in food service, health care, and to a lesser extent, day care and schools, even in those settings, a test (ATP) that confirms the presence of something organic without determining what it is or even if it is a threat is wasted time and money.
Second, while custodians should be using procedures that ensure that surfaces are not being contaminated by the cleaning effort itself, there is no guarantee that a swab of square inch of a school desktop showing limited ATP will be representative of the entire desktop or the chair back or seat. To assume from the examination of a very limited area of any surface that the entire surface is hygienically clean is obviously risky.
The cleaning industry is often desperate to show itself to be professional and worthy of respect as a provider of a valuable service. However, adopting for general use, costly and often useless tests, is not the way to enhance the image of the industry.
There are known cleaning procedures and tools that offer microbial reduction when used properly and these should be the foundation for any hygienic cleaning in those areas where such is essential. Proper application will assure the required results without time-consuming testing and its related costs, which even hospitals seem reluctant to budget for.

Lynn E. Krafft, ICAN/ATEX Editor