While restrooms are the most obvious odor offenders, they’re not the only areas in a facility capable of producing less-than-fresh aromas.

“Besides restrooms, kitchens, locker rooms and dumpsters are some of the major areas of odor problems for our customers,” says Ken Waddell, a salesman for Atlanta-based Sikes Paper Co.

So, what’s causing all these smelly situations?

“The answer often is as simple as unclean surfaces,” says Chris Martini, director of marketing for Central Sanitary Supply, Modesto, Calif.

Since each room has different culprits for odors, they will require different cleaning methods.


By nature of its products and a fair amount of waste that is produced in processing, the kitchen is one of the most prolific areas in a facility where customers are battling odor problems.

“Kitchen odors can be complex,” says Waddell. “Baking fresh breads, with the use of flour, yeast, oils and sugars can cause buildup in the drain systems that can lead to odors. Fish and seafood, by their nature, create excessive scrap parts. The oils and proteins from these parts can seep into cracks, grout, and drains as well as creating odors in trash cans. The processing and cooking of meat products can create high volumes of fats, oils, grease and blood that can cause odor problems, especially in drains.”

In addition, beverages that can contain high amounts of sugar and/or corn syrup can contribute to slow, sticky drains.

But sometimes distributors find that odors coming from a drain are often the result of the trap being dried out. A dry trap allows sewer odors to come back up through the pipes. This is a common problem at facilities that are not used year-round, especially at school dormitories. To quell drain problems, Martini advises his customers use enzyme-based and mineral oil products.

“Adding mineral oil to small remote drains can help slow water evaporation,” he says. “To address odors resulting from a drain that has consistent use you can add enzymes to help treat the bacteria, either manually or with an automatic dispenser.”

Periodic, regular use of enzyme producing drain maintenance products will keep drains flowing freely and odor free. High-pressure, high-temperature washers can also be used for drain odor issues, says Chuck Bush Jr., merchandising manager for Lab Safety Supply, Janesville, Wis.

In some extreme cases, replacing problem sinks may be the best option, as it gives the cleaning staff a chance to start fresh and maintain an odor-free area.

Drains aren’t the only odor producers in kitchens. Porous surfaces, dirty appliances and waste receptacles all add to the problem.

“Removing scrap and waste from food prep areas and floors as quickly as possible reduces the chance of odors developing,” says Waddell.

In addition to counters and floors, appliances need constant attention, says Waddell. Range hoods should be cleaned to reduce grease build-up; insides of refrigerators should be cleaned and spoiled food removed immediately, he says.

Food generates a significant amount of trash so waste receptacles should have appropriately thick can liners and be washed inside and out on a regular basis, says Waddell.

Locker Rooms And Dumpsters

Aside from kitchen and food processing areas, locker rooms aren’t too far behind as being capable of developing foul odors in a facility.

“Locker rooms can develop odors from body odors on clothing and footwear as well as musty, mildew odors in the shower areas,” says Waddell. “In these areas, the regular use of a variety of shower cleaning products will prevent the growth of mold and mildew. The addition of a liquid malodor counteractant in your mop water as well as an effective deodorizing system can also be useful.”

Moisture, particularly in locker rooms, can also be a boon for odor-creating bacteria. If left too long, mold and mildew may start to grow and lead to odor.

Moreover, heat and humidity “is a big factor in creating the perfect environment for bacteria to grow rapidly,” says Martini.

One problem in locker rooms is that cleaning crews can’t tackle all odor areas.

“Dirty clothes left in lockers are out of our jurisdiction,” says Martini. “Using an odor control system will help squall these types of odors.”

Odors can develop anywhere in a facility, including outside, particularly in the loading areas where dumpsters are stored.

“Odors can develop inside, around, behind and under the dumpster itself,” says Waddell.

To reduce odor problems, cleaning professionals should bag the trash before it is placed in dumpsters and encourage others to do the same, says Waddell.

It's also important to keep the areas surrounding the dumpster clean.

“There are a variety of deodorizing granules that can be effective for dumpsters, especially when the dumpster is located in covered areas around loading docks,” says Waddell.

Masking: A Bad Idea

Regardless of where the odor originates and what causes it, masking the stench is only a temporary, even lazy fix to removing the foul aroma.

“Masking does not address the problem,” says Bush. “The masking agent may become offensive and the odor may be a warning of a larger problem.”

Distributors say the best bet for eliminating odors and keeping them in check is simply how quickly a cleaning crew cleans the offending area and how well it is kept clean after an odor is eliminated.

“All lingering odors have a source — it could be a single source or it could be a combination,” says Martini. “It is important to pinpoint the specific source and develop a program to combat the problem.”

Typically the faster a cleaning crew can remove a spill the better chance they have at removing everything. Letting a spill sit and dry allows it more opportunities to find small areas in the surface to hide, says Martini.

And cleaning crews must be diligent in cleaning.

“When the spill is finally cleaned, often times small pieces are left behind that could become food for odor-causing bacteria,” says Martini.

In the end, the slight of an unclean area, while offensive and disturbing, can’t match the punch-to-the-stomach effect of an incredibly offensive odor. Odor elimination is a chance for distributors and their sales reps to team up and earn points with their customers.

“Solving odor problems is a major way distributor sales reps can be of service to their customers,” Waddell says. “No one likes to smell foul odors and if you can identify and solve the problem, you’re a hero.”

Steven Potter is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee.