The Janitorial Express Blog

Air Fresheners: The essential guide to tackling bad smells!

Posted by Malcolm Rouse on Nov 4, 2016 3:56:14 PM

 The Basics:

This blog will discuss:

  • Solid air fresheners
  • Automated systems and dispensers 
  • Cistern air fresheners
  • Ozone Machines 
  • The best air fresheners for you

Air Fresheners, why bother? 

 “I’d give it a minute if I were you…”Airfreshener variety.png

There is a school of thought that says if your environment is clean and well ventilated, then the use of any artificial air freshener is unnecessary. Whilst this is probably a valid argument, there are a multitude of scenarios where this is simply not possible, or where a pleasant smell, albeit artificial, is preferable.

We have probably all had a memorable experience which involves a foul smell. The sense of smell is one of the most powerful and most often overlooked, but can have a huge impact on an individual. American research has shown that in the workplace a pleasant fragrance not only improves employees’ sense of well-being, but also increases productivity and raises levels of concentration. Or maybe you have a co-worker who is always delighted to leave a malodourous treat for you in the toilet. In any case, you have some options.


Fragrances have been used to mask odours for thousands of years. A variety of compounds have been used over the past two millennia for their abilities to create pleasant aromas or eliminate unpleasant smells.

The first modern air freshener was introduced in 1948. Its function was based on a military technology for dispensing insecticides and adapted into a pressurized spray using compressed gas (CFC) propellant. The product delivered a fine mist of aroma compounds that would remain suspended in the air for an extended period of time. This type of product became the industry standard and air freshener sales experienced tremendous growth. In the 1950s, many companies began to add chemicals that counteract odours to their fragrance formulas.

In the 1980s, the air freshener market shifted away from aerosols, due to concerns over the destruction of the ozone layer by CFCs. Most modern aerosol based products use a less harmful alternative to CFCs and many other air freshener delivery methods have been developed. Let’s have a look...

Aerosols give an instant burst of fragrance literally at the push of a button. Typically, these come in 400ml cans, although for commercial environments like hospitals, community centres, cinemas and so on, large cans up to 750ml are not uncommon. As you can imagine there is an almost endless range of fragrances, from the ever popular staples like “pine fresh” and “citrus” to the more exotic such as “magnolia and vanilla” and “pomegranate and plum” – when it comes tImage_1_-_Aerosol_Spray.jpgo scent, if you can imagine it then it’s probably possible to make it!

Manufacturers are pretty savvy, and it’s fair to say that although individuals will usually have their personal favourites, all these commercially made fragrances are very pleasant.

Aerosols provide an instant “blast” of fragrance which will usually last a maximum of a couple of hours under normal circumstances, and much less in a large ares or where there is a lot of movement of air.



Solid air fresheners take many forms, and are designed to be placed in a multitude of places. Some are designed to sit on a windowsill or coffee table. Others clip to the side of a bin or hang on the outside of a toilet bowl. The one feature that all these types of product have in common is that they provide continuous fragrance over a period of time, rather than the instant “shot” of scent you get with an aerosol.

Solid air fresheners will usually have a central core of “smell releasing ingredient” but this will be encased in a housing, usually plastic, and usually disposable. The core or smelly part of the device is generally a solid gel which slowly releases its fragrance over a period of usually a few weeks. Where the core substance is visible it’s quite interesting to see how it changes over time. The gel is shiny and soft when new, but dries andImage_5-_Solid_Freshnetr.jpg withers as it slowly gives up its scent.

Design is a huge factor, with the casing often beautifully moulded and coloured to look like a decorative item that could grace a windowsill in Buckingham Palace without being intrusive.

Whether the stand up
 or clip on variety, solid air fresheners are a good option for small areas like toilets and store rooms. This is probably the most popular type of product for domestic applications.



For most commercial applications an automated system is the most effective and cost conscious option. This commonly takes the form of a refillable dispenser with either a sensor, or programmable timer powered by a battery. The fragrance will be provided by a small aerosol canister which fires a small burst of scent. These systems are almost without exception wall mounted (usually high on the wall, as the fragrance particles are heavier than air and will slowly descend). Typically, one 75ml refill will provide 3000 or so bursts. One of the most popular in the UK is called “Micro-Burst 3000” – it’s a very accurate name! Depending on how these systems are programmed, they can provide several weeks of service per refill and the tiny power consumption means that batteries last many months or even years.

Image_6-_Automated_Spray.jpgA new development in the micro-burst dispenser range is “LumeCel” – an innovation which replaces the batteries with a solar panel! Honestly! Requiring only low levels of ambient light (artificial light works as well as sunlight) the solar powered cell powers the dispenser and so removes the need to buy batteries. 

Again, design is a key consideration, and dispensers come in a range of shapes and colours, all designed to be aesthetically pleasing and unobtrusive. Many manufacturers offer a starter pack too, with dispenser, batteries and fragrances all in one inexpensive pack. For more information, take a look at Garys blog 'Upgrade your Microburst and go Battery-free with Lumicel!'



Eh? This is the posh name for “nose-blindness”. Over a period of time our noses can become accustomed to the ambient smell of our Image_7-_Dual_Scent.jpgenvironment. This is true even when the smell is nice – we simply stop noticing it because it’s continuous. One of the clever ways dispenser manufacturers have overcome this problem is the introduction of “dual-scent” air fresheners. These systems utilise two different but complimentary fragrances which alternate, and hey presto! – our noses notice!


Another common application for air fresheners (in this section I’ll refer to “air-care”) is in hotels, schools, care homes and such like. In these areas it’s not always about covering or neutralising a bad smell – it’s more about creating a nice fragrance for its own sake. Some big hotels have even created their own “signature” scent, so that when travellers visit their hotels every one, no matter where in the world, all smell the same, and different to other chains. This helps with brand loyalty, or so I’m told. In any case many large institutions have chosen to introduce a lovely aroma simply because they can.


Can the smell be neutralised?

There may well be some circumstances where an air freshener isn’t the right solution to your smell problem. Dead skunk quietly rolling under the sink? Well obviously there’s a smell issue, but masking the smell is way down on the list of priorities! Where there is a problem like this, health and hygiene issues aside, you’ll be needing an odour neutraliser. These are very specific chemical compounds made specifically to kill the smell rather than just fragrance over the top. Specific examples of Image_2-_Odour_Treatment.jpgsmells you’ll want to consider using a neutraliser (not my list, by the way) include urine, vomit, tobacco smoke, rancid food and pet odours. You’ve probably seen TV commercials for domestic products like “Febreze” but there are commercial odour neutralisers too. They usually smell good in their own right, and often come in a choice of fragrances including the most popular – bubble gum!

Urinals – they smell of urine!

The temptation to crack a joke at this point is almost overwhelming, but I’ll resist! Yes, as most of the men propping up the bar at your local Weatherspoon’s will tell you, urinals smell of urine. In some cases, where no measures are taken to tackle the problem, the smell can be overpowering. There are quite a few choices available to Imag_3-_P_Wave.jpgcombat wee smells, including the ubiquitous “urinal blocks”, urinal caps and screens. As well as cleaning reducing lime-scale and de-odourising many release beneficial bacteria and smell great too. The post popular type is probably the urinal screens, as our panel of testers advise they also help prevent splash back. Nice!

Is there a de-odouriser I can put in my toilet cistern?

Yes. Although these were everywhere in the 1970s (remember Bloo-Loo?) they have become less popular in recent years and a rarely used commercially as they requite access to the cistern itself. There are still a few available that clip under the inside rim of the toilet bowl.

What about ozone machines? They kill smells, right?

Right. Ozone generating machines use a special electrical process to create ozone. Ozone naturally kills air-bourne bacteria and harmful micro-organisms, when properly located and installed they can provide a long term solution to malodourous situations. As a great example, installing an ozone generator near an indoor wheelie bin or dumpster area can be really effective. They need mains power and can be quite expensive, but are virtually maintenance free, use no consumables and can be incredibly effective. Ozone machines are often found in hospitals, universities and hotels as they offer a long term, low cost-in-use solution. 

Tell me about “Plug Ins”…

Plug ins have taken the domestic market by storm. The system has a small dispenser with a reservoir of liquid fragrance and the whole Image_8-_Plug_in.jpgdevice plus into in power outlet on the wall. The power supply uses a variety of technologies to emit a burst of scent at regular intervals, and are often programmable. There are disposable versions, and some that can be refilled. Critics point out that in most countries, and certainly in UK the sockets are low on the wall, and these plug ins could attract small children or cats and dogs. Whatever your opinion, there’s no escaping their popularity on supermarket shelves. Not really an option for the commercial market though.


I don’t know. It’s a very personal and subjective thing. If it’s a new product for you, pick the one you like the name of and if you don’t like it much, choose a different fragrance next time.

There is a plethora, nay a veritable cornucopia of choice. From citrus to lavender, from new car smell to old lady (OK I lied about the old lady), but you get my point. Have a go. Choose a fragrance you’ve never tried before. Enjoy and remember that your sense of smell is powerful but often overlooked.

Stench busting starts with a clean washroom, download our free guide to washroom hygiene below! Download A Guide to Washroom Hygiene

Find these posts useful? Let me know, leave a comment below!

For further information visit or contact us on 020 7700 3322, email 


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The Blog that brings you, News, Innovations & How To Guides from the UK Cleaning Industry

Gary Fage's Cleaning Blog

Gary has over 30 years experience in the UK Cleaning Industry and is managing director of Janitorial Express, a director of the Jangro Group and vice chairman of the Hill Club the UK's premeire cleaning industry networking club.

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