Most often, departments will use fragrances to mask other odors — hence the term “odor control.” Experts argue, though, that if staff treats the source of the original odor, fragrances shouldn’t be necessary.

“Clean doesn’t have a smell,” says Jess Baidwan, division supervisor and executive housekeeper for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe in Ignacio, Colorado. “Once a restroom smells, it isn’t clean.”

Baidwan has a fragrance-free policy across the entire 600,000 square feet of indoor space on the tribe’s campus. Instead, his team is focused on greener, healthier cleaning at the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, which was recognized as Green Clean Institute’s (GCI) first gold-certified building on an Indian reservation.

The tribe made a conscious choice to eliminate odor masking and, instead, targets all odor-causing trigger spots daily. Baidwan makes sure the staff chooses the right, fragrance-free products that break down biological substances that cause odors. He then trains staff continuously, and educates the community about misperceptions when it comes to cleanliness and fragrance.

For example, urine can cause foul odors, but Baidwan never lets it get that far. He and his team combat urine odors with a hydrogen-peroxide-based cleaner used daily in and around toilets and urinals, as well as on all surfaces in each restroom on the campus.
“We chose the hydrogen-peroxide-based cleaner because it’s a greener solution and very effective on biological stains and odors,” he says.

Baidwan’s custodians also place an 8-ounce, gel-based odor remover in each restroom, which breaks down odors on a molecular level.

“This is helpful, but cleaning is what takes care of the odor at its source,” he says.

Baidwan has noticed that urinal screens tend to just become an excuse for custodians to skip the cleaning, so they skip the screens altogether.

Trash removal is another key tactic that Baidwan’s team employs in their fragrance-free fight against odor. Every trash receptacle in every stall and restroom is checked and emptied daily to cut odors off at the source.

These tactics are effective at combating odors, but some challenges are out of the cleaner’s control. When it comes to controlling restroom odors, the Southern Ute Tribe benefits from geography.

“The relative humidity is well under 30 percent in Colorado, so we don’t have mold problems unless someone is especially neglectful,” says Baidwan.

In other regions, where humidity can become an issue, managers must do some due diligence to prevent odors. Moisture can lead to mold and bacteria growth, which becomes an odor-causing concern in restrooms.

“As bacteria grows it also dies, and as it dies it rots, and when it rots it stinks,” says Bill Fellows, 50-year industry veteran and current consultant with Fellows Custodial Consulting, LLC. “The key to restroom maintenance is about making sure people understand where the odors come from and why it’s necessary to clean those places to get rid of them.”

When Fellows teaches, he talks about how mold and bacteria grow in a restroom. He makes sure all staff responsible for cleaning restrooms know what supports the growth of that mold and bacteria. This includes a food source, moisture, warmth and a dark place to live.

Tackling these issues will keep restrooms clean, meaning facilities shouldn’t need fragrances.

“We have found that fragrances do nothing to contribute to cleanliness, but they can add to the perception that the restroom is cleaner,” says Fellows. “If you keep the space clean, there won’t be an odor, but you still have to overcome the ‘fragrance equals clean’ perception through education and customer contact.”

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