Hard Floor Maintenance

The Fragrance of Floor Maintenance

Recently, while performing an audit for one of my clients, I was confronted with a vile odor emanating from a janitor closet that was so over powering I could smell it from good distance away.

Recently, while performing an audit for one of my clients, I was confronted with a vile odor emanating from a janitor closet that was so over powering I could smell it from good distance away.

The closer I got to the closet the more overpowering the smell became and upon opening the door the full force of the sickly odor was sufficient to cause a gag reflex that was extremely unpleasant. Surely, I thought, someone had left something in there that had rotted, or maybe some animal had crawled into a corner and died; either of these would have at least explained this offensive odor.

Instead, what I found was nothing more than an unfinished job.

Within this small confined area was a complete set of equipment that had been used for a service procedure, but had never been cleaned. It was as if someone had used the equipment and put everything back in the closet without even wiping it down.

The rotary floor machine still had a pad attached to the pad holder and was stuck to the floor. The wet vacuum had the top off and was full of contaminated slurry. A soiled wet mop was in a bucket of very soiled water that had a slight iridescent film on the surface and smelled something horrible.

To top it off there was an abundance of mold around the sink that gave an additional pungency to the already foul odor. It was as if someone had just closed the door and walked away, which ended up being exactly the case.

Floor maintenance is abundant with different aromas. From the fragrant sweet smell of floor finish to the pungent stinging aroma of ammoniated stripping solution, we are surrounded by smells of our workspace. That does not mean that we should leave these smells for others to encounter at the end of the job. Although there may be a lingering scent of our work left behind, which can sometimes be pleasant, we should never leave a facility with an overpowering stench that can cause discomfort to our customers, especially when most of what we smell can be eliminated simply by keeping our work area, equipment and storage areas clean.

Of the five basic senses (sight, sound, touch, smell and taste), smell is often overridden by the other more prevalent senses. The odd thing is that we are surrounded by smells everywhere we go and especially in our workspace. These odors can be as simple as the smell of rain on a summer day or significantly defining such as fresh baked bread hot out of the oven. Some are pleasant and some are repelling, but the funny thing is that no matter what smells we are surrounded by, we ultimately get used to them.

What this boils down to is that the smells that we get accustomed to may not even be noticed by us, but can be very offensive to others. Because of this, the floor maintenance technician should be aware the odors we generate and the reaction of others to those smells. Floor maintenance has a wide variety of smells that emanate from some primary sources: chemical, equipment and people.

Chemicals are probably the most obvious source of smells and range from natural malodorous emissions such as isopropyl alcohol and ammonia, which has very distinct aromas, to fragrances added to cleaning chemicals that give off pleasant aromas such as floral bouquet and fruit scents.

Usually the chemicals used for daily/routine maintenance such as neutral and general purpose cleaners are less offensive and the likely candidates for fragrance additives, while periodic and restorative chemicals emit a more powerful odor due to the more aggressive chemicals used in them. This is especially true when working in occupied areas. There have been many instances of employees of customers who find they must leave our work areas due to the overbearing smells that we for the most part are used to.

Equipment is another source of smells. The primary power sources, electrical, battery and propane, have very distinct smells associated with them. A slight smell of ozone may be detected when an electrical machine is overworked or overheated, the acrid smell of battery acid can be detected when using battery operated equipment and the marked smell of garlic is present when using propane equipment. Usually these subtle odors are not too detectable, but when they become overpowering, there may be something seriously wrong with your equipment, which may warrant some servicing or repair.

Then there are the smells associated with technicians, which are usually due to poor housekeeping or hygiene. Poor hygiene is a very sensitive topic, but I have on many occasions throughout the years been approached by customers regarding the body odors of technicians. Bad breath, smelly feet, body odor, cigarette smells and unlaundered clothing are generally at the top of the list and all can be eliminated by having policies and procedures in place. Having regular meetings discussing these sensitive topics can and does reduce the number of occurrences.

By far the biggest complaint regarding smell is usually associated with the janitor closet or the van. These are areas that we have a tendency to let lapse because we get busy and tired and we convince ourselves that we will let it go tonight and clean it up tomorrow, after all no one will see it. Then tomorrow comes and we get busy again and we push it back and push it back until the area reeks and we are forced to deal with it. Although no one may see these work areas, I guarantee you if let go long enough, they will smell it.

We’ve all heard someone at some time or another say, “it smells clean,” which can be misleading because the statement is relative to the individual. Some people like a fragrance that is added to a cleaning chemical and they associate that smell with clean. Others may associate the smell of bleach as a clean smell because they think bleach is a disinfectant and kills odor-causing bacteria.

The truth of the matter is that clean does not have a smell; clean is a term that represents removal of soil and really has no odor at all and that is exactly how we should leave our buildings.

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