3 Technologies to Eliminate Germs from High-Touch Surfaces

Technological advances are providing quicker methods to locate pathogens

3 Technologies to Eliminate Germs from High-Touch Surfaces


Contamination of high-touch surfaces is responsible for the transmission of pathogens in various settings. Its impact is most severe in school and health care facilities and is one reason why health care-associated infections (HAIs) continue to be such a serious problem.

Although the number of HAIs has been steadily decreasing in the United States, “on any given day, about one in 31 hospital patients has at least one health care-associated infection,” according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In school environments, contaminated surfaces not only spread disease within classrooms but also can spread infections, such as influenza, within a community.

The professional cleaning industry plays a crucial role in stopping the spread of infection, but before cleaning staff can eliminate pathogens, they must first find them. In the past, laboratory technicians would swab surfaces and use a petri dish culture to confirm the presence of pathogens. The findings would not be available for two to four days, giving the germs opportunity to sicken more people.

Technological advances are providing quicker methods to locate pathogens, enabling the professional cleaning industry to better meet its goal of protecting human health. While these technologies have drawbacks, they do show promise.

Prove Contamination With Paper Stickers

In May 2019, a report in the Journal of the American Society for Microbiology found that paper stickers can be an effective tool to determine if contamination exists on surfaces. For up to seven days, researchers placed stickers on multiple high-touch surfaces in food service locations. After analyzing the stickers, the researchers found they revealed a considerable buildup of contamination on these surfaces.

Paper stickers are an inexpensive, simple, and effective method to locate contamination. However, the analyzation process takes valuable time, and the stickers only pick up pathogens on the area tested, not the surrounding area.

ATP Marks the Spot

Although adenosine triphosphate (ATP) has been in use since the 1930s, it was first introduced to the cleaning industry about a decade ago. ATP monitoring systems detect living cells on a surface. Users simply swab a surface then place the swab inside the ATP unit. Results are usually available in about 20 seconds.

While ATP does not reveal which specific pathogens are on a surface, it serves as a red flag that they may be present. Cleaning professionals use ATP to test a surface before cleaning and again after cleaning to determine cleaning effectiveness. However, like paper stickers, ATP only detects pathogens on the specific areas tested.

Imaging Paints a Wide Picture

The health care industry, one of the first industries to use imaging technology, found it useful to find the growth of cancer and other abnormalities in the human body. In the professional cleaning industry, workers use imaging technologies in schools, food service facilities, and health care settings to take pictures of a wide area. These pictures indicate if pathogens are present based on the color, intensity, and concentration of images shown. 

Taking Responsibility for Infection Control

While the obvious reason for using technologies like the ones mentioned above is to quickly find and remove pathogens, cleaning professionals should be aware that there is something much bigger at play here.

Many germs are developing into superbugs that spread diseases immune to the medications used to treat them. Pharmaceutical companies have set a limited amount of time and money in developing new antimicrobials. This puts greater responsibility on the cleaning industry’s shoulders to find and proactively eradicate harmful pathogens. With these technologies and the implementation of effective cleaning methods, we will be up to the challenge.


Posted On July 1, 2020

Brad Evans

CEO and president of Optisolve®

Brad Evans is with Optisolve®, an assessment service using imaging technology, and other systems that allow administrators and cleaning professionals to locate invisible pathogens, validate cleaning effectiveness, and keep facilities clean and healthy. He can be reached at  [email protected].


Topics Tags

Also in Infection Control

environmental services, EVS
January 3, 2023 Kathleen Misovic

Consider the Human Factor in Environmental Cleaning

November 23, 2022 Jeff Cross

Indoor Air Quality Solutions: Ionization

November 9, 2022 Doug Flaig

Don’t Forget About the Flu

October 31, 2022 Michael Wilson

’Tis the Season…for Norovirus

Sponsored in Infection Control

Infection Prevention Webinar
February 24, 2022

CMM Webinar: Create a Winning Infection Prevention Program

January 6, 2022

VIDEO: Infection Prevention Lessons From 2021, Predicting the Pandemic’s End

December 15, 2021

CMM Webinar: Enhancing Facility Image—Beyond Appearances

November 29, 2021 Sponsored by Brulin

How to Clean for COVID-19 and Flu season

Recent News

Coffee and Conversations

ARCSI Hosts Monthly Coffee & Conversation

Feds Allege Rigging of $140M Cleaning Deals

Save the Date—Germ Busters: Ongoing Strategies for Clean & Healthy Facilities

State Bills Address Workers’ Comp Issues

3 Technologies to Eliminate Germs from High-Touch Surfaces
Share Article
Subscribe to CMM