You Smell That? The Science of Odor Control
One of the most common problems facing cleaning professionals is odor control. Bad smells in restrooms, commercial kitchens, and public spaces draw more complaints than anything. But unpleasant and smelly spaces are more than a nuisance. Bad odor often indicates an underlying health hazard, and our noses are designed to know it. Cleaning professionals must do more than just cover the stench. Eliminating the cause of the smell has to be the goal.
But how do we eliminate the cause of bad odors? We have to get down to basics. Why do we smell things? What causes odor? And how do we effectively remove the cause? It all comes down to the science of odors on a microscopic level.
The Evolution of Smell: Why We Sense the Stench
The power of smell is one of nature’s greatest inventions. Smell helps an organism stay alive by sensing its surroundings. Science calls this process olfaction. Even the smallest of organisms use olfaction to make decisions. More complex species, like humans, have even developed a sophisticated system that connects directly to the central nervous system. These organs have tiny receptors that capture microscopic chemicals in the air, and send electrical signals to the brain.
Other animals were once believed to be better smellers. But science is discovering that our sense of smell is better than we thought.” According to Wikipedia, humans “can distinguish a diversity of odors—approximately 10,000 scents.” Research also shows that smell plays a role in emotions and memories. This evidence points to smell being a powerful tool to keep us safe. So we should trust our noses when we’re repulsed by a rank restroom. It’s our olfaction screaming, “Stay away! This place is dangerous!”
The Source of Smell: Bacteria and Mold
Science zooms past what the eye can see to show us where smell begins. Smell starts on a microscopic level. Bacteria is one the oldest life forms on earth and survives in extreme environments. These hearty beings are all around us and even inside of us. As bacteria digests nutrients, it releases molecules. These volatile compounds are what our olfactory system senses.
Another source of smell is mold. Pesky mold collecting in grout lines is a familiar frustration for cleaners. Mold reproduces by shooting spores into the atmosphere. When these microscopic particles make their way into our noses we know that mold is multiplying. But bacteria and mold aren’t always our enemies. Bacteria give us many of our favorite smells by helping to make cheese, beer, and bread. And mold provides life saving penicillin.
However, there’s a time and place for everything. In restrooms, less is so much more. A bad smell isn’t just a nuisance. It’s a sign of potentially dangerous bacteria or an overabundance of mold. Washrooms are a buffet for bacteria that feast on tiny particles of urine, feces, blood, and other organic matter.
Cleaners: We Can Stop the Stink
Let’s face it. When a place smells bad, consumers sense it right away. Professional cleaners are too aware that funky restrooms are a big problem. Janitors and custodians face the firing squad when a person rejects a restaurant for having stinky stalls. In extreme cases, lawsuits can occur if wretched smells aren’t addressed. This is why corporations are making sanitation a top priority.
Unsanitary restrooms not only pose a threat to public health, but also the bottom line. An outbreak of E. coli or Salmonella can be devastating to the health of the building, but even complaints about grimy toilets can cost a janitorial service business. Competition is fierce in the cleaning sector. Landlords and retailers are quick to pull the plug if they worry a cleaning company isn’t up to snuff.
Science and Technology Offer Effective Odor Control
When it comes to odor control, being proactive and educated is how to stay ahead. Scientific research on smell and odor control is our ally. By the time stinky areas are reported, it’s too late. We have to stay ahead of complaints by addressing the cause of nasty scents. Noxious chemicals can sometimes do more harm than good. Fragrances just cover the smell, but we have to remove or disinfect what’s lurking beneath.
Thankfully there are products that can eliminate bacteria and mold without harsh chemicals or fragrance. The right cleaning technology ensures surfaces are more than just superficially clean. The tools are available; it’s our job to use them. If we do our job correctly, then our building occupants can perform to the best of their abilities.
Customer Retention and Public Health: The Smell of Success
Professional cleaners have to ask, how do we put the “rest” back in restroom? When someone looks in the mirror of an impeccable restroom, we’ve provided a moment of peace during a stressful workday. A job well done keeps clients happy and prevents complaints. But excellence in the cleaning industry is more than just stopping stench or keeping contracts. There’s pride in doing a job that keeps the public productive and healthy. If we use tools that remove the underlying causes of odor, we thwart greater dangers. We can then sit back and relax knowing: the funk stopped here.