This is the first part of a three-part article about restroom odor control.

Here’s the dirty truth: If a facility’s restrooms smell bad, the public thinks the entire facility is unclean.

A Harris Interactive Poll commissioned by Cintas found that 86 percent of U.S. adults equate the cleanliness of a restaurant’s restroom with the cleanliness of its kitchen. The survey also revealed that 75 percent of U.S. adults would not return to a restaurant with dirty restrooms. The same holds true for other facilities as well.

Odors are perhaps the greatest restroom offender and one that creates an immediate negative first impression, says Glen Huizenga, a sales leader for Nichols, a Norton Shores, Michigan-based distributor of janitorial supplies.

For this reason, odor must be a top consideration for building service contractors, especially in health care settings, where the cleanliness of the facility correlates to the perception of care, and in restaurants, where it correlates to the cleanliness of the kitchen.

“People think, if they can’t keep the restrooms clean, then what is the rest of the facility like?” says Huizenga.

There are two ways to deal with odor, says Huizenga, who worked on the custodial side of the industry for years before moving into distributor sales. BSCs can use a masking-type product that pushes fragrance out and changes the molecular structure of an odor to cover it up. Or they can use cleaning products that work biologically by seeking out the protein causing the odor, consuming it and leaving a byproduct of carbon dioxide and water behind.

“With the first method, the odor still exists, but you are mitigating the negative reaction to it,” says Huizenga. “With the second, you eliminate the odor at the source.”

The best restroom odor control systems use both methods, he says. For example, in a men’s restroom, which at times can have an overpowering smell of urine, a masking agent might be helpful. However, the biological method is also needed to remove urine proteins from grout lines to ensure odors do not linger.

“Just trying to mask the smell is not good enough, because people can a lot of times smell through that mask,” says Huizenga. “They can still smell the odor, it just has a little bit of a twist to it, if you will.”

People also know a clean restroom — or any room for that matter — shouldn’t have an overpowering fragrance smell, he says.
“If you go into a nursing home and all you can smell are fragrances, something’s wrong, because what are they trying to cover up?” says Huizenga.