In this article, industry manufacturers answer common questions asked by building service contractors.

Grout is a culprit for restroom odors. How can I clean floors and grout to rid existing odors? What equipment can help prevent future grout odor problems?

Malodors and darkened, stained grout are common problems, especially in restrooms. One of the major sources of restroom odors is urine, which is also a rich food source for odor-causing bacteria. In fact, lingering, stubborn odors are actually evidence of ongoing bacterial activity. This is particularly true in porous grout lines, which are notorious for hanging onto odors.

Fortunately, regular and effective removal of soils and contaminants will generally solve the odor problem. Unfortunately, most restrooms are cleaned by mops, which are much more efficient at spreading than removing. In addition, as soon as the dirty mop is wrung or dipped into the bucket, the solution becomes contaminated. So essentially, the floor is being cleaned with contaminated solution that is simply being spread around.

On a tiled floor, the issue’s even more complicated. Because of the rough surface texture of grout, mops just can’t pull matter out of the grout line effectively. Soils, urine and other contaminants that have been absorbed by the porous grout have little to no chance of being removed. Plus, during mopping, the grout line actually squeegees the impurities from the mop’s fibers and deposits them into the porous, recessed gout lines. This is why even newly constructed restrooms often exhibit the telltale symptoms of chronic contamination, like stained, darkened grout lines and obnoxious odors.

The good news is that advances in soil removal technologies have made it very practical and affordable to move away from mops. Consider evaluating some of the newer tools that incorporate vacuum extraction, such as dispense-and-vac or spray-and-vac systems, available from a number of suppliers. These systems dispense fresh cleaning solution onto the restroom floor to loosen and lift soils in preparation for vacuum extraction.  The clean fluid also brings residual dehydrated soils, such as dried urine, into liquid solution. If necessary, a brush can be used problem spots or to further loosen soils. Then, the wet vacuum creates a liquid current to suction and transport all liquids and contaminants from the floor into a recovery tank where it’s contained. The vacuum extraction leaves the floor clean, dry and ready for immediate use.

Over the last several years, some of these systems have become very affordable and easy to operate while reducing cleaning times. In addition to clean fresh grout lines, they can also result in a safer floor surface by improving traction.

— Tom Morrison, vice president of marketing, Kaivac Inc., Hamilton, Ohio

Melamine floor pads have done an unbelievable job of cleaning tile and shallow grout. The addition of a neutral cleaner or deodorizer will aid in the odor removal.

— Juliana Mazziero, marketing coordinator, Americo Manufacturing Co., Inc., Acworth, Ga.

First we must be clear what is causing the odor. If it is coming from the floor and grout, that means bacteria, mold, mildew or some similar living contaminants are in the floor. In such cases, it may be necessary to use a disinfectant to clean the floor; this will help kill the bacteria, but will likely dull the floor. Additionally, because we know disinfectants can potentially harm the environment, they should be used only when and where needed.

Another, potentially safer option, which might help protect the floor’s shine as well, is to use a cylindrical brush system but with a less aggressive cleaning agent, even a neutral cleaner. The system’s brushes often can effectively remove these contaminants, and with their removal, the odor will be gone as well.

— Jolynn Kennedy, marketing director, Tornado Industries, West Chicago, Ill.

Use a recommended chemical (acid) and scrub aggressively with a floor machine with a stiff bristled brush. It is then critical to ensure the floor is thoroughly vacuumed to remove all the dirty water, which can restain the grout if not completely removed.

The best method for avoiding grout becoming soiled is to follow a good program of daily cleaning, preferably using an auto scrubber with a brush to dig into the grout lines and a vacuum to remove soils/bacteria that can cause unpleasant odors from forming. Finally, be sure to use a good grout sealer to prevent bacteria from forming in the pores of the grout.

— Scott Keller, vertical market manager–commercial buildings, Bob Abrams, product manager, Brian Simmons, product manager, Clarke, Plymouth, Minn.