Odor removal is arguably one of the trickiest elements of the restoration process. Most damage is visible to the eye, and when it’s properly remediated, there is no argument the job is done. Odors, however, are very psychological in nature. As humans, we often associate smells with memories. That means before someone even enters their grandparents’ home, they may have the sweet smell of pipe tobacco embedded in their memory, and the moment they step into that home, they smell pipe tobacco, whether the smell is there or not.

In a recent R&R article, Annissa Coy wrote about the Psychology of Odors and why odor remediation can be such a difficult task. One of the key components of successful odor removal is to earn the trust of your client from the start, and learn about them. Recently, I’ve asked several restorers what they believe potential customers are looking for from a restoration company when the team initially arrives on site. Each of them has had similar answers: they want someone who will listen to what they have to say, and evidence quickly that the team is well-qualified and will work quickly to restore their home to pre-loss condition.

tricky odor removal

Remember, communication is key in any restoration job, whether odor is involved or not.

Do minimize the influence of psychological odors, there are a few things you can do:

  1. Ask them questions about the loss – and use that to help determine what odors they likely consider bad odors. Remember, odor is subjective. What might smell wonderful for some people might smell terrible to another. House fire victims may have at one point loved the smell of a bonfire, but may find that same smell nauseating after the loss.
  2. Minimize exposure – start the odor removal process right away, and keep the owners out of the home as much as possible to help keep that smell from becoming embedded in their brain when they look at their living room.
  3. Be kind – this can be hard when they smell something you don’t. But you need to trust them, and do what you can to eliminate even “phantom” odors.

Remember, communication is key in any restoration job, whether odor is involved or not. The more you communicate with the customer from the beginning about the restoration process, including what you do to thoroughly remove odors, the more they will trust that the job is getting done right from the very start.