Aroma Abatement

aroma abatement odor removal

By Al Ruggie and Joshua Rudin

Water damage incidents can wreak havoc on homes and businesses, causing structural damage and leaving behind unpleasant odors. Whether from floodwater, sewage backups, or slow-leak mold infestations, addressing odor removal promptly after water damage is crucial for restoring a clean and healthy indoor environment.

Moreover, our brains devote considerable energy to remembering odors and aromas of all kinds. This is important because when you return a customer’s home to them, and it still has a faint smell of whatever their disaster was lingering in the air, you’ve failed. They know it, and their reluctance to pay the bill will be when you feel it, too!

To avoid this situation and many others, follow proper odor removal protocols and procedures to please customers and benefit your bottom line.

Prompt water removal

The cornerstone of odor control after water damage is swift water removal. It seems obvious. That’s because it is. All restoration experts know that standing water provides the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mold, which can emit foul odors as they thrive. But this menace isn’t waiting around for standing water to be removed.

Mold spores will use the water vapor present in the air itself to grow wherever possible. This means that even if the flood was on the other side of the home, it could still cause an infestation elsewhere if it has been moist enough or has settled in long enough.

Many restorers don’t use this as an opportunity to expand the operation. Instead, they view it as an obstacle to finishing the job at hand. For example, suppose a property with unmitigated water damage is now causing mold in other areas unaffected by the original cause of loss. In that case, this can be a profitable expansion of the project.

Thorough drying

Thorough drying is essential to prevent mold and mildew growth from taking hold once you have removed the water. Mold and mildew are the major sources of persistent musty odors in the home after water damage. Employ industrial fans, air movers, dehumidifiers, heaters, and proper ventilation where appropriate to accelerate the drying process.

Pay special attention to hidden areas such as wall cavities and under flooring where moisture can linger. If moisture accumulates in these areas, it can cause an infestation that even technology won’t easily see. This then becomes the territory of air quality testing, which then turns into a search-and-destroy mission for any errant mold lingering anywhere in the home. This can be avoided by performing proper due diligence at the beginning of the incident.

Cleaning and disinfecting

Cleaning and disinfecting affected surfaces are paramount to not only eliminating odors but also preventing microbial growth. Use U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved disinfectants to sanitize surfaces and remove any remaining contaminants and fungal spores. Scrubbing walls, floors, and furniture with soap and water can also help remove residual odor-causing substances.

For restoration professionals, this step is usually a bridge too far because it isn’t generally cost-effective during the mitigation process. Many companies in the restoration field won’t take on this kind of work because of this fact, but others include it with their services as an add-on that they then charge extra for if a customer opts into it.

Essentially, this is turning a potential problem that a restoration company will likely face the blame for anyway, into an opportunity to increase a project’s profitability. For restoration companies, this may mean taking a more skilled crew off a project and swapping them out with a labor pool that requires less overhead for the service to be profitable, but each market can dictate if this is viable.

Remove damaged materials

Materials such as carpets, insulation, and drywall saturated with water must almost certainly be removed and replaced. These materials have an enormous amount of porous surface area and harbor most of the ingredients that mold needs to thrive.

Preventing mold and musty odors means removing the carpeting and any other porous items affected from the premises to prevent lingering odors from taking hold. These materials trap moisture and the organic matter necessary for mold and fungus to grow rampantly, which causes the offensive smells that restorers are trying to prevent and avoid.

Contents restoration

Many restoration companies use this material proximity damage as another means of extracting the most profitability from a project. Sometimes, people care about the items they place in their property as much as they care about the property itself, and for the enterprising restoration expert, this also presents an opportunity.

Item restorations such as furniture, clothing, art, collectibles, etc., are costly and not easy to clean up, but because of this, the restoration experts who can do the work reap the profits. If adding a contents restoration service is within the restorer’s technical capacity and skillset, then not offering this service is akin to throwing money down the drain.

Contents removal

Additionally, from the other side of the coin, for those that have the storage capacity, some restorers can take advantage of the content removal aspect of the mitigation process. Not all restorers can provide content service because it tends to require both space and a different skill set from their employees. Still, if this combination is something within range, this is another way that restoration experts can turn a penny on a mitigation project.

Odor neutralizers

After cleaning and drying the affected area, odor-neutralizing products will be necessary to eliminate any remaining aromas. In many situations, effectively absorbing and neutralizing unpleasant smells can be a line item or an add-on service. Following the existing mitigation and restoration procedures will often be enough to avoid any odor infiltration, but other times, it won’t. A seasoned expert can identify when these situations occur and how to utilize them as well.

Ensure a thorough restoration

Water damage incidents tend to leave behind more than just physical damage. They can also typically result in stubborn odors that linger long after the water is removed. By following these methods for odor control after water damage, you can ensure a thorough restoration and maximize the profitability of any mitigation project in the process. Providing customers with a clean, restored, odor-free environment maximizes their happiness and also increases your profitability.

Al Ruggie is the marketing and business development director for ASAP Restoration LLC. He has a proven record for growing businesses, both large and small, with strategic planning and targeted content that delivers results.

Joshua Rudin owns ASAP Restoration LLC and is a certified restorer. Before opening the doors in 2008, Rudin had been a successful entrepreneur in the restaurant industry, owning and running several thriving locations for over two decades. To reach Rudin, visit, call 602-515-7918, or email [email protected].

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