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Contributed by Steve Attman, CEO Acme Paper & Supply Co. Inc

Think about how you feel when using a public restroom. When you walk into a pristine restroom, what makes it feel clean? While the absence of trash and an overall well-kept environment certainly make a restroom look clean, it’s how fresh the room smells that people equate with overall cleanliness. 

There’s nothing worse than entering a public bathroom only to be smacked in the face with foul odors. Let’s be honest, bad odors are just bad for business. Consider this: The human brain can process roughly 10,000 different smells in an area the size of a postage stamp. Because the human sense of smell is often linked to memory and how a person feels, many high-traffic public-facing businesses such as restaurants, schools, hotels, recreation facilities, hospitals, and others make it a priority to combat malodor and create a better air care environment, especially in restrooms.  A restroom that smells bad is usually thought to be dirty and unsanitary by the user, leaving behind a bad impression of your business. Equal to hygiene and sanitizing practices, proper restroom air care and odor elimination have become top of mind for public facilities. In fact, 79 percent of cleaning professionals say that air odor elimination is their toughest job according to Clorox Global Insights Odor Defense Research.

Air Care Technology Gets a Make-Over 

Over the years, air care technology has undergone quite a transformation. Restroom air care in the past has solely focused on emitting scents to cover up odor. Such air care options include fans and/or air fresheners placed in locations that either don’t quite hit the source of the odor, run out of scent after a short period of time, or stop working altogether. 

End users have traditionally used multiple products to cover malodors including cleaning solutions, sprays, and toilet clips. While these tools have been somewhat effective in ridding odors from a small area, they haven’t been successful at eliminating odors across the entire space, especially because odors originate from multiple sources such as trash bins, floor drains, urinals, and toilet stalls. 

As technologies continue to advance, there has been a clear progression from single-unit air sprays and fresheners to whole-room air care systems that incorporate a more proactive approach to not just covering odors but eliminating them at the source. 

A More Holistic Approach to Restroom Air Care

Newer, targeted monitoring systems have been trending in the world of restroom air solutions over the past several years. Replacing outdated single-unit air freshening dispensers are automatic systems that are light or motion-activated, offering facilities a more holistic and effective approach to servicing restrooms. 

New systems offer a whole-room approach to air care that includes multiple products placed in strategic locations that work in tandem to control odors. Motion-activated fans and fresheners provide long-lasting and consistent scents without using overpowering or harsh sprays and liquids. Combined with smaller automatic units placed in toilet stalls and deodorizing urinal screens that work to neutralize odors, these products provide subtle yet effective room freshening. Additionally, most of the newer air care systems send alerts when scents need to be replaced within the units to avoid any lapse in room freshening.  

While metered aerosol fragrances have cornered the air freshener market for restrooms, these newer technologies that incorporate fragrance into motion or light-sensor systems help ensure a balanced fragrance release over time. These fragrance units provide targeted odor control only when the restroom is in use as determined by the light and motion sensors. Certain technologies also utilize smart chip technology that operates these fragrance units by battery. The unit’s fan runs sparingly in week one and gradually turns on more frequently over four weeks. These units release the same amount of air freshener daily over 30 days, compared to other metered aerosol fragrance units that typically do not provide an equal fragrance release over one month.  

Fragrance Options Get Sophisticated

As restroom air systems have grown more sophisticated, so have the fragrances used to provide a more enjoyable user experience. Not only have the variety of scents grown but how these fragrances are derived has also evolved. Fragrances used in air care technology are now composed of a blend of natural oils, essential oils, and synthetic aroma chemicals that maximize performance and optimize safety.

Importantly, the majority of the scents used in these systems are manufactured within the safety guidelines established by RIFM and IFRA — two international associations that oversee the raw material and manufacturing processes in the fragrance industries. 

Eliminating Malodor, Not Just Masking Bad Smells

Commercial odor eliminator products are newer alternatives in restroom air care, working to trap and rid the air of odors rather than simply masking them with a scent. Specially formulated to identify, capture, and eliminate malodor, these time-metered aerosol dispensers are designed to tackle the worst odors and leave the air smelling fresh for up to six hours. Similarly, companies are starting to explore the use of ozone technology to eliminate odors at the source. How this new technology is incorporated into restroom air care on a larger scale is something to watch in the future as are products that eliminate odors while also sanitizing the air. 

Air care is only as good as the sanitizing and cleaning techniques utilized on a daily basis. Commercial cleaning solutions and products have also evolved with the needs of customers to include effective urine, bio stain, and odor removers. With malodor being a top customer complaint, urine removers break down odors at their source through oxidation and removal of uric acid crystals, eliminating, not just masking, offensive smells. The bio stain and odor remover product uses a unique formula specially formulated to clean, disinfect, and remove odors in one step using the power of hydrogen peroxide and stain-lifting surfactants. Other products include toilet and urinal drip systems that provide a consistent drip of cleaner and deodorizer and antimicrobial disposable floor mats for underneath urinals to absorb moisture and keep urine off floors. 

At ACME Paper and Supply Company, we’ve heard from several clients that those customers who have implemented odor programs using air care monitoring systems and other solutions feel that their restrooms are cleaner than before these technologies were introduced. As part of ACME’s Hygiene and Facilities Solutions division, being able to offer a wider variety of restroom air care products, coupled with commercial cleaning solutions, has been a game-changer in the delivery of a better overall restroom experience for patrons.

Steve Attman is the Co-CEO of Acme Paper and Supply Company, one of the nation's largest suppliers of sanitation solutions, disposable food service packaging, restaurant equipment and supply, retail and industrial packaging, and custom-designed packaging. Steve can be reached directly at