An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Using the proper cleaning products and procedures, coupled with sufficient frequencies, is the key to preventing urine odors from becoming problematic.

“This is an ongoing problem and must be treated on a continuous basis,” says Linda Silverman, president of Maintex in City of Industry, California. “Prevention is achieved with a daily program, which includes bacteria enzymes, regular cleaning, and paying special attention to the grout and areas that are difficult to reach, such as under and behind the toilet or urinals.”

Frequencies depend on the facility’s operational hours and staffing levels. In many cases, the best practice is daily or hourly general cleaning, weekly or daily enzymatic cleaning, and monthly or weekly heavy-duty floor scrubbing.

What matters most is working closely with the client to determine the appropriate scope of work. Most BSCs discuss this during the request for proposal, but it should be an ongoing conversation throughout the life of the contract.

Too often, the contract outlines normal preventative restroom maintenance, meaning basic mop-and-bucket cleaning. That’s not always sufficient to deal with existing or developing odor issues, and may fall short of the customer’s expectations.

“If you see something is not adequate, then make a recommendation,” says Cline. “If the customer wants a clean, odorless restroom, we are the industry experts and we need to suggest how best to make it happen. It’s important to communicate what you’re seeing and how to resolve it.”

Unfortunately, these conversations often don’t happen because the BSC is afraid to suggest something that could increase the contract price.

“Short of being in a cheapest bid situation, most customers are willing to meet you in the middle with some compromise,” says Hyde. “Particularly when they realize it’s not just a money grab, but it’s that you’re wanting to help them present the best possible image for their building. It’s being a consultant for them opposed to just trying to upsell and get more revenue.”

BSCs nervous to renegotiate cleaning frequencies may seek alternatives for dealing with urine odors. But experts warn against relying heavily on tools like urinal screens and blocks, mats and air fresheners.

“If a restroom is clean, then you shouldn’t need any form of deodorant,” says Cline. “Sometimes our customers prefer having them as an option, but they shouldn’t be a substitute for proper cleaning.”

If a building service contractor or its customer chooses to deploy a deodorizing product, it can’t be “set it and forget it.” For optimum functionality, these tools require regular monitoring, maintenance and replacement.

In a restroom with very heavy usage, such as an airport, urinal mats and screens can be helpful for capturing urine and odors between thorough cleanings. If they aren’t frequently swapped and cleaned, however, they can actually exacerbate the problem.

Fragrances mopped onto the floor or sprayed into the air do not capture or remove odors. A time-released spray can temporarily mask odors that emanate from stalls when they are in use. A scent should not, however, serve as a replacement for cleaning — even if the client conflates the two.

“One big myth is that a clean restroom smells good,” says Hyde. “The reality is, a clean restroom doesn’t smell — it’s neutral. It’s fine to add a clean smell so it’s welcoming and inviting, but don’t use air care in an attempt to cover up poor cleaning frequency or methods.”

BSCs can turn to their jan/san distributors for help with choosing the best products for their customers, developing effective procedures for preventing or removing urine odors, and creating a quality training program for their crews.

“Distributors are experts on what they sell, including a plethora of cleaners designed to tackle such things,” says Clein. “Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to fellow BSCs to see what works for them. We all tend to deal with the same issues, so sharing our knowledge with one another only makes us all stronger.”

Remember, when dealing with urine odors, prevention is the best medicine. Sure, the odors can be covered with sprays or reduced using screens and mats, but proper cleaning procedures and products are the best way to eliminate the problem at its source.

Becky Mollenkamp is a freelance writer based in St. Louis.

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Procedures For Eliminating Urine Odors