Odor Patrol: Tile and Grout Cleaning

By Amy Milshtein

Odor Patrol: Tile and Grout Cleaning

Smelly restrooms are the worst. Nothing turns a customer off faster and, if your business involves food service, calls your entire operation into question. A survey conducted by Opinion Research Corporation found that 69% of respondents would not eat at a restaurant with an unclean restroom and 39% immediately left an establishment because the restrooms smelled like urine.


With fierce competition coming from all sides, business owners need every advantage to stay successful. No one wants to fail because their less-than-flower-fresh-restrooms were highlighted on Yelp or some other on-line review  platform. Successful tile and grout cleaning will ensure that restrooms will always pass the sniff test.


What’s That Smell?

Tile and grout floors and walls are commonly used restroom materials. And why not? The combination is classic, easy to install and looks great (at least at first). It is so on-trend that today’s designers often specify smaller tiles, which require more grout, for modern building restrooms.


And that’s the problem. Grout—the substance filling the void between the tiles--is porous. The smaller the tile, the higher the grout-to-tile ration. So, while grout bonds the tiles together and prevents cracking and chipping, it also harbors soils, contaminants and urine. Urine may be sterile when it leaves the body, but it provides a rich food source for malodorous bacteria and all of the chemical air freshener in the world cannot mask that smell.


But I Just Mopped!

Daily cleaning, done with a traditional string or even a microfiber mop, can actually make the problem worse. Mops are really good at spreading soils and contaminants around any surface, but not so great at removing them. Grout, with its rough-textured surface, is even more challenging to pull contaminants from. In fact, the recessed grout line acts like a little squeegee, pulling more contaminants out of the mop and soaking them up. The result: stained, darkened grout lines and a perpetually stinky restroom.

 

Get Tile and Grout Cleaning Right

Cleaning and Maintenance Magazine reported on a study that measured the amount of creatinine, a substance excreted in urine, left on a tile-and-grout restroom floor after cleaning. Three different cleaning methods: a fresh, never used string mop, a brand-new microfiber mop and a high flow fluid extraction system also known as a spray-and-vac were examined. Only plain water with no chemical cleaners were used with all three methods.


Both the string and microfiber mops removed 38% of the creatinine from the grout. They did a little better on the actual tile, removing about 75% of the substance. However, the high flow fluid extraction system removed a whopping 98% of the creatinine from both the tile and the grout. These machines also leave the floor dry inhibiting mold and mildew growth as well.


Click here for more tile and grout cleaning tools and tips.

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein

Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines. 

Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.

She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.

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