Responding Vs. Reacting

Urine does not release a great deal of odor until bacteria develop. As the bacteria grow, so does the odor. The warm, acidic urine changes from an acid to an alkaline, attracting more moisture and allowing the odor to intensify. “As the process continues, the odor becomes stronger and stronger,” says Poneris. “Eventually, the only way to eliminate the odor is to eliminate the source, which can only be accomplished through hygienic cleaning.”


Poneris’s solution to the odor problem requires closer scrutiny. “Hygienic cleaning is the key, and this is not conventional cleaning,” he says. “It is more thorough cleaning, not necessarily using more powerful cleaning chemicals, but using [cleaning] systems scientifically proven to effectively remove contaminants.”

A problem now emerging about many conventional cleaning methods, such as mops and buckets, handheld sprayers and cleaning cloths is that, as they become soiled, they spread germs and bacteria. When it comes to removing urine from floor areas, for instance, a mop can spread it over the entire floor area, often “pushing” it into grout, floor pores, and other hard-to-clean areas. Bacteria are then absorbed (hidden) in porous grout lines and other niches where traditional cleaning methods cannot remove them.

One way to rectify this problem is to change the mop and bucket water frequently, for example, after cleaning each restroom. “However, this does not always get done, and [the] solution and mop become more and more contaminated,” says Poneris. “And some restrooms are large enough that the mop and bucket should even be changed a couple of times in the same restroom. This can slow the cleaning process considerably.”

What Poneris suggests as an alternative is using an indoor pressure-washing system, referred to as no-touch or spray-and-vac cleaning. With these systems, chemicals are applied to all areas to be cleaned. A limited amount of dwell time–five to 10 minutes–is required to allow the chemicals to begin loosening and dissolving the soils. The system then pressure-washes the same areas and, using a built-in wet/vac cleaner, removes the solution and contaminants from the surface area.

According to Frank Wiley, one of the founders of the Cleaning Industry Research Institute, “No-touch cleaning systems have been proven to be 60 times more effective in reducing bacterial contamination on tile and grout surfaces [when compared to cleaning with mops].” Effectively reducing bacterial contamination on surfaces is what eliminates odors.

Keeping Up Is Easy…

People in the military often use the expression, “Keeping up is easy; catching up is difficult.” Both Poneris and Wiley agree with this statement. They also believe some facilities allow odor problems to grow to such an extent that routine cleaning, even routine hygienic-cleaning, may not be enough. Instead, restorative cleaning–more time-consuming and labor-intensive–may be required.

One way to prevent this from happening is to incorporate no-touch cleaning with conventional cleaning on a scheduled, regular basis, according to Poneris. “Although many facilities have transferred completely to no-touch cleaning from conventional cleaning methods,” he says, “at least if the [no-touch] system is used on a regular basis, surfaces stay cleaner and more hygienic, and odors are less of a problem.”

Dawn Shoemaker is a freelance writer for the professional cleaning and building industries. She may be reached at

* If ATP bioluminescence is present on a surface, it serves as a red flag that potential odor- and disease-causing germs and bacteria are present. Some ATP systems are referred to as “rapid detection” or “hygiene monitoring” systems because of their speed and accuracy.


How To Locate Mystery Odors

Finding the source of odors in facility restrooms may take a super sleuth. We know that the most common culprits–tile and grout areas, porous floors, inadequately cleaned fixtures–are places where bacteria are developing.

However, sometimes restrooms are cleaned top to bottom using the most advanced cleaning technologies and skilled cleaning professionals, and malodors still persist. In these situations, managers may need to put on their Sherlock Holmes caps to locate the mysterious odors.

Many times, odors are emanating from restroom ceilings, which may be moist, providing a perfect habitat for airborne bacteria to grow.

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