This is an introduction to the basic understanding of what is an odour, what’s in an odour, what causes odour, how do we detect odour and what odour control measures are available.
Who Needs Odour Control?
How many times have you been to a place, such as a KTV, a disco or pub, a restaurant, a public toilet, or maybe a commercial kitchen, a food factory, an animal slaughter-house, a garbage collection center, a landfill site, a sewage processing plant, and thought that it was about time they found out how to control that terrible foul smelling, distasteful odour?
You have to first start by understanding what makes an odour and the cause of the odour before you can determine the type of odour control solution needed to overcome that odour problem.
Nitrogen, Oxygen and Sulphur
The three basic elements that cause terrible foul smelling odour are nitrogen, oxygen and sulphur, and these three gases can be found everywhere.
Fortunately not all odours are bad. Odours containing oxygen are usually sweet while those with nitrogen and sulphur are usually bad and foul.
The parent compound of the nitrogen gas is normally ammonia, found in all manner of household and industrial compounds such as glass cleaners, detergents and smelling salts. While ammonia itself is pungent, it is not normally considered foul. Derivatives of ammonia such as dimethylamine and trimethylamine give rise to fishy odours and other derivatives such as tetra and penta-methylenes arise from the putrification of flesh. Ammonia derivatives are also associated with pet urine.
Sulphurous odours are normally associated with rotten egg and organic derivatives such as butyl mercaptan with animals such as skunk.
The volatile compound responsible for odours are easily dispersed in the air and once airborne the compound can stimulate the olfactory glands in the nose and cause a number of complex reactions resulting in what we know as smell. With some compounds only a few molecules may be needed to cause this reaction, while other are capable of blocking odours when in high concentrations and become no longer detectable to human above certain levels. This in fact is very dangerous as it may be a lethal compound such as Hydrogen Sulphide which is very poisonous.
Many foul smells are formed by dead and decaying matter and during the process of decay the organic material breaks down into other, volatile, compounds giving rise to the terrible smell.
Chemical Masking & Neutralization
Chemical masking and neutralizing products odour control can be achieved in to different ways, by masking or neutralizing.
Masking is the concept behind air fresheners in that a pleasant smell is introduced in high enough concentrations to mask the unpleasant smell. The nose then only detects the pleasant smell that gives rise to a fresh smell. The downside to using the air freshener approach is that the bad smell is not removed but stays in the background and masking may be needed continually to hide the smell. It does not get rid of the smell.
Neutralization is the process that nullifies or gets rid of the odour-producing chemical, including those persistently produced. During this process, the specially formulated agent is atomized and absorbs the odour-producing compound, neutralizing the compound. The result is not just the elimination of the unpleasant smell, it also gives a light and fresh aroma to the location.
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