Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Clearing the air

September 19, 2010
Many cleaning workers — even before work is performed — are at a disadvantage every day.

Effective cleaning work is subjective in the eyes of the customer.

And, odor control is no different.

In fact, say experts, malodor can actually negate a customer’s positive perception of clean, especially in restrooms.

Smelling is believing
“What smells clean is clean and perception is reality,” says Larry Glazer, vice president of sales for Waterbury Companies Inc. “You can have a spotless washroom, but if it smells bad, people think it is dirty.”

Besides visual evidence, such as floor debris and dirty walls, restroom malodor can tell an unpleasant story.

Industry studies indicate that the sense of smell is how many customers pass judgment of clean or unclean.

The fact that the restroom is a facility’s most frequently visited area exacerbates the problem.

A restroom can be spotless before traffic enters the facility, says Glazer, but after four visitors, for example, odors will be present.

“It is a constant concern,” adds Glazer.

Sign of more danger
In addition to an unpleasant impression, malodor can also be the source of a bigger, more harmful, problem.

“Malodors in restrooms are often a symptom of surfaces that are breeding odor-causing bacteria, which will lead to an unhealthy environment if not addressed,” says Bill Smith, vice president of marketing for National Chemical Laboratories.

According to Smith, end users should take a big picture approach to restroom cleaning, especially in unusual, often overlooked areas.

“Areas, such as behind toilet and urinal fixtures as well as inside receptacles for waste and feminine (products) can be a source of problem malodors,” explains Smith.

Odor plan
Since it is not practical or cost-effective to employ a worker to stand in the restroom and manually apply fragrance when needed, facility managers and building service contractors must form an effective odor control management plan.

Included in an effective odor control plan, say experts, are fragrances, metered dispensing systems, and effective cleaning.

Glazer, who recommends one metered system for a 20 x 30 restroom with a 10-foot ceiling, warns negative results for haphazard end users.

“How often (the device) sprays is important based on the size of the room. If too often, the spray could be overpowering to some people,” says Glazer. “If it doesn’t spray enough, it is going to be too weak to take care of the odor. If the aerosol being used is not a quality product, results could be poor. Some metered systems allow you to adjust the settings based on the need of your specific location.

Customer-driven trends
As previously mentioned, customers use their sense of smell to conclude whether or not an area is clean or unclean.

Over the years, manufacturers have developed fragrances to enhance the perception of a clean area.

However, in recent years, customers have become more sophisticated and newer odor control innovations are available.

“The concept of chemically encapsulating odors has been highly touted in recent years,” says Smith. “However, most facilities now seek an overall improvement in indoor air quality that stresses the removal of odors though proper cleaning with environmentally responsible formulations and less ‘cover-up’ with masking fragrances.”

There are several products on the market today that actually reduce microorganisms in the air.

“When you put a fragrance in the air or neutralize an odor, you are not killing bacteria,” adds Glazer.

Today, these “air sanitizing” products are customer-driven, says Glazer.

“The more upscale locations still want a nice fragrance,” notes Glazer. “However, the health care market, for example, wants to kill the odor-causing bacteria in the air.”

Sound advice
As with most products, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and apply proper employee training.

However, there are some other steps outside of a conventional odor control program that can be taken to minimize malodor.

“A properly operating HVAC system with filters cleaned on a regular basis,” recommends Smith. “(Also,) clean all appropriate surfaces in restrooms with an EPA registered disinfectant cleaner. Ideally, this product would be a scent-free formulation to minimize its indoor air quality impact.”

Eventually, the green cleaning movement will also play an important role in odor control and can potentially change this product category.

Depending on your facility’s needs, clearing the air of bacteria is instrumental to the health of building occupants and should be included in your odor control program.

This can be accomplished through effective air sanitizers, air fragrances as well as proper cleaning.