ICS Magazine

‘Scents’ory Perceptions: Do You Deodorize or Reodorize?

October 19, 2000
-- If it smells clean, then it must be clean. This is the perception many carpet-cleaning clients have when it comes to clean carpets. You make the call—do carpet cleaners deodorize or reodorize with the use of scents in formulations?

One of the most common topics brought up by students is that of deodorizing carpets. When you look closely at the subject, you realize that deodorizing is as easy or as hard as you make it. One of the questions frequently asked is, “Do we ‘deodorize’ or do we ‘reodorize,’ or do we do both?”

One of my early employers in this business advertised that we would “steam clean and deodorize” carpets. This was, and is, a true statement. The process of steam cleaning will effectively deodorize the carpet unless there is unusual contamination present. Think about it. When you come home all sweaty and stinky after a day of wiggling the wand, you need a lot more than deodorant. You and your clothes need a bath! So does the carpet, if it stinks. If unusual conditions aren’t present in the carpet, such as contamination from body fluids, body wastes, or other substances such as these, then the majority of odor will be from soils that are present in the carpet. If the odor you are dealing with is the odor of a wet dog or a musty odor of rotting garbage, then it’s likely the source is from extractable soils and may be effectively corrected by the pre-conditioning/extraction process—just the same as washing your sweaty, stinky body and your sweaty, stinky clothes.

And that’s where the issue of “reodorizing” comes in. There are many occasions on which your client will comment about how clean the carpets smell even before you are finished cleaning them. Using a pre-conditioner with a scent will make them even more satisfied with the job. That is the process of “reodorizing.” I have used citrus-based or citrus-built pre-conditioners and had rave reviews by my clients. I get many comments about the pleasant citrus fragrance at which time I inform them that not only does it smell good but it’s more environmentally friendly than some of the old solvents which were used for formulating pre-conditioners.

The actual meaning of the word deodorize is “to remove odor.” However, because clients have been exposed to various ads touting scented deodorizers, they relate the term deodorize with the presence of a new odor, rather than the removal or absence of an old odor. Conversely, if you don’t reodorize, she will assume you failed at your attempt to deodorize her carpets. With this in mind, you too may find it beneficial to use pre-sprays and rinses that have a scent. You can also mist a deodorizer into the air as the job progresses. This can be as simple as using a trigger sprayer with some diluted deodorizer or as complex as using an electric fogger to distribute the material.

If the odor is pungent or ammoniacal, then the problem is probably urine odor, in which case you want to enroll in an odor control class. This problem can be extremely complex and may involve the subfloor as well as the backing of the carpet and the padding or in occasionally walls or furniture. In this case, it’s necessary to carefully inspect the problem including disengaging the carpet to inspect backing, padding and subfloor, as well as walls and furniture. Using a long wave UV light will allow you to locate and quantify urine residues.

If you are using a hot water/steam extraction system, I highly recommend that you include deodorizing as one of the benefits of your cleaning system. If you pre-condition the carpet and extract thoroughly with hot water, you’ll effectively deodorize the average carpet. If you use a scented pre-spray, then your client’s perception of your success will be improved, as well as her satisfaction, with the entire job. This may be just the edge you need to gain her confidence and get some referrals from her. If any unusual contamination is present, then using this rinse/rinse process may not be effective so be sure to inspect and qualify before you start. Until next month, seeya!