Things you should know about assessing surface cleanliness

Living in a clean environment is something we all appreciate. Keeping our surroundings neat helps us to live happier, healthier and promotes longevity. However, a visually clean environment may give the impression of being hygienic, but it does not necessarily guarantee actual cleanliness. Cleaning can remove visible dirt and debris, yet it may not eliminate harmful microorganisms that can cause illness, which is our ultimate concern. That is why we should adopt a scientific approach to determine whether a surface is truly clean or not.

Many of us rely on our senses to judge whether a surface is clean or not. For instance, we may visually inspect a surface for dirt or grime, touch it to check for stickiness or residue, or even smell it for any unpleasant odors. However, these methods are subjective and unreliable, which are unable to detect invisible germs and bacteria.

There are several common methodologies for measuring surface cleanliness:

Methodology Detection Characteristics Concerns
Visual Inspection
  • Inexpensive and fast
  • Detect physical dirt, e.g. dust, stains, grime
  • Imprecise, subjective
  • Unable to quantify the level of cleanliness or contamination that cannot be seen
Water Break Test
  • Good for testing the surface cleanliness of metals in the industrial environment
  • Detect oil and fingerprint
  • Subjective, low accuracy, no definitive pass or fail standards
  • Incapable to detect microorganisms
UV Fluoresce
  • Fast, effective way to detect saliva, urine stains on the surface
  • Detect specific chemical substances, e.g. body fluids, grease
  • Black lights are required to observe UV lights
  • Limited to a narrow spectrum of biological matter detection without any capability to detect microorganisms
Aerobic Plate Count in the Laboratory
  • A precise and measurable method to provide quantitative results of microbial count
  • Provide count of viable bacteria
  • The lab test is expensive and takes up to 2 weeks to deliver results
ATP Bioluminescence Test
  • Rapid, simple to use and measurable results
  • Detect relative counts of organic matter, including body fluids, bacteria, yeast, moulds, and other microorganisms
  • Different devices have a different pass or fail standard

What is ATP bioluminescence testing? Why is it the preferred method to improve environmental hygiene?

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) testing can detect the presence of organic matter, including bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. It provides objective measurements of surface cleanliness, allowing users to assess standards of hygiene and the effectiveness of cleaning procedures in real-time. This universally-accepted method has been used across various sectors including food industries, schools, and clinics.

ATP testing offers several advantages, including its high efficiency in providing results within seconds, making it a fast and reliable way to assess surface cleanliness. It is also capable of detecting low bacterial levels, which identifies areas that need further attention without a substantial investment.

In summary, ATP testing is a quick, consistent, and cost-effective method for assessing surface cleanliness, making it a valuable tool for maintaining a clean and safe environment.

For those who are interested in learning more about our professional cleanliness measurement services and consultancy, feel free to contact us at