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Can I Get Sick From Cleaning A Hoarder's House?

Can I Get Sick From Cleaning A Hoarder's House? Graphic

Cleaning a hoarder's house can be really stressful. There are piles of possessions to sort through, years of dirt to scrub clean, and different types of waste to deal with.

And, on top of all that, you're also exposing yourself to disease and a range of health risks when helping someone with hoarding disorder.

This article will discuss how you can get sick from cleaning a hoarder's house and some common health threats lurking amongst the clutter.

What Causes You To Get Sick While Cleaning A Hoarder's Home?

Before we can address the health risks posed to those involved in the cleaning process, we first need to discuss exactly what causes someone to get sick.


Hoarder's homes are the perfect environment for mold to grow. With high levels of humidity, a lack of airflow, and lots of waste (in the shape of old food or animal feces), mold quickly takes root.

And, because of the volume of junk and possessions in a hoarder's house, the mold can go undetected for a long time.

Inhaling mold can exacerbate respiratory conditions that you may already have - like asthma - and cause allergic reactions.


Pests are synonymous with cluttered spaces.

Insects like flies, ants, maggots, cockroaches, lice, and bedbugs are often found in hoarder's homes. All these bugs secrete waste, which is hidden in furniture, crevices, corners, and in between all the junk.

In more severe hoarding situations, rats and mice also share the home with the hoarder.

Their feces can contain listeria or salmonella, while animal carcasses release harmful pathogens as they decompose.

Animal waste

Animal hoarding is unfortunately a common occurrence. It is also the most dangerous form of hoarding disorder, as the hoarder's house is stuffed with sick animals, their waste, and, in more severe circumstances, decaying animal corpses.

Bodily fluids are considered hazardous materials and can pose significant health problems to hoarders and those cleaning the house.

Human feces and urine

In severe hoarding cases, human urine and feces can be found. This is because of:

  • Poor maintenance or not paying water bills, causing the plumbing to no longer work.

  • The inability to access the toilet, shower, and sink because of too much clutter.

Human waste and bodily fluids are considered hazardous materials and certain precautions must be taken when cleaning it, like wearing personal protective equipment and using disinfectants.

The bacteria found in feces, urine, and other biohazardous materials can cause you to become sick.


Dust is composed of a variety of substances, including:

  • Dirt

  • Pollen

  • Soil

  • Skin flakes

  • Fibers

In most homes, dust accumulates in areas where there is little foot traffic. But, in a hoarder's home, dust can cover almost all the surfaces.

All the clutter makes it nearly impossible to regularly dust and clean all the surfaces, and a lack of airflow in most hoarding homes worsens the situation.

Dust can affect your physical well-being when you breathe it in, causing respiratory problems and allergies.

Other risks to your safety

Other potential health and safety risks that lurk in hoarder's houses include:

  • Fire risks: Stacks of flammable materials, chemicals, faulty electrical wiring, and a lack of safety equipment increase fire hazards.

  • Trip hazards: Uneven flooring, pools of urine, and objects littered across the floor increase your chances of tripping.

  • Structural hazards: A lack of maintenance coupled with mold and water damage can cause structural deterioration of the home.

  • Rotting food: This is considered a biohazard and can attract pests.

  • Lack of proper ventilation: Often it is impossible to open windows or doors because of all the clutter, causing the air in the home to be stagnant and of poor quality.

Health Risks When Cleaning A Hoarder's House

Now that we've discussed what causes you to become sick when cleaning a hoarder's house, we'll touch on exactly how you may be affected.

Respiratory health problems

Dust, mold, debris, and a lack of open windows result in poor air quality inside the home.

By breathing in harmful airborne particles, you may experience respiratory problems, like coughing, sneezing, and struggling to breathe.

If you have asthma, your symptoms will most likely worsen.

Although these breathing issues are mostly temporary and should clear up when you leave the home, they're still something to be aware of.

Allergens and irritants

Pollen, dust, mold, fungal spores, and pet dander can all cause an allergic reaction. It can trigger allergies, causing:

  • Itching

  • Redness

  • Irritated eyes

  • Difficulty breathing

This is worsened by poor indoor air quality.


Unclean conditions found in hoarding homes create the perfect conditions for bacteria and pests to breed and spread.

That, coupled with the risk of injury and sharp objects that can cut you, increases your risk of infections.

Mental and emotional well-being

The cleaning process can be emotionally and mentally draining. You can feel completely overwhelmed with the task ahead and experience increased levels of stress and anxiety. If it is a close family member whose house you're cleaning, you may feel depressed about the state of their home.

You must take care of your mental well-being too, by talking to a therapist and seeking help from loved ones.

How To Protect Yourself While Cleaning A Hoarder's House

  • Hire professional cleaners like Chore-ology with biohazard decontamination experience. Their professional expertise will ensure the home is cleaned without you having to expose yourself to disease.

  • Wear personal protective equipment, including a face mask, goggles, gloves, booties, and a smock - especially when dealing with chemicals or biohazardous materials.

  • Ensure proper ventilation by opening up all the doors and windows.

  • Keep a first aid kit on hand in case of an accident or injury.

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