By Jim Flieler , VP of Sales for Charlotte Products Ltd.

What does clean really smell like? This is a question that many cleaning professionals have strong opinions on, and their answers can vary greatly. Some think it’s the scent of fragrance in cleaning products while others think that the absence of odour is all you need. Whatever your answer to this question, there is one thing we can all agree on—malodour will do major damage to your business. One of the first things most occupants will notice when they enter a building is the smell. If there is an odour, that is not going to cut it. But you might be surprised to learn that a fragrance isn’t going to work either. 

The real answer to the question, “What does clean smell like?” is nothing. Clean smells like nothing. A nice, fresh nothing. Here’s how you can get there.

The Basics of Odor Management

Odour management must be a part of any cleaning SOP, and should be managed just like a carpet care, floor care or a restroom program. The main principle of odour management is going to the source of an odour and removing it. Every foul odour has a source. Some of the common sources of foul odours include:

  • HVAC systems
  • Organic matter
  • Moisture
  • Drains
  • Bacteria
  • Tobacco smoke

If a source is not easily removed, odour may be managed in one of the following three ways.

Fragrance Masks: The traditional way of odour control is to mask the malodour with a fragrance. You know the drill. Smell something bad? Grab an aerosol can and spray, or plug in an air freshener. This method is not recommended by Charlotte Products. Not only is it a temporary fix that won’t ultimately manage the odour, but also it’s unhealthy for your building occupants. In recent years, fragrances in products have been associated with adverse effects on air quality and health. As we learn more about indoor air quality and focus on employee wellness, we need to move away from fragrances. 

Odour Counteractants: An odour counteractant instantly neutralizes a malodour through a chemical reaction that breaks down the molecules that are the source of the odour. This is different from a fragrance masker because it can actually eliminate the source of an odour, rather than just temporarily masking it. For this reason, it is a more preferable choice. An odour counteractant can be used as a spray that goes directly on a fabric or upholstery or it can be added to a carpet extraction or auto scrubbing solution. 

Bio Enzymatic Treatments:  A bio enzymatic treatment will digest and eliminate the source of an odour using a natural process. These products are especially effective when used with organic matter in drains, grease traps and urinals or in grout or carpet odour. They work through a process referred to as bacterial digestion.  They can be a safer alternative to odour counteractants because the active ingredient in these products is a non-pathogenic bacteria. The bacteria produces the enzymes that digest the odour-causing pathogens. It’s a natural, biological reaction. 

Tips for choosing odor management products

While we outlined some safer options for odor management products here, not all products are created equal. The following tips can help you make a purchasing decision for your odor management products that are safer and healthier.

  • Find a product that is ECOLOGO certified. This third party certification shows that a product has been tested for safety and efficacy. You can find ECOLOGO certified products here.
  • Never apply too much of your odor management product. 
  • Follow the instructions on your SDS or product label, and pay attention to your dilution ratios. Some of these products are highly concentrated, so read the label and follow it!

What was once considered “odour control” is now referred to as “odour management,” and that change in nomenclature is significant. This indicates a shift in approach from masking or covering up an odour toward identifying and removing the source of an odour. The second approach is healthier, more economical, safer and permanent. When you are able to safely eliminate the source of an odour, you wind up with that fresh, clean smell of nothing!