The nose knows
Scientists believe that the olfactory system, smell , was probably the first sense to evolve; as odorant receptors are literally an extension of the brain stem.
Our response to smell is , in fact, primeval and therefore not tempered by the analytical brain ; making smell a very base sense that we react to on an emotional level.
The sense of taste also arrived early, but it is much less important to survival. By the time we get something close enough to taste, we have usually determined that it smells safe to eat - and that it doesn't smell like something that is more likely to eat us.
Taste seems to be limited to just four or five distinct flavors; sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami (from Asian cultures). Therefore, most of what we perceive as taste is actually smell. Although we can only taste four to five distinct differences, we can actually differentiate more than 10,000 odors.
The olfactory system in humans is still the subject of a great deal of debate, but we do know that what we smell is nothing more than stray molecules of substances, known as odorants, that waft through the air and settle onto molecular receptors inside our nose. The odorants induce an electric signal in the receptors that is carried through neurons into the olfactory bulb, which sends the signal to a part of our brain known as the olfactory cortex. That passes them along to the hippocampus, a very primitive brain structure actually associated with memory in mammals.
Because our sense of smell is so fundamental, it effects our emotions and our most basic urges.
For example; ginger or fresh baked bread makes you want to hug grandma, or buy a house. (Realtors have been known to put a little vanilla on a dish in a warm oven during a showing; the rascals.)
The smell of barbecue makes us feel hungry, a baby smell makes us feel protective and parental, and a wood fire smell often makes us feel nostalgic.
It may well be that it is the smell of lilacs on a spring morning that is what turns young men's hearts to thoughts of love. Sexual smells (pheromones) are another story and covered in an entirely different kind of Web site.
Organic compounds like dogs, cats, garbage ... and the occasional tenant ... constantly shed molecules. Our nose samples the molecules, sends the identification to our brain, then a subconscious, uncontrollable reaction of something from hugging to evicting is produced in our mind and body.
However, a smell that we recognize, like perhaps the one we perceive to be cats, is a blend of hundreds of different odors combining to produce the unique smell that most of us recognize as soon as we walk into a cat house.
Landlords have tried to combat offensive odors in their property by not allowing pets, and asking tenants to please put out the garbage. When that doesn't work we try scrubbing the odor away with ammonia or overwhelming them with the scent of lilacs or pine trees.
There is a better way. Change the shape of molecules so that our nose doesn't recognize them and .... wal-la, we can't smell the nastiness. What you don't know ... won't hurt your chances of re-renting the apartment.
Punati chemical company* in Birmingham, Michigan, makes such a seemingly magical product they named "Smells Begone". It even works on refrigerators that were left closed when the power was shut off. There are other products by other names that probably work as well. Neutron Industries* produces a product called "D-Molish", which is a formulation of live bacteria specially selected to remove stains and control organic waste and odor. The bacteria do not eat up the waste, but produce enzymes that break it down into the simple molecules of carbon dioxide and water. Look for them, they work.
Another seemingly magical odor elimination solution is ozone. The clean fresh smell you enjoy at the beach or after a summer thunderstorm can be generated right in your stinking rental with the use of a small, portable, ozone generator. Read our page on Ozone Generators.
Evolution has provided us with an stinking circuit breaker
When we are exposed to a really strong and noxious odor longer than about four minutes, our sense of smell goes dead. Even something as terrible as rotting flesh will fade after a few minutes of exposure. That's how some people are able to work with odors for a protracted period that make others gag as soon as they encounter it.
The time to deal with any unpleasant stench is immediately, while you still recognize how bad it really is. After you have spent more than a few minutes working in a unit, you will begin to acclimate and may not realize how tenant prospects are likely to react if even slight, residual bad odors are not corrected.
Once you have eliminated the bad odor in a rental unit, remember to use pleasant scents to help sell it.
Rental housing doesn't have to stink.
Need to eliminate cat odor?
Also see: Pet Pages & Links | Tenant Pet Tips | Pets Can be Valuable, particularly large dogs. | Rentals Stink | Need to eliminate cat odor?
See: How tenants keep a pet when a lease says: "No Pets"