One of the newest issues to confront a building manager is the one of using scent in cleaning products or to use fragrances to “freshen” specific rooms such as washrooms, lobbies, cafeterias and general office.

Today, there is a growing population that suffers from allergies to various fragrances, scents and odours. Their reactions can vary from mild to severe. In some cases, allergic reactions can result in a decrease in performance and an increase in the number of sick days taken by these employees. Some people must alter their daily activities to avoid potential exposure to these allergens.
For this reason, many companies are developing a NO SCENT or a SCENT FREE policy. These policies usually include the banning of wearing any type of perfumes and fragrances as well as the use of no scent cleaning products in the building. The difficulty for many buildings however, is that many people associate clean with a fragrance. Depending on personal preference and often habits from your childhood, many associate clean with a floral, lemon, pine, etc. scent. After years of using scented cleaning products, the association of clean and scent is a difficult one to break.

This association is heavily reinforced by advertisements which lead us to believe that in order to be clean, fragrances need to be used in each and every room and on all surfaces. So how does one go about changing this association that clean must have a scent? Communication to all building occupants is the key to success. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you successfully implement a scent-free policy.

  1. Draft a No Scent Policy – If possible involve human resources, health and safety committee and key managers. Have one person responsible for answering all questions or concerns regarding the policy. Sample policies are readily available. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety address this issue on their web site.
  2. Educate building occupants. It is important to explain why the policy is in place and the health of individuals is at stake. You may choose to include brochures or flyers in payroll envelopes, publish articles in company newsletter, or give presentations. In any case, the goal is to inform all employees of the health concerns related to scents and why the policy is needed.
  3. Review cleaning frequencies and cleaning tasks. Areas where odour can be troublesome such as washrooms and kitchens should be reviewed to ensure any offensive odours do not persist.
  4. Consider limiting employees eating lunches at their desks. Odours from lunches can be very offensive to other employees. Having food at the office desk can harbour odour causing bacteria and create unsanitary working conditions.
  5. Post a list of approved unscented products that will be used. This will avoid any potential confusion as to what is acceptable and unacceptable as cleaning products in the building.
  6. Post signage that the building now has a scent-free policy. Once the policy is in effect, put up signs at all entrances, in common hallways, in washrooms and in cafeterias.
  7. Communicate the change the week you begin to clean the building with unscented products. Occupants will need to be reminded that their building has been cleaned – the only difference there is no lingering fragrance to remind them that this task has been done.
  8. Review concerns and complaints. Have a process to address non-compliant building occupants.

The association of clean with fragrance is a strong one. The media is constantly reinforcing that for a room to be clean it must have a lingering fragrance. Breaking this association is not easy. With time and education, people will come to realize that clean has no scent. And often the benefit of using scent-free cleaning products is that you can choose products that are formulated to reduce the impact on the environment without sacrificing cleaning effectiveness. No scent products are better for your health and better for the environment.