In surface science, rutile TiO2 continues to be one of the most studied surfaces and in the catalysis field numerous groups study how adsorbates interact with this surface. All groups face the difficult problem of reproducibility due to surface preparation unknowns like defect concentration and the continuous aging of the crystals. Recent studies, using STM imaging, showed that hydroxyl adsorption takes place even in very good vacuum conditions. Upon adsorption, the surface electric field is reduced and the work function decreases. We found that this change may be readily detected in the onset energy of the secondary electrons. By following the onset region of secondary electron emission it is possible to track hydroxyl adsorption in quantities well below the detection level of XPS and LEIS. With this knowledge, we show that the time elapsed after surface preparation and water partial pressure should be accounted in the study of TiO2 surfaces. (C) 2009 Elsevier B. V. All rights reserved.