Insights from a Funeral Director on the Value of Odor Management

By August 13, 2013November 30th, 2018Janitorial & Sanitation

It is not often that you get to learn about the inner workings of a funeral home. Most people only have a vague understanding of the industry, which mostly comes from popular culture and TV shows like HBO’s Six Feet Under.

However, the Fresh Wave IAQ blog editorial team recently had the pleasure of speaking with a licensed funeral director and embalmer in the Chicago area who described the most common odor management challenges that funeral directors face.

While it is easy to assume that most of the odors come from the embalming process, as well as from the cadavers themselves, there are other odor challenges to contend with throughout the facility. Grieving friends and family members should not have to deal with any odors whatsoever – only fresh air.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the key odor challenges:

  • Odors in the Lounges and Public Areas: Like odors in any public facility, funeral homes deal with standard odors that can come from older buildings, which include cigarette smoke, food smells, and fresh cut flowers, not to mention flowers that are past their own life cycle.

  • Preparation Room Odors: When preparing a human body for the embalming process, odors can arise from bodily fluids as well as the decomposition process, which begins to set in shortly after death. Embalming fluid and other chemicals used in the preparation process also cause odors.

  • Garbage and Laundry Odors: Funeral homes are required to dispose of human fluids in biohazard containers, which can generate odors between pickups. In addition, laundry odors – both from linens and other fabrics that can be cleaned and reused throughout the funeral home, as well as from the funeral director’s own clothing worn during the preparation process – must be attended to properly, and in a timely fashion.

The embalming and related chemicals used throughout the process of preparing a body for viewing by family and friends are prime examples of the necessity for funeral homes to employ odor solutions that completely eliminate odors, instead of covering them up with phony masking fragrances.

And while many newer funeral facilities have air filtration systems to keep the preparation and waste odors from seeping into the general areas, they are not always 100 percent effective. Sometimes patrons can smell preparation room odors, and since many people have different levels of sensitivity to odors, funeral homes are among those facilities where it is most crucial to implement sound odor management strategies.

As a closing thought, the customer service aspect of the funeral business is very important. While families and friends grieve the loss of their loved ones, they want to be surrounded by chemical odors as much as they want to be surrounded by fake flowery fragrances and other artificial masking agents (which is to say, they do not at all).

Be sure to stay tuned for the second part of this post where we share insights about odor control and cemetery management.