Did you enjoy snow days as a kid? The clean scent of snow reminds you vividly of sledding and hot cocoa. Did you honeymoon in the mountains? The resinous odour of pine trees instantly recalls that wonderful trip as a new couple. Smell, it turns out, is more closely tied to memory than sight, touch, sound or taste. Because of that, odours trigger strong memories that comfort, or sadly, when it comes to house fires, horrify. 

Because lingering smoke odours traumatize survivors, Paul Davis applies cutting-edge technology to remove this unpleasant reminder from clothing and furniture. That technology is necessary for nearly everything in the house: items touched by smoke – including those that appear unaffected – sustain damage. Even faint odours left on clothing and furniture degrade items and resurge with moisture, warmth or air circulation if they aren’t treated. 

Paul Davis begins treating odour immediately – often within a few hours – before it sets and changes material fibres permanently. “Even when the fire is out and the smoke has cleared, damage to items may continue,” says Rebecca Robinson, Contents Manager with Paul Davis. “With the incredible number of natural and synthetic materials burned in modern fires, smoke can start complex chemical reactions on and in items. Without very quick action, items transform from cleanable to completely unsalvageable in hours.”

The odour removal process begins by inspecting the items’ condition. Paul Davis experts, who gently treat each item as if it’s their own important possession, then select among a variety of innovative technologies:

  • Chemical treatments. Ozone, a natural gas found in the atmosphere, pushes odours out of furniture and clothing textiles, replacing smoke smell with a clean, fresh scent. Hydroxyls, created naturally when the sun’s rays react with water and oxygen, also rapidly break down smoke odour; Paul Davis uses special machinery to generate hydroxyls. Additional advanced products designed specifically for Paul Davis encapsulate and chemically neutralize contaminants and odour.
  • Innovative technologies. Technicians may apply ultrasonic cleaning techniques, which harness bubbles produced by sound waves to drive odour from textiles, or they may use pressurized vapour.
  • Specialized cleaning products. High-tech cleaning agents, such as degreasers, brighteners, solvents, anti-mildew agents, disinfectants and detergents, are often used in combination with familiar deodourizing substances like baking soda. Paul Davis, which has created many of its own custom cleaning products, avoids fragrances in favor of a neutral smell.
  • Specialized handling. Clothing and furniture often require multiple treatments over a number of days in prescribed combinations. Special items – leather, vinyl, metallized fabrics – may benefit from specialty cleaning equipment, hand-washing, water vapour treatments and agitation. 

Though many fire survivors think it’s an impossible task, Paul Davis comes through: restoring most items of clothing and furniture to exceptional condition – in many cases better than before the fire – with no traces of smoke odour. These clean, fresh belongings pay dividends far beyond dollar value.

“The smell of smoke is unpleasant for anyone but is traumatizing and triggering for fire survivors,” Robinson says. “When familiar belongings smell like they used to, that helps victims heal from one of the worst experiences of their lives. We are honored to help in that process. It’s all part of caring for people completely during their time of need.”