In listing traumatic life events, little else tops the loss of a family member or friend by homicide. If you’ve lost a family member by homicide, you may now find yourself with the prospect of having to clean up the murder scene. There are some specific factors you must bear in mind when it comes to getting your house cleaned after someone was murdered in it. (These factors also generally pertain to a landlord who has had a tenant murdered in rental property.)
Bracing Yourself for the Murder Scene
If you’ve made the decision to clean up the scene of a murder on your own, you must brace yourself for what you will experience. British Journalist Alan Emmins penned a book entitled Mop Men: Inside the World of Crime Scene Cleaners. In researching for this book, Emmins followed a crime scene clean up specialist from one job to the next. When it comes to bracing yourself for a murder scene, Emmins advises:
“There was a lot of blood. I was surprised that it wasn’t actually that bad, because I’d seen bloody walls and bloody bathrooms on television … but … (it was so bad) I couldn’t relate it to anything (I’d seen before, on television or in a movie).”
Bottom line: the murder scene will be gruesome, the stuff of lasting nightmares. You simply cannot discount this reality. Moreover, as Emmins notes, you really cannot prepare yourself for the specter of a murder scene either.
Obtain Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment
As mentioned previously, a murder scene can present the risk of exposure to highly dangerous biohazardous pathogens. Thus, you must have personal protective gear that is designed specifically to protect against these potentially extreme health risks. This equipment includes:
- Mask or ventilator
- Smock or apron
Steps to Clean and Sanitize a Murder Scene
There are specific steps and tactics to follow when cleaning up a murder scene. Keep in mind that what is presented here is merely a basic outline of these steps and tactics.
The steps and tactics for cleaning up the hard surfaces at a murder scene include:
- Block off the area until cleanup and disinfection is complete.
- Put on personal protective equipment.
- Wipe up the spill as much as possible with paper towel or other absorbent material.
- Pour bleach solution mixture – 1-part bleach to 9-parts water – onto all contaminated areas.
- Let bleach solution remain on contaminated areas for 20 minutes.
- Wipe up remaining bleach solution.
- All non-disposable cleaning materials such as mops, brushes and rags need to be disinfected by saturating with a bleach solution and then allowed to air dry.
- Properly dispose of all contaminated items in appropriate biohazard waste receptacle.
- Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water.
Cleaning up “soft” surfaces like carpeting and furniture presents a different set of challenges. The steps and tactics for cleaning up “soft” surfaces at a murder scene include:
Dispose of Items: Certain items that have been contaminated by blood and other bodily fluids need to be thrown away properly. This means that they must be placed in an appropriate biohazard receptacle and disposed of in the manner required by law. Examples of items that may need to be disposed of in this manner include:
- Bed linens
Appropriate Cleaning and Sanitizing Products: Bleach and other decontamination and sanitization products can damage or destroy fabric. There are products on the market designed for commercial cleanup of biohazards. The specific directions on a particular product sets forth how it is to be used on fabric and other soft surfaces or items. You must utilize product that contains anti-microbial properties to help sanitize as thoroughly as possible. You best accomplish an appropriate clean up and sanitization by repeating the entire process two or three times.
Steam Clean: Steam cleaners will clean, remove debris, and sanitize more thoroughly than is the case with a conventional cleaning and sanitization process (involving items like carpeting). Steam cleaning oftentimes is considered the best way to protect against the risks of bloodborne pathogens.
The Wisdom of Do It Yourself Murder Scene Clean Up
Consider the horrific realities of a murder scene, you must seriously examine the wisdom of embarking on a clean up of this nature on your own and without engaging the services of a biohazard remediation professional. You particularly need to closely consider three factors:
- The safety risks of undertaking the clean up of a murder on your own
- The emotional risk of undertaking the clean up of a murder on your own
- Your limitations on thoroughly cleaning a murder scene
The reality is that in cleaning a murder scene, you run the risk of being exposed to harmful pathogens potentially contained in blood or other bodily fluids. These pathogens can exist in a murder committed with a firearm or knife. In addition, no matter the method of homicide, these pathogens exist if the body of the victim is not promptly discovered (within a couple of days of death).
Losing a loved one by homicide is a devastating life event. The emotional trauma of the murder of a family member or friend is magnified significantly if you take on the task of cleaning up the crime scene on your own.
Finally, a professional has the experience, supplies, tools, and equipment necessary to ensure a comprehensive and thorough murder scene clean up. No matter how diligent you may be, odds are that you won’t be able to muster the same offense to fully eliminate everything associated with a murder scene.
Contemplating these three primary considerations, wisdom very well may dictate that you are best served not undertaking a murder scene clean up on your own. Rarely does a person regret engaging a crime scene clean up professional to undertake this challenging task. Conversely, rarely does a person not regret personally undertaking a murder scene clean up on his or her own.