The nose knows. And what it knows has a big influence on the decisions we make – including choosing senior living communities for ourselves or others.

So influential is our sense of smell that nearly nine out of 10 people say they would never consider a senior living community if it had a bad odor. That’s what Ecolab found when we surveyed more than 400 people who had recently been involved in senior living decisions about factors that influenced their choices.

Our sense of smell inspires impressions, reactions and responses. The aroma of cookies in the oven sets mouths watering, while the stench of last night’s fish provides strong motivation to take out the trash.

Our survey confirmed that malodor in a senior living community also inspires an impression – and it’s not the one anyone wants. A bad smell equates to a lack of cleanliness. And cleanliness equates to quality of care, with 93% of the decision-makers agreeing they would never consider a community that did not appear to be clean.

And these reactions happen fast. Two of three (66%) of those responding to our survey agreed that the smell of a facility enabled them to quickly determine its cleanliness.  

So there’s only one thing to do:  Wage war against malodor. The goal should be nothing less than eliminating foul odors. After all, the success of your community – from attracting and retaining residents, to resident and employee satisfaction and the reputation of your brand – depends on it.

The good news is that, with the right training and solutions, your employees can effectively eliminate organic malodors caused by urine, fecal matter, body odor and food. Of course, they need to know that odor control is a top priority – and an urgent one.

Odors can emanate from countertops and other hard surfaces, floors, carpets, upholstered furniture and clothing, as well as trashcans and drains. Soft surfaces can continue to emit malodors even after an initial treatment.

Luckily, there are products that can eliminate malodors and provide continuous odor fighting action. Traditional air fresheners work by emitting a scent stronger than the foul odor. But when the scent diminishes, the smell returns. In contrast, odor eliminators penetrate surfaces and attack the odor at the source. Then, through bio-enzymatic action, they effectively eliminate it.

In addition to treating the problem at the source, odor eliminators provide a number of benefits, including:

· Instant knock-down of malodors

· Continued action after initial application and

· Clean fragrance after use

Senior living communities face tough scrutiny: Is the food tasty and nutritious, is the staff friendly and competent, are the living quarters and common areas clean and safe?  Most work hard to earn high grades in every area.

But a bad smell can instantly negate all their good work. Like it or not, the nose knows. Using products that remove and keep fighting malodors can help ensure that your community will appeal to both current and future residents.

Ross Skadsberg is the director of Long Term Care Marketing for Ecolab’s Institutional business.