woman smelling cleaning cloth

Our sense of smell is closely linked to emotions, perceptions and memory. Odors, both pleasant and unpleasant, elicit an emotional response and will immediately remind us of places we've been and the experiences we had there. When we occupy public facilities — stores, schools, office buildings, medical clinics, hotels, nursing homes, gyms, restaurants, airports, theaters and more — even if they appear spotlessly clean and maintained, unpleasant odors can create the perception that they are not healthy spaces.

There can also be negative cognitive responses if facility spaces are over-scented with fragrances. This gives the impression that facilities are covering up underlying bad odors that should be remedied rather than masked.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, end users focused their attention on cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, taking attention away from other cleaning functions. As occupants have begun to return to facilities, they are highly aware of cleanliness as it relates to their safety and health. In facilities that are returning to pre-pandemic occupancy, as well as in those that remained open and occupied throughout the pandemic, cleaning teams have odor challenges to contend with. Expert advice on meeting and resolving these challenges involves taking a multi-step approach and using the best product solutions — guidance that distributors are uniquely positioned to step in and provide.

Odor Origins

When discussing odors, the first place many think of is the restroom. This is one area in buildings where odor control is vital — and expected. Although urinals and commodes often stand out as potential culprits, foul smells usually permeate from floor grout.

Grout is a classic source for harboring malodors, says Phil Carrizales, director of Hygiene and Facilities Solutions at Acme Paper & Supply Co., Savage, Maryland. Distributors should recommend using a hydrogen-based peroxide, he notes, which serves as a reliable method for the initial odor treatment of restroom grout.

Although the restroom garners much attention, odors can stem from various areas inside a facility. Distributors must be prepared to steer end users toward less obvious culprits.

“Another example would be the heating, venting and air conditioning (HVAC) system that can harbor mold and mildew if not properly maintained,” says Carrizales. “Other factors to account for include indoor and outdoor waste receptacles; parking garage staircases that may have spilled drinks or discarded food items; and areas where general debris collects.”

One common odor-causing culprit is also one of the least obvious because it is usually out of sight. Floor drains that are not properly maintained will dry up, allowing foul gases admittance into a facility. Distributors should educate end user customers to tend to drains regularly. This is particularly true in full-service kitchens, where enzyme-based products can successfully eliminate odor-causing grease when used regularly. Custodial closets with mop bucket drain systems or drains found in restrooms are other potential odor culprits.

For end users in facilities with the potential for the development of ongoing odor problems, Mark Sims, founder and CEO of Fikes Products, a Federal Way, Washington-based commercial facility maintenance services company, suggests three areas of focus, in addition to finding the right people to solve those problems.

“We’ve found that a 'Clean, Care & Air' approach works extremely well,” he explains.

First, Sims emphasizes that cleaning must be a priority, or controlling odors will be an uphill battle for end users. Distributors should emphasize the importance of daily cleaning in areas of highest odor probability and frequent use. Supplying and maintaining a focused checklist will keep frontline workers on schedule.

“The second step may seem obvious, but everyone involved needs to care,” says Sims. “That level of care will be displayed through internal efforts, but it’s also important that facility executives work with credible distribution and cleaning service partners who will help achieve desired results.”

While the number of specialty service providers is on the rise, Sims notes the importance of prior vetting and research when selecting a service partner. In certain circumstances, end users may require multiple providers, which a trustworthy distributor can help to set up.

“The final step focuses on the air and how fresh and clean it is, and how it smells,” Sims adds. “This takes intentional effort in cleaning and care, as well as a presence of mind to have the best airflow and air care products to accomplish the desired end goal.”

next page of this article:
Tips To Combat Facility Odors