Hi Its Craig The Odor Dude here. This article details why business opportunities sometimes come from the most unlikely sources and why you should act on them.
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I wondered if I had a serial murderer on the phone looking for someone to help him with his latest conquest, or maybe Ray Liotta from Good fellas trying to remove the smell from the trunk of his car. You remember that scene right?
After a pregnant pause, mainly caused by me being dumbstruck and lost for words (that is a rare thing), the next thing I heard myself saying was
“When would you like us to start and where can I collect the keys from”
Who said that!…. Oh that’s right it was me.
I had no experience in cleaning or removing dead bodies, no idea of what was involved or how bad it could be, but I was willing to give it a try. One thing I had on my side was, I knew how chemicals worked on organic matter. Dead bodies are organic matter so the same principles should apply. (I hoped) I had been testing and tweaking Odor removal Chemicals and I was going to base my new formulation on similar chemicals to what is found in my DIY odor removal formulation
As it turned out it the guy on the phone was a contractor to the coroner, who was being let down consistently by a large cleaning franchise (who shall remain nameless).
The contractor was receiving complaints that the homes still stunk after the cleaning company treated them, so he was looking for some additional resource and I was it.
Breakdown of the job and first thoughts when arriving at the deceased persons house.
So I turned up at the house with overalls, thick chemical resistant gloves, googles, breathing masks, safety boots, some tools and cleaning equipment, plus some brutal chemicals that I had been testing out on meat and other things to simulate dead body residues the night before. I know I know…. mad scientist right? I had no idea what removing a body would involve and I also had no idea what cleaning up after them entailed, although I could imagine what I thought it would be like.
I had also not heard back from the contractor of when I would be met by the vehicle to transport the body to the morgue. I had rung and left messages and emailed 2-3 times.
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I entered the house nervously and the first thing that hit me was the smell. It was a combination of the odor produced when you first put a piece of meat into a hot oven to roast, combined with a bitter/sweet metallic smell. It was bad but not as bad as I expected. There were hundreds of dead flies in the house and I opened all the windows to let some air in, then went to investigate. I had a filtered mask on and a full body suit on as bodies produce airborne bacteria which can be inhaled. (I had read that online prior to going) 🙂
The dead body
After going through all the rooms the end result was no body but I could see where one had been. Thankfully the deceased person had been removed 30 minutes prior to me arriving by the Coroners people..Phew!!!
I was off the hook on that one and I am sure my emails and messages had produced some smiles back in the contractors office when I asked who would meet me to transport the body. A rookie error for sure but I did not get any flack on it and it was never mentioned.
The deceased person had passed away in the bathroom and fallen onto the floor. The sad thing was that their meal was still on the dining table untouched from 3 months ago. Possibly they had gone in to wash their hands before their meal, or use the toilet but either way they did no make it. The food had shrunk away to nothing, dehydrated completely and was so small it looked like miniature plastic food for a doll. The deceased never got to eat that meal and that thought stuck with me for a long time, in fact to this day it still serves as a valuable lesson in life. See below
The floor in the bathroom was a complete mess. There was a lot of skin and hair remaining and the floor was sodden with body fluids. Lying on the floor for 3 months means you basically melt into the floor, and as we all know a human body contains a lot of fluid. End result is it makes one hell of a mess. Some of the fluid evaporates over time as the air oxides it but the bulk of it remains and damages flooring and other substrates. I figured that this could be the reason why the cleaning company was struggling with removing the odors and I was just the kind of obsessed chemical / Odor Dude to fix this. They call me Craig The Odor Dude but the way 🙂
I rang my mate up who is handy with a hammer and nail and he came over to help (once he had clarified that there was no body there ) 🙂
We inspected the area together and decided the floor in the bathroom needed replacing as it was beyond repair. Particle floor board is like a sponge once it gets wet and it loses its strength as the glue separates from the particles. The residue had run downstairs in to the cellar and this needed pressure washing and a strong chemical treatment to make it sanitary again.
Removing The Floor boards
Before we got started on the removal of the floor, I was keen to test out my chemicals on the residues so I applied a brew to the area to see the results. I used a combination of Sodium Hydroxide and a Commercial Grade Peroxide ( Oxidizer) . I was fully kitted up with safety gear and took extreme care when handling the concentrated products. These chemicals will cause a lot of damage to your skin if you come into contact with them and if you get them in your eyes you will be blinded for life with a lot of pain in the process.
The “brew” certainly did the job and it consumed the waste matter including the hair and skin residues very quickly. The only downside was the horrific odor it caused, so we raced outside for fresh air and left it to do its work. Thankfully this was a one level home and when treating apartments with residents below extreme care needs to be taken so as not to cause damage to the property below.
By the time we went back in, the chemical had done its thing and the residue was gone. I was able to extract what was left with a commercial wet vac and warm water plus give the surrounding area another good flush with warm water to help extract anything I had missed.
After gaining permission from the contractor we ripped up the floor, and removed the toilet and bath. Luckily we did that as the body fluid had soaked into the floor under the bath and toilet as well so that would have been an issue area for years to come. Once the flooring and Scotia was removed and safely disposed off, I treated the floor joists with my chemical and and left it for the night.
We put up DO NOT ENTER SIGNS IN RED around the house and WARNING signs on the floor joists in the bathroom just to be on the safe side and came back the next day.
With the flooring removed the house smelled a lot better than the day before and we soon had the new particle wood floor back in, new vinyl installed, the bath and toilet reinstalled (after a thorough cleaning) and the room back to normal. I then placed an ozone machine in the house for 24 hours and we came back for the sniff test the following day.
It was perfect, no odor at all and the home smelt fresh and clean. We were proud of our achievement and I believed we had done the best job we could do.
I prepared my invoice and presented it to the contractor. His mouth dropped and I gulped. We had been too greedy I thought, I am have over charged I thought, opps I have blown it…..thats the end of my odor removal days, but in fact it was the complete opposite. We had undercharged and that was why his mouth dropped.
He said this is half of what he normally pays for the other company to do the work and they don’t ever replace the floors. With this good news the relationship was formed and we went on to do $54,000 approximately of contract jobs and gained a reputation for excellent work. Not all jobs required floor replacement and a lot of them were easy.
We went on to offer other services like creating Asset Lists, doing Asset Disposal, and so on. A lot of families wanted a turnkey solution.
Lesson Four: Keep your pricing fair and ensure you know your costs thoroughly. Also get a feel for the “Value proposition” that the clients experience when dealing with your business, as this can help you in raising your price without losing work. Get feedback on your work and your pricing regularly.
I found the work hugely rewarding, knowing that we had helped the family of the deceased on-sell the house successfully and the purchaser could be assured that they had a sanitary home without any lingering odors of a rotting human being. Quite a good thing to have I might add as the opposite can cause problems for many years to come and be very unhygienic and dangerous. (A lot of the jobs we did were drug addicts so getting rid of all remnants was mission critical for health and safety)
Over the following period we did some horrific jobs and on those jobs I focused my mind on a family with young kids moving in and that motivated me to get the job done to a high standard even when the jobs seemed impossible. I pictured the family inside the house enjoying their lives without the horror of what had occurred leaving any trace to upset them.
Speaking of horrific jobs here are some of the worst ones I remember.
We had 3 people that passed away on the toilet and they were there for months. These types of jobs are horrific to clean up, we also had 20-30 fridges that had been turned off when the power bill was not paid and the meat and food in the freezer part was rotting. With no oxygen present inside the freezer, the smell was the worst possible smell you could ever imagine.
If you want to know what makes an Odor Dude vomit then this was it and be careful when opening the freezer door as pressure builds up from the gas and if you get sprayed with the liquid inside you will hurl your guts out for hours and I mean hours.
I had many runs into the back yard to lose my breakfast when doing fridges. Fridges are a 1000 times worse than deceased body odor.
Then there was the guy that had died and as he fell had grabbed a cupboard that had a roll of picnic wrap on the top and the lot came down on top of him including the plastic. 4 and 1/2 months he lay there rotting into the floor while the neighbors went about their business, no one noticing the increasing number of flies, (I still to this day do not understand where they all come from)
We also had murder scenes with more blood than you could ever imagine, and other equally gruesome jobs to do, but I always maintained the high standards and acted professional to ensure we did the best we could. Focusing on the family who would move in was a winning formula for me.
Lesson Five: Having a focus for the end goal helps achieve the project with less stress and effort. This applies to business and your personal life.
I eventually got out of this business and focused on the product side of the company which I went onto sell in 2013. I now provide Odor Removal advice online to end users and trade people.