In the latter part of the spring of 2020, a larger swath of people in Los Angeles, elsewhere in Southern California and across the state, and in other communities in the United States became more familiar with tear gas. Many people saw people being tear-gassed on television news broadcasts. Moreover, a number of people themselves felt the effects of tear gas. Indeed, some of these individuals were business owners and residents of areas in which the police deployed tear gas as a means of “crowd control. This reality has given rise to the matter of how a person effectively goes about effectively undertaking tear gas cleanup. 

Three Most Commonly Used Types of Tear Gas

Law enforcement agencies typically utilize one of three different types of tear gas. In some instances, law enforcement agencies will use a combination of two of these gases. The trio of tear gases most often used by law enforcement agencies in the United States are: 

  • CS
  • CN
  • OC

When tear gases are used in combination, law enforcement agencies tend to deploy CS and OC in a mix. 

As will be discussed in a moment, these three different types of tear gas have different effects. In addition, these various types of tear gas call for markedly different cleaning protocols. In fact, as will be seen, a couple of these gases have cleaning requirements that are in opposition to one another.

Overview of the Effects of These Different Tear Gases

The three different types of tear gasses do have somewhat different effects on a person. CS sometimes is referred to as a “super tear gas” because of its effectiveness. Currently, CS is the most commonly utilized tear gas when it comes to crowd control and use by law enforcement in the United States. 

CS tear gas works by causing irritation of the mucous membranes in a person’s eyes, mouth, nose, and lungs. The gas causes coughing, crying, sneezing, difficulty breathing, eye pain, and ultimately temporary blindness. Symptoms associated with CS tear gas typically arise within 20 to 60 seconds of exposure. The symptoms resolve in about 30 minutes from being removed from the area where this type of tear gas is being used.

CN tear gas isn’t as widely used and is considered more toxic than the CS or OC derivations. CN tear gas is said to work more directly on the nerves associated with a person’s eyes. As a result, CN tear gas is apt to cause a person to experience temporary blindness more quickly than is the case with the other two types of this “deterrent” discussed here. 

Because of the direct impact that CN gas can have on the nerves associated with the eyes, when exposed to this substance, a person is wise to consult with a doctor to ensure that permanent damage did not occur. With that said, and as was noted a moment ago, this type of tear gas is not used as commonly in the United States as the other two derivations discussed here. 

OC is the final type of tear gas. OC is most commonly known as “pepper spray.” There has been some debate in recent times as to whether pepper spray (or OC) is in fact tear gas. The reality is that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies OC or pepper spray as a tear gas in the same way that the other two derivations mentioned in this discussion are classified in this manner.

OC tear gas causes a person’s eyelids to swell, forcing the eyes closed. This process occurs rapidly after being exposed to OC tear gas or pepper spray. The net effect is temporary blindness. 

OC tear gas can have some other effects in some cases. It can cause a person to experience discomfort or a burning sensation in the lungs. It can also result in a person experiencing some shortness of breath. 

How to Clean Up CS Tear Gas

The first step in CS tear gas cleanup is to ventilate the impacted area completely. If tear gas impacted a business or home, open up as many doors and windows as reasonably possible. 

Effectively cleaning up CS tear gas necessitates keeping the impacted area as cool as possible. Heat causes this type of tear gas to spread. 

CS tear gas leaves behind a crystalline residue. Items contaminated with tear gas residue should be cleaned with an agent like Unsmoke Degrease-All diluted. The agent is diluted at between two to four ounces for a gallon of water. 

You will also want to clean and seal the HVAC system to eliminate any CS tear gas residue that ends up in the ductwork and other areas in that equipment. 

Soft goods need to be laundered when possible. 

How to Clean Up CN Tear Gas

When cleaning up CN tear gas, the process also begins with ventilating the impacted space completely. Open up as many doors and windows as possible.

When the ventilation is completed heat the contaminated space to 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours. You can also install a HEPA air scrubber that contains carbon or charcoal filters for added odor absorption. 

At the end of the four-hour period, thoroughly ventilate the contaminated space again. When that is completed, clean surfaces and items contaminated with tear gas residue with an agent like Unsmoke Degrease-All diluted to two to four ounces of the agent for every gallon of water. The cleaning process needs to include the HVAC system, including the ductwork. 

Soft goods need to be laundered when possible in the same way as CS tear gas. 

How to Clean Up OC Tear Gas or a Combination of CS and OC Tear Gas

OC tear gas and a combination CS and OC tear gas are cleaned up in the same manner. The tear gas cleanup course outlined for CS gas a moment ago is what is used for OC tear gas alone or a combination of CS and OC tear gas. 

Tending to tear gas cleanup can be a challenging task. The ultimate objective is to fully remove any residue of tear gas from a business, home, or other location. This can prove challenging, particularly when it comes to remediating tear gas that has infiltrated an HVAC system. As a result, oftentimes a wise course is to engage the services of an experienced, tenacious tear gas cleanup specialist

Author

Emily Kil

Co-Owner of Eco Bear Biohazard Cleaning Company

Together with her husband, Emily Kil is co-owner of Eco Bear, a leading biohazard remediation company in Southern California. An experienced entrepreneur, Emily assisted in founding Eco Bear as a means of combining her business experience with her desire to provide assistance to people facing challenging circumstances. Emily regularly writes about her first-hand experiences providing services such as biohazard cleanup, suicide cleanup, crime scene cleanup, unattended death cleanup, infectious disease disinfection and other types of difficult remediations in homes and businesses.