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Insights From Restroom Care Experts

December 18, 2012

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.

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.


  • Igor Bogdanovic asked: What is the best way to remove water rings inside the toilet? Also, what are the savings on foam soap versus liquid soap? Is there a definitive study or a ballpark percentage?

A: Agitate the inside of the toilet bowl with a nylon brush when cleaning and they won’t build up. — Rex Morrison

A: The best way to remove water rings in a toilet is with 500 PSI of water pressure.

And, by the way, it’s a blast!

Pardon the pun.

The cool thing about a 500-PSI spray system, which comes on a spray-and-vacuum cleaning machine, is that the pinpoint spray penetrates the toilet water and works on the porcelain bowl, removing water marks and any other marks in the toilet. — Tom Morrison


  • MJ Healy asked: How can I determine the pH of grout lines in a restroom?

A: Use a pH testing paper strip; ask your local supply company as to where to buy them. — Rex Morrison

A: In addition to paper strips, there are pH meters available.

They are small electronic devices that are fairly simple to use.

I noticed even sells them. — Robert Kravitz


  • Tony Johnson asked: Is the spray-and-vacuum system cost effective for a school setting?

A: Spray-and-vacuum restroom systems have become very cost effective, saving about half the labor costs in cleaning.

No school should be without one. — Rex Morrison

A: Yes, but it depends on how you look at it.

Spray-and-vacuum systems may have higher upfront costs, but they also reduce chemical usage, save labor time and can replace many other pieces of standard cleaning equipment that a facilities manager typically purchases.

For example, the Kaivac unit has a Silver rating from the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) as a carpet extractor.

It also is a great tool for stairwell cleaning.

It can replace a standard wet/dry vacuum extractor — and so on.

Take a look at return on investment (ROI) calculators at for more specific costing information. — John Richter


  • Kevin Manalili asked: Our restroom stalls are stainless steel, but are not waterproof (the cores are not water-resistant). What touch-free options are available for this type of situation?

A: Microfiber pole mops work very well and will not leave excess water on stalls.

I recommend an 11-inch head and pad with an adjustable handle. — Rex Morrison

A: Many users of spray-and-vacuum systems have similar types of restroom stalls.

A trained operator generally has no problem controlling the spray from a 500-PSI system.

If overspray does occur, users may employ a simple window squeegee to remove the excess liquid. — Tom Morrison


  • Laticia Annison asked: Is antibacterial hand soap necessary to use in a public facility versus a non-disinfectant hand wash?

A: The use of antibacterial agents in hand soap is just another tool to get the handwashing job done and has been proven to do a very good job at killing germs on hands. — Rex Morrison

A: This is totally up to the facilities manager.

Because some antibacterial hand soaps can be harmful to the environment, many facilities are providing greener soaps and offering sanitizers as an option. — Robert Kravitz


  • Laticia Annison also asked: What is the best possible way to avoid hard water buildup and rust stains during a daily cleaning routine?

A: Make sure you leave surfaces as dry as possible during a daily cleaning routine. — Rex Morrison

A: Hard water buildup can cause mineral deposits to cake on restroom fixtures and can even damage pipes.

Certain parts of the country have more problems with this than others; often, the problem is resolved by installing a water softening system for the building, facility or campus.

I believe some cleaning professionals use a pumice stick to remove hard water buildup.

I would advise a visit with your local JanSan distributor for more options. — Robert Kravitz


  • Thomas Farr asked: What's the most common cause for a restroom floor to be sticky?

A: Biofilm buildup is one.

Another, more common cause is that the floor has not been rinsed with enough clean water after mopping and the cleaning product was not diluted as recommended and left to dry on the floor surface. — Rex Morrison

A: Each situation is different; but, in my experience, sticky floors are most often caused by chemical residue left behind in the mopping process when we mop a floor, leave it wet and then say that it is clean.

as anything actually been cleaned or removed, or has some chemical just been painted on?

That is why vacuum extraction is so important.

Removal is the key to cleaning; in fact, the definition of clean is the “removal” of unwanted matter.

There are many machines that can do vacuum extraction, but I recommend a spray-and-vacuum unit. — John Richter


  • John Costigan asked: Is finishing with a spray sanitizer a good idea?

A: It depends.

If you use bioenzymatic cleaners, which have been consistently proven to reduce ATP levels as much as — nearly always significantly more than — many sanitizers, as well as keeping post-application ATP levels lower for much longer, then finishing with a spray sanitizer may not be necessary.

Finishing up with clean water will leave surfaces free of chemicals and safe for students, staffs and other building occupants. — Rex Morrison

A: I am an advocate of using sanitizers and disinfectants only as needed.

They can be harmful to the environment and you, the user.

I would suggest making sure the cleaning routine employed effectively removes soils and contaminants.

Spray-and-vacuum systems are effective at this when cleaning floors, restrooms, etc. — Robert Kravitz


  • Dina Gilbert asked: Is an acidic drain cleaner more effective in a foul floor drain than an enzyme digestant?

A: It depends on the individual products, and there are also several other considerations here:

1.      First is whether there are any environmental restrictions against the use of acid drain cleaners.

2.      Another is that acid drain cleaners do not always remove the source of odors in foul-smelling drains and, if they do, it may well be temporary because there are residues that can reform. Use products that are proven to address and, over consistent use, lower the sources of odor. A way of measuring this is to take an ATP reading of the drain at frequent and regular intervals to determine if the product being used is reducing ATP levels.

3.      Lastly, if the objective is to unblock the drain, then acid drain cleaners are necessary. — Rex Morrison


  • Ted Barklage III asked: Why mop with a disinfectant when the residue leaves the floor sticky, and the floor is re-infected when the first footsteps on the floor? How about using low-level ozone generators to destroy odors?

A: The only way a virus can live without a “host” is if it resides in a biofilm; this is noted by both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Health (NIH).

For a sanitizer/disinfectant to “kill” a virus present on a surface, it must fully dismantle and remove the biofilm in which the virus is residing.

The use of ATP meters can offer a highly probable indication as to whether a sanitizer/disinfectant has removed a biofilm; if the ATP meter reading increases within a couple of hours after a surface has been sanitized/disinfected, then it is indicating the likely return of a biofilm presence, so viruses may still or once again be present.

Ozone does not dismantle or remove biofilm, which houses bacteria that are the source of odors.

As such, the use of ozone is not an effective means of controlling odors in a meaningful or prolonged manner. — Rex Morrison

A: First, we don’t recommend mopping restroom floors other than in spot cleaning.

Besides the fact that mops remove very little soil, they also leave excess moisture and chemical residue behind.

Especially in the case of certain disinfectants, this can result in overly sticky floors.

To compound problems, this residue contains detergent, which can cause a resoiling of the floors from foot traffic.

Studies repeatedly show that vacuum extraction technologies such as spray-and-vacuum or dispense-and-vacuum machines are much more effective at soil removal than mopping.

As to whether or not floors should be disinfected, there are many factors that come into play, including the type of facility and the population that inhabits it.

However, studies confirm that many contaminants originating in the restroom ultimately make their way throughout a building, including those from the floor.

When it comes to the role that contaminated surfaces play in the spread of disease, it is better to remove the soil than it is to try to kill the microbes with disinfectant.

Disinfectants certainly have a role in killing the organisms that would sicken or kill humans but, too often, the efficacy of the disinfectant is compromised by soil burden. — Tom Morrison


  • Billy Daukei asked: For cleaning behind the toilet bowl, is it best to use a scrub brush or a cloth?

A: You may want to use a brush to remove any stubborn stains or particulates.

But, after an initial deep cleaning, daily cleaning with spray-and-vacuum machines should be enough. — Rex Morrison

A: In my opinion, neither is effective.

I prefer 500-PSI water pressure from a spray-and-vacuum machine.

I can stand back and let the water do all the work without getting my face down near the toilet.

By the way, I have conducted hundreds of tests showing that using a spray-and-vacuum machine to clean toilets and restrooms removes more than 95 percent of the soils.

That’s what I call cleaning. — John Richter