Unattended Death cleanup Services


  • Definition of Unattended Death
  • The Aftermath of an Unattended Death
  • The Dynamics of the Decomposition Process
  • What to do When an Unattended Death is Discovered
  • Steps to Clean a Room Following an Unattended Death
  • When Does Biohazard Remediation Need to Occur?
  • Unattended Death Statistics
  • Traumatic Grief and a Loved Ones Unattended Death

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The sudden or unexpected loss of a loved one is a challenging, even traumatic experience. This particularly is the case when a family member’s death occurs in an unattended manner. In the case of an unattended death, you not only face the unexpected loss of a family member, but also the prospect of tending to the cleanup associated with this type of passing. There are a number of points you need to bear in mind when facing the aftermath of the unattended death of a family member of other loved one.

Definition of an Unattended Death

An unattended death is one in which a person dies for any number of reasons, but the body is not immediately found, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner. A number of days, or even a longer period of time, may pass before the remains of a deceased person is found. Because of the biological process that follows anyone’s death, special factors exist when it comes to cleaning and restoring a room following an unattended death. 

The Aftermath of an Unattended Death

Two significant issues arise in the aftermath of discovering an unintended death. First, the moment a person passes away, biological processes commence that cause the remains to decompose. Second, when a person dies, the body begins releasing harmful bacteria and other biological matter within a day or two of death.

A scientific treatise is unnecessary when it comes to addressing the biological process that follows death. What is necessary to understand is that when death occurs, the subsequent biological process ultimately alters the appearance of the deceased person’s body.

Technically speaking, this process is known as decomposition, a rather unseemly term. Decomposition is defined as “the reduction of the body of a former living organism to simpler forms of matter,” according to Science Daily.

In a fairly short period of time, the change to a body can be dramatic and unpleasant. Although this is part of the broader circle of life (and death), there is no reason why family members and other loved ones need to be exposed to a deceased person in this state. The reality is the funeral homes are remarkably gifted at addressing the needs of a body following an unattended death. You will have the option of viewing your loved one in more suitable circumstances at a later time, if you so desire.

The biological process that commences after death does more than alter the appearance of a deceased individual. It also results in the release of harmful bacteria and other dangerous biological material. The bacteria and other biological matter can release from the bottom within two or three days following an unattended death. If the death occurred as the result of something traumatic, that process can commence shortly after an individual dies.

Your safety, health, and welfare can be jeopardized through an exposure to these types of substances. Keep in mind that not only are these harmful substances present in secretions that accompany the aftermath of death, but bacteria from a body can become airborne as well.

The Dynamics of the Decomposition Process

Although the decomposition process is a part of the overall arc of life and death, this information can be unsettling for some people. Therefore, as you come to terms with the loss of a loved one through an unattended death, keep in mind that you do not need to read about everything associated with this type of passing. While educating yourself on what needs to be done following the unattended death of a family member is important, you need not consider resources about this type of death that currently may make you feel uncomfortable.

The human body, indeed the bodies of mammals generally, contains a tremendous amount of bacteria. While a person is living, the bacteria relies on the blood stream, and the nutrients circulated throughout the body, to survive. When a person dies, the nutrient supply to bacteria ends.

Bacteria, particularly in a person’s pancreas and intestines, begin to “feed on” the organs themselves. Within a matter of a couple days, the bacteria in an unattended body cause these organs to completely break down. Bacteria is released throughout the body at this juncture.

The breakdown of a body, via the decomposition process, continues apace. As it does, gasses and fluids are released from the body contaminating the surrounding area. This includes airborne bacteria and pathogens contained in the bodily fluids that leave the body.

What to do When an Unattended Death is Discovered

An understandable instinct upon discovering the mortal remains of a loved one is to go to the body. Having physical contact with the remains of a family member is appropriate in a situation in which a death just occurred, or when the remains have been appropriately prepared for viewing at a funeral home.

Physical contact is not at all advisable when it is clear, upon the discovery of the remains of a loved one, that death was not a recent occurrence. You should avoid any physical contact with the deceased when this type of discovery occurs. In fact, because the existence of airborne bacteria is a real possibility, you should vacate the room in which the body was found, closing the door behind you. Indeed, depending on the circumstances, you may want to give serious consideration to vacating the premises for the time being.

Upon finding the remains of a loved one who has passed, telephone 911 and explain the situation to the dispatcher. Appropriate emergency personnel will be sent to the scene assist you and remove the deceased person’s body. Odds are that the remains will be transported to the coroner’s office for what is known as a forensic evaluation. (That process typically takes 24 to 48 hours.)

Even after the body is removed from the room in which death occurred, you are advised to remain out of the area without proper protection. Most people do not have ready access of the type of protection that is necessary to be in a room in which an unattended death occurred a prior couple of days, or even longer in time. This includes entering into the room with the intent to clean up and restore order.

Steps to Clean a Room Following an Unattended Death

Cleaning a room following an attended death encompasses far more than is normally associated with careful housecleaning. In fact, this type of “cleaning” effort has a technical name and is called biohazard remediation.

A biohazard is defined as material of a biological origin that has the ability to produce negative effects on humans. In the context of an unattended death, remediation is the process of eliminating harmful substances associated with the remains of the deceased individual. Biohazard remediation constitutes something more significant than cleaning up following an unattended death.

The work of remediating a room following an unattended death includes a number of steps. These are:


The first step in the biohazard remediation process is the initial cleaning of the area in which the death occurred. The process involves the thorough elimination of any biological and other materials associated with the unattended death, and the decomposition processed that followed the end of life. Specially formulated cleaning supplies, including solvents, are utilized for this phase of the remediation process.

Protective gear is mandatory for biohazard remediation, including the initial cleanup phase, in the state of California. This gear includes:

  • Gloves
  • Smock or proper outer clothing
  • Eye protection (goggles)
  • Mouth protection (surgical mask or respirator)

In addition to thoroughly cleaning certain elements of the room where death occurred and the body remained, some contaminated items will need to be disposed. The disposal of items contaminated by biological materials cannot be done through placement in the regular trash. Rather, these items must be placed in a red bag or red box and conveyed to a certified biological waste incinerator. (Biological hazardous material is incinerated under very strict guidelines and under the oversight of licensed professionals.)

The cleaning phase is undertaken from floor to ceiling (keeping in mind that airborne bacteria likely exists). Examples of what will be cleaned, as well as sanitized and deodorized, include:

  • Furniture
  • Clothing
  • Carpeting
  • Mattresses
  • Bedding
  • Curtains

The next step in the remediation process is sanitizing. This step is vital to ensure that hazardous bacteria and other substances thoroughly are neutralized. The cleaning process alone does not eliminate the biological hazards that can be present in a room when a body is not immediately discovered after an individual’s demies.

Specialized chemicals are utilized to sanitize the room, and items contained in it. This includes everything from the floor to the walls to furniture to the array of other items contained in the room at the time of death.

Proper and effective sanitizing products are not your everyday cleaners, including those marked as having that type of effect. Although these types of products typically are suitable for day to day household sanitizing needs, they are not designed to take on the larger task of sanitizing a room following an unattended death.


One aspect of the decomposition process is the release of unpleasant smelling gas. In fact, a number of different types of gasses are released from a body, beginning a couple days after death.If a body is left unattended for more than a few days, the possibility exists for the odors associated with decomposition to have a more profound impact on the room and premises. In other words, special effort must be taken to eliminate the odors associated with the unattended remains.Specialized products are available that are designed to deal with odors associated with biological processes like decomposition. These deodorizing agents are designed not merely to mask foul smells, but to eliminate these odors now and into the future.

The ultimate objective of the biohazard remediation process is to restore the premises where an unattended death occurred to its prior usable condition. More often than not, this involves making a room in a home habitable following the unattended death of a family member or other loved one.
When Does Biohazard Remediation Need to Occur?
Immediately after the remains of a deceased loved one are removed from a room, arrangements for biohazard remediation should be underway. The reality is that significant damage to a room can begin to occur within a few days after a person dies as a result of the decomposition process.
The best way to ensure that the long term effects associated with an unattended death is to start the biohazard remediation process as soon as possible. Keep in mind that, depending on the circumstances surrounding the death, the coroner or law enforcement may have to “release the scene” to permit biohazard remediation to start.
Unattended Death Statistics

Statistics about unattended deaths in California are maintained by individual coroners located throughout the state. With that noted, an estimated 600 unattended deaths occur throughout California in any given year. That amounts to almost to between one and two unattended deaths each day in California.

The most common causes of unattended deaths in California are:

  • Natural causes
  • Accident
  • Suicide
  • Homicide
In cases involving deaths by natural causes and accidents, these situations typically involve people who live alone and do not have a person living in close proximity to them to keep tabs on them in a more regular manner.
Traumatic Grief and a Loved One’s Unattended Death
In addition to dealing with the restoration of a room or house following the unattended death of a loved one, you may also experience what is known as “traumatic grief.” Traumatic grief is defined as an extremely, and ultimately unhealthy, reaction to the death of a loved one. Oftentimes, the loved one’s death occurred suddenly or was not immediately discovered. Traumatic grief can be compounded for an individual who discovers the body of a loved one who dies in an unattended manner.
Traumatic grief can impact a person in a variety of ways. These include:

  • Inability to sleep
  • Nightmares
  • Appetite changes
  • Increased irritation
  • Increased aggression
  • Deep sadness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
In addition to traumatic grief, some individuals are afflicted with post traumatic stress disorder following the discovery of a body of a loved one who experienced an unattended death. Whether traumatic grief, PTSD, depression, anxiety, or some other emotional or mental health issue, seeking professional assistance can be important. There are professionals who are experienced in working with individuals who have experienced traumas like discovering an unattended death of a loved one.Keep in mind that you are not alone in facing these issues. There are professionals available to assist you in addressing not only restoring the livability of the room in which a loved one experienced an unattended death but in helping you come to terms with the death.