Restrooms don’t need to smell like restrooms. Even though restroom odors are a fact of life, they should not leave a lingering malodorous impression. After all, foul odors do not convey “clean” and numerous studies have reported that building occupants won’t return to a facility with dirty restrooms.

“Facilities are often judged by the cleanliness of their restrooms,” says James Keough, marketing vice president at Triple S, Billerica, Massachusetts.

In fact, one industry manufacturer found that unsanitary-appearing restrooms in commercial establishments will drive up to 33 percent of customers away.

“You want people to enter and exit the restroom thinking it is clean,” says Keith Schneringer, marketing manager for San Diego-based WAXIE Sanitary Supply.

And the best way to do that is to not mask or over perfume odors. Instead, take steps to prevent odors and clean frequently.

“Departments can’t clean their restrooms every hour or every time it’s used, that’s just not realistic,” Keough says, “but the more cleaning they can do, the better.”

A persistent odor problem could either mean restrooms are not being cleaned regularly or they aren’t being cleaned properly.

Distributors recommend managers maintain comprehensive restroom cleaning schedules. Make sure workers mop floors with a disinfectant that contains deodorizers. They should also use an enzyme cleaner that attacks tough odors. And staff should clean the inside of urinals and commodes at least once a day.

Between scheduled cleanings, managers should stock restrooms with pleasant smells. Air fresheners, when used correctly, can be a good odor counteractant.

Odor control requires an all-encompassing program, Schneringer concludes.

Source Of Smells

The first step to controlling odor is to identify the source, then eliminate it.

The No. 1 cause of odor in restrooms is urine. Particularly in men’s restrooms, where it’s common to find splashing on floors, walls and partitions.

While many urinal screens deodorize (cherry is a common fragrance and citrus is especially good at counteracting urine odors), they can also play a key role in odor control by preventing urine splatter. In addition to traditional scents, an unscented screen was introduced last fall to defuse urine odors. It’s shape is also designed to prevent about 90 percent of urine splash back.

Though they are not as popular as urinal screens, urinal mats also prevent drips and splashes from hitting the floor, getting into tile grout and causing odors. These mats can be very effective at minimizing odors, as long as they are kept clean. Workers should be trained to mop mats every time the floor is mopped. And after 30 days, or when the mat is saturated, it can be rolled up and discarded.

For inside urinals or commodes, drip systems are available. These continuous cleaning and deodorizing systems eliminate odors at the source, while keeping fixtures and pipes clear. Some wall-mounted systems also freshen ambient air.

Although a lot of odors stem from urinals and commodes, they are not the only culprits for foul smells. Trash receptacles can create persistent odor problems for custodial departments. In some cases, the solution may be to empty them more frequently. If liners aren’t being used, bad smells could be coming from trash residue and debris on the can itself. Make sure workers clean trash containers regularly and spray with disinfectant or rinse with an enzyme-based cleaner to eliminate potential odors.

In women’s restrooms, feminine hygiene waste disposal can be the cause of odors. Whether using metal bins or receptacles that feature odor-eliminating plastic liners, waste should be emptied daily. Receptacles should also be disinfected regularly.

The third most common source of restroom odors stem from floor drains.

“Often floor drains smell because they’re dry,” Schneringer says.

An easy solution is to ensure the drain has the proper amount of water to serve as a barrier for odors coming up from the sewer.

“You also can use bioactives,” he says. “If you mop with a bioactive cleaner, just dump it down the drain when you’re done.”

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Common Scents And How To Fight Odors