Skip to main content

There's a frequently overlooked key to your cleaning happiness. Curious?

«  View All Posts

What is the Definition of Clean? [Clean Shouldn’t Smell]

March 25th, 2022 | 5 min. read

What is the Definition of Clean? [Clean Shouldn’t Smell]

Print/Save as PDF


We’ve been told a lie.

All those years believing that when something is cleaned, it must have a smell.

It’s all wrong.

The truth of the matter is that clean doesn’t smell. That is just the story we’ve been sold by advertising agencies and the makers of cleaning agents and solutions.

You’re probably wondering why it’s so bad that a cleaning spray or agent smells. What harm could it really be doing to you?

I’m glad you asked because this is exactly what we’re going to unpack in this article. At In-Tec, we strongly believe that “clean shouldn’t smell” because:

A: it gives a false sense of cleanliness (it doesn’t actually clean)


B: cleaning solutions that have fragrances are harmful to people as they produce SAOs and VOCs

For many of our client’s sites, we strive to use eco-friendly cleaning products that have absolutely no chemicals – no harm to our cleaners and clients, and also no harm to our environment. And you’ll find out exactly why this is below.

Let’s get into it.

What are SAOs and VOCs?

Did you know that manufacturers aren’t even required to list every single ingredient that goes into cleaning solutions?

Wow, that doesn’t seem too ethical, does it?

Now before we dive in, I want to let you know that we do get a bit sciency in this section. Nevertheless, you must read it all to get the full picture! You’ll be shocked at some of the information presented, so be prepared!

The cleaning solutions you or your cleaners are buying could contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Just from the first word ‘volatile’ you can tell that it doesn’t sound good – and trust me, it’s not.

VOCs are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids such as paint strippers and cleaning supplies. They include a variety of chemicals, some of which have long-term and short-term adverse health effects. Think about some of the chemicals people use to clean their homes: bleach and ammonia. Although both of these cleaners have been used for generations (and still are!), they can cause all kinds of health issues for humans. Both bleach and ammonia can cause burning of the throat, nose, and respiratory tract when inhaled. And, if exposed to the skin, irritations can occur.

Why oh why are we still using these types of cleaning chemicals….

Can we back this up? Yes!

Just take a look at this study from a team of researchers from Indiana University, Purdue University, Universite de Lille, and Centre for Energy and Environment and Edelweiss Technology Solutions.

Prepare to have your mind blown.

The researchers found that “people using commercial cleaners with certain chemicals in them may be exposed to as much particle pollutants as if they were sitting beside a public road.”

Cue *shock* face.

Over the years, companies that make commercial cleaners have taken to adding chemicals to their solutions to make them smell nice. I mean, we’ve all experienced walking into a public bathroom that has an overpowering flower or lemon smell. And although we may believe that this is a good thing, it actually may be exposing people to high levels of secondary organic aerosols (SOAs).

SOAs are types of aerosols that are known to irritate and inflame the lungs when inhaled. For instance, combustion engines, such as those found in most automobiles, are one of the main sources of SAOs. When monoterpenes (compounds found in essential oils extracted from plants) interact with molecules such as ozone, SOAs are formed. Now the interesting thing is that many chemicals used to make commercial cleaners also contain monoterpenes which could expose people to SOAs. This is exactly what the researchers wanted to expose!

To find out, they fitted a room at their lab with devices that can monitor and measure monoterpenes, ozone levels, and SOAs. They then used a commercial cleaner that they knew contained monoterpenes to mop the floor.

After studying the air samples, the results they discovered were unbelievable.

They found that high levels of monoterpenes and ozone interacted to produce high levels of SOAs. What’s more revealing is that they found the levels in the room as a person mopped were similar to those a person would experience if they were sitting next to a busy road…for up to 6 hours. Wow!

Can you believe it?

It really just goes to show that chemical-based cleaners are extremely bad for our health. And also proves that the cleaning solutions we use should have absolutely no smell because then you know that they do not include VOCs and SOAs.

This leads us straight into the next question.

Why should a clean site have no smell?

The smell of clean is many things to many people.

What do you think clean smells like? Lemons? Flowers? Ocean breezes? Bleach? Pine-o-cleen?

Well, here is what clean should really smell like – nothing. A clean site should not have a scent! A clean and healthy workplace not only has no musty smell from mildew or mould, but also no chemical fragrances.

It’s easy to fall in the line of thinking that the stronger smelling your cleaner is, the better job it does cleaning. However, you can rest assured that this is NOT the case. In fact, “long-term use of traditional cleaners is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes every day for 10-20 years…”

Plus, cleaning your workplace with harmful chemicals could be exposing you, your employees, and cleaners to synthetic fragrances, hormone disruptors, and even carcinogens.

This is exactly why we shouldn’t be using chemical cleaners and is precisely why clean shouldn’t smell.

Did you know that the smell associated with cleaning products can give you a false sense of cleanliness?

Think of it this way.

If you walk into a room and you smell, let’s say pine-o-cleen, then it’s most likely that someone is trying to mask something. They’re trying to hide a bad smell (you often get this with public toilets). It’s unfortunate that we’ve been hijacked to believe that if we don’t smell a scent, then something’s not right.

Again to reiterate, if you walk into a room, building, and/or bathroom and there’s no smell, then it is clean.

To finish off with a question to you.

Would you be willing to expose your team to VOCs and SOAs? (Hint: no, it’s an unnecessary risk when there are chemical-free cleaning solutions out there that can have no smell and leave your site as clean as can be).

Get rid of harmful chemical cleaners today

Clean doesn’t smell.

When your home or workplace is dusted, vacuumed, swept, mopped, and sprayed, you should smell a lack of scent.

Your nose shouldn’t be assaulted by canned fragrances.

It’s as simple as that.

At In-Tec, we use chemical-free solutions and systems like Tersano and eWater. We believe in the power of natural, organic cleaning approaches and work with the philosophy that clean doesn’t smell.

Are you ready for a workplace that doesn’t smell like lemons, wildflowers, or bleach? Wouldn’t you like to come to work to no smells, no headaches, and no potential toxic fumes?

We feel the same.

Schedule a call with the team at In-Tec if you want to talk with us more about green cleaning and why it’s beneficial for you and the environment.

Schedule A Call