There exist a considerable number of misconceptions about tear gas. Perhaps the most persistent and pervasive of these misconceptions is that once the smoke dissipates, you’re in the clear. The reality is that you’re not in the clear when tear gas smoke clears. If you’re a business owner, resident, or have some other type of property in an area that was targeted with tear gas, when the event ends, you’re property likely will be contaminated with tear gas residue. Remediating the aftermath of tear gas use is challenging. Your response to tear gas cleanup needs to be a strategic approach, the elements of which are presented here for your consideration:

  • Block entry to contaminated premises
  • Identify the specific type of tear gas used
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment
  • Inspect premises to get a full picture of the situation
  • Clean top to bottom, front to back
  • Cleaning the HVAC system
  • Apply the sniff test

Block Entry to Contaminated Premises

A vital initial step is to block entry to premises contaminated with tear gas. Even if tear gas contamination has reached the juncture that its residue is all that remains, that deposit is still very much capable of causing a physical reaction to people who come into contact with it. Moreover, if untrained people are permitted to enter a contaminated location, an additional risk exists that these individuals in the premises will improperly stir up residue, causing it to become airborne. 

The fact that a business, residence, or other location remains dangerous when tear gas smoke clears but the residue remains underscores the importance of considering the engagement of a tear gas cleanup company. A professional tear gas remediation specialist understands how to safely and thoroughly eliminate tear gas residue, understands how to return a property to a fully usable or livable condition.

Identify the Specific Type of Tear Gas Used

At the outset of the tear gas cleaning process, you need to attempt to identify precisely what type of substance contaminates the premises. The types of tear gas that are being used with varying degrees of frequency in the United States, including in California, are:

  • Chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS)
  • Chloroacetophenone (CN)
  • Dibenzoxazepine (CR)
  • Oleoresin Capsicum (OC or pepper spray)

CS, CN, OC, and a combination of CS with OC are the most commonly used types of tear gas used in this day and age. They do call for different cleaning protocols.

CS, OC, and CS with OC tear gas leaves behind a crystalline residue. As a result, surfaces and 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. The HVAC system also needs to be cleaned, which is discussed more thoroughly in a moment. Soft goods need to be laundered when possible. 

Before the cleaning process begins, you do want to fully air out the contaminated space. In addition, you want to keep the temperature as low as possible. High temperatures cause these types of tear gas derivations to spread.

When cleaning up CN tear gas, the contaminated space needs to be fully ventilated. Unlike with the types of tear gas discussed a moment ago, you actually want to heat up a space contaminated with CN tear gas. The contaminated space needs to be heated to 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit for four hours.

When the heating process is completed, the space needs to be re-ventilated. When the ventilation is completed, the same cleaning process discussed previously is used with this type of tear gas contamination. 

Use Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set forth the personal protective equipment or PPE that needs to be worn when involved in tear gas cleanup. Specifically, in order to meet OSHA guidelines and remain safe when cleaning up tear gas, a person undertaking this challenging task needs to wear an OSHA-approved encapsulated suit together with a respirator. 

Inspect Premises to Get Full Picture of Situation

Before the actual cleaning process commences, the contaminated premises need to be fully inspected. The inspection is undertaken in an attempt to determine the nature and extent of the tear gas contamination.

In addition to determining the extent of tear gas contamination, the inspection also determines whether any other type of specialized remediation is necessary. For example, depending on the circumstances, a scene where tear gas was used may also have involved some type of situation that resulted in actions that caused there to be blood and other bodily fluids at the site. Biohazards trigger the need for another type of specialized remediation beyond that needed for tear gas cleanup.

Clean Top to Bottom, Front to Back

When mapping out a cleaning strategy for tear gas cleanup, the best practice is to start from the top level of a property, working downward. In addition, the cleaning process should begin at the front of a property, moving to the rear. When a room is cleared of tear gas residue, it should be “sealed” to prevent cross-contamination. 

This mapping process is fundamental. It lessens the chances of cross-contamination or recontamination of a space or area in a building that was impacted by tear gas. 

Cleaning the HVAC System

A major issue with tear gas residue is that it can get into any nook and cranny imaginable. This includes the reality that tear gas is likely to significantly contaminate an HVAC system. The need for thorough cleaning of an HVAC system contaminated by tear gas calls for professional assistance. The bottom line is that only a professional tear gas cleaning company has the expertise and equipment necessary to eradicate tear gas residue from an HVAC system. 

Apply the Sniff Test

In the end, the final test to ensure that tear gas cleanup has been properly undertaken involves the nose. The sniff test is applied to ascertain whether or not tear gas cleanup has been thorough, comprehensive, and complete.

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.