Logo top techclean 1.JPG

ATP Swab Testing

ATP monitoring is a rapid testing method to quickly assess the cleanliness of surfaces. Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is an enzyme present in all organic material and is the universal unit of energy used in all living cells including coronavirus. A properly cleaned surface will have very low ATP, so the test can be used to measure cleanliness and check that no germs or viruses are present.


The surface is swabbed to collect bacteria from a surface and then tested on site. Results are reported in less than a minute.


It's common to use this diagnostic sampling method in restaurant kitchens for hygiene ratings but in offices is often used on air conditioning units, kitchens and communal areas, desks, door handles, keyboards, phones, laptops and other areas where the surface is not porous. It does not work on humans, fabric and soft surfaces.

The presence of ATP on a surface indicates improper cleaning and the presence of contamination, including food residue, allergens, bacteria and viruses and of course coronavirus.

No ATP equals no coronavirus. Cleaning removes coronavirus, it is not hard to kill as long as you clean.

The Science

The machine we use is like a tiny portable laboratory that uses bioluminescence technology to assess the cleanliness of a surface and validate the efficacy of cleaning protocols. ATP is quantified by measuring the light produced through its reaction with the naturally occurring firefly enzyme luciferase using a luminometer. The amount of light produced is directly proportional to the amount of ATP present in the sample.


Viruses cannot generate or store energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), but have to derive their energy, and all other metabolic functions, from the host cell. ... All viruses contain nucleic acid, either DNA or RNA (but not both), and a protein coat, which encases the nucleic acid.


ATP is measured in RLU's (relative light units). ATP systems use relative light units (RLU) as the unit of measure for adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Though the ratio of RLU to ATP varies per manufacturer, the greater the ATP, the higher the RLU. The cut-off scores for acceptable or unacceptable RLU scores are called thresholds, or limits. RLU limits enable users to categorize RLU test results as Pass, Caution, or Fail.

Understanding Results

A reading between 30 and 50 is the base level for desks and offices, with a result below 10 meaning an area is extremely clean with no chance of Covid-19, and over 50 meaning a clean is required. A restaurant would be expected to get results below 10 to pass a hygiene inspection. It is easy to pass with basic cleaning.

Why Test?

No ATP means no coronavirus. The dirtier a surface is, the longer all germs and viruses can survive. Coronavirus is transferred through breath and touch so keeping surfaces clean means the illness cannot be caught that way. Testing means you can check that your cleaner’s cleaning products and methods are actually cleaning to the standard you want.


Obviously it is not feasible to clean every single thing every time someone touches it, but sensible choices can be made about cleaning handrails and kettle handles very frequently (often called high touch areas) and desks and other places more often too. No good everyone washing their hands if they are going to then touch dirty keyboards and phones and desks. These would not be done every day but testing helps you check your cleaning and make choices about where to focus your efforts.


People use it for all these reasons, it tells you that something is cleaned and there are no viruses or germs including coronavirus:

  • Verify sanitation of surfaces

  • Test and compare the effectiveness of sanitation products and procedures

  • Train and monitor sanitation crew and QC/QA employees

  • Support SSOP and objectively prove cleaning standards have been met

  • Quickly identify when replaceable should be replaced

  • Identify problem areas in your facility that need more attention

  • Provide on-the-spot training and feedback

Swab testing on a keyboard.jpg