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ATP measurement of cleaning performance

September 19, 2010
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There''s been a growing interest in measuring cleaning performance and its management.

And, it seems like measuring contamination levels is likely to attract even more attention and has the potential for becoming one of the mainstream requirements in future contracts.

While I endorse ATP measurement, I do not believe that measuring ATP alone accurately gauges the success or failure of any cleaning system.

If you are experiencing a landslide of complaints, quoting ATP levels will not be received well.

Furthermore, if you want to increase the cost of cleaning in this economy, you''ll have a difficult time of it, even showing your best ATP data.

The reality is we are often judged by the level of complaints, the appearance of our facilities and the cost of cleaning, notwithstanding ATP data.

In short, if you have low levels of ATP and high levels of complaints, cost and soiling, no customer will be satisfied.

A well managed — by the manager or the contractor — cleaning system is advised to measure four indicators: Complaints, appearance, cost and contamination levels.


No manager can survive in their job for very long with dissatisfied, unhappy and complaining building occupants.

For some, it''s the only measure that matters.

It is an important metric that cannot be set aside, regardless of any ATP numbers.

Failure to objectively measure customer satisfaction can get you fired.


Our facilities must not only be clean, they need to look clean — there is a difference.

Let me give you a real-world example.

We once rated an operating room of a hospital at 61.3 percent cleanliness appearance.

Needless to say, the head nurse was "upset."

She demanded immediate proof of this poor rating.

She was clear in her "cleaning" regime.

After each use, the operating room was "bombed" with a sanitizing aerosol spray, floor to ceiling.

This process was repeated before any operation, and again if the room was not used in the previous 48 hours.

How could we possibly rate her operating room so poorly?

We conducted a joint review of her domain.

Here is a partial list of what we found: Dust bunnies rolling around in the corners; rust spots on the underside of the operating room table; mushroom-like rows of dust collected on the ceiling vents; and embedded dirt in the corners of the floor.

Yes, this space was sanitized and contamination-free, but it didn''t look that way.

And this same situation applies to our entry lobbies, restrooms, public areas and our own work space.

Even if you can prove the whole building is contamination-free, if it looks dirty, you may have a public image and staff morale problem.

Simply put, you must measure building appearance.


According to a recent study, the national average for cleaning is about $1.26 per square foot.

If you understand anything about what is happening to our economy, you recognize that this number is coming down.

Companies are asking for 10-20 percent cost reductions.

Many are willing to forgo occupant happiness, good facility appearance and even potential contamination risk.

For some, it''s a mater of business survival.

Today, you must measure cost.

The good news is that some companies have figured out how to reduce cost to fewer than 80 cents per square foot and improve cleanliness appearance while reducing contamination levels.

But, if you don''t measure cost, how will you know?

Contamination levels

There is a growing conversation about the value of contamination measurement through ATP sampling.

The ICM-IEHA initiative is an innovative organization that has a wealth of information and tools to support your contamination measurement plan.

Their recent Las Vegas conference was extraordinary in providing practical alternative strategies for measuring contamination levels.

Between the expert speakers and the experienced vendors, finding the right measurement tool was easy.

They even gave-away a free ATP testing device.

If you are serious about contamination testing or just looking for more information, please contact or

Finally, I hope you will agree that all this new examination of contamination testing is a good thing for our industry.

Nonetheless, I strongly believe that it is only one of several measures that collectively must be adopted in support of a well-managed cleaning program.

Vincent F. Elliott is the founder, president and CEO of Elliott Affiliates, Ltd. of Hunt Valley, MD, He is widely recognized as the leading authority in the design and utilization of best practice performance-driven techniques for janitorial outsourcing and ongoing management.

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