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Decomposition and Odor Removal

Decomposition and Odor Removal

The Odors Caused by Decomposition

Decomposition leaves behind an unmistakable kind of contamination long after the body itself is removed. Fluids from a decomposing body seep down into wood, carpet, and concrete, seeding them while gases leave films on walls and ceilings. These residues can remain to produce noxious odors even if the decomposition site has been cleaned to appear visually pristine. In the temperate and warmer climates of where we live and operate, the Midwest and the South, decomposition can proceed quickly if left unchecked.

Two closely-related chemicals are mostly responsible for the smell of decomposition: putrescine and cadaverine. They both have the same chemical formula, NH2(CH2)5NH2, but differ in the arrangement of their atoms. These chemicals are telltale signs of decomposition and they must be removed in order to make a home or office smell normal again. Dealing with putrescine and cadaverine is critical when we deal with decomposition & odor removal.

Decomposition Odors May Signify a Health Riskshutterstock_159333455

A decomposing body itself clearly poses a serious health risk as it provides an attraction and breeding ground for numerous health threats including:

  • Pathogenic bacteria that a living body can keep at bay
  • Infectious bacteria or viruses that the deceased may  have had
  • Gastroenteritis from normal gut bacteria growing uncontrolled
  • Carrion eaters like rats, mice, roaches, and ants

For example, a partially-decomposed body can be a potential vector for diseases transmitted through bodily fluids such as cholera, hepatitis, HIV, and cholera. In addition, there are clear traumatic psychological effects associated with encountering a dead body, especially unexpectedly. The smell of decomposition alone could be enough to trigger post-traumatic stress symptoms in affected people, though the smell is unlikely to do so in people without any stress disorders.

Why is Odor Removal Important?


Death, decomposition, and other biohazards leave behind an unmistakable scent that can be hard to remove. Removing those odors is a critical part of our specialty and is not something that all general home cleaning services can tackle easily. It is important to identify and eliminate the sources of odors related to biohazards and decomposition both for the sake of health and ensuring that contaminants have been fully removed. Potential source of odors include:

  • Residues from death and decomposition
  • Pest infestations such as rodents and insects
  • Mold
  • Bacteria
  • Dust and other particles embedded in carpet
  • Rotten food

The presence of odors related to these issues indicates that contaminants associated with those issues are present in the area. These odors cannot be permanently removed unless whatever is causing the odors in the first place is removed and its residues and byproducts cleaned. Furthermore, scent is the sense most associated with memory, so the importance of eliminating trauma-related odors cannot be overstated.

Why Hire Professional Services to Remove Odors?

While odors tend to have an obvious main source that is itself easy to remove, the source of an odor leaves behind residues that can be difficult to identify and completely clean. For instance, hard-to-see clusters of mold and rot can develop in moist, poorly ventilated environments like bathrooms and throughout the homes of shut-in individuals. Additionally, vast quantities of pest detritus, fluids, and bacteria build up in carpeting over time if a home has had a body or other sources of contamination, especially fluid contamination, left untreated for extended periods of time.

Once an odor’s source has been identified, the source needs to be neutralized. A thorough odor removal entails a lot of work that depends on the source. Carpet requires a thorough cleaning all the way down to the pad, which is often beyond the capabilities of carpet cleaners not designed to clean out the residues of decomposition. An insect or rodent infestation that might occur in cases of unattended death needs the services of an exterminator to eliminate in the first place, but both the infestation itself and the chemicals used by the exterminator will have left deeply penetrating odors at the infestation sites. Our service removes both.

Odor Removal and Post-Trauma Home Restoration

Odor removal is a necessary step in post-trauma and biohazard home restoration. Eliminating the sources of odors comes hand in hand with eliminating serious problems associated with decomposition, especially in cases when the decomposition has reached advanced stages. SafeGuard Restoration Group specializes in removing all evidence that a trauma ever occurred, and removing odors is integral to our mission.

We are Decomposition & Odor Removal Professionals

As a result of fluid seepage and similar contaminations, simply removing the body and washing the area around where it lay with commonly-used cleaning materials cannot do enough to permanently stop the odor. Enzyme-based cleaning solutions must be correctly applied to areas that can be washed like stone and well varnished hardwood floors.

However, porous materials like drywall, plywood, concrete, and poorly varnished wood flooring will have to be removed as well and replaced outright because no amount of washing or airing out will completely remove all the contaminants. Understanding when a surface has been contaminated thoroughly enough that it needs to be removed entirely is a major part of our work in decomposition & odor removal.

We understand that after a trauma, cleaning the area where it occurred is a necessary part of the healing process and respecting the deceased. We do not thing that having to do this, especially so shortly after a tragedy, should fall on the shoulders of the homeowner. We started SafeGuard because we wanted to help people move on in as quick and respectful of a manner as possible.