Just like restrooms, carpets and fabrics tend to retain bio odors — especially when they are poorly maintained. 

Miranda Bradley, director of environmental services at Baxter Regional Medical Center, Mountain Home, Arizona, has made it her mission to eliminate fabric-covered chairs and fabric curtains in patient rooms. 

“Fabric stains easily and it absorbs odors,” she says, “so we eliminated all fabric chairs from our waiting room and replaced them with vinyl chairs that are easy to wipe down.”

Bradley is also in the process of eliminating window curtains in patient rooms. 

“The curtains were only washed if it was a contact patient, so they stayed in a room for 100-plus patients, and then they were sprayed with disinfectant,” she says. “When we did send them to the laundry, the washing machines were harsh on them, which caused them to fray.”

Bradley is currently testing antimicrobial window shades made of fiberglass and vinyl to replace curtains in patient rooms. She also plans to replace privacy curtains in the ICU and ER with disposable curtains.

While hospitals have few carpeted areas prone to biological events, schools have many such areas — particularly in preschools and elementary schools where children may not make it to the restroom in time.

Brewer estimates that 90 percent of the district’s elementary school classrooms are carpeted. 

“We used to get complaints about carpet odors,” he says. “Often, they’re caused by wet carpet, and they’re always caused by dirty carpet.”

Brewer invested in a truck-mounted carpet cleaning machine, which has greatly reduced bio odors originating from carpets. 

“Now, if a child has a biological event on a carpet, we can quickly extract it and then dispatch the van within 24 hours to give the carpet a deep cleaning,” he says.

And when it comes to preventing offensive odors, dry carpets are as important as clean ones. 

“If a carpet isn’t dried quickly, especially after extracting it, it smells like wet dog,” says Tony Almeida, manager of custodial services, Elk Grove Unified School District, Elk Grove, California. “We use air dryers and fans to zap as much airflow as possible through that carpet. Also, people tend to shampoo the carpet once, and that may not be enough to remove the soil load. If you have soil left in the carpet and it’s damp, that’s the cause of your odor.”


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