Returning to Pre-Pandemic Odor Control and Facility Perception

Returning to Pre-Pandemic Odor Control and Facility Perception

Smells elicit strong emotions, memories, and impressions in humans that studies have correlated to job performance and occupant satisfaction, as well as customer satisfaction and shopping habits.

Returning to Pre-Pandemic Odor Control and Facility Perception

Returning to Pre-Pandemic Concepts of Facility Perception as it Relates to Odor Control

During the pandemic, most facilities focused on cleaning and disinfecting over nearly every other function of cleaning.

Now, post-pandemic, as many facilities have returned or are returning to pre-COVID occupancy, management must shift their methods to cleaning and disinfecting for health with a focus on occupant perception of cleanliness.

The reasoning behind this is simple--regardless of how sanitary a facility is, foul odors will leave occupants with the perception of unhealthy conditions, illicit negative responses, resulting in undesirable outcomes.

Attempting to mask the smells with fragrances, or cleaning and disinfecting with products that leave a strong lingering odor, only makes matters worse and will almost certainly result in increased complaints, poor occupant performance, and a decrease in sales.

According to CleanLink;

Our sense of smell is closely linked to emotions, perceptions and memory.

Odors, both pleasant and unpleasant, elicit an emotional response and will immediately remind us of places we've been and the experiences we had there.

When we occupy public facilities — stores, schools, office buildings, medical clinics, hotels, nursing homes, gyms, restaurants, airports, theaters and more — even if they appear spotlessly clean and maintained, unpleasant odors can create the perception that they are not healthy spaces.

There can also be negative cognitive responses if facility spaces are over-scented with fragrances.

This gives the impression that facilities are covering up underlying bad odors that should be remedied rather than masked.

Refresh End Users On Odor Control And Facility Perception


Odor Sources

The best method for addressing facility odors is to implement a comprehensive facility-wide cleaning and disinfection program that prevents the buildup of bacteria or the accumulation of garbage that is typically the source of said odors.

However, when foul odors do arise, the only way to really deal with them is to eliminate the source, which often includes:

  • Urinals and toilets.
  • Floor drains.
  • Carpets and upholstery.
  • Tile grout.
  • Mold and mildew in HVAC systems.
  • Trash receptacles that are regularly emptied but rarely sanitized, and;
  • Outdoor sources that are pumped in through an HVAC system or other ventilation source.


Facility Odors and Americans With Disabilities

Bad smells aren't just an inconvenience generating complaints from facility occupants.

Fragrance sensitivity is considered a disability and covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act--a fact underscored by a 2016 federal court decision in McBride v. City of Detroit.

The court found that;

[...] an allergy to scents can be a disability under ADAAA, the most recent amendment to ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Under this law enforced by the EEOC, when an employee has severe symptoms as a result of being exposed to odors or scents, that can be a disability.

Such symptoms would include asthma, breathing difficulties, or an itchy, inflamed rash called contact dermatitis.

Once an employee has an allergy to a chemical, the symptoms are likely to be triggered by smaller and smaller amounts of exposure.

The court found that McBride’s MCS was a disability that interfered with the major life activity of breathing.

Fragrance Sensitivity a Disability Under ADA

Recommended guidelines for achieving and maintaining ADA requirements include:

  • Maintain high levels of indoor air quality.
  • Employ the use of commercial-grade air cleaners or purifiers.
  • Relocate the worker to an area where they are not exposed to the source of the odor, and;
  • In extreme cases, require that your employees do not wear perfume or cologne.


Combatting Facility Odors

As previously mentioned, combatting facility odors requires a comprehensive plan that is executed daily by dedicated service members.

Similar to hotspot disinfection, each potential odor source should be identified and documented alongside a cleaning strategy that details the products that should be used to sanitize the surface and how often it should be cleaned.

In general, each surface or area should be cleaned every day the facility is occupied.

  • Carpets and rugs, especially in high traffic areas, should be vacuumed every day.
  • Upholstery, such as furniture or any curtains, should be serviced according to manufacturer specifications, but any spills should be cleaned up immediately.
  • Restrooms and kitchens should be cleaned with, ideally, a scrubber-vac from top to bottom, especially the floors, walls, partitions, grout, drains, urinals, toilets, and sinks.
  • HVAC systems should be inspected seasonally to replace filters and ensure there is no accumulation of moisture.
  • Specialty enzymic cleaning products can be used for grout, floor drains, and urinals to eliminate the source of sustenance that odor-causing bacteria feed on, and;
  • Commercial-grade air cleaners and purifiers can be employed as a preventative assistant, but not as a replacement for daily cleaning and routine deep cleaning and disinfection protocols.
  • Increase indoor ventilation as appropriate.
  • Garbage should be removed from the facility at least once per day to a dumpster or other receptacle that is kept away from intake vents, windows, and doors, and;
  • Only use cleaning and disinfectant products according to manufacturer recommendations and always ensure the area being serviced is fully ventilated.


References & Resources



Maintaining an odor-free workplace, especially one that services customers, is not only a critical component of:

  • Maintaining good indoor air quality.
  • Improving occupant health, wellness, and performance, and;
  • Doing the bare minimum to ensure repeat business;

Federal law requires it in the form of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Routine cleaning and strategic disinfection with the appropriate commercial-grade products is the best way to prevent the buildup of odors, but smells released by the products themselves must be controlled in the form of application timing and facility ventilation.

Ongoing service provider training with the latest in equipment and EPA-registered products is also required, but typically outside of the focus and budget of many blue-collar businesses struggling to recover from post-COVID mandates and lockdowns.

Outsourcing to an experienced provider is a proven method for onboarding critical infection prevention and control services as part of a greater facility cleaning subscription service at a fraction of the cost of maintaining a similar service in-house.

Contact us today and discover why Vanguard Cleaning Systems® is the Standard of Clean® for businesses throughout Northwest Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

In Oklahoma, dial 918-960-4450

In Arkansas, dial 479-717-2410

In Missouri, dial 417-812-9777

Vanguard Cleaning Systems of the Ozarks.

Vanguard Cleaning Systems of the Ozarks.