Mr. Meek

Security & Safety

Control Odors to Entice Guests, Not Pests

By Frank Meek, International Technical & Training Director, Orkin, LLC

To control odors, we must first understand what causes them. Odors are typically caused by the presence of the bacteria produced during decomposition. As an organic material starts to break down, bacteria grow. These bacteria produce gas, such as sulfur and nitrogen, and acids that are detectable in the form of odors. The larger the amount of organic material present, the stronger the odor can become. The odor also lingers until the organic material has completed the decomposition process.

Sewage spillage under a slab is one example of organic decomposition. When a sewage pipe is ruptured and leaks or spills under the concrete slab or in a crawl space, the organic material starts to break down and produce gas. This gas will soon be detectable as an odor.

Likewise, material in unkempt grease traps and floor drains produces "sewer gas" when the material inside begins to go through the decomposition process. This creates another "pest" odor. Trash and debris left in the bottom of a dumpster produce the same problem for the same reasons.

So, proper odor management involves good sanitation practices. Other management techniques should be used, but may not be successful without the sanitation element.

Sometimes, pests themselves cause odors. If a rodent becomes trapped and expires, for example, odors will be released as soon as the decomposition process begins, as with any organic material. In terms of producing odor, size matters. Smaller rodents like mice typically do not have a very noticeable or long-lasting odor because the amount of fluid in the body is very small. Their bodies dry out quickly and the odor-causing bacteria become inactive. When that occurs, the ability to produce gas stops and the odor goes away. Conversely, a larger rodent will produce a more intense and longer lasting odor if it expires anywhere inside your hotel and begins to decompose.

Another problem with odors is that they can attract insects and other pests that otherwise may not have been attracted to your hotel. Odor management is critical to managing a number of insects including houseflies and blowflies that can annoy guests and compromise your hotel's reputation.

Odor management can be divided into two types of processes: masking and elimination.

Masking

Masking of odors is a fairly simple procedure. It is also very temporary. This is the primary mode of action for most over-the-counter sprays. A lot of devices used by Pest Management Professionals, or PMPs, fall into this category. Odor-masking agents can be used to alter the environment by producing a pleasant, foreign smell as a diversion or enhancement to the actual smells present. An example would be placing a battery-operated fan unit in a bar or lounge area that places an odor of pin'a colada in the air.

Proprietors often use this kind of technique as a mood enhancer. If your guests are surrounded by a certain fragrance, it can enhance their experience and even drive sales of certain items. Masking is a form of subliminal messaging that is used in many types of businesses. Movie theaters sometimes fill the air with the smell of popcorn to drive concession sales. Malls are filled with retailers that use all kinds of odors to lure customers inside and encourage them to shop longer.

Odor maskers also are commonly used in restrooms. Consumers will often relate the smell and appearance of the bathroom facilities to their overall opinion of the hotel. For this reason, PMPs routinely provide this service for their hospitality clients.

Elimination

Odor elimination can also be a simple task if enough time and planning are put into it up front. To state it plainly, elimination is simply getting rid of the source of the odor. Sometimes, a rodent or other animal may expire on the premises and need to be removed. Other times, applying materials to the immediate area around an offensive smell can eliminate odors. These materials may be disinfectants designed to kill the bacteria that are producing the offense or may be other bacteria designed to find the organic substance and speed the decomposition along.

Keep in mind that true odor elimination may not be a one-time shot. It may require several treatments to neutralize the problem. That said, odor elimination can be incorporated into your routine maintenance program. Biological materials are readily available today for floor and drain cleaning. These materials are applied to the floor on a daily basis, often as a replacement for some or all floor cleaning products. The biological products keep organic debris from building up in the drains and on the floor under equipment. If the debris is not allowed to build up, there is no material to decompose and thus no odors.

In many facilities, combinations of masking and elimination products are needed to accomplish the task of odor control. For instance, the restrooms may need masking products while the floors are treated regularly with elimination materials.

Selecting the Right Program

When selecting an odor management program, it is important for you to get the particulars of the service in writing from your supplier. If masking agents are to be used, how many will be used? Where will they be installed? How often will they be serviced? What will be done at each service? Will the fragrance be changed periodically? If elimination materials are to be applied, how often will this occur? Will your employees or the service provider apply the materials? All of these questions should be answered before you start any odor control program in your hotel.

An industry veteran, Frank Meek has been with Orkin since 1986. In 2003, he was named among the future leaders of the pest management industry in Pest Control Technology magazine’s “40 Under 40” ranking. Currently, as the International Technical and Training Director, Mr. Meek provides technical support and training in both sales and service to Orkin's international franchises, helping them grow and develop in their specific markets. As a board-certified entomologist, Mr. Meek teaches Integrated Pest Management principles and can explain how to use all available methodologies to prevent pest infestations in various commercial settings. Mr. Meek can be contacted at 404-888-2898 or fmeek@rollinscorp.com Extended Bio...

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