Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a nucleoside triphosphate used in cells as a coenzyme, often called the "molecular unit of currency" of intracellular energy transfer. (source:

Since ATP is found in all living cells, an ATP sampling device is an effective means of sampling a surface for mold and microbial contamination.  The greater the ATP level, the higher the mold or microbial contamination level.  The good news is that while the definition of ATP sounds very scientific, the process of ATP sampling is relatively simple when you understand how it works and follow these basic steps.

The ATP Sampling System Components

ATP MeterATP Sampling Swab - The swab is coated with a special detergent designed to easily lift ATP from the sample surface.

Bioluminescent reagent - A small amount of this fluid is stored in the bulb at the top of the sampling swab.  When the swab tip is bathed in this reagent, it creates light.  The amount of light that it creates is in direct correlation to the amount of ATP that is collected in the sample. 

ATP Meter - The ATP meter is an illuminometer that measures that amount of light that is created through the reaction of the ATP and the reagent.  It will produce a reading of relative light units (RLU).  The higher the RLU, the greater the amount of ATP, and the greater the amount of microbial contamination or mold.

How to Perform an ATP Sample

  1. Place your meter onto a flat surface and press the power button.  The system will perform a 60 second self-check.  Do not move the meter during this time.
  2. Get your ATP swab.  Holding the bulb opposite the swab tip, carefully remove the ATP swab from the enclosing tube. Pay special attention not to touch the swab to any surface other than the intended sampling area to avoid cross contamination.
  3. Holding the bulb, press the swab down on the sample surface with enough pressure that the entire side of the swab is in contact with the surface.  Then roll the swab up and down within a 4" x 4" surface area.  Then roll the swab from side to side within that same 4" x 4" surface area.
  4. Carefully put the swab back into the tube that it was originally enclosed in.  Holding the bulb at the top of the swab, push far to one side and then the other to break the seal.  This will release the reagent into the tube.
  5. Shake the tube/swab assembly for five seconds to fully bathe the swab tip in the reagent.
  6. Open the cap of the meter and then drop the entire swab/tube assembly into the meter and close the lid.
  7. Holding the meter vertically, press the "OK" button.  In 15 seconds the meter will display the RLU reading.

    See the video at the bottom of the page for a demonstration.

Understanding the ATP Sampling Results

The manufacturer offers two general threshold levels based the type of surface being tested.  First for easy to clean surfaces such as stainless steel, table tops, and non-porous materials.  Second for difficult to clean surfaces such as objects with groves or crevices and porous materials.

Easy to Clean Surfaces Thresholds

Pass: <10
Caution: 11-19

Difficult to Clean Surfaces Thresholds

Pass: <10
Caution: >10 - <29


A study was undertaken by Michael Pinto of Wonder Makers Environmental to determine if the Esporta Wash System was capable of removing bacterial contamination from sewage-contaminated soft goods and laundry.  Samples of the goods were analyzed by an independent laboratory to determine concentrations of Escherichia coli (E. coli), Enterococci, and total coliform bacteria. The percentage reduction of bacterial organisms was calculated for each of the items tested.

The same samples that were sent to the independent laboratory were also tested using an ATP sampling system. The study concluded that the Esporta Wash System is effective at removing bacterial contamination from sewage affected goods and that an ATP sampling system is an effective means of field verification of decontamination.

When you use ATP sampling as part of your standard cleaning and restoration protocol, you are provided with quantitative evidence on the state of contamination or cleanliness.  As a result, all restoration cleaners and contractors should be using this valuable tool.

For more information, contact Neil Grant at 1.800.881.7781 ext. 116 or email.


Click here for more articles.

Contact Us

The first step towards transforming your business is as simple as filling in this form.

Contact Us

The first step towards transforming your business is as simple as filling in this form.

Marketing by