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The cause of bad smells in washrooms

A washroom is a necessity for businesses but it’s often underestimated. A washroom has the potential to influence the perceptions and behaviours of a captive audience, whether it’s employees, visitors or customers alike. And yet so few businesses are aware of the benefits a welcoming washroom can bring, such as an increase in productivity, overall brand impressions, and better health.

That’s if people use them. Our Demographics and Hygiene Behaviours Report revealed that 46% of adults refused to use a public washroom in the previous six months. There is a simple explanation. Our research indicated that the majority of people only trust their own environments and their own personal hygiene. Away from home, we are vulnerable to the hygiene habits of others.

When a washroom is needed, smell tends to be one of the first things people notice on entering, and malodour – a foul or unpleasant smell – can negatively influence perceptions when a person enters a commercial washroom.

Why people avoid public washrooms

In light of this, our Air Care study focused on any washroom that could be used by members of the public, including those at restaurants, shopping centres, train stations and bars. The following results show the importance of maintaining a clean washroom:

  • 46% of respondents refused to return to a place with an unpleasant smelling washroom.
  • 76% of respondents used the word ‘disgust’ to sum up how they felt after encountering an unpleasant smell in a commercial washroom.
  • 10% of respondents would go on to post negative feedback after experiencing a bad-smelling washroom.

By tackling route causes, businesses can reduce the impact malodour can cause, including reputation. On average, over a third of office workers (35%) felt embarrassed or ashamed by the smell in their company’s washroom when a client or visitor needed a comfort break. In retail stores, 67% of people say that an unpleasant smelling washroom in a business would make them less likely to shop there. Businesses need to do more to control malodour in their washrooms, acknowledged by nearly half of respondents (47%), so what’s the solution?

Malodour causes and how to solve them

Malodour typically stems from dirt and bacteria build-up in urinals and toilets, while a lack of air ventilation and waste not being removed often enough will amplify the problem. To help make any washroom environment more hygienic and welcoming, you should follow these six simple steps to combat malodour:

  1. Check and maintain your ventilation system once every two years, replacing filters twice a year. Similar to a vacuum cleaner, the more dust there is within the system, the less effective your ventilation system will work.
  2. Target bad smells with the right air control solution to neutralise odours and fragrance the air. Take the size of the room into account to ensure you have the right solution in place, which in turn will avoid a heavy and unpleasant atmosphere.
  3. Urinals are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. They should be flushed regularly using a deep clean service solution that will combat common problems. Adjust flush settings to match footfall. Stains should be cleaned promptly and pipework checked regularly to ensure it’s free flowing.
  4. More often than not, floors are cleaned, but don’t forget about the walls and other surfaces. They’re a breeding ground for mould and bacteria. For toilets, clean less visible areas such as under the rim and the base of the ceramic bowl under the seat. In other areas, clean exposed pipework, and don’t forget those washroom accessories either.
  5. Educate the washroom user by leaving a friendly reminder to wipe the toilet seat, put the lid down, use the toilet brush, and dispose of sanitary waste properly. Remember, if a user walks into a bad-smelling washroom it’s more likely they’ll fail to clean up after themselves in their haste to leave.
  6. Use effective disposal systems for all types of waste and empty them regularly, especially if they contain food or organic matter. For sanitary bins, a sealed lid with a double flap to prevent malodour from escaping is essential. They should also include built-in solutions to combat bad smells.

Time to come clean about malodour problems

Many people won’t return to a business if washroom malodour hasn’t been dealt with. Establishing good hygiene practices to combat malodour is paramount. By checking ventilation, adjusting flush settings, cleaning walls and all exposed surfaces, educating the user, and using adequate disposal systems, you’ll effectively eliminate the causes of malodour.

Once persistent odours have been tackled, investing in the correct air care solutions will help neutralise bad odours and intelligently fragrance the air throughout the washroom. This will reassure users that the washroom is clean and cared for, encouraging return visits and positive feedback while reducing the chance of reputational damage.

Washroom malodour: Experiences, perceptions and implications

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