This is the first of a three-part article focusing on odor control and how to properly use fragrances throughout a facility.

No one wants to walk into a restroom and be overwhelmed by an unpleasant scent. That goes for all odors, even those designed to keep foul smells at bay. Unfortunately, in their zeal to keep a facility smelling fresh, some custodial departments go too far and overwhelm the space with an obnoxious cocktail of fragrances.

“Mixing and matching fragrances can lead to conflicting scents that create problems,” says Jim Smith, executive vice president of HP Products in Indianapolis. “They clash badly and leave people wondering what they are smelling.”

Using too many odor control products not only upsets noses, it can also eat away at the cleaning department’s budget. It may also tarnish the department’s image, causing building occupants to worry that all of those scents are hiding bigger problems.

“When a patron walks in the door and smells a facility that has been heavily perfumed in a cocktail of different fragrances, they are going to immediately suspect that facility management is trying to cover up bad odors, or there is a serious lack of adequate cleaning,” says Matt Miller, sales manager at B. Miller Products in Hibbing, Minnesota.

The most effective method of controlling odors, experts say, is to streamline the scents used in metered dispensers, air sanitizer sprays, deodorant blocks, urinal screens and the like.

What’s Trending In Odor Control

Start with an audit of the current inventory of odor control products. How many different scents are in the mix, and do they appeal to current preferences? What was popular a few years ago may no longer meet end user expectations.

“Some facilities still revert back to the fragrances we had 20 years ago,” Smith says. “But fragrances have changed significantly, and most building occupants just don’t care for those heavy scents anymore. They prefer something that smells clean, but doesn’t have the connotation of covering something up.”

For decades, fruity and floral scents ruled the roost. Cherry, lemon and pine were standard choices. About five years ago, people switched to heavy musks and spices — cinnamon and bayberry, for example — but their popularity came and went quickly.

What pleases most olfactory palates these days are light, neutral scents, such as cucumber, melon, rainforest and fresh linen. These moderate fragrances tend to appeal to both men and women.

“Anything too sweet or too strong can set off people’s allergies and sinuses,” says Doreen Bessert, CEH, custodial supervisor for Manitowoc County Department of Public Works in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. “The scents have become more fresh and natural — scents that you really don’t notice.”

Not sure if the fragrances you currently use are pleasing or repulsive to your occupants? It’s time to ask them.

“You have to talk to people about their impressions,” Smith says. “It’s amazing the amount of information you can get out of a simple survey.”

Also ask the custodial staff to make note of remarks from building occupants. A single negative comment about an air freshener isn’t enough to make drastic changes, but hearing it from multiple sources may be an indication of trouble.