The added value of cleaning audits in sanitary maintenance

Here's a walk-through of three key types of audits readily available and feasible for cleaning and maintenance.
Thursday, July 29, 2021
By Nathalie Thibault

Sanitation quality controls are vital in facility cleaning and maintenance. In other words: how to monitor and measure the quality of cleanliness. Since sanitary maintenance is changing at a rapid pace, it is very important to have the tools that will allow you to conduct thorough and valid audits.

The ongoing health crisis has greatly contributed to changing attitudes and standards of cleanliness. While visual cleanliness used to be acceptable, today we aim for true cleanliness, even in the invisible. We must now clean for health, nothing less!

The three main types of audits that are readily available and feasible are visual inspection, fluorescence audits, and ATP audits. These are not in competition with each other, as they complement each other perfectly and provide different information on the quality of the work performed.

Visual inspection

Visual inspection relies on assessing and evaluating the cleanliness of a room, an object, or a surface and detecting deficiencies in sanitary maintenance. Obtaining a good rating on a visual inspection is the foundation of cleanliness.

However, visual inspection is an introduction: it is very subjective and limited only to what we can see and does not tell us about the level of contamination of the surface. The quality of sanitary maintenance is an unstable result that can vary greatly over time, and it is therefore important to verify it continuously. Visual inspections should be done on a regular basis throughout the year.

Fluorescence audits

These audits are very interesting because they also distinguish genuine service providers[1] from amateurs.

First of all, what is a fluorescence audit? It is a process to verify if a surface has been cleaned by applying a fluorescent marker product on the surface. This marker is invisible to the naked eye but becomes fluorescent under a UV lamp. Surfaces that are cleaned daily are coated with this product before the service provider comes to clean. Once the cleaning is complete, we return to check with our UV lamp to see if the fluorescent marker is gone or still present on the surface. If it is present, in whole or in part, the service provider did not clean the object properly. If it is gone, we can assume that the surface has been properly cleaned. The result is definitive and rarely negotiable. Although the fluorescence audit does not tell you whether the surface is contaminated or not, it does at least tell you whether the surface was indeed scrubbed.  It is ideal for toilets, countertops, sinks, door handles, etc.

How does this type of audit distinguish genuine service providers from amateurs? Take the example of a toilet seat. A professional service provider will train their staff to clean all toilet seats on a daily basis, whether they are visually clean or dirty. Since germs are invisible, a visually clean toilet seat is not necessarily germ-free! Instead, to save time and money, amateurs will encourage their staff to check first and clean only those toilets that are visually dirty. At this point, they assume the role of inspectors rather than cleaners.

ATP audits

It is becoming increasingly important to add ATP audits to a quality control program.  ATP audits are the superior mark of quality as they measure the amount of organic matter and living microbes on a surface using Adenosine Triphosphate, a molecule present in all living cells. This measurement is recognized in the environment as the relative quantity of germs in general. ATP is a widely used control method in the food industry.

A surface may be clean on visual inspection, the fluorescence audit may show that it has been cleaned, but only an ATP audit can confirm that the cleaning technique used by the service provider is effective in removing invisible soil from surfaces. This is proof that your service provider is cleaning for health.

What is the added value? The benefits of clean environments go far beyond general well-being and safety. A clean environment directly affects your health and the effects on absenteeism and infection control are found right there: where our eyes cannot see. In fact, it is the confirmation that the sanitary maintenance techniques used remove soils rather than moving, rearranging, or scattering them. An ATP audit assures you that the surface is invisibly clean and that germs no longer have food to multiply.

To summarize, here is what you must remember about these most popular audits:

  • Visual inspection measures the quality of the appearance of cleanliness.
  • Fluorescence audits ensure systematic cleaning of surfaces.
  • ATP audits confirm the quality of your service provider’s sanitation techniques.

Experience ValkarTech’s expertise

Audits and quality controls are often mistakenly viewed as a staff evaluation tool, with some people even fearing disciplinary consequences. When quality management is an integral part of your facility’s culture, audits are excellent tools to allow for continuous improvement and to engage your workforce in achieving well-defined goals.

When you conduct audits on a regular basis, you demonstrate the importance that is placed on the role of your housekeeping teams and this also represents an opportunity for you to highlight or recognize their efforts.

Dare to raise your standards a little, for your health and that of your employees, and add ATP audits to your quality control programs.

Nathalie Thibault is the Training Director of ValkarTech, a Canadian consulting firm that guides, supports, and advises its clients on ways to optimize the operational performance of their organizations in terms of building hygiene and sanitation. For more information, please email, visit or call 514 316 6723.

[1] Service provider is used here to refer to either the sanitation maintenance company or your in-house maintenance staff.

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