Caregiver Blog: Odor Control: 12 Practical Tips and Why It’s Important

Article Categories: Caregiver Corner & Caregiver Tips and Tricks

Did you know that the human nose can detect about a trillion different kinds of smells? And that our bodies react differently to these scents. How so?

A strong cup of coffee perks you up in the morning. The lovely smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls or meat roasting in the oven can trigger hunger pangs. A particular scent can even bring back memories of the past and cause nostalgia. On the other hand, a person reeking of body odor is a big turn-off! This is how powerful scents are! No wonder that the smell of something clean is always associated with health and recovery.

It is also for this same reason that hospitals and other health facilities ensure that their surroundings, especially patients' rooms are always sanitized and smelling nice. Odor control is quite a priority.

Cleanliness and a mild pleasant scent are usually the first impressions of any place. Failing in this regard likely means getting a negative review on patient satisfaction surveys. Totally makes sense, right? How can you trust a facility to take care of you or your loved one if stench greets you at their doorstep?

Caregivers are therefore tasked to make sure that the immediate environment of the patient is always clean and smelling good.

How to keep a room smelling nice

1. Identify the bad odor and locate their possible sources.

Good caregivers know how to pay attention to details. It’s like their nose can detect dirt and disease. As you enter the patient’s home or room, be aware of nasty smells, even faint ones. Literally, your nose should point you in the right direction.

2. Clean thoroughly from top to bottom.

As we’ve said, the smell of clean is nice and refreshing. If it’s clean, it should smell nice. If something still smells offensive, then it’s not clean enough – rule of thumb.

3. Change the patient’s incontinent pads upon soiling.

A common cause of unpleasant smells is a patient's soiled incontinent pads. Remove the patient’s pads upon soiling and then clean their buttocks and the genital area thoroughly before replacing the pads.

4. Clean the toilet regularly.

The restroom is not only a frequent source of offensive odors but also a common breeding ground for disease-causing microorganisms. Sanitize the toilet regularly with approved cleaning materials. In a home setting, you may put some orange peels or potpourri in a small open container to help deodorize the area.

5. Dirty clothes and linens, especially soiled ones, should not be left inside the room.

Dirty clothes and linens should be brought to the laundry area immediately. Soiled linens should ideally be rinsed and pretreated for stains if needed so that the stench would also disappear. Use a fabric conditioner with a mild scent when washing clothes and sheets. Replace bed sheets, blankets, and pillowcases as needed.

6. Check for pests.

Pests, such as rodents and cockroaches, together with their excrements give off a foul smell of infestation. Follow pest control protocols if you work in hospitals or other health facilities. If you are a home health aide, clean and sanitize possible breeding areas. Keep leftover food in the fridge and properly dispose of food scraps and other trash.

7. Check for molds and mildew.

Molds and mildew have a musty odor that combines the smell of something old, woody, and moist. These fungal growths usually thrive in dark, damp, and warm places such as the bathroom, the basement, or the attic.

You might also be surprised to find mold and mildew on some unused wooden furniture or on curtains that have been hanging for some time. You will need the owner’s permission before you can replace curtains or clean the moldy furniture. As for rooms and floors, you can scrape areas clean and spray with distilled white vinegar. Let it sit for a few hours before washing it off with a mixture of water and baking soda.

8. Empty and clean ashtrays.

If you smell cigarette smoke in the patient’s home, it’s wise to empty and clean ashtrays regularly.

9. Suggest that you give pets their scheduled baths and to clean unattended litter boxes.

If caring for a patient’s pet is well within the scope of your job as a caregiver, you may need to give them baths if applicable and then clean their litter boxes.

10. Open the windows and let the sunshine in.

Stagnant air, especially that which comes from drafts, can also have a disagreeable smell. One thing that can help is to let this trapped air escape. Do this by opening windows in the morning when the sun is high. Sunlight also helps eliminate odor.

11. Turn on a dehumidifier or use an odor absorber.

Bad smells are worse when air is humid. A dehumidifier or odor absorber can help collect moisture that contains stinky vapors.

12. Use common household items, such as baking soda to deodorize surfaces and lemon or lavender to freshen the air.

Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate neutralizes odors. Lemon as well as naturally scented flowers give off a pleasant smell. If you are in a healthcare institution, used only pre-approved cleaning materials to rid the patient’s room of bad odor. Avoid using artificial air fresheners. Go easy on bleach as a disinfectant. Use the right amount only and mix with water for sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces. Undiluted bleach has a strong chlorine odor that can have a bad effect on breathing.

Keeping a patient’s room and surroundings clean and smelling nice is a sure way to help hasten their recovery. Make sure that first impressions live up to the patients' expectations. Effective odor control can send a message that you truly care.


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