Foam swabbing is a technique commonly used in microbiology and molecular biology laboratories to collect samples from various surfaces to detect the presence of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and adenosine diphosphate (ADP). ATP and ADP are molecules involved in cellular energy metabolism, and their detection can provide insights into a surface’s cleanliness and potential biological contamination.

The swabbing process:

Swab Selection: Choose a suitable foam swab for your application. The swab should be made of a material that does not interfere with ATP and ADP detection, such as a polyurethane (PU) foam swab. Foamtec Medical polyurethane foam swabs are ideal because they have high retention and release rates of biological samples for more reliable test results. Due to the low particulate nature of polyurethane foam, there is less opportunity to contaminate samples.

Sample Collection: Moisten the foam swab with a suitable buffer solution, typically a sterile, pH-neutral buffer. This buffer helps in the extraction of ATP and ADP from the surface and stabilizes them.

Swabbing the Surface: Gently swab the surface of interest. This can be any surface you suspect may contain traces of biological material, such as countertops or equipment. Ensure that the swab covers a representative area and exerts consistent pressure.

Extraction: After swabbing, place the swab in a sample collection tube containing the same buffer solution used to moisten the swab. This allows ATP and ADP to dissolve into the buffer.

Quantification: ATP and ADP can be quantified using various detection methods. One common method is bioluminescence, where luciferase enzymes react with ATP and ADP, producing light in proportion to their concentration. The emitted light is measured using a luminometer. The intensity of the light is directly related to the amount of ATP and ADP present in the sample.

Data Analysis: Analyze the luminometer data to determine the ATP and ADP concentration on the swabbed surface. High readings indicate potential biological contamination.

Foam swabbing for ATP and ADP detection is a rapid and sensitive method for assessing the cleanliness and hygiene of surfaces in various settings to monitor the effectiveness of cleaning procedures and ensure that surfaces are free from biological residues that could pose contamination risks. While ATP testing is more widely used across various industries for hygiene and cleanliness monitoring, ADP testing is primarily employed in scientific research and laboratory settings where a detailed understanding of cellular and biochemical processes is essential. Researchers and scientists working in fields related to biochemistry, molecular biology, enzymology, and drug development are more likely to use ADP testing as a specialized tool in their investigations.


The swab and technique can make all the difference when you need to measure actively growing microorganisms using a standardized method rapidly. Foamtec Medical is a vertically integrated foam and swab manufacturer. We control the quality from foam production to the swab, so you have the consistency, quality, and reliability you can rely on.

To learn more, please get in touch with us today!