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What Do Crime Scene Cleaners Use to Clean?

Updated: May 29

What Do Crime Scene Cleaners Use to Clean

Crime scene cleaning services are crucial when faced with the aftermath of a violent crime, suicide, or accidental death. And ordinary household cleaning chemicals don't measure up to tackle these situations.

Professional crime scene cleaners are equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), advanced tools, special hazardous waste containers, and potent cleaning supplies to disinfect and decontaminate infectious materials.

Biohazard technicians are trained to remove hazardous material safely (such as blood, tissue, animal waste, body fluids, and other toxic waste), restore the space to livable conditions, and offer emotional support during these difficult times.

However, the reality is that crime scenes pose significant health concerns, both physically and emotionally. From bloodborne pathogens like HIV to the emotional toll that violent exposure can have on crime scene cleaners' psyche - the cleanup job is not a DIY fix.

In this article, we'll cover what crime scene cleanup companies use to disinfect, deodorize, and decontaminate crime scenes; from hospital-grade cleaning chemicals to heavy-duty hazmat bags and cleaning brushes - and beyond.

The Hazards Of Crime Scene Cleanup

Cleaning crime scenes involves more than just a crime scene cleaner, as various professional services are needed. These include biohazard technicians, first responders, law enforcement, and public health professionals.

While crime scene cleaning is not a regulated industry, crime scene cleanup companies are required to have the necessary licenses and certifications. This ensures they follow the correct safety protocols outlined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to remove, clean, and transport infectious materials responsibly.

Let's look at a few physical and emotional health hazards presented by crime scenes:

Physical Hazards

  • Biohazards: Microscopic bloodborne pathogens like HIV, MRSA, Clostridium difficile (C. diff), and Hepatitis A, B, and C can be present, requiring strict precautions to eliminate exposure and spread of the disease(s). Other dangers include airborne pathogens like bacteria, viruses, germs, and parasites which can cause illness or infection through open wounds or to the respiratory system if not handled correctly.

  • Chemical hazards: Cleaning chemicals, tear gas residue, and/or drug and medication deposits may be present, posing the risk of skin irritation, respiratory problems, or poisoning if not disposed of properly.

  • Sharp hazards: Sharp objects like discharged needles and syringes, broken glass, or weapons need to be disposed of safely to prevent the risk of injury or infection. These objects are a haven for parasites and bloodborne pathogens, especially if they contain remnants of bodily fluids.

  • Structural hazards: Broken glass, saturated carpeting, damaged floors, debris, remnants of fires, or unstable structures can lead to cuts, burns, injuries, and infections associated with these contaminated materials.

Cleaning a crime scene requires a meticulous and methodical approach.

Professional crime cleanup crews understand the dangers they face when entering a crime scene, even if it's not the result of a violent crime. This highlights the importance of the correct PPE gear, safety equipment, respiratory devices, and specialized tools to handle toxic substances and situations, ensuring the relevant regulations are meticulously adhered to.

Emotional Hazards

  • Psychological trauma: Exposure to violence, death, and disturbing crime scenes can be emotionally taxing for crime cleanup professionals, making mental health support crucial.

  • Compassion fatigue: Repeated exposure to trauma can lead to compassion fatigue, which can present itself in various ways. This includes physical and emotional exhaustion, burnout, increased irritability/sensitivity, and a lack of empathy towards others during the aftermath of difficult crimes. Other symptoms include disrupted sleep, anxiety, emotional numbness, decreased sense of purpose, feelings of helplessness/hopelessness, and detachment from once enjoyable activities.

Crime scene cleanup companies are aware of the physical and psychological challenges their employees face and provide mental health support in the form of counseling, training, and coping mechanisms to combat this issue.

Essential Equipment for Crime Scene Cleaners

Biohazard technicians have an array of specialized safety gear and cleaning supplies in their arsenal to perform their jobs safely and effectively.

Here's a list of items crime scene cleaners use:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • Coveralls - such as Tyvek suits, hazmat suits

  • Chemical-resistant safety gloves

  • Chemical spill boots

  • Footwear coverings

  • Respirators (including full-face respirators where necessary)

  • Face masks

  • Eye protection (e.g. safety goggles, face screens)

Cleaning Tools and Supplies

  • Cleaning equipment:

    • Buckets

    • Mops

    • Scrubbing brushes

    • Sponges

    • Paper towels

    • Cloths

  • Decontamination tools:

    • HEPA filters

    • Shovels

    • Box cutters

    • Ladders

    • Putty knives/razor blades

    • ATP fluorescence testing unit

    • Spray bottles

    • Biohazard waste containers and biohazard disposal containers

    • Solid plastic containers

    • Sharps containers

  • Biohazard cleanup supplies:

    • HEPA vacuums

    • Plastic sheeting

    • Red bags

    • Waste bins

    • Bio-tape

    • Fogger machines - for dispersing disinfectant solutions

    • Industrial strength deodorizers

    • Odor neutralizers (e.g. ozone machines)

  • Industrial-strength disinfectant solutions for cleaning, disinfecting, and decontaminating surfaces, walls, floors, and objects include:

    • Detergents - water-soluble solutions used to loosen impurities from hard surfaces

    • Degreasers - used to cut through oils, grime, and (body) fat on surfaces

    • Abrasives - used to polish, scrub, or clean by abrasion (scrubbing)

    • Enzyme solvents - to break down organic matter like blood and tissue

    • Acids - used to neutralize alkalis

Chemicals Used in Crime Scene Cleaning

Crime scenes require a different level of cleaning power. Biohazard remediation companies rely on industrial-grade chemicals, regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to safely decontaminate and neutralize the affected area(s).

These chemicals, which are significantly more potent than typical household cleaning solutions, come with a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) that outlines proper handling procedures and potential hazards, ensuring compliance with regulations.

Here are six common cleaning solutions and chemicals used for crime scene cleanup:

  1. Hydrogen peroxide is often used for crime scene cleaning because of its disinfecting properties. It effectively breaks down harmful pathogens and eliminates bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

  2. Bleach - with the active ingredient sodium hypochlorite - is a powerful disinfectant that irradicates bacteria, parasites, and infectious viruses. However, bleach can be harmful to humans and surfaces if not used correctly.

  3. Chlorine dioxide is commonly used in treating swimming pools and is characterized by its strong chlorine smell. Professional crime scene cleaners use chlorine dioxide to thoroughly disinfect contaminated areas, ensuring the removal of biohazards like blood and other toxic substances.

  4. Thymol, with a molecular structure of 2-isopropyl-5-methylphenol, comes from the thyme plant. This potent, EPA-approved natural compound kills bacteria, pathogens, viruses, and fungi by disrupting their cell membranes and is effectively used for decontamination purposes.

  5. Benzalkonium chloride, or alkyl-dimethyl-benzylammonium chloride, is a cleaning chemical similar to thymol. However, its strong formula can "burn holes" into infectious materials and surfaces if used in high doses, so wearing safety gloves is a must. It effectively eliminates harmful pathogens but can be hazardous to aquatic life and cause skin and eye irritations in humans.

  6. Surfactants are commonly found in cleaning solutions and help cut through oils and grease. They break down the barrier between polar (e.g. water) and nonpolar (e.g. oil) substances and are essential for deep cleaning and disinfection in biohazard cleanups.

It's worth mentioning that not all biohazardous waste can be seen by the naked eye.

Microscopic bloodborne pathogens, air-borne viruses, and other germs and bacteria may lie "inactivate" on inadequately cleaned surfaces long after the crime was committed. These heavy-duty cleaning chemicals remove traces of such microbes and restore surfaces to safe conditions.

Why Can't I Use Household Cleaning Chemicals to Clean Up Crime Scenes?

While household cleaning products are effective for cleaning bathrooms and minor stains from countertops and floors, their chemical makeup is not strong enough to tackle infectious and hazardous materials present at crime scenes.

Biohazardous waste - like blood and other body fluids, such as urine, feces, vomit, and semen - needs an industrial-strength deodorizer, disinfectant, and specialized cleaning agents to remove harmful pathogens efficiently.

The dangers of using household cleaning products include:

  • Inadequate disinfection - leading to the potential spread of infectious diseases and pathogens.

  • Health risks - exposing individuals to biohazards like bloodborne pathogens (e.g. HIV, Hepatitis B, and C) present at crime scenes increases the risk of infections and health complications.

  • Incorrect use - can result in permanent damage, stains, and odors that are difficult to remove, impacting the structural integrity or aesthetics of the affected area(s).

  • Improper disposal - can result in the spread of infection and compromise compliance regulations for handling hazardous materials.

The Importance of Professional Crime Scene Cleaning

In the aftermath of a traumatic event, the last thing you want to worry about is the safe and proper cleaning of a crime scene. This is where professional biohazard remediation companies come in. Their expertise, knowledge, and compassion bring a mound of benefits when compared to attempting a DIY cleanup, such as:


  • Crime scene technicians are trained and equipped to remove and dispose of biohazardous materials safely and reliably. Improper handling of such items can result in infection, disease, injury, and even death if not done correctly.

  • Crime scene cleaners take a methodical approach to ensure thorough decontamination and disinfection of the entire crime scene area(s). This strategy eliminates pathogens and prevents the spread of disease.

  • As mentioned, crime scene cleanup is complex and harbors dangerous germs and bacteria. Professionals use PPE gear, have specialized tools, and follow strict protocols to minimize exposure risks.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

  • Law enforcement agencies and public health departments need to report, investigate, and document crime scenes; ensuring forensic evidence remains untouched. Professional crime scene cleanup companies understand these legal requirements and work alongside police to ensure the integrity of evidence.

  • Crime scenes are emotionally sensitive situations to find oneself in. Professionals treat these situations with the utmost respect, compassion, and discretion to minimize further distress to the victim's friends and family members.

  • Insurance companies require documentation and reports of crime scenes and their cleanup. Trauma scene cleaning companies work closely with these organizations to ensure a smooth insurance claim process. They also adhere to environmental safety standards and state/federal laws when it comes to the removal, transport, and disposal of toxic waste.

Peace of Mind

  • Trauma scene cleaning professionals offer guidance and psychological support during these difficult times, allowing you to focus on your healing.

  • Professional crime scene cleanup goes beyond cleaning. They help restore the property to safe, clean, and habitable conditions, keeping disruption to your daily routines at a minimum.

  • Rest assured the legalities of forensic evidence, property restoration, and insurance claims are taken care of when using professional crime scene cleaning services.

The Steps Involved in Crime Scene Cleanup

Here's a brief breakdown of the crime scene cleaning process:

  1. Initial assessment: A qualified crime scene cleaner professional will assess the scene, identify the scope of work, and discuss options with you. This is usually done once law enforcement and medical responders have vacated the area.

  2. Securing the scene: The area must be secured to prevent unauthorized access and protect forensic evidence.

  3. Biohazard removal and decontamination: Safe removal of biohazards and thorough disinfection of the entire space.

  4. Odor control: The neutralization of unpleasant odors caused by decomposition and decay is done using specialized equipment such as foggers and ozone machines.

  5. Property restoration: Cleaning, deodorization, and restoration services return the property to a livable state.

  6. Waste disposal: Biohazardous materials are disposed of according to strict regulations, outlined by the EPA.

Chore-ology is the industry leader in residential and commercial biohazard decontamination in the greater Seattle and Tacoma region. Our highly skilled teams handle crime scene cleanups with dignity, integrity, and compassion, ensuring the affected area(s) are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Note: Avoid biohazard remediation companies that claim they "sanitize" crime scenes when cleaning. "Sanitizing" means germs and bacteria are reduced to a safe level but don't necessarily eliminate them all. "Disinfect", on the other hand, is a stronger cleaning method, whereby a significantly larger portion of germs, pathogens, and bacteria are eliminated.

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