Working in hazmat suit wiping a surface with a towel to demonstrate ATP testing

What Are ATP Testing Standards?

Most of us believe that cleaning our premises entails washing, sanitizing, and disinfecting. While these are the right cleaning steps, surprisingly, they do not guarantee that your facility is actually clean. A simple eye scan is not enough to tell this either; bacteria and viruses can breed and multiply without our knowledge — they are not visible to the naked eye. 

ATP testing is the best way to tell whether your surface is clean. Usually, ATP tests are used in industries where cleanliness is paramount, including the food industry. However, ATP tests are now standard for cleanliness in most industries, even those that do not necessarily deal with “high risk” products or services.  

What Is the RLU Measurement in the Standard of Cleanliness?

An acronym for Adenosine Triphosphate, the ATP test usually generates a number that correlates to the amount of pathogens living on a surface. A high ATP reading indicates that your surface is not as clean, so more cleaning is needed to keep the microbes from growing out of control and potentially causing health issues. 

The amount of ATP is usually expressed in Relative Light Units, RLU, using the 3 M Clean Trace NG luminometer. Higher RLU indicates that the ATP is high and therefore, the presence of microbes on your surface. 

What Is RLU in ATP Testing?

As aforementioned, RLU is the express unit for ATP levels. You can use it to improve the cleaning effectiveness of your facility by setting your pass/fail limits. For instance, you can use 150 RLU as the pass limit and 300 RLU as the fail limit.

After cleaning, conduct an ATP test and observe the readings.  If you have an RLU reading of less than 150 (based on the above assumption), your clean surface is in the pass category. That means that the cleaning process was well done. 

On the other hand, if your RLU test results are between 150 and 299, your clean surface is under the caution category. Anything greater than 300 RLU is in the failed category. 

What Does the ATP Test Measure?

If used correctly, ATP tests can be used as an accurate representation of cleanliness. Every living cell has ATP molecules that are responsible for storing and transferring energy. Through ATP testing, you can tell how many pathogen cells are still lying on your already cleaned surfaces. 

ATP tests detect the dirt on your surfaces regardless of its origin; it can come from bacteria, mold, food residues, or human skin.  However, it is important to note you cannot use ATP testing to test:


You cannot rely on ATP tests as an indication of whether viruses are still present on your clean surfaces. Viruses are not living cells, so it can be very hard to detect using ATP, which is only present in living organisms. 

However, ATP tests can detect the presence of pathogens and bacteria on your surfaces. This makes it easier to inactivate viruses; once you do away with the other pathogens, there are higher chances that you will have eliminated the viruses as well. 

What Is Standard ATP?

The answer to this question depends on your standard of cleanliness, which greatly varies from one entity to another. For instance, the standard ATP for food industries may not be the same as those for schools and healthcare facilities. 

Regardless of what your standards are, it is important to consider the standards offered by the manufacturer because of the variation in readings. 

Does JaniTek Follow ATP Testing Standards?

JaniTek’s ATP testing provides an additional level of assurance that your facility has been adequately cleaned and builds confidence in your cleaning and disinfecting program. You can rest assured that JaniTek will keep your workers safe and your business running with our ATP testing services.

The Final Takeaway

ATP testing is used to measure how clean your surfaces are. How clean a facility is depends on its RLU measurements and the set of ATP standards. While ATP tests are perfect for detecting pathogens and other living organisms, they cannot tell whether viruses are still present on your surfaces after cleaning. However, clearing the pathogens usually takes away the viruses with them, further underlining the effectiveness of ATP tests. 

JaniTek is a cleaning solutions company that relies on technology to provide enhanced and superior cleaning services. Our customer care and janitors are always on standby to attend to your needs and provide the best possible service.

Contact us today to get a free consultation and possibly work with the best cleaning service partner. 

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