There is nothing more maddening than a lingering bad smell in the office. Office buildings share space between many different people and activities, and that can mean a lot of different smells. While we all know the bane of microwaved fish or rising damp, it’s not always clear just where the smell is coming from or how to get rid of it. However, if you are in charge of office maintenance and cleanliness, then that smell is in your jurisdiction whether the source easily presents itself for cleaning or it does not.
This is a step-by-step guide from commercial cleaning pros on how to hunt down and eliminate that funny smell lingering in your otherwise beautiful office space.
Step 1: Cleanse the Office Kitchen
Start with the kitchen, as many bad and unpleasant-over-time smells can come from there. Leave no tupperware unturned. Toss out old milk and bag any fuzzy growing pets you find in the back of the fridge. Scrub out the fridge, microwave, oven, coffee machine, and toaster oven completely, then look for places where damp or spills might be growing something or rotting unseen. You might even get a partner to help you lift the fridge and clean underneath.
Step 2: Obliterate Washroom Bacteria
If the kitchen isn’t the culprit, the next suspect is the washroom. Organic smells and certain bacteria can linger even when a fairly good cleaning job is done. So it’s time to obliterate all possible bathroom bacteria with the heavy-duty sanitising methods perfected after the pandemic. Soak everything in the bathroom in sanitiser and let it actually drip with isopropyl for several minutes before wiping to a streak-free shine.
Don’t forget the back of toilets, behind sink handles, and those oddly gritty hinges and fixtures around toilet stalls. Soak it all.
Step 3: Freshen Chairs and Cube Walls
Is the smell lingering around the workstations and cubicles or offices? There might be a certain organic smell that is clinging to the fabric and textured parts of the office – especially if it’s been a little muggy. To remove a musky smell around workspaces, sanitise, deodorise, and freshen every chair, cube divider, and carpeted wall section nearby.
Step 4: Check the Drains
Drains can also harbor a funny smell that might seep up through the drain covers over time. Sniff drains in the break room, wash room, and utility rooms to find out. If your drains smell sour, pour down some hot water and vinegar or bleach (not both). If the drains smell like sewage, call the plumber and the issue will be resolved shortly.
Step 5: Clean All Vents, Ducts, and the HVAC
Is the smell musty, like the mildew that grows in damp laundry? Your problem might be in the vents, ducts, or the HVAC unit. Check your vents. Remove each vent cover and fully wipe it down, checking to see if you have mould or merely layered dust. Then sniff the duct aperture. It’s never a bad idea to get your ducts cleaned, but if you smell that musty mould smell, then it’s absolutely necessary and will finally freshen your office airspace.
Step 6: The Annual Carpet Shampooing
If the smell is still there after you’ve cleaned the kitchen, chairs, and ventilation – then it might be in the carpets. That tight Berber carpet wave found in offices can absorb a surprising amount of spills without really showing a difference – and vacuuming can only do so much. If you kneel down and the smell gets stronger, it’s time to shampoo and/or steam clean your office carpets.
Step 7: Is the Smell Outdoors? Seal the Building and Change the Air Filters
Maybe the smell gets worse each time the wind blows, or a door opens. In this case, step outside and find out if there’s a similar bad smell on the wind. It might be coming from nearby construction, a stagnant pond, or other factors that you can’t really control from the building. If this is the case, your best answer is to re-caulk your windows, apply new weather-stripping to the doors, and use a higher MERV air filter to keep out as much of the smell as you can. A strong air freshener near outside doors may also help.
Step 8: Fresh Outside? Fully Air Out the Building on a Nice Day
If the outdoors smells fresh and crisp, but the smell lingers after you’ve cleaned everything indoors, then air out the building. Office buildings are rarely allowed to “breathe”, but the right time of year (Spring, Fall, and sunny Winter days) can be the perfect time to turn your HVAC to fan-only and cycle all the air inside the building for a fresh gust from outdoors.
Step 9: Seek Deeper, More Troublesome Sources
If none of these steps has worked and the smell keeps coming back with equal strength, you have bigger problems and it’s time to look for hidden causes. Mould under the carpets, mice in the walls, bats in the attic, wet/dry rot in the beams, or the smell coming from another business’s space in your building are all matters of greater concern. You may need to bring in a building inspector with a strong olfactory sense to track it down.
Step 10: Call an Exorcist (Kidding!)
If you have cleansed, washed, sanitised, deodorised, aired-out, and replaced every possible source of bad smell in your building, your building inspector didn’t find any colonies, and it isn’t your neighbours or outdoor smells, then consider the smell to be an ephemeral part of the building. If the smell doesn’t go away when you ask it nicely or threaten it with bell, book, & candle, then it’s time to consider long-term air freshening or a new building.
A lingering smell can be one of the toughest cleaning jobs in the corporate world. Following this guide will help you to track down and get rid of that bad smell in your office once and for all. To discover more professional cleaning guides and services, contact us today.