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Insights From Restroom Care Experts

December 18, 2012
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Some of the expert panelists from our recent webinar "A Guide To Clean And Odor-Free Restrooms" offered to further lend their knowledge and answer questions submitted from attendees during the live event originally held on November 20, 2012.


  • Antonio Tomas asked: I can't seem to get the dirt out of the grout lines on the floor with a scrubbing machine. Is there a better way? I can’t seem to get the urine smell out of the restroom no matter what I do. I've tried everything from bleach to odor digesters. How can I get that smell out?

A: Verify that the grout lines have not been sealed over the dirt; if they have, then only stripping the floor will help.

Eliminate any mop cleaning — microfiber or otherwise — except in spot cleaning situations.

As a mop runs over a grout line, the corner of the tile squeegees soil and solution, depositing them into the grout line.

Next, you can either do a deep, restorative “project” cleaning or just begin daily cleaning with a spray-and-vacuum type of cleaning machine.

For project cleaning, incorporate agitation with a coarse brush to assist in the soil removal process.

At Kaivac, we have seen grout lines return to normal color within two to three weeks using this process.

By the way, all of this should also help with your odor issue.

The urine smell is typically due to urine in the porous grout lines, which is a great food source for bacteria.

And, because odors are caused from bacteria off-gassing, clean grout lines equal no urine smell — John Richter of Kaivac Inc.

A: You may want to clean the grout lines as well as you can then use a grout highlighter and touchup tool or marker so you not only clean your grout but renew it.

One important way to remove the urine smell from your restrooms is to eliminate methods that do not enable thorough removal of soils, like mopping, and consider technology that deep cleans and removes soil, applying fresh solution each time.

Some examples are spray-and-vacuum machines and self-contained, compact autoscrubbers.

Bio-enzymatic cleaners those employing active beneficial bacteria are great at removing odor-causing dirt from the grout between tiles and eliminating the urine odor in the restrooms because they do, in fact, work at the microscopic level to consume urine — the food supply of odor-causing bacteria — effectively displacing them with friendly bacteria.

The industry leaders are companies that use proven biotech formulas in their digesters.

I cannot recommend any specific manufacturers here, but am happy to share my opinions via e-mail or over the phone. — Rex Morrison of Process Cleaning for Healthy Schools (PCHS)


  • John Whitehead asked: Isn't it better to apply a disinfectant as early as possible to maximize dwell time? (Steps 6 and 8 of the “13 Steps To Restroom Cleanliness”)

A: Disinfectants have different dwell times — be careful and follow recommended instructions.

To get the most out of chemical disinfectants, you should first pre-clean the surface to remove organic matter that can interfere with the disinfectant’s activity then apply disinfectant, allow proper wet dwell time and remove the disinfectant with clean water.

Disinfectants make poor cleaners, and conventional cleaners make poor disinfectants.

In a conventional protocol, use the following steps:

  • Removing as much organic material as possible by cleaning
  • Rinse off the cleaning solution
  • Apply a conventional sanitizing or disinfecting agent such as bleach, a quaternary ammonium compound (quat) or an oxidizer
  • Agitate the surface and be sure it remains wet long enough to kill the germs. Even when the previous step is followed properly, the conventional sanitizing/disinfecting agents often do not fully break down and remove biofilm which, like plaque on teeth, requires agitation to remove, which is why it often reforms so quickly. — Rex Morrison

A: The best thing to do is follow the disinfectant’s instructions, which should designate how much time to leave the disinfectant on the surface before wiping.

It is important to remember that the disinfectant must remain wet.

If it dries on the surface, the surface must be re-cleaned and then the disinfectant reapplied. — Robert Kravitz, a former Chicago-area BSC


  • John Whitehead also asked: What are your thoughts on the use of bleach in restrooms?

A: Be very careful when using bleach in a restroom, as bleach can cause a harmful reaction with other chemicals commonly used in restroom cleaning (e.g., ammonia).  — Rex Morrison

A: Bleach is often used as a disinfectant.

While bleach has served us well for many years, we now know it can have serious negative impacts on the user, building occupants and the environment.

My suggestion is to look for alternatives to bleach, many of which are more environmentally preferable, such as hydrogen peroxide.

While there are no green-certified disinfectants in the U.S., your JanSan distributor should be able to suggest disinfectants that can be used in place of bleach that will work well with less impact on the environment. — Robert Kravitz


  • Casshail Buxton asked: What are some bioenzymatic cleaners?

A: One you might consider is Z Probiotics B1+ all-purpose cleaner; it incorporates probiotics and leaves a microscopic layer of probiotic — read: Friendly — bacteria that helps prevent the immediate reformation of pathogens that create unwanted biofilm.

Companies that use proven biotech formulas should also be considered. — Rex Morrison

A: Without identifying specific manufacturers, many green chemical manufacturers are now producing bioenzymatic cleaners.

First patented back in 1932, these products are made from agricultural ingredients and formulated with specific enzymes designed to essentially “eat” certain types of soils and bacteria.

An effective bioenzymatic cleaner may be made of a mixture of enzymes and bacteria, as well as surfactants, to tackle a variety of cleaning situations of the type encountered in a shopping center or similar property.

They are especially good at dealing with odor issues because they eat the bacteria that cause odors. — Robert Kravitz


  • William Lambert asked: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings want as little disinfecting chemicals as possible. Are there any chemical-free procedures or devices that will also disinfect?

A: One alternative to chemical cleaning in restrooms is the use of a steam vapor system like one offered by Advanced Vapor Technologies, who seems to have the most comprehensive data supporting their claims. — Rex Morrison


  • Alan Goytowski asked: We have heard customer concerns about the misting air fresheners’ discharge contacting them. What other options are available that are not scent overpowering or misting? An option suggested by university executives is to reduce the setting or move them away from areas the customer occupies.

A: Concentrate on removing the odor through better cleaning, not by masking it with air fresheners.

Air fresheners are an attempt to eliminate odors at the secondary stage, usually by masking agents or other ineffective means.

Ideally, the odor needs to be addressed at its source; the bacteria are what cause the odor.  — Rex Morrison

A: We have had customers make up for the cost of purchasing a spray-and-vacuum machine by eliminating air fresheners in restrooms.

The reason is that daily cleaning with a spray-and-vacuum machine eliminates the source of the odors, so “masking” the odors with air fresheners is not necessary.

Clean has no smell. — John Richter


  • Cynthia Lockwood asked: Can you further explain restroom fogging?

A: Fogging is an attempt to kill undesirable microbes by gassing them with a pervasive aerosol that permeates all the areas of a restroom while leaving a pleasant fragrance behind. — Rex Morrison


  • Sue Brown asked: String mops versus flat microfiber mops, what are some statistics regarding cleaning levels?

A: My personal experience is that mops in general — whether string or microfiber — remove only 50 to 75 percent of soils.

I have conducted hundreds of tests comparing microfiber mops, string mops and the spray-and-vacuum process.

The 75 percent removal may occur when using a fresh, never-used mop on the first pass of cleaning.

As a mop becomes saturated with soil which, by the way, happens quickly, the removal rate goes down significantly.

An example of this was a test that I conducted cleaning desktops in classrooms with a microfiber cloth.

We found that some of the last desks cleaned actually had higher levels of soil after cleaning than before cleaning — ouch.

My studies show that spray-and-vacuum cleaning of floors removes more than 95 percent of soil every time. — John Richter


  • Joe Scheblein asked: Do you ever suggest the use of bleach to clean grout?

A: Bleach is a great whitening product, but be very careful with colored grout. — Rex Morrison

A: I am not a chemist, but I have conducted hundreds of tests related to grout cleaning.

The one thing to note about bleach is that it is caustic and can react with porous materials like grout and break them down over time.

My recommendation is to focus on the cleaning process instead of the chemical.

“Drop the mop” altogether, and then employ some type of vacuum recovery process similar to a spray-and-vacuum machine.

Think about this: Even if I use bleach and kill every organism on the floor, a mop removes only around 50 percent of the soil.

Therefore, I have left 50 percent of the organisms in the grout, which will decay and smell badly.

And, by the way, these dead organisms will be a great food source for the next organism that happens onto the floor from Dr. Charles Gerba’s “toilet sneeze” phenomenon.— John Richter


  • Judy Jaeger asked: Drains, what is the best way to keep them from smelling? Also, how do you get rid of moldy grout lines in shower areas and steam rooms?

A: The best way to keep drains from smelling is to keep water levels full in the traps; always fill drain traps after cleaning.

Prolonged, consistent usage of enzymatic cleaners will help reduce odors that arise from drains.

Using enzymatic cleaners in washing the shower areas — these products have a proven ability to reduce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels on surfaces more effectively than conventional cleaners and sanitizers/disinfectants — will carry the solution down with the water flow into the drain and attack the source of odors in the drain itself. — Rex Morrison

A: The simple answer is to use a spray-and-vacuum process.

Spray on the cleaning chemical, allow it to dwell, rinse with 500 pounds of pressure per square inch (PSI) to blast soils, then vacuum extract both the solution and the soils.

Removal through vacuum extraction is the key — John Richter


  • Baron Smith asked: Do you recommend hydrogen peroxide-based products for cleaning restrooms?

A: Hydrogen peroxide-based products are very affective in cleaning restrooms and controlling order; so, yes. — Rex Morrison

A: We have a hydrogen peroxide–based cleaning product called KaiO, which works great in restrooms.

We have done hundreds of studies on restroom floors and find that the most significant factor is not the chemical you use but the process.

Vacuum extraction with a spray-and-vacuum cleaning machine is ideal for maximizing the removal of soils quickly and efficiently. — John Richter


To read the rest of these intriguing questions and answers, click through to the next page.

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