What Is an Odor?
Odors are gases which emanate from a source into the air, where they are perceived by the nose. Whether they smell pleasant or unpleasant, odors are gases that people notice.Humans recognize and identify odors in the olfactory lobe, a portion of the brain which projects from the lower front of each cerebral hemisphere. Odors are perceived when odorous molecules contact olfactory nerve endings in the nasal cavities; these sensations are transmitted to the olfactory lobe. Industry professionals refer to this as “real odor.”

“Heightened Awareness Odor” or “Psychological Odors” are terms used to describe odors which people believe they smell, based on experiences, suggestions and past impressions. The fact that we do not smell an odor does not mean that the odor does not exist. For example, sometimes a homeowner will perceive an odor after professional deodorization and restoration of a fire-damaged structure has occurred. The likely cause of this perception is the lack of the normal odors that were in the structure before the fire. Because the structure does not smell “normal,” the customer interprets this as a fire-related “odor.” Women generally have keener senses of smell than men, but both men and women gradually lose their sense of smell as they age.

Because of the complexities surrounding odor perception, odor removal professionals understand that the permanent removal of odors is complicated. Odor removal professionals know that one product or system will not necessarily resolve every odor problem encountered. Successfully solving odor problems requires training, proper tools and equipment to accommodate a variety of different situations.

See also Osmics and the Theory of Odors.
Adapted from Restoration Science Academy’s The Complete Guide to Restorative Drying, a collection of all RSA classroom course materials, including water damage restoration, fire and smoke restoration, odor control, microbial remediation, trauma scene cleanup, upholstery and fabric cleaning, and carpet cleaning. Authors: Gary Funari, Gary Loiben and William Weigand. Technical Review: Mitchell Byrom, Mark Cornelius, Mike Kerner and David Oakes.