According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we’re heading for a very active flu season. The CDC says that in January 2018, about six percent of the US population visited a healthcare provider because they had influenza-like symptoms. This is three times the average rate.
Further, this is happening in just about every state. To address the problem, the CDC recommends that everyone gets vaccinated. But statistics show that only about 60 percent of the people living in this country do get a flu shot; the remainder do not for a variety of reasons.
This puts pressure on cleaning professionals to make sure the facilities they maintain are clean and healthy.
The big problem is that when someone has the flu, they often sneeze or cough, releasing the flu virus, which lands on surrounding surfaces touched by others. These flu “bugs” are pretty hardy. They typically survive about 48 hours on non-porous surfaces.
This means that not only will we have to make our cleaning routines more effective by using no-touch cleaning systems, but we should also start testing our work. This will tell us if the surfaces we have just cleaned are free of germs and bacteria. And the best way to do this is by using an ATP rapid monitoring system, which many cleaning professionals are already using.
However, many of us are not sure what an ATP system is or how it works. As a result, we asked Terry Schawe, head of research and development at Kaivac, to bring us up to speed about this technology.
Terry, what exactly does ATP stand for?
It stands for Adenosine Triphosphate. This is an energy carrier found in all living organisms. Without it, cells could not transfer energy from one location to another, making it impossible for organisms to survive.
How do these rapid monitoring systems work?
Ever heard of fireflies? The tail of a firefly lights up as a result of a chemical reaction in their bodies. When oxygen and ATP, (and some other compounds) mix, it produces light. This light and the intensity of this light is picked up by the ATP monitor after swabbing a small surface and placing the swab in the monitor. The swab lets us know if ATP is present and the reading also gives us an idea of the amount.
Can we see ATP with the naked eye?
No, these are minute organisms. We cannot see ATP nor would a surface covered with ATP give any indication it is present.
How should we use it?
Do before and after tests. For instance test a restroom or even a door handle before cleaning. The ATP monitor will indicate if ATP is present and the amount. Let’s say we conducted a test of a door handle. The ATP monitor gave us a reading of 90, which indicates a significant amount of ATP is present.
After we clean that door handle, we may get the following results:
- 71 or higher; that means the cleaning was not effective
- 36 to 70; cleaning is better but stills needs improvement
- 35 or less; we did the job. A reading this low indicates the cleaning was effective.
“You can use ATP monitoring systems not just during the flu season, but for demonstrating cleaning effectiveness as well,” says Schawe. “Many contractors test surfaces before cleaning and then again after cleaning with a No-Touch Cleaning® system. They show the before and after results to the client. When a lot of ATP is removed, it makes a powerful impression.”
Robert Kravitz is a former building service contractor, having owned, operated, and then sold three contract cleaning companies in Northern California.
He is the author of two books about the industry and continues to be a frequent writer for the industry.
Robert is now president of AlturaSolutions Communications, which provides communications and marketing services for organizations in the professional cleaning and building industries.