There is more to fire and smoke restoration than simply cleaning and replacing items affected. There is also the task of deodorizing and re-odorizing a structure, to ensure that any putrefying odors caused by the fire incident are eliminated.
Two Types of Odors
There are two types of odors that we experience as humans.
The first type of odor can be referred to as “real odor”. It is an odor that has a definite source. This sort of odor can be likened to the smell of food cooking in the kitchen, or the scent of your favorite perfume or cologne.
Getting rid of these odors is easy enough. Simply eliminate the source of the odor-causing agent. For example, in the case of the smell of cooked food, one can simply throw the food away and take the trash out to the garbage.
Sure, there will be a small odor that remains, but with time, even that odor will eventually dissipate.
And yet, there is another type of odor.
This type of odor isn’t actually present like real odor, but is imagined. These psychological smells are often closely related to our experiences, fears, suggestions and impressions. Too much talk about chocolate cake is bound to have you smelling chocolate cake, even if there is none present.
So, what does all of this have to do with fire and smoke remediation?
Remedial specialists are specifically trained to be able to locate and eliminate odors, right at their source. But sometimes, even ridding a structure or home of offending odors may not be enough for some property owners and occupants.
Indeed, even if there isn’t a smell, owners and occupants may still feel as though they smell something. It doesn’t make them crazy, nonsensical or paranoid, but it does mean that restorers may have to go the extra mile to ensure that structural tenants feel at ease in their own environment.
While remediation specialists undergo the hard work of tracking down the source for real odors evoked by fire and smoke scenarios, they may seek to use masking agents both before and after restoration takes place for the comfort of the occupants.
Prior to or during restoration, remediation specialists may use re-odorization techniques to change the way the environment smells. Specialists may ask clients what type of scents they prefer in an attempt to mask any offending odors while the real work takes place.
After restoration, masking may continue as, as previously mentioned, some occupants may still smell, or believe they smell, residuals from the fire and smoke event. To combat this, restorers may place the family’s dryer sheets in dresser drawers and closets to mask any psychologically evoked odors and to get the structure back to smelling like “home”.
How to Rid the Smell
When it comes time to do the actual deodorizing, or removal of offending odors from the air, there are a few steps that restorers must follow.
The first, as mentioned before, is to identify the source. Based on where the fire happened, what burned, how long it burned and other sundry factors, the remediation specialist will be able to gather clues that will point him and her to the source of the malodor.
After finding and eliminating the source, the remediation team will go about cleaning the area where the source was found. This can be likened to cleaning a trash can after the trash bag has been taken out. Sure, the trash has been removed, but the trash can may still have a lingering odor to it that still needs to be addressed.
Next, restorers will seek to recreate levels of penetration by using various types of equipment and cleaning agents before finally applying a sealant to certain surfaces to further trap odors, but only when needed.
Re-Odorizing and Deodorizing Equipment
To further mask, change and eliminate odors outside of cleaning comes the use of machinery. Each type of machine employed by fire and smoke restorers has its own benefit and makes the re-odorizing and deodorizing process that much more successful.
The following are a few types of machinery often used in the fire restoration process:
- Ultra-Low Volume Fogger
- Thermal Fogger
- Ozone Generator
- Mist Generator
- HEPA Air Scrubber
- Exhaust Fans
Although restorers often use masking agents and other fragrances to mask odors while completing projects, this doesn’t have to be the case. Remediators are aware that in some cases, owners and occupants may be sensitive to fragrances and other materials that give off volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
When made aware of allergies or sensitivities, remediation technicians can use alternative means for cleaning and masking odors. Among these are HEPA air scrubbers, steam cleaners, disposal of more items and the use of non-fragrant cleaners.
Bear in mind that these altered techniques can also be used in the interest of high-risk groups including children, the elderly, pregnant women and more. Just be sure to notify your remediator of any concerns before the restoration process begins so that your remediation team can make the proper adjustments to their overall plan of action.
Odors Don’t Last Forever – Allow Your Remedial Team to Expedite the Process
In reality, the odors that permeate fire-affected buildings or structures won’t last forever. Eventually, like any other scent, these odors will evaporate. When that will happen, however, is virtually unknown.
To speed up the process, your restorer will do everything they can to ensure that both real odors and heightened awareness odors are addressed, to the best of their ability. Property owners of fire-affected homes or structures should never attempt to remediate odor issues on their own, as they are best handled by a well-trained professional for lasting results.