If it smells clean, it is clean?

by Ken Buckley on 16-8-2017

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We all know that this is not true, however this is often the way people judge cleanliness. 

When you enter your holiday accommodation for the first time, a quick subconscious sniff and you form an immediate impression; "this place is clean" or "this place is dirty." 

Smell is an important part of any building management.

Smell is one of the five human senses. It is closely linked to the emotions and as we all know emotions are not logical. 

Smells are processed by us in the  olfactory bulb, which runs from the nose along the bottom of the brain and has connections to brain areas linked to emotion and memory (this is how a smell can immediately trigger a vivid memory). This is why we tend to think "if it smells clean, it is clean" 

This means if you run a building, accommodation or are responsible for any cleaning, you need to understand why smell is so important and what you can do to play on the emotive sense. 


Some common  unpleasant smells in buildings 

  1. Damp, musty smell
  2. Spilt milk or other organic matter 
  3. Body fluid spill, such as vomit 
  4. Bacteria in limescale build up (Hard water areas) 
  5. Build up of uric solids (mainly in men's toilets) 
  6. Stale air smell 
  7. Strong food smells
  8. Nicotine smells 

Masking or removing smells 

The problem with trying to mask smells is that often we can detect both smells, the bad smell and the masking smell. This causes a double problem because we quickly associate the bad smell with the masking smell. 

Masking works well with bad smells that are just in the air temporally, like after some one has visited the toilet. 

However when the bad smell is coming from a matter, like a residue of milk in a carpet, masking the smell will be not be very successful. 

It can be very difficult to find the source of bad odours, as often the odour fills a space. This is the case with the ammonia smell given off from urine spills. 

Removing the source or cause of a bad odour is obviously the preferable action, if this is possible. 


Smells caused by organic matter 

A lot of problems are caused by organic matter, like Urine, milk, food and animals.

Masking the odour does not work well here. The best thing is to remove as much of the matter as possible and then to use a microbiological or  enzyme odour control product like Odour Master Lemon.

Odour Master Image .jpg

This type of products works really well on smelly boys toilets and on organic deposits in carpets. Read the products review and download the instruction chart.


Smells caused by limescale build up

This is a problem in hard water areas. (if you are in any doubt, look inside your kettle) 

The problem is that bacteria living in limescale deposits give off a nasty decomposing smell. The only way to deal with this is to remove the limescale build up and use regular cleaning to stop it building up again. 

Limescale Cleaning Guide Cover Image with Border.jpg

Download our Limescale Cleaning Guide 

This simple step can make a big difference in washrooms.


How do Air Fresheners work and are they worth using?

Most air freshener are in the aerosol form, which atomise a fragrance. When you spray an air freshener around, you can see a lot of the spray falls to the ground. Some of this fragrance will evaporate and linger a bit longer. However at best the pleasant fragrance will not last long, so unless you happen to walk in a few minutes after they have been applied, they are not very effective. 

Are they worth using? 

This is a question that only you can answer. They can be useful if used to just "freshen up" an area like a washroom, but they will not be effective where there is an underlying problem, like a build up of uric solids around a urinal. 


Do you need a cleaning chemical with a strong fragrance? 

This is something we often get asked for and interestingly cleaners often judge a cleaning chemical, not on the effectiveness as a cleaner, but on the fragrance. 

There are some products that have a really strong and lasting after-fragrance, like Evans Final Touch. However there is a problem with this type of product; they tend to leave a residue on the surface being cleaned. And indeed this is how they leave a fragrance behind. 

So it then becomes a compromise between looking clean and bright or smelling clean and fresh. However strong a fragrance is, it probably won't be detectable in a few hours time. 

There is a better way in my opinion... 

Choose a cleaning chemical for it's cleaning ability not it's smell. If you need to leave a long lasting fragrance, like in holiday accommodation, use a concentrate perfume

So when you have finished cleaning, leave a few drops of the perfume in some strategic places, where it will give off the fragrance for days to come. 


Using Fogging to get rid of persistent smells 

Always look for the source of bad smells first and deal with this first if you can find them.

There are some smells that are just in the infrastructure, smells that have got in everywhere. Smells of curry, fish or smoke for instance For this the practice of "Fogging" is probably the only thing that will work.

If you have to do a lot of this sort of work, for instance in a holiday park, you are best to use a Fogging machine.


You use a fragranced solution and the Fogger "Fogs" this in a very fine mist into the air, getting into every nook and cranny of the area being fogged. Evans Florazol is a really good product to use in a fogger. Also Prochem Smoke & Odour Neutraliser is a really good product for smoke smells. 

If you can't justify buying one of these machines, because you won't need to use it that often, there is another way of fogging.

It is a special aerosol fogger called Windmill Eliminator.


It works by releasing the whole aerosol can in a very fine atomised mist, into the atmosphere. This is really good for periodic freshening up of an office or washroom. 

Read the product review here and download the instruction chart below. 


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