Urine Problems in Public Restrooms....A Simple Solution

Urinal Mats Improve Restroom Appearance
BY Dan Weltin

A restaurant could have mouth-watering food, outstanding service, a luxurious dining room and low prices. But if guests walk into a dirty restroom with puddles on the floor and overpowering odors, they won’t be coming back to dine. The same scenario could happen with shoppers in retail stores, gamblers in casinos or movie-goers in theaters. Restrooms set the tone for user impression and a negative perception can derail the entire experience.

It is important that facilities improve restroom appearance with urinal mats, which can also help guarantee a cleaner restroom. Urinal mats are precautionary tools that prevent puddling under urinals which can lead to future odor problems and floor damage.

Urinal Mat Options
Designed for use under wall-mounted urinals, urinal mats improve the restroom image by catching drips, splashes and unfortunate misses.

The most common urinal mat shape is the “homeplate” with a wide back (that is placed against the wall) and truncated front to leave room for users’ feet.

It is important for custodial workers to become educated on the proper placement under urinals. Urinal mats are often installed backwards with the wider section placed away from the urinal because janitors often think that’s where most messes occur.

“But now guys have to straddle a very wide plate,” says Jeff Crevier, president and owner, Sanastar, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Other shapes of urinal mats are available and they help alleviate installation errors. One is rectangular and the other is a diamond shape that is truncated on both sides.

Besides different shapes, urinal mats are available in various compositions, including a plastic or rubber frame with a replaceable absorbent pad, a framed mat with an absorbent core, or a carpeted style where fibers absorb urine.

Mats with a built-in core are made of fibers and powders that turn the urine into a gel, similar to when a baby wets a diaper. The gel prevents oxygen from transmitting urine odors into the air, says Charlie Flurry, president, Absorbcore, North Olmsted, Ohio. The water inside the gel will evaporate, leaving dried uric salts and acids left trapped in the mat.

Carpeted urinal mats are treated with an anti-bacterial agent that “eats germs and bacteria like pac-men,” says Deborah Barnes, executive assistant, Hygolet, Deerfield Beach, Fla.

In addition, the fibers don’t remain saturated with urine, but rather air dry, like an entrance mat after a rain, says Crevier.

Just as urinal mats vary in shape and composition, they also differ in how they adhere to the floor. Mats either feature Velcro, adhesive tape or a rubber backing that prevents it from sliding across the floor.

Regardless of style, urinal mats all have the same purpose — to create a better restroom experience for building occupants.

“It shows the customer that you care,” says Barnes. “You’re making an effort to look cleaner and professional. It decreases the urine puddles on the floor. You don’t see any unsightly messes.”

Urinal Mats Control Odor
In addition to improving appearance, urinal mats also keep restrooms smelling clean. In fact, it’s a common misconception that odor in a restroom stems from the urinal. The source of odor actually comes from dried urine on the floor.

Unless cleaning staffs are allowing proper dwell time for disinfectants, nightly mopping is not going to eliminate urine deposits or decrease the odors that they can create. At the same time, mats aren’t going to get rid of current odor troubles (cleaning staffs will still need to disinfect these floors). But starting with a clean slate, urinal mats will prevent future odors from becoming a problem.

“A restroom can be really clean, but smell bad,” says Alberto Martinez, sales and marketing manager, Tolco Corp., Toledo, Ohio. “And depending on the type of business you’re in, that is a horrible perception.”

Urinal mats are designed to capture and remove odors, not mask them with a fragrance. While scented mats are available, most facility executives vastly prefer to go without a fragrance.

“[With urinal mats] you’re deodorizing the lowest point in the room. When you’re deodorizing a restroom, you want the fragrance to start at the top and work its way down,” says Martinez. “From an odor suppression, it’s not going to really do anything. You can’t put enough fragrance into [mats] to really make a difference. The only thing it’s going to do is create conflict with a real odor-control program.”

Left untreated, urine deposits will not only smell bad, but they can cause lasting damage to floors. When urine is allowed to puddle under fixtures, the uric acid and uric salts found in the urine can damage the floor finish or seep into grout, stone and wood floors, causing irreparable damage.

Urinal mats will protect floors if installed and replaced at proper intervals. This will enable cleaning departments to reduce the number of times they need to strip and recoat restroom floors, saving on labor. Facility managers will also find that floors have a longer lifespan.

“Urine is very acidic and it can eat away [at floors],” says Barnes. “Urinal mats actually deter that from happening.”

Puddles left on the floor aren’t just unsightly and unsanitary, but they are also unsafe. Users walking by can slip and fall on the wet floor, says Flurry. Urinal mats are ADA compliant and provide another layer of safety in the restroom.

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Florida Sanitary Supply Association

State Governing and Advocacy Association for Contractors, Distributors and Manufacturers of Cleaning and Maintenance Supplies