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The funk of the skunk – Why is the smell of cannabis so hard to remove?

One of the most common questions we are asked these days is ‘why is it so hard to get rid of the smell of cannabis smoke in accommodation’? Holiday parks, hotels and other accommodation providers all tell they are struggling to get rid of the lingering weed demon. It’s a problem that is causing complaints from guests and that can mean costly room changes and compensation. So, let’s get to know the enemy a little and look at solutions.

Why is cannabis smell such a problem odour?

The last guest may well see it as a quick recreational smoke, but for the next person in the accommodation it is a lingering stink that hits them as soon as they enter. For the poor, long suffering, housekeeping team and the management, it is a room, caravan or lodge that is now out of action for hours that will also probably have a compensation cost. Then, despite all your best efforts, a few days later your email pings and there it is, a nasty trip advisor review titled “the smell of weed was everywhere…”.

That scenario is probably now the most common issue with odours throughout the leisure industry. Cannabis stink is overtaking smoking in hotel rooms and pet smells in caravans as the number one source of complaints. In fairness though, when you arrive at your accommodation you want to open the door to a fresh environment, not somewhere that smells like 3am in an Amsterdam café.

Before we get into the science and solutions, let’s get an idea of how big the problem is. As we just mentioned there has been a noticeable increase in the number of complaints about the cannabis problem in recent years. Caravans and lodges are particular hotspots as fewer Brits are now heading out of the country for their holidays. Hotels are not far behind. with party towns in particular suffering from weed woes. The reason for this is partly down to the sheer volume of users. Smoking cannabis is surprisingly common, in fact it is estimated that around 1.3 million or more UK adults smoke weed on a regular basis. The actual figure is possibly much higher but even taking the low estimate of 1.3 million that would still mean that for every 100 adult guests, at least 3 will possibly be smoking cannabis and that will probably leave a bad smell for the next occupant.

Why does it smell so bad?

The reason weed smells to pungent is not that it is particularly unpleasant. It’s certainly not as bad as some of the ‘human’ odours. That said, many people do find it repellent. The biggest issue is that it is very persistent. Where some odours can be disguised or cleared easily in small quantities, a small amount of cannabis odour goes a long way and it hangs around more.

The smell it produces is a result of a mixture of chemicals, with one group in particular called terpenes leading the charge. Terpenes are aromatic oils found in plants and in many cases have specifically evolved to be a strong, pungent, smell to attract or repel animals. One of the most prominent terpenes in weed smell is called myrcene and it has the earthy, musky, skunky, scent we commonly associate with cannabis smoke. Other common terpenes found in cannabis include limonene (citrusy aroma), pinene (pine scent), and caryophyllene (spicy or peppery aroma). Interestingly these are also commonly used aromas in chemical ‘masking’ sprays. So, without intending to, if you spray some air fresheners, or clean with pine based chemicals, in room that has cannabis odour issues, you could be trying to fight weed odour with a similar smell.

The essential oil factor from the Terpenes explains the smell in the first place but why does it seem to be able to linger for such a long time in the air? Well, actually, it doesn’t. The odour producing terpenes are only airborne for a short time before settling into the soft furnishings, carpets, curtains and even the walls. The reason it smells so strong for such a long time, is a mixture of how pungent the smell is initially and the fact that it isn’t just floating around waiting to be dispersed. It keeps coming back because it is hiding in the soft furnishings and walls. Sadly, for the poor housekeeping team, smoking cannabis is a very efficient method of delivering a very pungent, long lasting, skunk stink that is hard to remove.

So, what can be done to remove cannabis smoke odours?

Well, the most obvious method is to stop the users smoking in the first place - but that isn’t likely to happen. The problem here is that even if the smoker opens the windows, or smokes outside the accommodation, the vapour is highly mobile when airborne and, as we have already discussed, it doesn’t take much to create a stink. Blow back into the property from outside is often enough to be a problem.

Unless you have an Ozone based solution to actually destroy the odour particles, you have two other methods.

1. You can try to mask the odour with perfumes and/or do a deep clean. Just spraying perfumed vapours though will really only cover up the smell with a mist of chemical funk. While it may initially distract from the smell of cannabis a little, it won’t remove it from the furnishings, and it will soon return. That leaves you with the option of a deep clean from a housekeeping team. Again, this may not remove the smell entirely and is a costly option in terms of labour and materials.

2. You can try to let it ‘blow through’ fresh air. This is a perfect solution and will work. The difficulty though is that in most hotels the widows simply do not open enough to allow the airflow you need. In accommodation such as lodges and caravans, while there is more airflow, the smell is probably already in the furnishings. As well as that, these kinds of problems tend to occur in the warmer weather at high season where there is less breeze. There are other issues associated with this method. To be effective, the room will still need a costly and time consuming clean and in the colder months you are creating a pretty chilly welcome for your guests.

In both these options of course, you still need to compensate the guest for the inconvenience of the wait time while you move them or, yet again, send a team to clean the room. So, accepting that option two is the best solution of the two above, you will need to open the windows and arrange a full clean, which is probably going to take 3 – 7 hours to be effective. In high season that’s a long time for accommodation to be out of action.

Why Ozone works best for cannabis smells.

The simplest solution is to destroy the particles that cause the smell in the first place. The ozone generated by one of our Eclipse range works by attracting the odours and bonding with them. Then, as the ozone is destroyed by the destruct cycle and its own natural instability, the smell is destroyed as well. It is gone permanently, not masked, or hiding in the soft furnishings, it is totally gone. Cost wise, instead of a full cleaning team, all it takes one operative who can leave it to work and collect it 30 – 60 minutes later. Rather than hours of lost availability your accommodation will often be back in service within an hour. In fact, some of our clients have maintenance ‘strike teams’ with Eclipse pros who respond to a complaint and let the machine resolve the problem while the carry on with other work.

No more cannabis smell, no chemicals, no costly cleaning teams, and no need to compensate guests. You get fresh, clean smelling accommodation. Best of all, no more unfair complaints on TripAdvisor.

Products which tackle cannabis smells

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Watchman (Ozone) Limited is a company registered in England and Wales with company number 07694084
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