The phrase Five Things You Should Know written in white chalk on a blackboard as a reminder to prepare and set priorities. Vignette added for effect.

Contributed by The Ashkin Group

The Safety-First Credit from the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Rating System recommends using adenosine triphosphate (ATP) meters to measure cleaning performance.

As many cleaning professionals know, ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is an energy molecule found in all plants, animals, and microbial cells. All organic matter, living or not living, contains ATP. This includes bacteria, mold, and microorganisms.

"What is most important for us to know is that the detection of ATP on a surface indicates the presence of biological matter," says Steve Ashkin, a professional cleaning industry advocate for green cleaning and sustainability.

"In the cleaning world, this is a 'red light' that potentially health-risking pathogens are on a surface."

While ATP monitors are one of the most reliable indicators we have to measure cleaning performance, "to take advantage of this technology, we need to ensure our [surface] sampling skills are up to par."

To do this, Ashkin provides the following five tips:

1. Soil distribution on a surface can vary. If there are concerns about the health of a surface, conduct several tests in the same general location.

2. Assessing a surface area of a minimum of about four inches by four inches is recommended.

3. After swabbing a surface, place the swab into the solution and gently shake it from side to side for a few seconds. Then place the swab into the luminometer and close the lid.

4. The ATP monitor will report the amount of contamination on a surface. A high reading, indicating a large amount of ATP, means the surface must be cleaned or re-cleaned; a low rating indicates the surface has been adequately cleaned or does not need further cleaning.

5. Proper training is mandatory and often works best when several cleaning workers are taught simultaneously. In a group, they may raise questions that others are also wondering about.

"Additionally, an effective ATP monitoring program requires first identifying areas in a facility that need to be regularly evaluated," adds Ashkin. "Bring in a [jan/san] distributor to help with this. Their ‘fresh eyes’ will uncover test areas that everyday facility users may overlook."

For additional coverage on ATP, check out these CleanLink Fast Facts.