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Water Damage: Dealing With Unpleasant Odors

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021
water damage unpleasant odors

Unpleasant odors are a frequent side effect in homes and other buildings affected by water damage. Contained within enclosed premises, the cumulative effect of chronic odors on occupants is often greatly intensified. Bad odors can also indicate an actual health threat present in the indoor environment, as well, from toxic contaminants such as mold. Here are two basic premises that can help you deal with unpleasant odors that result from water damage: 

  • Moisture is an activating factor. Water damage inside a structure commonly triggers chemical and bacterial reactions that result in the release of smells you’d rather not be living with. An odor-free house, conversely, is one of the many criteria utilized by water damage professionals to confirm that the home has been properly treated and fully dried. If you’ve attempted to dry out the house yourself without professional assistance, the continuing presence of unpleasant odors like mildew or chemical vapors should be a red flag that moisture still exists somewhere inside the structure.  
  • Mold is a major contributor. Without proper water damage remediation, residual moisture inside a home with a history of water damage usually triggers mold growth. Active mold, in turn, releases microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOC) that produce pungent, earthy odors, often compared to the smell of dirty socks or decaying wood. Mold odor generally penetrates the entire house. Professional mold remediation includes air sampling and testing to determine the type of mold, the extent of contamination, and location. Complete removal of all mold accompanied by sterilization of areas where growth occurred is required to eliminate mold odors.

DIY attempts to eliminate odors associated with indoor water damage—commercial air fresheners, potpourri, etc.—are only cover-ups and ultimately ineffective. Identifying and eliminating all moisture sources is necessary to permanently eliminate odors from enclosed structures. In addition, professional testing for the presence of mold—along with proven remediation techniques if mold growth is confirmed—is essential to achieve an odor-free indoor environment.