The first thing that needs done is to eliminate the cause of the contamination that is contributing to the odor. Then you can remove or control the remaining odor causing microbes. Accomplishing odor control is done with a variety of methods and products. The method used will match the odor in question, its severity, as well as the product will also match the particular problem.
Odors infect areas at the microscopic level and will penetrate into the smallest crack in a building and get behind walls, sub-flooring and even into the insulation of an attic. These microscopic odor molecules will attach themselves to any surface, and the more porous the surface the more difficult it is to remove from the affected material. Some materials are so porous that it is impossible to remove the odor from them, so the material then must be disposed of, and then replaced.
For many reasons, an odor will persist, and this is mainly due to the porous materials involved. Smoke will permeate any material (even if it did not burn). Some examples are wood, paper (wallpaper, pictures, etc…), drywall, carpeting, furniture (the fabric as well as the fillers), electronics (circuit boards, wire casings, etc.), rubber, concrete, and even paint. It will attach itself to the surface or infiltrate any porous materials.
If the HVAC system is running during a fire, (I am sure most smokers do not turn their system off when they light up), the smoke will spread throughout the remainder of the building. This will also allow contamination in areas that you would not think. Not to mention, if the contamination is spread throughout the building by the HVAC system, you can imagine the level of contamination inside the HVAC system itself as it is the carrier.
It is important to reach every area the smoke did and the good news is that each of these areas and materials can be effectively treated or safely removed and replaced. Moreover, if it cannot be removed, it can be sealed properly to prevent any odor being released into the air. The best method of treating a structure after a fire is before rebuilding. However, if you are experiencing a problem after all the new construction has been done, (we do our best to prevent this from happening with this company), other methods may be implemented for the removal of the offensive odors.
Persistence and patience is required in removing these odors, and above all else, delivering the treatment to the locations where the odor is anchored. There are four methods that we use and recommend for most treatments of odor control and elimination. These are liquid sprays applied topically, odor blocks or towels, thermo-fogging to reach inside areas that we cannot, and ozone for treatment of the porous materials and the air, (caution: ozone in large amounts is known to be cancer causing). None of these methods work without, and should be accompanied by, cleaning, replacement, or sealing.
The most common dead animal smell is the dead mouse inside the wall, whether it died from poison, or other reasons, and is known as a foul odor. These odors will be stronger, and will last for weeks or even months at times depending on the size of the animal and the decomposition rate (this is determined on environmental conditions in the immediate surrounding).
Any odor caused by the decomposition process of animal material expels an oily protein into the air. These oils are invisible to the eye, and will attach themselves to any surface as the smoke odors mentioned above. They will seep through cracks in a building, and the larger the animal the stronger the odor, and the more extensive the contamination.
Just as the strength of the odor is determined by the size of the animal, so is the treatment, the larger the animal the more extensive treatment is needed.
Clean up is needed to remove materials to access the dead body, and to remove severely effected areas. After all, any dead body, no matter what the species, is considered a biohazard, and should be treated as such. All materials directly contacting the decomposing animal should be either disposed of, or cleaned and sealed. This will reduce any potential problems with biohazard contamination, and will help with the odor elimination treatments.
Any technician involved in the clean up should wear biohazard equipment, and all effected materials should be placed in proper containers. Ventilation and air scrubbers (HEPA filters) should be installed in the area. This will help remove odors and contaminants from the air.
Once all the biohazardous material is cleaned, removed and sealed, then treatment of any remaining odor will begin. Using the methods mentioned above, and again it cannot be expressed too much that cleaning is a must before any sealing and deodorizing. These types of odors could be treated and removed effectively.
Have you ever experienced or know someone who purchased a used home only to find that it reeked of urine odor after a rain, and cannot figure out where it is coming from? In most cases, these homes had pets several years before, and urinated in the basement or in other areas of the home.
Have you ever changed a diaper of a toddler, and turned around for only a moment to get the new diaper? Alternatively, have you been in a home or have an elderly person you take care of who has kidney problems? As you know each of these circumstances will present odor problems on a multitude of areas; carpet and the padding underneath, furniture, clothing, the porous areas of concrete, wood, etc…
Some of these odors come from scent sacks of animals, such as; Skunk, some Dog breads (I had a female Doberman that would spray her scent all the time), cats (male cats that have not been neutered early enough will mark their territory), Raccoons, Deer, Bats in your attic, etc… We mark our territory with signs because we can read, but animals will mark theirs with a scent in most cases, and if your home, garage, or shed, is inside their boundaries, you are a potential target for such odors.
Even vomit falls into this category, as it too is biologically considered a hazard to humans, after all it contains body fluids.
Cats, Dogs, Humans, no matter what animal is involved, urine is classified as a biohazard, and is an odor that is very much alive, and needs to be killed. Moisture will reactivate the components of the urine and its odor, and every time it rains, the humidity will rise and activate these types of odors.
Regular household detergents, or bleach will not remove the odor, and the odors can last for several years, especially if it has contaminated a porous material.
Special enzymes have been developed by the cleaning industry to attack the odor causing urine matter. These enzymes are actually designed to eat the urine, and will convert it to an inorganic material, thus neutralizing its effects. These enzymes need to be placed in direct contact with the contaminating materials in order for them to be effective.
I some cases the urine has penetrated so deeply that these enzymes can only get to the surface contamination, and as mentioned above, the enzymes must make direct contact in order to be effective. In these circumstances, a sealer is used to prevent the urine from seeping back out of the material. Removal of material that has been contaminated in any circumstance, is determined by cost effectiveness and is the last resort in any case, but does happen on occasion.
In some cases, multiple treatments are needed, and in cases of carpeting, the padding and in extreme cases, the flooring underneath needs treated. Similar is for furniture, or any upholstered item, concrete, some woods (the different types of woods have different pore structure, as well as the construction of the wood; i.e. oak vs. pine, and solid wood vs. particle or pressed plywood).
Therefore, you see how important it is to choose the right treatment method, as the method of delivering of the enzymes. This knowledge and experience put us well ahead for odor control. Special training is offered for the cleaning industry on odor control, and this training tells us what we need to do to eliminate your odor problems.
Mildew and fungus have a musty odor, that is similar to smelly socks or stagnate water. It is important that you identify the odor is actually from mildew or fungus. The reasoning for this is that not like the saying, “where there is smoke, there is always fire”, with mildew or fungus, you could say if you smell it, you need to investigate it. You need to be sure that it is or is not, mildew or fungus. If you decide not to investigate, and it is mildew or a fungus, your health could be affected and you may not realize it.
You will need to look at areas of your home that have been wet, either currently or in the past. You will especially need to look in high humidity areas or cool damp areas such as a basement. Look for signs of previous water damaged areas such as rotting on baseboards, paneling, or drywall. Check windowsills for rotting, this is a sure indication that water has penetrated into this area.
If there is carpeting near the odor, you will want to be real careful if you are going to pull the carpeting up for inspection, as the slightest disturbance of the spores of mildew and fungi, will cause it to spread like wildfire. If you find mold, mildew, or any type of fungi, it is recommended that you seek professional help, as it is known, “improper mold remediation can complicate and spread the problem”.
Removal of the odor, of course first requires that you remove the cause first, and in this case, you will need to perform “proper mold remediation practices” in order to accomplish this. Minimizing the moisture in problem areas is a must to prevent these problems from occurring, or returning. In some cases, dehumidifiers are installed to remove moisture from the air in high humidity problematic areas. Dehumidifiers will also help reduce mildew and fungi odor as well, and are used frequently in mold remediation practices.
If you have a crawl space with mildew odors rising into your home through the flooring, you might think of installing vents, or more vents. A power vent would be ideal, but are more expensive to install and maintain. You will need to treat the soil under the home, and you may want to have a plastic barrier installed on the floor joists to help prevent further contamination of the building above.
Once the contaminated areas are removed and inspected, then any remaining odor can be dealt with.
Sewage is one of the most offensive odors there is next to the decomposition of the dead body. I personally would rather smell a skunk than the putrid odor of raw sewage.
Most sewer back ups will have a lingering odor that will seep back into the building from the cracks and crevasses it first infiltrated during the initial contamination. Since these odors are initially carried into these hidden areas with water, they can remain if not treated properly for years.
The sewer odor is treated with special enzymes the same as the biohazardous material of the urine or dead animal, and removed similar to the precautions of dead animals and mold remediation. Sometimes the odor has penetrated so far into the structure, that fogging is performed with antimicrobial treatments that can reach as far as 40 feet.
Some odors consist of such problems as a factory, manufacturer, or process plant near by, whose emissions blow with the wind right into your building. This kind of odor is the hardest to treat, as the problem is continuing. Eliminating the cause sometimes requires legal action, but even this is no guarantee.