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September 2017

5 reasons your office bathroom smells

Written by Nicole Horne
Workplace Hygiene

Since smell is our most powerful sense, most (if not all) of us can vigorously nod along and agree that a bad smelling bathroom is one of the most off-putting office experiences to face.

Not only does this make one want to a) run away in terror, b) get sick on the spot, or (my personal favourite) c) grab the closest can of air freshener and hold my breath for as long as possible; whilst at the same time trying to duel with the foul fumes emanating from cubicle one. I pride myself on my breath-holding ability and I think that one day I might even be able to get mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records…

Jokes aside, why do we actually have to make a quick exit, feel nauseated or try and neutralise the horrid odours in the office bathroom, if we can deal with the root cause of the problem?

What causes a foul smelling office bathroom, and what to do about it?

I have touched on this subject in my previous blog on“how foul bathroom smells are affecting employee morale” and how bad smells affect staff wellbeing.

While many people will resort to using air fresheners - which can contribute to a better smell overall - they are merely masking malodours in the bathroom. The below points takes a look at what is at the root cause of bad smells. If we can tackle the problem head-on, we can significantly reduce malodour; and ensure a pleasant and clean bathroom environment.

1. High moisture and temperature levels

Bacteria thrive in environments that have high humidity and moisture levels. Add high temperatures, and this creates the perfect breeding ground for germs.

What to do about it:

  • Proper ventilation eliminates condensation. Be sure to open windows to allow some fresh air to circulate, and if your bathroom does not have windows, an extractor fan is a must.
  • When moisture gathers, it’s the perfect place for bacteria to thrive, and for mould to grow. Regularly wipe and mop surfaces dry to prevent this from happening.

2. Urine is the most common source of malodour in the bathroom

Bacteria utilises urine as a food source, and as urine changes from an acid to an alkaline it attracts moisture. This then leads to a continuous cycle which will persist until bacteria is destroyed, intensifying the malodour (Weise, 2002).

What to do about it:

  • Educate your colleagues about the importance of proper bathroom etiquette.
  • Discuss areas that need special attention with your daily cleaners;  sanitising the areas around and below the toilet seat, toilet bowl, flushing handle, as well as the floor space around toilets and urinals.
  • Furthermore, ensure that the above point is implemented by cleaning staff on a daily basis.
  • A toilet and urinal sanitising solution will ensure that water in the toilet bowl is sanitised with every flush and in between flushes. This, along with an Eco Cap solution for urinals protects, against uric-scale and bacteria build-up.
  • A deep cleaning bathroom treatment is the perfect treatment for sanitising toilets, bathroom fixtures and surfaces.

3. Leaking and / or blocked pipes

Malodours are also caused by the build up of crystallized uric acid, salts and scale which can furthermore result in blocked pipes. Leaking pipes and cracks can also attract viruses, bacteria, fungi and mold (Texas Child Care Quarterly, 2012) and lead to bathroom odours.

What to do about it:

  • For minor leaks, a caulking agent can be used to prevent any further water leakages.
  • Ask staff to report any leaks or blockages they come across and ensure enlist the help of reputable plumber to fix any issues as soon as possible.
  • If you notice that water isn’t draining properly from bathroom fixtures such as basins and toilets, it is also a sign of a blocked pipe. In this instance you will also need the help of a plumber to rectify the underlying issue.
  • Educate your colleagues about what to flush (toilet paper only!) and what is better disposed of in feminine hygiene units / or waste bins.

4. Cleaning supplies

Cleaning supplies - such as brooms, mops, brushes and rags - can also lead to the spread of bad smells, and because these are usually damp, they are the ideal gathering spot for germs.

The frightening thing about this is that generally office cleaners  use the same supplies to clean other areas too, and then we are just spreading bacteria from one place to the next!

What to do about it:

  • Mops, cloths and sponges shouldn’t be left sitting in a bucket of water.
  • Ensure that all cleaning implements are sanitised after each use and are also left to dry properly.
  • Colour code your cleaning supplies to ensure you are not cross contaminating to other areas such as the communal kitchen! Eg; all mops, buckets, cloths etc for the bathroom are coloured blue whilst those for the kitchen are green.

5. Improper cleaning

Improper cleaning is the biggest culprit in the spread of bacteria to various surfaces, leading to unpleasant smells.

What to do about it:

  • Brief your daily cleaning staff on the importance of proper and thorough bathroom cleaning and discuss all areas that need attention, such as door handles, floors, basins, toilet bowls, toilet seats, sanitary bins, waste bins etc.
  • Ensure that proper sterilising agents and cleaning supplies are available for cleaning staff to use.
  • Put a schedule in place to guarantee a clean bathroom everyday, and provide staff with a checklist of items that need to be cleaned daily and weekly.
  • Since uric scale builds up over time, your daily cleaners’ products aren’t equipped to eliminate tough scale and acids. A solution to this is implementing regular deep cleaning treatments to thoroughly eliminate harmful bacteria from bathroom fixtures.
  • Antibacterial fogging is a great method to ensure hard to reach surfaces are also disinfected.

See more tips for cleaning an office bathroom.

As you can see from the above, an holistic approach needs to be taken when it comes to preventing bad smelling bathrooms.

When you invest in good daily cleaning and professional hygiene services, you can combat malodours and bacteria in the bathroom. This means you can then provide your coworkers with a welcoming and pleasant-smelling bathroom environment that shows them you care about their health and wellbeing. It is a win-win situation for everybody!

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Nicole Horne

Nicole Horne

Nicole is a Digital Marketing Executive at Rentokil Initial Hygiene in Johannesburg. A self-proclaimed germaphobe, her love for hygienic environments and curiosity of all things “beneath the surface” fuels her enthusiasm for writing about the impact of germs in the workplace. She is passionate about creating awareness and sharing her knowledge on the impact of good hygiene practices. Follow Nicole on Twitter and LinkedIn for updates on the the good, the bad and the germy.

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