Raising Standards and Improving Hygiene Practices in the Washroom: Odor Elimination, Hygienically Clean, No Clogs & Water & Sewerage Savings

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Raising Standards and Improving Hygiene Practices in the Washroom: Odor Elimination, Hygienically Clean, No Clogs & Water & Sewerage Savings

Have you ever opted to “stem the flow, hold on to it, or stretch one’s bladder” to avoid an unpleasant washroom? We have probably all walked into certain cubicles and then quickly walked right out again. Holding one’s breath is also not the answer. For a washroom to uphold good hygiene practices, it does need to be cleaned daily, but it should also be free from obnoxious odors. Even with daily cleaning, most washrooms have very poor airflow, and distinct odors can linger for long periods of time. And no matter how clean a washroom, if there is an odor, it is perceived as dirty and unhygienic.

In this blog edition, I discuss the properties of urine that can cause problems in washrooms, particularly men’s washrooms. I also review and highlight the lack of cleaning and maintenance standards as a key contributing factor in urinal blockages and odor problems. I finish with our recommendations for eliminating odors in the washroom and keeping washroom drains and plumbing lines free flowing.

Urine’s Inherent Properties are Problematic:

The physical properties of urine can create problems for users of washrooms and maintenance staff.

Urine is a waste product produced in the kidneys that filters out the harmful byproducts produced in the body. Since it is a waste product, it can contain various salts, trace amounts of hormones, proteins, carbohydrates, fatty acids and a nitrogen containing component called urea. The components in urine have a natural odor to them because of their various chemical components.

Fresh urine is mostly water. Urine odor problems in washrooms often come from spills on the floor, walls or surrounding partitions. The water portion of the urine dries and the other components concentrate in it.

Bacteria commonly found on washroom floors also contribute to odor problems. These organisms can use the urea, protein and carbohydrates in urine as a food source and produce other byproducts such as hydrogen sulfide and various ammonia compounds which our noses perceive as foul. In confined spaces a high level of ammonia gas may also present a health hazard.

Ammonia will also corrode copper and copper alloys. In moist conditions, including those in urinals, ammonia rapidly attacks copper and this may lead to corrosion and stress cracking of the sewer pipe. Copper pipes should be replaced with PVC pipes in washroom plumbing.

Bacteria can precipitate calcium from human urine, causing a buildup of hard calcium scale on urinals and plumbing fittings, otherwise known as sturvite. Older pipes may already have a propensity for these problems, which will become more apparent when they are no longer being flushed with water due to blockage. This can be a costly problem to fix, especially in older buildings where sewer pipes may be inaccessible, or their location unknown. Our experience also shows that it is a common problem where waterless urinals have been installed and these urinals have either not been adequately maintained or have been installed incorrectly.

The Plumbing Code of Australia is Silent on Effective Upkeep of Urinals:

The Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA) is produced and maintained by the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) on behalf of the Australian Government and State and Territory Governments.  The PCA is given legal effect by enabling legislation in each State and Territory which empowers the regulation of certain aspects of plumbing and drainage installations.

The PCA’s website mentions that its “...goal is to enable the achievement of nationally consistent, minimum necessary standards of relevant safety, health, amenity and sustainability objectives efficiently.

The PCA contains the technical provisions for the design, construction, installation, replacement, repair, alteration and maintenance of:

  •  - water services;
  •  - sanitary plumbing and drainage systems;
  •  - stormwater drainage systems;
  •  - heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems; and
  •  - on-site wastewater management systems.

The PCA also contains materials and product certification procedures, such as the WaterMark Certification Scheme, for certification of plumbing and drainage materials and products so that they may be authorised for their intended use.

In respect of the installation and maintenance of urinals and associated plumbing I make the following observations about the PCA and other national Codes and Standards:

  • The current national Codes and Standards governing the design, manufacture and installation on non-flushing urinals and associated systems are legislated by individual States and Territory Acts and Regulations. Currently, none of the codes or the relevant State and Territory Acts mandate provisions to be made for installations of the systems and fixtures and none mandate any obligations to maintain the systems.


  • Similarly, the PCA does not detail the maintenance requirements of Sanitary Plumbing and Drainage systems, other than providing a functional guide to provide safe and healthy access to undertake maintenance. The code stipulates that provision is to be made so that “adequate access for maintenance of mechanical components, operational controls and for clearing blockages.”


  • AS/NZs: 3500.2-2003 “specifies the requirements for the design and installation of sanitary plumbing and drainage from the fixtures to a sewer, common effluent system or an on-site wastewater management system, as appropriate.” The standout details where provisions are to be made for maintenance, but does not stipulate specific maintenance requirements for the systems.


  • Further, State and Territory legislation mandates that certain plumbing and drainage components are maintained and reports submitted for scrutiny by a local authority. These components include fire systems, on-site wastewater treatment systems and testable backflow prevention devices. Currently there is no legislation that requires the maintenance and reporting of other Sanitary Fixtures.


The point of these observations is to highlight the division that exists around the general maintenance and upkeep of urinals. A lack of best practice and reliable and ‘safe’ consumables in this area means that despite the intentions of the manufacturer, their urinals are often not effectively maintained which has in part led to their products’ and/or the plumbing connecting their products to mal function.

Recommended Washroom Practices for Better Hygiene, Odor Control and Drain Maintenance:

Many current day odor management practices employ products to “deodorize” smelly areas by spraying chemical-based fragrances into the air. However, such products only mask odors, they do not eliminate them.  In fact, these solutions can cause allergic or asthmatic reactions in those with sensitivities to the chemicals circulating in an indoor environment.

Other practices deploy certain chemical based urinal blocks/cake or fragrant plastic mats or screens which are placed in the trough of a urinal. The vast majority of these blocks however, are composed of chemical formulations containing naphthalene and/or para-dichlorobenzene, both now known to be hazardous to health by inhalation.  Para-dichlorobenzene and naphthalene blocks do not readily dissolve in water or urine, but sublimate into the air, causing a sickly-sweet odor and anti-mould effect. Furthermore, and in the case of the urinal mats, because they do not breakdown urine, they have no anti-clogging effect. In fact, because they do not dissolve in water or urine they are often a source of clogging when they become trapped in drains.

The best way to control any odor is to remove its source. 

And the best types of products for removing urine, the source of odor in the washroom are  biological enzyme based products that breakdown urine into water and CO2 and digest the food source which odor causing bacteria will feed on. Such products not only remove the source of odor, but they are not corrosive placing no strain on pipes and plumbing, will deodorize the urinal and are biodegradable. Because they are biodegradable they are able to be absorbed back into the natural environment without harm.

At Green Earth Hygiene, we recommend that as part of the daily cleaning of washrooms, Facility Managers instruct their cleaning staff/contractors on the use of effective biological green cleaners and sprays that are:

  •  - used to hygienically clean floors, showers, basins and other washroom surfaces
  •  - sprayed onto the urinal and surrounding floors and walls that experience splash back to digest and breakdown urine and other waste matter.


Additionally, we recommend the use of biological tablets, such as our BioTabs™ which are placed directly on the urinal bowl or trough at the very heart of where odor and blockage problems manifest. As urine flows over these tabs, they release powerful enzymes that breakdown urine effectively deodorizing the urinal. These enzymes continue to flow down and through pipes and plumbing lines effectively breaking up and digesting any struvite buildup from the urinal thereby unclogging blockages from organic buildup, eliminating odor and reducing sewerage costs.

If air fresheners are to be used, we recommend eco-friendly solutions. We recommend fan forced mechanisms over sprayed based chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) emitting aerosol products. Eco friendly products typically use natural ingredients combining a blend of plant oils and water which contain no harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), no alcohol and no masking fragrances – making them safe to use in any commercial environment.

Consistency in Products and Fragrances:

A final word on odor control and management in the washroom is consistency.

Whatever the combination of cleaning products and solutions that are deployed in the washroom to combat germs, odor and blockages, if they emit a fragrance, the fragrances should not clash and in fact should emit the same fragrance.

To learn more about our biological deep cleaners, urinal sprays, BioTabs, WC maintainers and air freshener dispensers and fragrances please visit our Deep Clean, Odour Control and Urinals & WCs pages.


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