Odours in Public Toilets and Urinals: Their Causes and Solutions

by | Aug 23, 2023 | Odours in Public Toilets and Urinals

Understanding Odours in Public Toilets and Urinals

When stepping into public toilets, one’s senses are immediately accosted by a blend of sounds, sights, and, most importantly, smells. Odours in public toilets and urinals, especially those heavily frequented, are often battlegrounds against a very unwelcome foe: unpleasant odours. 

These odours can be a perpetual challenge for many facility managers and cleaners. Why do some toilets and urinals reek even after frequent cleaning? The answer is not as simple as one might think.

Getting to the root of odours in public toilets and urinals requires a systematic process of elimination. Let’s unpack this pungent puzzle.

Understanding the Enemy: What Causes Odours in Public Toilets and Urinals?

Bacterial Growth:

One of the primary culprits behind these malodours is bacteria. Urinals and toilets are constantly exposed to organic waste. If not cleaned adequately, this waste can result in bacterial growth. The byproducts of this growth produce the characteristic ‘restroom smell’.

Urine is sterile when it leaves the body, but when exposed to the air and remains stagnant, bacteria break it down into ammonia and other compounds. This process releases the all-too-familiar pungent odour.

Stagnant Water:

Water that sits in pipes or drains for prolonged periods can produce an unpleasant scent, especially if debris is trapped inside.

A build-up of Uric Salts:

In urinals especially, the accumulation of uric salts can lead to odours. These salts sometimes get trapped in areas that aren’t frequently cleaned, like the bases or behind the urinals.

Stale urine can lead to the build-up of minerals, creating a layer of calcification in drains. This serves as a haven for bacteria. Besides, any obstructions in the plumbing can prevent the proper flushing of waste, making the stench linger longer.

Improper Ventilation:

Without proper ventilation, odours can linger and become concentrated. A well-ventilated space helps dissipate these unwanted scents.

Inadequate Cleaning:

Surface cleaning doesn’t always reach deeply embedded odour sources. Without regular deep cleaning, urinals and toilets can harbour microorganisms contributing significantly to the smell.

Starting the Investigation: Where are the Odours in Public Toilets and Urinals Coming From?

Before eliminating the smell, pinpointing its source is critical.

Check the Drains:

Often, the source of the smell can be the floor drains. Over time, they can collect debris, leading to bacterial growth and odour.

Assess the Urinals:

If the urinals are the culprits, there might be visible signs of urine salt build-up or other organic waste.

Inspect Behind and Around:

Sometimes, the issue is not with the fixture itself but with the area around it. Hidden corners, walls, or bases can sometimes harbour smelly residues.

The Battle Plan: Step-by-Step Elimination of Possibilities

Step 1: Regular and Thorough Targeted Cleaning

Begin with a thorough cleaning regimen:

Use Enzymatic Cleaners: These cleaners are designed to break down organic matter, making them perfect for combating restroom odours. They eat away at the source, providing longer-lasting results than typical surface cleaners.

Deep Clean Urinals: Go beyond the basics. Scrub the urinals, especially the hard-to-reach areas. This will help remove any accumulated urine salts.

Clear Drains: Make sure to flush out and clean the drains periodically. Natural solutions based on enzymes can help eliminate minor blockages and odours.

Step 2: Ensure Proper Ventilation

Ventilation is essential not only for odour dissipation but also to prevent moisture build-up, which can promote bacterial growth.

Check Ventilation Systems: Ensure that restroom exhaust fans or ventilation systems are in good working condition.

Open Windows: If the restroom has windows, ensure they’re opened periodically for air exchange.

Step 3: Odour Neutralisers

Sometimes, cleaning might not be enough, especially if the odours have become deeply embedded.

Odour Neutralising Sprays: These sprays neutralise the odour molecules, rendering them scentless.

Odour Absorbing Gels or Packs: These products help to absorb the odours from the environment. They can be discretely placed in different parts of the restroom.

Step 4: Seal and Protect

This is particularly important for urinals.

Sealant Layers: There are protective sealants available such as Aquatemp Spray & Go Urinal Cleaner & Deodoriser, that can create a protective layer on and around urinals, including the tiled floors, preventing urine from seeping into porous areas and reducing the accumulation of urine salts.

Use Urinal Mats: These mats, such as the highly rated EnviroSeal Flex Urinal Screen, are suitable for odour control,  protecting urinal drains, capturing urine splashes and reducing the accumulation of urine on the floor or around the urinal.

Step 5: Regular Maintenance Checks

This cannot be stressed enough. Regular checks help in the early identification of any potential odour-causing issues. Don’t wait for the odour to become intolerable before taking action.

Check for Leaks: Leaking fixtures can lead to stagnant water pools, which can cause odours.

Schedule Deep Cleanings: Regularly deep-clean urinals and toilets to prevent bacterial build-up.

Inspect Drains: Regularly check floor drains and urinal drains to ensure they are free from debris and blockages.

Embracing Modern Solutions

While the steps above are practical, modern innovations are designed to tackle this age-old problem head-on. Zeroflush urinals, for instance, are waterless systems that significantly reduce the accumulation of urine salts and the resulting odours. Their unique design also means fewer areas for bacteria to thrive. Incorporating state-of-the-art fixtures can be a game-changer in the battle against restroom odours.

The Role of Modern Technology in Odour Management

The industry is not oblivious to the stench problem. Over the years, various technological innovations have been introduced to combat odours.

A. Waterless Urinals

Companies like Zeroflush have revolutionised urinals by introducing waterless variants. They use sealants or one-way valves to trap odours, providing an eco-friendly and odour-free solution.

B. Odour Neutralisers

Instead of masking the smell with fragrances, modern neutralisers break down the odour molecules, rendering them odourless.

C. Sensor-based Cleaning Systems

These systems, such as those developed by SmartClean are creating a future where buildings can run their cleaning operations autonomously, achieving the best health standards as they can detect usage frequency and dispense cleaning agents accordingly, ensuring optimal cleanliness without manual intervention.

Winning the Battle Against Odours in Public Toilets and Urinals

Combatting odours in public toilets, especially around urinals, is not about masking them but understanding their root cause and addressing them systematically.

It’s about public health, sanitation, and presenting an excellent image to patrons or visitors. Through meticulous inspection, targeted cleaning, and leveraging modern technology, we can create a future where foul-smelling public restrooms are a thing of the past.

By approaching the problem methodically and incorporating both time-tested cleaning methods and modern solutions like Zeroflush urinals, we can create a cleaner, fresher, and more pleasant public toilet experience for everyone. Remember, it’s not just about aesthetics; a clean, odour-free public toilet facility speaks volumes about your attention to hygiene and user care.

At Zeroflush, we remain committed to pioneering solutions that conserve water and enhance the sanitation and overall public toilet experience.

Let’s make those unwanted odours a thing of the past! Because, after all, everyone deserves a breath of fresh air when using every public toilet facility.