Defining Clean

The same surfaces were then tested using an ATP-monitoring system. Researchers were shocked to find that the same surfaces were not clean at all–76 percent of them were “unacceptable” (meaning they were not up either to the hospital’s standards or, in some cases, standards required by law). Researchers also found “the sites most likely to fail [having the highest ATP readings, indicating the presence of potentially harmful pathogens] were in restroom and food-service areas.” These are the key areas most associated with cross-contamination and the spread of disease. This is no less true in a park and recreational facility. 

Robert Kravitz is a former building service contractor, author of two books on the professional cleaning industry, and a frequent writer on cleaning issues. He may be reached via his website at

——————————Sidebar—————————-How To Properly Use An ATP-Monitoring System

To ensure swab life, swabs should be stored in a refrigerator at no more than 46º Fahrenheit. If not refrigerated, swabs can tolerate storage at room temperature (up to 77º Fahrenheit) for about four weeks. 

  • Avoid leaving swabs at room temperature for more than 20 minutes.
  • An ATP system may need to conduct a “self test” for about 60 seconds when it is first turned on. Avoid using the unit until it has finished conducting this test.
  • For flat surfaces, swab a 4-inch by 4-inch area, moving the swab from left to right as well as up and down.
  • For irregular surfaces such as door handles, swab a sufficient area to collect an adequate sample.
  • Rotate the swab while in use so all areas of the swab come into contact with the surface to be tested.
  • After using the swab, return it to its tube. Then snap the top of the tube to release the liquid that protects the sample.
  • Hold the tube vertically and shake it for about five seconds.
  • Keep the swab upright.
  • The swab is now ready to be inserted into the monitoring device for testing.


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