Eliminate odors for resident satisfaction

Maintaining a pleasant, friendly atmosphere in your long-term care facility is a top priority. The way a place smells can be as important as the way it looks, and when families are choosing a facility, foul odors are not acceptable. Not only will they offend your residents and their families, but these odors also can attract pests.

Your facility can attract pests such as flies, rodents, and cockroaches, because it provides them with their essential survival needs—food, water, and shelter. The warmth and odors your building emits can indicate that it can provide them with everything they need.

All trashcans should be tightly lined and fitted with a lid.

To purge your facility of foul odors, it is important to first identify their cause. Odor issues arise from a number of factors such as sewers and septic tanks, but the primary cause is most likely sanitation issues, food preparation, decaying organic matter, and other waste. Even after old or rotting food is tossed in the trash can, the odor can linger. You may generate food waste in your kitchen and dining area, but don’t neglect to monitor staff break areas, social rooms, and resident quarters. All of these areas often have food and other waste in them. While less common, another possible source of repugnant smells is the expiration of a small animal, such as a rodent, on or near your property. The odor can attract other pests to the area.

Now that you have identified potential foul odor sources, the next step is to clear the air of these smells. Banishing foul odors is a two-step process consisting of elimination and neutralization.


When dealing with odor-control issues, the ultimate goal is to completely eliminate odors and the pests they may attract. There are a number of sanitation techniques that can be put into practice to remove decaying organic matter and keep your facility clean:

· Disinfect kitchens, bathrooms, and food areas during the regular cleaning process to eliminate odor-causing bacteria.

· Clean all kitchen drains with an organic cleaner. Remove the drain lid and scrub the drain with a brush to remove all buildup. Contact a professional for deep drain cleaning if odors persist—the problem may lie further down the plumbing system.

Disinfect kitchens, bathrooms, and food areas during your regular cleaning process in order to eliminate odor-causing bacteria.

· All trashcans should be tightly lined and fitted with a lid. If your facility has trash chutes, clean the passageway regularly to prevent food blockage that can attract pests. Chutes designed with drop-offs are better than those constructed with angles—a feature that allows odor-causing debris to linger.

· Dispose of trash daily.

· Keep your dumpster as far from your building as possible. Work with your waste management provider to clean and rotate your dumpster regularly.

· If you do find an expired animal on your property, work with your pest management professional to properly remove the remains.

· Cover expired animals near the property with an odor-absorbing product designed for that purpose.


Most of us are familiar with masking products, such as air fresheners, designed to immediately create a more pleasant environment. For more lasting odor control, use products that neutralize the odor rather than mask it. This is important because pests can still detect odor through masking sprays, although the human nose cannot. A common step used by pest management professionals until the problem is fixed, neutralizing hides the objectionable odor from both residents and pests.

When sanitizing around your facility, don’t neglect staff break areas, social rooms, and resident quarters.

Residents and their guests will appreciate odor neutralizers in other areas of your facility as well. Consider using odor neutralizers in community restrooms, the lobby, and other social rooms. Guests will leave with a positive impression of your facility, and residents will have a greater appreciation, too.

Airflow control is another neutralizing technique. Placing fans in strategic locations can literally blow bad air away and help reduce the lingering effects of foul odors. Foul odor elimination may take time and persistence. All staff and residents, to the extent they are able, should be part of the process. Incorporating odor control efforts into your regular sanitation routine will produce the best results. Work with your pest management professional to identify the areas of the facility that could produce foul odors, and then create a thorough sanitation routine, combining masking and elimination techniques, to prevent problems.


Providing for your residents’ needs is essential, but creating a pleasant home life is also a top priority. By remaining attentive to your odor management issues, your facility will bring in new residents and guests, not pests.

Ron Harrison, Entomologist, PhD, is the Director of Training at the Orkin Training Center in Atlanta, Georgia; and an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. For more information, e-mail Dr. Harris at

rharriso@rollins.com or visit www.orkincommercial.com.

Topics: Articles , Facility management , Operations