Picking Up The Pieces: Crime Scene Clean Up

Cleaning up after CSI


Police officers and other emergency response personnel have the unpleasant task of working with the dead. They’re the first responders—the life-savers and the crime-solvers. But when their job is done they go about their duties of finding new lives to save, and new criminals to apprehend. The crime scenes, however, are left behind, as is, with blood, tissue, brain matter, and other such macabre tid-bits left lying around. Someone has to clean up the mess, and the police certainly aren’t going to do it. That’s where companies like AFTERMATH, INC. of Oswego, Illinois, and Crime Scene Steri-Clean of Southern California come in.

Crime scene clean-up companies employ teams of highly trained employees who come to the scene of a homicide, suicide, etc., and clean up and decontaminate every single surface in the affected areas. They completely remove all body matter from the scene. They’re also trained to clean up fingerprint powder, tear gas residue, and odors associated with decomposition.

All body fluids are considered biohazard waste and must be treated accordingly, as potential sources of infection. Crime scene clean up companies must have all the required permits required by law to transport and dispose of hazardous waste.

These companies have on-call staff members who are required to respond to a scene within a reasonable amount of time, usually within minutes if the scene is located in the company’s home territory.

The costs associated with cleaning up a crime scene can be costly, but many homeowner’s policies will cover much of the expense. Some states will absorb some of the clean up costs for homicide cases. Crime Scene Steri-Clean promises to work with any budget, stating they’ll accept payments as little as one dollar per month if that’s all the victim’s family can afford.

All of AFTERMATH’s vehicles (they have offices all across the country) are certified by the EPA to haul medical waste. Their technicians are all blood-born pathogen certified. FYI – Many police academies require police officers to undergo blood-born pathogen training.

Some of the equipment used by crime scene clean up companies:

– non-porous disposable suits, gloves, respirators, and spill proof boots

– ozone machines for odor removal

– bleach and other disinfectants

– deodorizoers

– enzyme solvents to kill bacteria and viruses

– wet vac

– scrapers for removal of brain matter and tissue

– steam injection systems to soften dried matter

– standard tools, such as hammer, screwdrivers, shovels (snow shovels for large amounts of wet tissue)

– camera


* For an interesting read about crime scene cleanup, I recommend:


Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home

by my friend, Gil Reavill

Some of you who attended this year’s NoirCon in Philadelphia may have met Gil. He was a panelist at the conference.

11 replies
  1. foren6chick
    foren6chick says:

    LOLOL. Am I the only one that thinks this is hysterical? –the responses, not the article. The article was great. Very informative and (nearly) descriptive. I wish all the tv-watching wannabees that think forensics is ‘cool’ would start by reading something like this. It’s bad enough for those of us that pick up the big chunks and bring them back to the shop. We get to leave the scene and (with any luck at all) leave it behind us. These guys are the ones who deal with what we leave ‘behind us’and have to hang out in it. The clean-up crews are an amazing bunch of folks. They help people pretend that nothing horrific has ever taken place. THAT is a real service.
    p.s. Rinaeful, no, we don’t put ‘white stuff’ under our noses. –another Hollywood touch to help viewers imagine how awful a death scene might be. They never even come close…

  2. Marjorie
    Marjorie says:

    Once a crime scene has been officially released, is it true that it can take months before the owner might be allowed to have it cleaned up? Who determines the amount of the waiting period? Is it a matter of whether or not the home is still in use by other occupants? It seems that some homes sit idle for very long stretches of time with no further investigative activity. Why is that, Lee?

  3. rinaeful
    rinaeful says:

    How do you handle the smell, I have seen on Tv were they smear on that white stuff under there noses before viewing a body. Do crime scene cleaners use something like this as well?

  4. Peg H
    Peg H says:

    The ozone machines work well on smoke damage odor too…*the voice of experience on that.

    I’m with you Joyce. I don’t like normal cleaning that wouldn’t be a job I could handle.

  5. Elena
    Elena says:

    I knew a woman who does this kind of clean-up. She told me she finds it quite peaceful, especially after suiting up. She came to this career change from being a paramedic in a very rough area. Perspective counts.

    Still, she said, that while you get used to the gore, there is an emotional component that can kick you upside the head without warning. For her, one of the more difficult things is cleaning up after someone who died of natural causes, but wasn’t found for several weeks or longer. It’s the implied aloneness that gets her.

  6. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Jenifer – I almost hate to say this, but I can’t resist. That’s what they use the scrapers for…turning stomachs.

    Bobby – You can imagine the role SpongeBob plays in crime scene clean up.

  7. jenifer
    jenifer says:

    This is an interesting topic, and the post is great, but when I got to the scrapers my stomach turned a little. 🙂

    Wendy Roberts writes a fictional series (second book coming out soon) about a woman who owns a crime-scene cleaning company. Hers has the twist of the main character being able to talk to the ghosts of the people killed there, but they’re fun books.

    And I’m definitely off to look for the book you recommend!

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