Understanding Odours

Odours, or smells, are caused by gases coming from chemical compounds that are volatilised in the air. We all know that smells can be pleasant or unpleasant. The term odour is usually used nowadays to describe obnoxious smells; although in Medieval times it was quite the opposite (meaning sweet or agreeable smells).

The human nose is very sensitive. It has on average over 5 million scent receptors. Odours can be offensive to people perceiving them. The sense of smell is an evolutionary response to potential dangers such as rotten food or harmful airborne contaminants.

The Environment Agency (2002) Assessment of Community Response to Odorous Emissions determined that the factors determining whether the odour is unwanted are:

  1. Offensiveness of the odour
  2. Intensity of the odour
  3. Duration of exposure to the odour
  4. Frequency of odour exposure
  5. Tolerance and expectation of the person exposed to the odour.

In other words, we all react differently to different odours. Whilst some people can ‘live with’ a bad smell, others can’t tolerate it think of farmyard smells or petrol, both are divisive smells that are pleasing to some and unpleasant for others. Either way, a bad odour can be a warning sign of a public health concern whether domestic or commercial.

Did you know? Odours can be classed as a Statutory Nuisance. Commercial/trade and business premises must adhere to strict rules about odours. Get in touch with your local authority to ensure you are following the regulations.

Causes of Bad Odours

There are many sources for bad odours. To give you some examples,

  1. Human waste, body odour, trauma (body fluids, blood)
  2. Domestic such as compost, sludge, green waste, household refuse, paints, pets
  3. Commercial industrial/ chemical waste, kitchens, sewage, solvents, or livestock
  4. Environmental wildlife (e.g. rat droppings), bacteria, fungi etc.

The cause of odour could be the release of an otherwise contained chemical due to a spillage or poor storage. In almost all of these instances, a clean up operation will happen, but lingering smells also need to be eliminated through an odour neutraliser.

Identifying Bad Odours

The identification of bad smells is the first step to eliminating them. You could throw every cleanup product in the world at a smelly room; but without working out where the odour is coming from and combatting that, you will never get rid of the problem.

There are various methods for detecting the source of odours from the humble human nose right up to specialist ultraviolet lamps to look for, for instance, domestic animal urine stains. Once this has been established you will be able to choose which odour neutraliser will work best.

Odour Neutralisers

The only way to eliminate odours is to neutralise them, not mask them. The effective removal of the cause of the odour is paramount. The method of removing bad smells will depend upon the cause of them.

Of the various methods available, the most effective can be:

  • Vapour diffusers
  • ULV Foggers ideal for the diffusion of repellents/disinfectants
  • Thermal foggers used for odour abatement and pest control
  • Ozone generators eliminates cigarette smoke particularly well

It is always important to consider the air that has been exposed to the smell. The pathogens that remain there need to be removed. Specialist odour neutraliser products such as BIOSWEEP® and Surface Defence® concentrate on the causes of odours in the air and on surfaces.