Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online
March 2013 Cleanthoughts

The Dirty Fingernails Of The Restroom

Soiled grout lines are the restroom equivalent to having dirt underneath your fingernails.

March 18, 2013

When I cross the threshold and enter a public restroom, I am often appalled by what I see.

While some suffer unwarranted fears about these human waste transfer stations, others are simply displeased by their unkempt nature.

I am not suggesting that all public restrooms are filthy, but I’m certainly not claiming that they all smell like roses either.

I have been wholly impressed by the meticulousness of a select few custodial professionals who mind the details of restroom cleanliness.

But, for the most part, there is a common theme with the restrooms I see: Soiled grout lines.

It might not be apparent at first glance, but after more scrutinous observation of a given restroom over time, it becomes clear that the porous mortar binding each individual ceramic tile is not as bright and clean as it once was.

While there are numerous reasons for this — infrequent cleaning, dirty cleaning solution, improper techniques, insufficient equipment, etc. — the end result is nearly constant: Malodors.

The single largest source of complaints from building occupants and cleaning staffs alike is restroom odors.

They can permeate from other areas like around fixtures or inside floor drains, but offense restroom odors tend to be traceable to grout lines harboring odor-causing germs and bacteria.

The solution is simple in theory but rather difficult in practice; the key to minimizing odors from bacterial off-gassing is to keep the grout lines clean and not allow microorganisms to replicate.

Provide The Solution

Building owners, custodial supervisors and facilities managers all insist that their workers strive to achieve clean, odor-free grout lines in their restrooms, yet fail to deliver the necessary training, education, tools and equipment.

By no means am I claiming that the solution is simple — if it was, I would likely be ranting about something else.

I am, however, making an inference to the solvable nature of the issue by establishing and following protocol and utilizing the equipment and chemicals specifically designed, engineered and formulated to address soiled grout lines.

I’m not offering a step-by-step guide to follow, but I will make a handful of points that can assist in your efforts to maintain clean grout lines.

  1. Apply a hydrogen peroxide or similar oxidizing cleaner to the floor and allow it to dwell
  2. After mopping, scrubbing or otherwise agitating, completely remove all soils and moisture with a squeegee or the suction of a spray-and-vacuum machine
  3. Some grout lines might be too dirty or damaged and require complete removal and replacement or dyeing to hide stains
  4. Once the grout lines are clean and dry — and any new grout lines have been laid and damaged areas fixed — apply a sealer so that soils are unable to penetrate the impermeable coating
  5. Once grout lines are cleaned and sealed, adhere to daily cleaning procedures to maintain their appearance.

There’s A Webcast For That

We all know that smelly restrooms are a big problem today — just as they have been for decades.

We also know that a large contributor to the malodorous nature of public rest, bath and shower rooms is bacteria lingering in grout lines.

Maybe the reason we don’t properly address specific restroom odor issues is because we just don’t understand how or why odors are caused:

  • An enzyme product can eliminate odors by literally eating the bacteria left on surfaces — but how?
  • A masking air freshener can combine with an existing fragrance and cause a smell that is more offensive than the one you initially attempted to erase — but why?
  • Tile and grout should be deep cleaned to help remove deeply embedded soils and bacteria — but when?

In light of the misinformation or general lack of insight surrounding the single largest source of complaints from building occupants and cleaning staffs alike, we have decided to consult with some industry experts and deliver to you a special webcast on controlling restroom odors.

A Free Educational Event In June

Be on the lookout for additional details in the coming weeks; make sure you check your inbox frequently and visit the CMM Community regularly so you can secure your virtual seat for this free educational event taking place in June.

As is customary with all of our free informational events — online seminars, webinars, webcasts or whatever else you want to call them — we want to know the specific questions you have so we can provide you with expert solutions.

The more questions we receive beforehand makes it easier for us to deliver the information you have come to expect from our editorial team and our trusted contributors.

There is no need to wait until you’re registered to ask a question; submit your query today and then ask another tomorrow.

Send your restroom odor-related enquiries to and we will see to it that your information desires are fulfilled.