Uric salts lurk in many areas of the public restroom, from grout lines in the floors to urinals and toilets, and even the drains themselves.

“There are many things that cause malodors in bathrooms; but 95 percent of all the problems come from uric salts,” says Eric Cadell, vice president of operations for Dutch Hollow Janitorial Supplies of Belleville, Ill. “They are the root cause of most odors.”

One source of urinal odor that may be overlooked comes from using cleaning products improperly, says Cadell.

“There are products designed to fight malodor that when used improperly actually make the problem worse,” he says.

Selecting enzymatic-based cleaning products, which are designed to eat uric salts, represents one of the top means of keeping urinal odors at bay.
Custodial operations tend to attack restrooms with an arsenal of disinfectants and sanitizers. However, these agents do not work well on odor-causing organic compounds, says Cadell.

“We tend to think disinfecting and sanitizing everything is the best thing for the bathroom. It is, and it isn’t,” he adds. “When you disinfect, you’re killing 99.9 percent of all harmful microorganisms, bacteria or viruses. But uric salts are not bacteria, and they are not viruses. They are organic compounds, and disinfectants and sanitizers don’t work on those. You’ve disinfected surfaces but you’ve done nothing to the uric salt, which lingers and continues to smell.”

Floors and grout lines around urinals as well as urinal P-traps house uric salts and must be cleaned regularly, or they will start to smell. Urinals should be cleaned with microfiber cloths and their surrounding areas with microfiber mops because of its ability to pick up uric salts.

Enzymatic bowl cleaners can be used instead of traditional acid-based cleaners, except in areas with heavy lime and hard water deposits, says Cadell. Enzymes also can be added to floor cleaners and poured down drains at least once a week.

To prevent odors in between cleanings, staffs can place mats under and around urinals and screens inside urinals. But these steps will be ineffective if cleaning isn’t done properly to begin with, says Malik Mantro, marketing director at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Armchem International Corp.

“It all goes back to how well the staff cleans the restroom and how often they service it,” he says. “The public restroom has inherent problems with odor control, so most facilities have gone to screens and mats. But it has to be a comprehensive system where there is someone coming around regularly making sure the bathroom is clean, then putting odor control systems in place to ensure the bathroom remains free of odor between visits.”

Ronnie Garrett is a freelance writer based in Fort Atkinson, Wis.