Woman Holding Nose

There’s nothing less inviting than a restroom with an odor problem. It’s an assault on the senses and one visitors may associate with uncleanliness.

“The cleanliness of a facility can be judged largely on the cleanliness and smells of the restrooms,” says Holly Klein, director of operations at Bryco Services, Merrillville, Indiana. “Stinky restrooms could cause potential customers to leave.”

When a restroom affects a company’s reputation, facility executives will notice — and may be quick to blame their building service contractor. That’s why preventing restroom odors should be a top priority for BSCs.

Sniffing out the source of a smell is the first step in tackling the problem. Urine is often the culprit, but it’s a good idea to rule out other potential causes before treatment.

“You can’t just assume it’s urine; you have to diagnose it,” says Olon Hyde, vice president of operations at Office Pride Commercial Cleaning's office in Pensacola, Florida.

Smelly sewer gas could be entering the restroom from a dry floor drain or around a wax ring on a toilet or urinal, says Hyde. Other problems could be mold behind the walls or inadequate ventilation.

Practice And Product

If urine is definitely the offender, improvements must be made to the cleaning process. More often than not, urine odors are the result of products and procedures that temporarily mask the problem, but don’t eliminate it.

“It’s not that the bathrooms aren’t being cleaned, they just aren’t getting the correct chemical usage,” says Hyde.

Using all-purpose floor cleaner will not help with urine odors in a restroom. They’re not capable of killing the bacteria found in urine.

“They leave a nice odor behind, but when it evaporates you’re left with the urine odor,” says Hyde. “In fact, it can exacerbate the urine odor by adding more moisture to the bacteria.”

To tackle malodors, thoroughly mop the floors and scrub the grout with a quality tile cleaner to remove surface grime. Use a general cleaner on other problem areas, including toilets, urinals, and partitions.

“You can’t stop at the toilet to erase the odor issues,” says Klein. “The bacteria in urine is carried through water droplets when flushing. Those droplets land on the floor and walls surrounding the toilet or urinal and need to be cleaned to fully remove a urine smell from a restroom.”

Next, use a cleaning chemical designed for urine. One popular choice is an odor-neutralizing cleaner formulated with quaternary ammonium. There are also bio-enzymatic cleaners, which are non-pathogenic, bacteria-based cleaners that break down and digest the urine to remove the soil and odor. Hydrogen-peroxide cleaners and lactic- or gluconic acid-based cleaners are also effective. Which chemical a BSC chooses depends on the type of surface and preference.

Once the chemical is selected, saturate the surfaces with that solution. If urine has coated and soaked the floor, a light mopping isn’t sufficient to remove the fluid. Follow manufacturer directions for the proper contact or dwell time before removing the chemical.

“Then you need a tool that can agitate it with a pad or brush,” says Dan Cline, executive vice president of 4M Building Solutions, St. Louis. “In my opinion, the best approach is to use a wet-dry vac to remove whatever product is on the floor. Follow that with another rinse and let it dry.

Depending on the severity of the malodor, janitorial workers may need to repeat the process.

If left unchecked or improperly maintained, urine can create stains. To remove them between general cleaning, staff will likely need to use a scrub brush and some elbow grease, coupled with toilet bowl cleaner, bleach (if the facility allows it), or even an acid-base like vinegar or baking soda.

“Urine stains are the indicator of whether you have a good program in place,” says Cline. “If you’re seeing stains you need to ask yourself if you have the right scope of work and if it’s being followed. If it’s being followed and you’re still having stains, a recommendation needs to be made to the customer.”

next page of this article:
Frequent Cleaning Essential For Odor Prevention