When flood waters inundate a home or business, they often leave behind far more than just physical damage to structures and contents. Even after the visible mess gets cleaned up, pungent odors from contaminated water can linger – permeating soft goods, hard surfaces, and even the air itself with musty, mildewy scents. Left unaddressed, these odors create an unhealthy indoor environment and serve as constant reminders of the flood event. In this article we are going to be going over removing bad odors.

Getting rid of offensive post-flood odors requires thorough cleaning, odor removal techniques, and sometimes even professional deodorization services. This article will cover strategies for removing a variety of noxious odors left in the wake of interior flooding.

Sources of Flood Odors
Flood waters can contain a mix of contaminants like sewage, chemicals, decaying organic matter, particulates, and more – all of which contribute to unpleasant malodors that get absorbed into porous surfaces. Some common undesirable smells include:

Musty/Mildewy: Caused by mold, mildew, and bacterial growth on wet organic materials like drywall, carpet, wood, etc.

Sewage: Sewage backflow during floods produces noxious odors from waste matter that penetrate structures.

Decaying Organic Matter: Rotting plant debris, animals, and other organic solids from outside floodwaters pick up foul scents.

Chemicals/Petroleum: Leaking automotive fluids, solvents, etc. from flood waters can create harsh chemical odors.

The longer these odor sources linger in a property, the more difficult removing them becomes. Acting quickly after a flood is critical.

Removal of Odor Sources
Before any deodorization can begin, the first step is removing all sources creating malodors:

  • Extract all standing flood waters remaining using truck-mounted pumps/vacuums.
  • Tear out and dispose of severely contaminated porous materials like carpets, pads, insulation, drywall, fabrics, and wood that absorbed odors. These cannot be deodorized.
  • Use EPA-approved biocides to kill any mold, mildew, and bacteria growth causing musty scents from remaining surfaces.
  • Pressure wash surfaces with detergents to flush away debris, chemicals, and sewage particles.

With sources removed, the remaining deodorization process can address residual odors absorbed into more difficult areas. Proper protective equipment like respirators is required when dealing with harsh odors or contaminants.

Air Treatment for Odor Removal
Deodorizing air/gas molecules circulating throughout a flooded property involves technologies like:

Air Scrubbers: Filters and sorbent materials capture and remove odor-causing particulates from air streams.

Hydroxyl Generators: These systems generate hydroxyl radicals to oxidize odorous gases and VOCs.

Ozone Generators: By producing ozone, these units are able to oxidize and neutralize many odor compounds.

Thermal Fogging: Recreates the combustion process by heating deodorizing compounds into a fog/smoke that neutralizes gaseous odors.

Vapor Phase Systems: Similar to thermal fogging, these systems vaporize sealants that encapsulate odor molecules until fully neutralized over time.

Air treatment alone does not fully address lingering odors embedded into solid surfaces and materials.

Surface Treatment for Odor Removal
Additional deodorizing steps are needed to penetrate surfaces that absorbed malodors like:

Paints and Sealants: Shellac, alcohol-based undercoat paints, and sealers help encapsulate and block odors from emanating from surfaces.

Adsorbent Materials: Products containing activated carbon, zeolites, and other materials “adsorb” odor molecules to remove them from surfaces.

Chemical Oxidizing Agents: Similar to using ozone for air treatment, oxidizing agents like hydrogen peroxide, chlorine dioxide, etc. help neutralize odors on surfaces.

Enzymatic Digestion: Enzyme products work by breaking down odorous molecules into inert compounds through enzymatic reactions.

Masking/Reodorization: While not fully removing malodors, some deodorizers use “reodorization” techniques to overpower existing odors with more pleasant scents.

With the multi-faceted combination of source removal, air treatment, and surface deodorization, even stubborn foul odors lingering after flooding can be fully eliminated for a clean, fresh-smelling environment.

Professional Flood Odor Removal
While some milder cases of flood odors may be managed with household cleaning methods, severe or widespread flooding often calls for professional deodorization services. Companies specializing in flood/fire restoration have access to industrial-strength air scrubbers, thermal/vapor fogging equipment, EPA-approved antimicrobials, encapsulating sealants, and a variety of proprietary odor removal products.

Before treatment, professional deodorization crews will perform a thorough inspection to identify all affected areas and source points. Based on the types of malodors present and the variety of impacted materials, they formulate an effective multi-step deodorization plan. Professional-grade equipment, oxidizing agents, and specialized encapsulating sealers or enzyme digestion methods work to fully neutralize even the most intense flood odors.

Persistently musty or foul stenches after flooding are signs of contamination and microbial growth that require professional remediation for health and safety. Acting quickly is key – the longer malodors linger and amplify, the more difficult complete odor removal becomes.

Preventing Future Flood Odors
While proper cleaning and deodorization are essential for restoring properties to livable condition after flooding, mitigating future moisture problems is key to odor prevention. Steps like repairing plumbing leaks, grading ground slopes away from foundations, improving exterior drainage, waterproofing basements, and installing sump pumps or backflow preventers all reduce the risks of recurring flood events.

With the right protective measures and rapid professional response, even severe post-flood odors can be a temporary issue rather than a lasting “smelly” reminder. Quick action, thorough cleaning, and comprehensive deodorization get properties back to clean, breathable conditions indoors. For further information about odor and the dangers of it, read here