Clouds impact the radiat ve transfer of the Earth s atmosphere and strongly influence satellite measurements in the ultraviolet visible (UV vis) and infrared (IR) spectral ranges. For satellite measurements of trace gases absorbing in the UV vis spectral range, particularly clouds ultimately determine the vertical sensitivity profile, mainly by reducing the sensitivity for trace-gas columns below the cloud. The Mainz iterative cloud retrieval utilities (MICRU) algorithm is specifically designed to reduce the error budget of trace-gas retrievals, such as those for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which strongly depends on the accuracy of small cloud fractions (CFs) in particular. The accuracy of MICRU is governed by an empirical parameterisation of the viewinggeometry- dependent background surface reflectivity taking instrumental and physical effects into account. Instrumental effects are mainly degradation and polarisation effects; physical effects are due to the anisotropy of the surface reflectivity, e.g. shadowing of plants and sun glitter. MICRU is applied to main science channel (MSC) and polarisation measurement device (PMD) data collected between April 2007 and June 2013 by the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment 2A (GOME-2A) instrument aboard the MetOp-A satellite. CFs are retrieved at different spectral bands between 374 and 758 nm. The MICRU results for MSC and PMD at different wavelengths are intercompared to study CF precision and accuracy, which depend on wavelength and spatial correlation. Furthermore, MICRU results are compared to FRESCO (fast retrieval scheme for clouds from the oxygen A band) and OCRA (optical cloud recognition algorithm) operational cloud products. We show that MICRU retrieves small CFs with an accuracy of 0.04 or better for the entire 1920 km wide swath with a potential bias between 0.01 and 0.03. CFs retrieved at shorter wavelengths are less affected by adverse surface heterogeneities. The comparison to the operational CF algorithms shows that MICRU significantly reduces the dependence on viewing angle, time, and sun glitter. Systematic effects along coasts are particularly small for MICRU due to its dedicated treatment of land and ocean surfaces. The MICRU algorithm is designed for spectroscopic instruments ranging from the GOME to Sentinel- 5P/Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument (TROPOMI) but is also applicable to UV vis imagers like the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR), the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), and Sentinel-2.