Conor Clifford

By: Conor Clifford on June 16th, 2022

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What Causes Restroom Odors?: 3 Common Sources

Keeping your commercial restroom looking and smelling its best is an important part of maintaining a positive perception of your facility among guests.

If your guests notice a foul odor while they’re in your restroom, it’s possible that you and your janitorial team will have to clean your restroom more often to address complaints and negative reviews.

Negative reviews about the state of your restroom can lead to reduced patronage and more frequent restroom maintenance.

It’s essential to be able to identify, remove, and prevent odors in your restroom.

Offensive smells in your commercial restroom can be caused by various sources like floor grout, drains, and toilets/urinals.

Knowing the cause of odors in your restroom will make it easier to maintain a good-smelling area.

In this article and video, we will identify the most common sources of restroom odors and how you and your cleaning staff can eliminate and avoid malodors in your facility.

What Are The Main Sources of Commercial Restroom Odors?

Commercial restrooms can receive a lot of traffic, making it easy for odors to build and become amplified. That’s why it’s important that you and your janitorial staff are able to keep the area clean so that odors aren’t present.

But sometimes, even with regular cleaning and maintenance, odors can form and linger.

If you notice an offensive smell in your facility’s restroom, there are a few common sources that may be the culprit.

The 3 main sources of odors in commercial restrooms are:

  1. Floor Grout
  2. Floor Drains
  3. Toilets and Urinals

Floor Grout

Most commercial restrooms have tiled floors that use grout to fill the crevices between the tiles. The grouted areas of your floors are likely the number one source of odors in your restroom. Grout Lines

Grout is porous, absorbing and holding urine, moisture, and soils. Trapped urine, in particular, can lead to increased bacteria growth that creates a smelly restroom.

When your guests use the restroom, the spray of the toilet spreads small droplets of urine that settle on the floor. 

Although mopping and scrubbing may seem like the obvious way to fix odors that originate from your grout, it may actually make it worse. Urine residue can’t be removed with a mop because it's trapped in the grout. Mopping your floors using traditional methods can actually spread germs and encourage the growth of bacteria.

 And, the smell will only be masked with an odor control system. 

The most effective way to remove urine odors from a grouted floor is to use an odor digester and floor scrubber which will be able to clean, neutralize, and remove the contaminants present on the floors.

Pro Tip: Odor digesters are a bio-enzymatic product. Bio-enzymatic cleaning products contain bacteria and enzymes that penetrate organic residues, such as urine.

Bio-enzymatic products are safe for use in commercial and residential settings when used with the proper precautions. 

The “good” bacteria and enzymes from the bio-enzymatic product will break down the “bad” bacteria from the stain and eliminate the odor. 

This process is called biodegradation. 

Other floor cleaning products, like general cleaners and disinfectants, are not effective at removing odors from grout and floor drains because they do not eliminate the source of the malodor. Not only are these commonly used products for floor maintenance ineffective in eliminating urine odors, they often exacerbate the problem by wetting the floor and releasing even more intense odor.

Attempting to clean the floors without the appropriate chemical may not address the cause of the malodor.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to remove malodors from your commercial grouted floors, read our full article:

How to Prevent Commercial Restroom Odors: Eliminate Sources + Best Products 

Floor Drains

In most commercial restrooms, there are floor drains that need to be cleaned regularly. However, these drains are often overlooked. 

When a floor drain isn’t cleaned properly, it can be the site of foul odors and gas emissions. Floor Drain

Sewer gas and dirty drains can cause offensive smells to spread in your restroom.  

If you notice a malodor in your drains, you should take time to perform a deep clean and use the appropriate cleaning chemical to remove the source of the odor.

In some cases, this will require an odor digester to fully get rid of the smelly germs and bacteria. In other cases, a drain cleaner may be sufficient in removing the residue that’s causing the odors in your restroom.

Toilets and Urinals

The toilets and urinals in your facility’s restrooms are another top culprit leading to bad restroom smells. 

There are a few ways that your commercial toilets can cause malodors in your restrooms:

  • Defective Toilets and Urinals
  • Built-Up Residue

Defective Toilets and Urinals

Unflushed toilets and urinals can emit offensive odors throughout your restroom. Cleaning a Commercial Toilet

Broken auto flushers, clogging, and incorrect maintenance can cause your toilet or urinal to not be able to flush properly.

If you have a toilet that does not flush, the smells that occur as a result can lead to increased complaints and require more frequent cleaning from your staff.

Staff should regularly monitor the restroom for toilet maintenance. 

Built-Up Residue

Ideally, your restroom toilets should be cleaned and disinfected at least once a day.

Some commercial restrooms that receive more foot traffic may require more frequent cleaning to keep the toilets looking and smelling their best.

Victoria Bay Acid Bowl Cleaner

In some toilets and urinals, there can be a build-up of minerals, rust, mold, or other odor-causing bacteria that accrue under the rim. 

If your cleaning team doesn’t thoroughly clean all areas of the toilet and urinals, you may notice a foul odor coming from them.

The best solution for malodors coming from built-up residue in the toilet bowl or urinal is to use the appropriate cleaner during daily or regular cleaning. The frequency by which your toilet will need to be cleaned depends on the traffic in your restroom. 

For step-by-step instructions on how to clean your facility’s toilets, read our full article:

How to Clean a Toilet [VIDEO]


Final Thoughts

You and your cleaning staff should identify the possible odors that can affect your commercial restrooms.

Knowing the sources that can cause odors in your restroom will make it easier for your janitorial staff to avoid and treat the various malodors in your facility.

If you are located in the United States, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and Canada, Imperial Dade can help you create a positive restroom experience for the people in your building.

Contact an EBP Specialist today for a full review of your commercial restroom cleaning program to identify areas that may be causing odors in your building.

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About Conor Clifford

Conor Clifford is an Account Executive for EBP Supply Solutions, with over 6 years of experience in helping customers find the perfect solutions for their janitorial and sanitation needs. He is a CMI-certified specialist with knowledge and expertise in enhancing floor care programs to optimize facility cleanliness, achieve maximum productivity, and provide the most innovative solutions for each business’s needs.