Odor Control: Sniffing Out Stinky Areas
By Nick Bragg
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Odors have a way of finding their way into every crack and corner of a facility whether it happens through inadequate cleaning methods or by people doing some of the darnedest things.
Whether it’s urine in a restroom, soiled athletic equipment in a high school locker room, rotting garbage in an office lunch room, or the various unpleasant odors in nursing homes, distributors acknowledge the array of odor control solutions that help eradicate problem areas before they proliferate.
Most odor problems are caused by people who do some pretty peculiar things. Jonathan Cohen, vice president of I. Janvey & Sons Inc., Hempstead, N.Y., says his company quite often deals with odor problems rooted by students in elementary schools.
“A lot of times we run into problems with little boys urinating on the radiators in the restrooms,” Cohen says. “And then in the winter when the heat goes on, the smell gets really bad.” The smell not only lurks about in the restroom area but passes throughout other sections of the school when the heat kicks on.
Cohen says the odor eliminator his company suggests in this type of situation is enzyme products. “We use enzymes in these situations because they are products that kill bacteria,” he says. “Enzymes literally eat the bacteria that causes the odor.”
Most people think that urine odor is a problem area confined by the four walls of a restroom. Honey Paine, owner of Louisville Chemical Co., Louisville, Ky., echoed that belief until she was called to help on a bizarre odor case.
Paine says her company was recently called to a large package-delivery company in Louisville to determine why the facility’s warehouse had an awful stench of urine.
After arriving, Paine says they sniffed out the source — a worker or several workers were urinating on the warehouse’s concrete floor. Because the floor wasn’t sealed, the urine was harboring in the pores of the concrete. After pinpointing the source, eliminating the odor was an easy task.
She had the facility mop and scrub the floor with an enzyme product for two weeks until the smell was quashed. She then had them seal the concrete to prevent the problem from reoccurring.
Cohen says the use of enzyme products is increasingly popular due to the fact that the product not only masks an odor, but also eliminates it. Paine says she explains to her customers that enzymes are like “little Pac-Mans.”
“Once you put it wherever the source of the odor is, it doesn’t just cover it up, it eats and destroys any organic odor,” Paine says.
Hiding Behind The Mask
Enzymes are great odor control products that destroy odors, but when facilities can’t locate the source of an odor, masking agents are a common alternative. There are a surplus of perfumes and cover-ups on the market, making them an easy and popular choice.
Sid Sowers, vice president, Huber Inc., Wichita, Kan., says his company deals with high schools that come to them for cover-ups for their locker rooms. “This is common during football season especially,” Sowers says. “That time of the year is probably the worst time that there is for odors.”
Because football games are played on Friday nights, there isn’t time for a cleaning crew to get into the locker room and really clean right away. This allows the smells of soiled garments and equipment to become more pungent.
Sowers says his company recommends the schools use what he describes as a “bomb spray” in a can that releases a disinfectant and deodorizer throughout the room to dispel the odor. “Then on Monday the cleaning crew comes in and does the actual cleaning, but it takes care of the smell until then,” he says.
Larry Johnson, product manager for S. Freedman & Sons Inc., Landover, Md., says masking is used too often because cleaning crews don’t take the time to find the source of an odor.
“Every manufacturer makes some kind of masking agent and that’s the problem,” Johnson says. “People too often try to mask the odor instead of trying to identify what the source is and trying to eliminate the source. That’s the ideal way to do it but people don’t want to take the time to do that. Sometimes they just want to do something that makes their room smell fresh.”
Oftentimes people spray a variety of perfumes or hide a dispenser in a room to trick people into thinking a room is clean.
But in some cases odors can’t be eliminated and masking agents are the only option to fall back on. “When you can’t eliminate the source, then you have to mask it,” Johnson says. “Sometimes in health care it could be the resident that is the source of the odor — and obviously you can’t eliminate the resident. In those cases you have to mask it.”
Dispensing A Key Factor
The most common method of attack against odor uses a dispensing system. Most often used in restrooms, dispensing systems are starting to pop up on walls in other areas of a facility.
“Lots of places we put metered sprays in the doorways of facilities,” says Sowers. “It gives you a feeling that ‘this place smells clean’ right away. It may not really smell bad in that area but it gets you thinking it smells clean before you get inside the building.”
Sowers says that placement and installation of odor control dispensers is critical and that facility managers should pay attention to air flow throughout a facility in order to maximize a product’s effect. Also, with products that discharge or spray, there is a possibility that they will reduce slip resistance on hard floors or create sticky carpeting.
To decide on what kind of odor control system is right for a facility, Sowers says making alterations in product type and strength is common. Some facility managers make fragrance changes periodically to ensure that personnel and building users are aware of the existence of odor control in the building. Sowers also says that facilities must also compensate for people who are allergic to airborne products.
Questions And Answers
In order to work with end users in quashing an odor in a facility, Thomas Doughten, owner of TKM Industries, West Paterson, N.J., says that it is crucial that distributors question everything.
“You have to ask a ton of questions,” he says. “It’s always a sales thing. The more you get the customer to talk, the more information you’ll actually have with what you’re dealing with.”
While cover-ups will serve a facility’s needs temporarily, quashing odors is a major cleaning challenge. In the end, what matters most when dealing with odors is for end users to go beyond the surface of cleaning to get to the root of the problem.