The goal of the ISSA and Cleaning Industry Research Institute (CIRI) Clean Standard: K-12 is to provide schools with a useful tool that will help them objectively measure and monitor the level of cleanliness at their facilities, thereby contributing to the quality of the indoor environment for the benefit of students and staff alike.

The Clean Standard: K-12 is performance-oriented and focused on:

• The levels of cleanliness that can be reasonably achieved;
• Recommended monitoring and inspection procedures designed to measure how “clean” a facility is using quantitative measures (i.e., ATP Meters) and traditional methods (i.e., sight, smell, touch);  
• How to use these results to evaluate and improve the cleaning processes and products that are critical to maintaining a safe and healthy learning environment for students and staff.

The Clean Standard doesn’t specify or favor any particular cleaning process or product. Instead it focuses on achieving the desired level of cleanliness and provides a systematic approach to inspection to ensure “clean” is achieved and maintained.

Clean Standard: K-12 development process

In developing the Clean Standard, ISSA and CIRI followed a broad multi-stakeholder process designed to garner the input of all major stakeholders in an open and transparent manner. The Clean Standard development process allowed for stakeholder involvement by participation on either the Development or the Stakeholder Committees, whose decisions were based on
consensus. These committees are comprised of industry members (manufacturers, distributors and cleaning service providers), major school districts, unions such as the American Federation of Teachers, and NGOs and non-profits such as the Healthy Schools Campaign, the National Education Association, APPA and the National Association of State Boards of Education.

The development process has been guided and informed by independent research, which included extensive scientific measurements from a multiyear review of cleaning procedures in numerous schools across the United States. The data clearly indicates that a standardized approach to the measurement of cleaning effectiveness across critical surfaces (recognized as presenting health risks in schools) could be used to improve the hygiene of interior school surfaces and help improve the school’s overall indoor environmental quality.

Specifically, the research has validated ATP meters as a way to measure the level of cleanliness of school surfaces. In addition, the research has produced reasonable range values for measuring levels of cleanliness in K-12 schools across three different ATP meters, representing a standardized and quantitative approach to measuring clean.

The Clean Standard provides schools with a framework and a standardized protocol for using ATP meters to measure and assess cleaning effectiveness on a consistent and periodic basis. Perhaps more importantly, it provides a structured approach to addressing situations where the facility has fallen below the desired level of cleanliness.

Adenosine triphosphate is recognized as an excellent marker for monitoring biologically-derived surface soiling and cleanliness. Most surfaces collect and retain soils, dusts and various deposits containing myriad particles, residues and fragments of some biological origin. These residues may derive from plants (such as pollens, fibers, dusts, fungi, etc.) and animals (skin cells, dander, insect parts, secretions, exudates, etc.), as well as other microorganisms that are environmentally ubiquitous.

By basing the metric of “clean” on ATP levels on interior surfaces, one is practically covering all surface residual contamination of biological origin. However, it is important to note that ATP monitoring is not appropriate for the identification of specific, non-biological and other pollutants that are recognized and regulated as human health hazards. Examples include lead, asbestos and pesticides.

ATP cannot identify specific bacteria, virus or fungi that may serve to be human pathogens. However, during research, RODAC measurements (a recognized means of detecting and measuring the presence of microorganisms on surfaces) were taken contemporaneously with ATP measurements. The research compared ATP and RODAC measurements and clearly established that a reduction in culturable bacteria as measured by RODAC was consistent with the reduction in ATP values after cleaning.

Bill Balek is the director of environmental services and legislative affairs for ISSA, Lincolnwood, Ill. More information on the Clean Standard: K-12 can be found at