How often do your guests cause a stink?

I am not talking about them ‘making a complaint’, I am talking literal stink!

Keeping the air fresh and clean is a huge challenge in any enclosed space that is frequented by people. People smell. And they can be messy.

People are at the centre of our industry, so it endures similar troubles to other people-centric facilities like medical centres, nursing homes and even schools when trying to keep the air free from unpleasant odours, germs, dust and debris.

All property managers have a duty of care to provide a safe environment for staff and visitors. This includes fresh air, controlling odours and preventing the spread of airborne disease. Odours are relentless and can remain so, even after cleaning with strong chemicals and disinfectants; therefore, it is more effective to prevent or capture offensive odours at the source rather than just mask them.

Most odours are generated from bacteria, mould and chemicals, which are microscopic. The age of a property may increase odour problems because newer buildings tend to have air systems that include filtering, cleaning, and processing units whereas older buildings may not.

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In any property, there are some very simple and affordable ways to effectively control indoor air pollution and odours; steps you can implement immediately.

Control the source of foul odours in a few simple steps…

Remove. Ban products and materials that smell or pollute your property. A no-smoking policy is a must.

Reduce the source of the smell. Put the source away somewhere safe; for instance, store cleaning chemicals in a locked cupboard and keep the bin area away from the property.

Clean all hard and soft surfaces routinely and thoroughly to prevent mould and bacterial growth.

Steam. Effectively remove the source of many bad smells with steam. This method is environmentally friendly; using only pure water to penetrate all surfaces, destroying odour-causing residues and leaving surfaces deep-cleaned, sanitised and refreshed. Safe, if used correctly, this leaves rooms with a natural, clean smell.

Dry. Keep on top of all maintenance issues because neglected leaks/drips rapidly cause mould and smells.

Separate wet areas from dry. Keep bathroom and laundry doors closed to reduce humidity.

Ventilate. Install an exhaust fan close to the source of pollutants or moisture, such as the cooking stove, dishwasher, tumble drier and washing machine. Open windows and run ceiling and bathroom fans (make sure they are working well) when needed.

Beware of garbage chutes and disposals: by their design, they have an updraft that can transport airborne bacteria and smells back into the living spaces. Review and repair your chute as required.

What else is available?

Foul odours need to be eliminated quickly and efficiently between guests. To supplement your source control and ventilation actions, you might consider other cleaning methods, such as:

Odour neutralisers used to minimise unpleasant odours by reacting with the offensive molecules. This tends to be a short-term fix until the cause of the odour is eliminated.

Air purifier. A device to remove contaminants from the air, marketed as beneficial to allergy sufferers and asthmatics, aiming to reduce or eliminate second-hand tobacco smoke.

Filters: purification traps and high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) is a technology that has been around for years; air is forced through a very fine fibre-like material that has been folded back and forth and 99.97 percent of particles are reportedly captured. HEPA purifiers require that the air going into a room does not bypasses the HEPA filter.

Activated carbon technology: a form of carbon that is very porous with high absorbance abilities, effective at capturing pollutants, such as chemical emissions, gases, tobacco smoke and other odours.

Negative ion air purifiers: using negative ions (simply oxygen atoms that have gained an electron) to magnetically attract airborne particles such as pollen and dust, until the newly-formed particle is too heavy to remain in the air. Fan-less ionisers use little power and are quiet, but are less efficient than fan-based ionisers that can clean and distribute air faster.

UV technology: used with a particle filter, it can sanitise and purify the surrounding air and surfaces. Microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses, are destroyed by passing through UV light, the effectiveness of this type of air purifier is dependent on the wattage of the light and the time of exposure. Beware, UV lamps should be monitored and replaced as per recommendations.

Ozone odour elimination: very popular in the hospitality industry because one machine can be utilised for multiple areas and can quickly and effectively eliminate odours. An ozone generator is designed to produce the gas ozone and is used effectively in water purification; however, in air, ozone must reach high levels to remove air pollutants.

Be warned, high levels of ozone can exacerbate respiratory illnesses and so guests should not be allowed in the area at the same time as the ozone treatment and for a time after. If you are considering using ozone air cleaning technology, always ensure that it is used correctly, fit-for-purpose and engineered for the task. Remember, other technologies can also emit small amounts of ozone as a by-product.

Plasma technology: some air purification devices on the market utilise this technology for the removal of airborne and surface contaminants using a variety of sources of energy to produce ‘plasma’.

Remember, for optimum effect, whatever odour control system you use should be perfectly sized to the room, properly installed, used per instruction and well maintained.

Always purchase from an industry supplier, consider maintenance costs, and the cost of replacement filters.

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Lucy Kussler
Lucy Kussler
6 years ago

During a recent roadtrip we stayed in a cabin in a caravan park. It was quite pleasant and clean but the overpowering smell of a sickly sweet cleaning product, especially in kitchen and bathroom was forcing us to open all windows and rush to the local supermarket to buy some scented candles. Obviously, what smells of roses to one may smell of rotten fish to the other. Therefore, a discreet, neutral smelling cleaning product may be the best choice.

Andrew North
Andrew North
6 years ago

I recently had some customers from a certain country on the other side of the world known for their infrequent desire to wash. It was blatantly obviously foot related. The smell went all the way through the doona cover, doona, sheets, mattress protector and electric blanket.
They had obviously walked around bare foot on the carpet as there were patches of odour.

Thank heavens for air freshner and the power of washing machine detergent and also an air cooler pumping fresh air rather than reverse cycle air conditioning!

Tony Mansfield
6 years ago

Interesting article, as smell and contamination issues within the Accommodation Industry becoming a daily issue. Many consumer champions are exposing accommodation providers with reports on high bacteria levels, poor cleaning practices etc. Hotel rooms pose risks in terms of cross contamination as well as odour.

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