A universally unsettling event for any homeowner is a residential flood or sewage backup and everything that accompanies the aftermath of such an event. A typical flood or sewage backup nearly always is accompanied by a foul stench that must be dealt with as part of the overall flood and sewage cleanup process. There are isolated but very real cases of people who endure a residential flood or sewage backup and then have a professional cleaning company address the aftermath. Even after professional flood or sewage cleaning and complete elimination of a stench, a person might continue to smell the foul odor that is no longer there. This condition can persist indefinitely and be highly problematic. There are ways in which what fairly can be called phantom odors can be dealt with in the aftermath of a flood or sewage cleaning.

Overview of Phantom Odor

Experiencing a phantom odor, also known as olfactory hallucination or phantosmia, is a situation in which a person detects odors that aren’t actually present, according to the Mayo Clinic. In the case of a residential flood or sewage backup, a person continues to smell a stench associated with the onerous situation in his or her home. A phantom odor of this nature can be intense, persistent, and pervasive. In basic terms, a person continues to smell filth and sewage in his or her home after odors associated with a flood or sewage backup have been fully remediated.

Phantom odors can be caused by an array of physical events including a head injury, an upper respiratory infection, inflamed sinuses, temporal lobe seizures, brain tumors, and Parkinson’s disease. It can also arise at the result of a traumatic experience, of which the flooding or rush or raw sewage into a residence can qualify for some people in some cases. In other words, phantom odor is medically or psychologically diagnosed condition.

Research and Preliminary Conclusions About Phantom Odors

Thus far, phantom odors have been largely overlooked by medical and psychological professionals. Only rather recently has any notable research been undertaken in regard to phantom odors. With that said, there is some data to underscore why and how a person who has endured a flood or sewage back up in the home can end up laboring under phantom odors.

A person who suffers phantom odors following a flood or sewage issue in the home may have what medical experts are terming overactive nerve cells in the nasal cavity. In the alternative, some medical researchers suggest the central nervous system in some people is mis-wired which results in a misinterpretation of the environment. Because of the trauma associated with flooding or a sewage backup, once the actual stench is eliminated, a person with this mis-wiring misinterprets that environment and continues to smell odors that are no longer actually present.

Professional Help for Phantom Odors

If a person suffers phantom odors associated with a residential flood or sewage backup, there is professional assistance available. The first step is to schedule an appointment with a primary care physician. A key step must be eliminating some of the more serious conditions that can result in a person suffering from phantom odors, like Parkinson’s disease. If the underlying reason for phantom odors in this type of situation appears to emotional or psychological, a referral can then be made to an appropriate counselor or therapist.

Thorough Remediation is a Must

One important step that must taken to avoid the occurrence of phantom odors in the first instance is to ensure that a home is fully cleaned and deodorized following a flood or sewage backup. Although a person can undertake flood or sewage cleanup on his or her own, that is not necessarily a recommended course.

A flood or sewage cleaning company has the experience, resources, and ability to undertake a comprehensive process to ensure that the aftermath of a flood or sewage back up fully is remediated. A professional also ensures that this type of comprehensive remediation is undertaken in a safe manner. This process is multifaceted and includes:

  • Removal of waste
  • Cleaning or scrubbing contaminated areas and objects
  • Sanitization of contaminated areas and objects
  • Deodorization of residence

The ultimate objective of professional flood or sewage cleanup is the complete restoration of a residence to a fully livable condition. This necessitates the complete removal of all elements associated with flooding or sewage backup.

As an aside, safety and health issues are involved with flood or sewage remediation in a residence. Flood water and sewage can contain dangerous pathogens that can cause serious and even potentially fatal health problems or diseases. A professional biohazard remediation company has the experience and safety gear necessary to safely cleanup of after a flood or sewage issue. This includes appropriate personal protective equipment like:

  • Face mask or respirator
  • Gloves
  • Protective eyewear
  • Smock or uniform


Emily Kil

Co-Owner of Eco Bear Biohazard Cleaning Company

Together with her husband, Emily Kil is co-owner of Eco Bear, a leading biohazard remediation company in Southern California. An experienced entrepreneur, Emily assisted in founding Eco Bear as a means of combining her business experience with her desire to provide assistance to people facing challenging circumstances. Emily regularly writes about her first-hand experiences providing services like biohazard cleanup, suicide cleanup, crime scene cleanup, unattended death cleanup, and other types of difficult remediations in homes and businesses.