In hospitals and long-term care facilities, perhaps the biggest odor hotspots are patient or resident rooms. In many cases, more square footage is dedicated to these spaces than any other area of the facility. Also, when dealing with vulnerable populations, there’s an increased chance for odors from bodily fluids, such as vomit or urine, and feces caused by incontinence.
Also, most patient and resident rooms include private restrooms, which dramatically increases the likelihood of odors.
Managing smells in these spaces very often includes using multiple products. In addition to routine cleaning with scented products, environmental services (EVS) departments use urine remover as needed to deal with accidents, and deodorize carpets on a regular basis.
Given the nature of the room, however, most facilities also use ancillary odor control devices. Neutralizing gel beads absorb — not simply mask — odors while also releasing a pleasant scent. Time-released wall-mounted dispensing systems may also be used to spray a fragrance on a regular basis.
The best way to avoid a smelly patient or resident room has nothing to do with artificial scents, Bristol says. It’s all about cleaning the space frequently and as soon as problems arise.
“Our certified nurse educators (CNEs) are well trained at picking up trash every time they do resident care. They dispose of any pads or anything from the room, rather than leaving them in there,” Bristol says. “If there are odors or cleaning that needs to be done, our staff generates a work order and we take care of it right away, and a deep clean is done within 24 hours.”
Many healthcare facilities contract their laundry services, but those that have on-site linen rooms can encounter serious problems with odors. These spaces are the final destination for every dirty linen from the entire campus. Every sheet that’s soiled, every rag used to clean up vomit, and every nightgown worn for a week ends up in these spaces.
Not allowing laundry to pile up helps, of course, but it typically requires some outside intervention to combat the foul aromas.
“The laundry room has all the clothing and bedding with incontinence issues, so their odors are so much worse than the rest of the building,” Divine Savior’s Bristol says. “We use odor-eliminating gel, which sucks the odors out.”
The laundry room at Shady Lane also has gel odor counteractants, which get replaced every 30 to 45 days as part of the cleaning team’s routine maintenance. In the sorting room where the dirty laundry sits until it’s washed, there’s also a wall-mounted dispenser that sprays every 15 minutes.
Hospitals and long-term care facilities are often quite large and have many common areas, such as hallways, cafeterias, restrooms and lobbies. Each of these can present its own set of odor issues that cleaning or environmental services departments must tackle.
The areas that tend to receive the most attention, understandably, are public restrooms. Infrequent or inadequate cleaning, as well as bad ventilation, can leave these spaces smelling particularly foul.
All three facilities interviewed for this article use fragrance dispensers in the public restrooms to keep odors at bay. In all other public areas, the facilities use very few odor-control devices. Nurses and receptionists, as well as EVS crews, are given aerosol spray fresheners to mask temporary odors, when necessary.
Many healthcare facilities have rehabilitation or fitness centers, where sweat and body odor can present special challenges for EVS departments.
In some cases, such as Shady Lane, those spaces are managed by outside companies that handle all cleaning and odor management tasks. In other facilities, such as Mercy Hospital Springfield, maintenance is the job of the in-house crew.
“We have some dispensers in the locker room of our employee fitness center, but not out on the floor,” Green says. “If we get odor complaints, we look at what caused it and what we need to do to get rid of it.”
Controlling Healthcare Odors
Cleaning Combats Odors