Washroom perceptions are likely to play a significant role in the impressions that visitors form about your business. Smells and the perception of air hygiene can have a direct impact on visitors’ experience of your washroom facilities. A positive experience – with a washroom that is free of unpleasant odours and that is hygienic and clean – indicates that you care about your employees, customers and visitors.
A smelly situation – what does research say?
92% of people have experienced unpleasant smelling washrooms – which is definitely something to cause a stink about!
A smelly washroom can prevent visitors from returning to your office or establishment. In fact, 67% of those surveyed said that an unpleasant smell in an organisation’s public washroom would make them less likely to shop there, while 77% of guests leave with a negative perception of a business that has unpleasant washroom smells.
Smell is a powerful sense that has a profound impact on our perception and behaviour. In an article published by the Harvard Gazette, research suggests that the olfactory system, which is responsible for processing smells, is directly connected to the amygdala and hippocampus in the brain, which are responsible for both emotion and memory.
Because smell, emotion and memory are intertwined, it makes sense that a washroom containing unpleasant odours is less likely to encourage a repeat visit. In that case, it would make sense for businesses to invest in a solution to help eliminate odours and remove unpleasant smells from their washrooms.
It is not only smells that can be off-putting to washroom visitors, they may also leave them with concerns over the overall indoor air quality.
Why is indoor air quality important?
Poor indoor air quality is the silent antagonist of washrooms as it can have detrimental effects to the health of your visitors. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that cross contamination of airborne viruses and diseases is an incredible, 19 times more likely indoors than out, and further states that poor indoor air quality is also responsible for 3.8 million premature deaths globally.
According to the NIH (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) poor air quality can have various potential effects including worsening respiratory conditions such as asthma and allergies, which can present symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Headaches or fatigue have also been experienced due to sensitivity to certain chemicals or odours. Furthermore, exposure to chemicals and other irritants in the air (such as aerosol sprays or chemicals used to clean washrooms) can also cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in some users.
Washrooms can easily provide a breeding ground for airborne bacteria and viruses such as influenza, measles and chickenpox can be transmitted via the air. Mould and mildew in washrooms can also release disease-causing toxins (EPA.gov).
What can be done to ensure cleaner air in washrooms?
As much as 62% of people believe that air purification systems should be mandatory in public buildings and education facilities, while 75% of women said they would be more likely to use a public washroom if there was a product to reduce/ remove odours, for men it was 73%*.
To ensure a complete clean air solution, and minimise the negative health effects of poor air quality in washrooms, businesses should take the following steps:
- Consider using air purifiers or other air quality control systems.
- Ensure that ventilation systems are working properly and are regularly serviced
- Clean and disinfect washrooms on a regular basis
By taking these steps, businesses can help create a healthier and more comfortable environment for their users.
*Rentokil Initial research conducted by Opinium between 12th and 15th March 2021. Total sample 2,000 nationally representative adults.
**Initial Washroom Hygiene Research research conducted by Opinium between 17th and 20th January 2023. The survey sample was 2,000 adults, with the results weighted to be nationally representative.