Do restroom odors indicate a lack of work? I don’t think so. I believe it is due to a lack of knowledge. It has been said many times that the quality of work trumps the quantity of work. Another favorite is work smart, not hard. Both of these are extremely evident in the world of cleaning. Hundreds of thousands of custodians, housekeepers and janitors go through the motions of cleaning, working hard everyday without accomplishing very much at all. This is not smart, but is it their fault? Fixing restroom odors is easy if you know where to clean. Cleaning professionals provide valuable services to any organization, but in many cases these services are viewed as “assigned work” that does not take a lot of knowledge and is not necessarily a skilled trade. But like any other skilled trade, those that make their living cleaning know that this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Knowing where to clean will set you apart from those that swing a mop and rag blindly and help you to build a reputation as cleaning professional. More importantly, knowing where to clean will accomplish your goal, cleaning. If you don’t know what or where the problem is, how can you be expected to fix it?
Knowing Where To Clean
There have been countless times that I have entered the restroom of a facility and been overwhelmed by the odor. Everything seems to be in order though. The restroom is serviced regularly, there are working air fresheners, the soap dispensers are filled and the counters, fixtures and floors have been wiped down or mopped. But there is still that smell! If someone is being paid to put effort into “cleaning,” their hard work is not showing in the results. You have to ask, “Do they know where to clean?”
There are 3 very common complaints people have about restrooms. Supplies are not stocked. The restroom is visible dirty. And the most common, restroom odor.
Finding The Source Of Restroom Odors
A foul-smelling restroom will negate the hard work that is put into cleaning instantly. While most facilities attempt to cover up restroom odor with air fresheners, the odors just keep coming back. This is because, in many cases, the cleaning staff has no way of knowing what is causing the odors or where they are coming from. Fixing the restroom odors just does not seem possible.
Educating The Cleaning Staff
After years of seeing this look in the faces of custodians, I decided to take a different approach when helping them learn the best ways to solve restroom odors. I began using a black light and an inspection mirror to better educate cleaners on the areas in restrooms that were commonly missed and the results were amazing!
One of the first times I tried this approach, in the restroom there was 2 custodians, their supervisor and me. I asked one of the custodians to turn off the lights and I went into the stall. When I switched on the back light, the back wall behind the toilet lit up in the florescent glow that indicated a heavy urine build up.
As we moved around the area, the wall as high as 5′ high showed where urine had been left and unattended to for many days if not weeks.Furthermore, the grout around the restroom, which had just been scrubbed recently, was also a glow with urine. Once the lights were turned back on, it took the inspection mirror and showed them several places around fixtures, under partitions and other areas that were not in plain sight, but most likely a major cause of the restroom odor.
Don’t Misplace The Blame
The first response from the supervisor was to reprimand the custodians for not cleaning these areas. I could tell from the looks on their faces that they were in embarrassed by the state of the restroom and a little mad at me for pointing out their poor work.
The mood changed when I asked the supervisor if he knew that those areas had been missed or if he had any idea of the need to clean the toilet on a daily basis. He didn’t know that the restroom odors were caused by and neither did his staff. This opened up an entire conversation about how they could incorporate these problem areas into the daily cleaning routine.
Fixing Restroom Odors By Cleaning Smart
The point of this story is not how hard the custodians were working, they were truly doing the best they knew how. The point is that they did not know where to clean in the first place. This is a lesson that I learned much the same way many years ago.
I was reminded of this recently on a trip the dentist with my son. They put in those red drops to show where plaque had built up showing him, and me, which areas he was missing while brushing his teeth. Now when he brushes his teeth, he makes sure those areas are addressed, but if he had not seen it, he would still be missing them, leading to problems down the road.
Giving cleaners an opportunity to make their hard work pay off will by showing them where to clean rather than expecting them to figure it out on their own saves labor dollars and makes their job much more rewarding.