ICS Magazine

Odors and Odor Control

March 10, 2003


Carpet cleaners are unbelievable. Not only do they conduct themselves in a poised and professional manner, they must be accepting of another person’s living quarters, customs and conditions.

Odors in a home can be the homeowner’s environmental identification, or signature odor. To some, it doesn’t matter if their home smells of wet dog or carries the fragrance of springtime wafting through the windows. To others, a scented candle in everyone and an air freshener plugged into every electrical outlet is all the odor control they will ever need.

How well I remember the days when the bathroom was the only room in the house that required extra odor care. One room, one condition, one product. I suppose that multi-fragrance use may simply be an extension of a home’s d¿r; there is no way, however, to deodorize a carpet by producing a fragrant environment.

Carpets are magnets that attract odors. This is where the carpet cleaning professional enters like a knight in shining armor upon his trusted steed, able to remove signature odors and produce a room that smells fresh and clean without a cover-up perfume. Hats off to the cleaning professionals who enter homes that literally reek with signature odors. It always surprises me when a home contains a truly offensive odor, yet the homeowner seems totally unaware of it. Undoubtedly, he or she has grown accustomed to the odor to the point of no longer being able to smell what outsiders find so offensive. Adjusting to these odors is akin to the uncomfortable situation where everyone knows you have bad breath…except you.

A few decades ago, body odors were isolated by chemical composition. It was discovered that there exist 36 different compositions classified as odoriferous. However, one of the 36, a compound known as 3-methyl-2 hexenoic acid, stood out like a sore thumb.

Studies show that about 5 percent of the population is unable to detect this particular odor. This translates to approximately 15 million people in the United States alone, and may help to explain why some homes contain unpleasant odors; the homeowner is simply unable to detect them in the first place.

Further research shows that there exist two types of skin bacteria that feast on the apocrine secretions that manufacture these varied off-odor compounds. The main villain is known as lipophilic diptheroid, the producer of the most pungent odor of them all. This is the culprit responsible for the many pleas of “go take a shower” issued when you return home from working out at the gym (and issued mostly to men; 90% of males have the bacteria).

Interestingly enough, Mother Nature sometimes uses offbeat odors as a method of attraction between genders; the black widow spider and the praying mantis are both examples. Who knows, perhaps this is nature’s way of making the world go round.

Where does all this lead us? Carpet cleaning would seem relatively unrelated to underarm sweat. However, a customer’s personal hygiene habits have a direct relationship to the job a carpet cleaning professional has to perform when he arrives at a home.

As we all know, cleaning the surface of a carpet is not the solution for odor removal. Carpet odors are deeply entrenched in the carpet, usually as the result of food spills or “accidents” by pets and/or children. These spills penetrate to the base of the carpet and cannot be removed by surface extraction. Even using excessive cleaning solutions will not dilute the spill enough to allow for successful removal.

The spills will eventually result in foul odors stemming from microbial growth. One way to successfully locate urine stains is with ultraviolet (UV) light. Once the stain is located, a hypodermic injection of antibacterial solution will prevent further odors from developing. Additional dry extraction would then be introduced to maximize removal. Once this is completed, an acid fiber rinse is applied to help prevent wicking.

This process is also used around the base of toilets; however, an enzyme is introduced at the base of the carpet to break down any dried urine crystals that have built up over time.

A carpet with excessive odors will require a post-treatment spray application of a deodorizer as the final step, preferably one with a bactericide. The deodorizer could also be introduced into the cleaning solution. Be sure to use an anionic deodorizer that matches the anionic charge of the cleaning solution. Additionally, avoid overusing a deodorizer; this could cause a negative reaction to the fragrance. Excessive perfume base oil can also create this problem. Moderation is the key.

Fragrance is itself a key factor in a cleaning formula’s development. A “pinch of this” along with a “splash of that” are all that is required to achieve the right blend. It’s coming up with the correct definition of “pinch” and “splash” that is the hard part. Achieving the right blend may take up 40 percent of the entire development process. However, when done successfully, the end result makes it time (and money) well spent.

Leaving a carpet clean, clean looking and clean smelling are what being successful in the carpet cleaning business is all about.