Crime scene cleanup

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Crime scene cleanup is a term applied to forensic cleanup of blood, bodily fluids, and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). It is also referred to as biohazard remediation, and forensic cleanup, because crime scenes are only a portion of the situations in which biohazard cleaning is needed. Incidents which may require this type of cleanup include accidents, suicide (or attempted suicide), homicides, and decomposition after unattended death, as well as mass trauma, industrial accidents, infectious disease contamination, animal biohazard contamination (e.g. feces or blood) or regulated waste transport, treatment, and disposal.


Television productions like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation have added to the popularity of the term "crime scene cleanup". Australia, Canada and England have added it to their professional cleaning terminology.[1] As a profession, it is growing in popularity because of media exposure and the growth of training programs worldwide.[2]

The generic terms for crime scene cleanup include trauma cleaning, crime and trauma scene decontamination ("CTS Decon"), biohazard remediation, biohazard removal, and blood cleanup. The state of California refers to individuals who practice this profession as Valid Trauma Scene Waste Management Practitioners.[3]

Types of cleanups[edit]

A company car for "traumacleanse" advertising different types of cleanups

Crime scene cleanup includes blood spills following an assault, homicide or suicide, tear gas residue, vandalism removal/cleanup. There are many different sub-segments, named primarily after additional collateral, contingency, or preconditions, regarding the presence of non-blood borne organics, toxic irritants (e.g., tear gas) or disease vectors. However, it is the legality of charging a fee for mitigating potentially harmful biohazard situations that differentiates a registered crime or trauma practitioner from any general restoration, carpet cleaning, janitorial or housekeeping service.[4]

With concerns about Ebola contamination in the United States,[5] crime scene cleanup companies like Cleaning Guys of Texas and Bio Recovery Corporation of New York have been contracted by government to clean more than just crime scenes.[6][7]

Suicide Cleanup 51% of suicides are caused by a firearm so the crime scene that is left behind can be very messy and require extensive cleaning. With suicide cleanup cases, there is typically biohazardous materials everywhere, including human blood, brain matter, and other bodily fluids. When cleaning biohazardous materials it's important to know the health risks associated with exposure to human blood.

Human blood can carry deadly diseases like HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.[8] When cleaning up blood it's important to treat every blood spill as if the substance is infected. By using these precautions it will provide an extra layer of safety.


Crime scene cleanup began primarily as a local or regional small business activity but maturity and consolidation has created some larger entities in the industry; only a few nationwide companies exist, although some national carpet cleaning and restoration companies franchises have added crime scene cleanup and biohazard removal to their services. Due to the legal and ethical complications, crime scene cleanup is often its own business entity or a separate division. Crime scene clean up businesses are usually started by firefighters or paramedics 1.

Regulatory requirements[edit]

While the field of crime scene cleanup is not specifically regulated as a class, most if not all of the activities performed by biohazard cleanup teams in the United States are regulated or fall under best practice guidelines from governing and advisory bodies such as OSHA, NIOSH, DOT, and EPA. Those who hire a crime scene cleanup company should make sure that they are properly trained in applicable federal and state regulations and can provide documentation of proper biohazardous waste disposal from licensed medical waste transportation and disposal companies. If in California or Florida the client should confirm that the company is registered with the state Department of Health. A few states such as California, New York and Florida are the only states that explicitly require registration or licensing for crime scene cleanup. Other states may require biohazardous waste transport permits from the DOT.

In the US, OSHA requires that exposure to blood-borne pathogens be limited as much as possible due to the assumption that the blood and biological material is infectious. Most actions taken to limit exposure fall under cross-contamination protocols, which provide that certain actions be taken to avoid further spreading the contamination throughout otherwise clean areas. CTS De-con companies should have in place, an exposure control plan before beginning work on any trauma scene. Under employee safety and cross-contamination protocols, OSHA's bloodborne pathogens regulations pertain to bioremediation.

In the UK, biohazards are regulated in part by HSE.[9] Canada has published Canadian Biosafety Standards and Guidelines.[10]


The crime scene cleaners' work begins when the coroner's office or other official, government body releases the "scene" to the owner or other responsible parties. Only when the investigation has completely terminated on the contaminated scene may the cleaning companies begin their task.

Standard operating procedures for the crime scene cleanup field often include military-like methods for the decontamination of internal and external environments. Universal precautions recognized worldwide are the cautionary rule-of-thumb for this field of professional cleaning. For example, the personnel involved in the cleanup are expected to wear shoe covers, liquid impermeable coveralls, and protective eyewear.[11] Wearing protective gloves and the use of specifically rated cleaning agents are also mandatory policies to ensure that the infectious agents such as hepatitis and HIV are killed.[12] There are organizations who stress the avoidance of cleaning areas that officers cannot properly see to avoid accidental wounds such as needle puncture.

Cleaning methods for removing and sanitizing biohazards vary from practitioner to practitioner. Some organizations are working to create a "Standard of Clean" such as ISSA's K12 Standard, which includes use of quantifiable testing methods such as ATP testing.


The first specialty trade organization for this field of cleaning was the American BioRecovery Association (ABRA).[citation needed] The largest association dedicated to the crime scene cleanup industry is the National Crime Scene Cleanup Association (NCSCA). Among other tasks, they organized cleanup procedures for Ebola decontamination in 2014.[13] Clean Trust is a certifying body for the cleaning trade in general. International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA)[14] is a global standards body and trade organization of professional janitorial and cleaning professionals.

In popular culture and the media[edit]

Crime scene cleanup as a profession has been featured sporadically[15] in popular culture and the media. It first showed up in films when Quentin Tarantino produced Curdled, then after an eleven-year hiatus in the Samuel L. Jackson film Cleaner, and more recently when Amy Adams and Emily Blunt teamed up for Sunshine Cleaning. On television it has been featured in a smattering of documentaries aired on the National Geographic Channel and the Discovery Channel, as well as reality series such as Grim Sweepers. These depictions also show an area in crime scene cleanup that involves criminal organizations. Crime fiction refer to the term "cleaner" as an expert in the destruction and removal of evidence. For example, if a murder has been committed, a cleaner is contracted to completely remove all traces of the crime as if it never happened.[16]

In print and online, the task has been the subject of Alan Emmins' book Mop Men: Inside the World of Crime Scene Cleaners,[17] and in a piece on "six figure jobs" that appeared on CNN.[18] Another book is Aftermath, Inc.: Cleaning Up after CSI Goes Home.[19] An extensive article on all aspects of crime scene cleanup was published in the forensic science section of Discovery's How Stuff Works.[20]

In video games and visual media, crime scene cleanup takes center focus as the main objective in the game, Viscera Cleanup Detail.[21] Viscera Cleanup Detail is a PC game distributed through Steam that enables players to clean up blood and body remains after a Sci-Fi battle has occurred on a space station. Another example of crime scene cleanup in video games is Safeguard.[22] Safeguard takes a more realistic and educational approach, enabling users to learn about the hazards of crime scene cleanup, as well as the equipment and tools used.[23] Safeguard also uses virtual reality to immerse users in the crime scene environment.[24]


  1. ^ "Satisfying Justice: A compendium of initiatives, programs and legislative measures". Correctional Services Canada. 15 Aug 2008. Retrieved 25 Mar 2018.
  2. ^ Gregory, Ted (16 Aug 2016). "Business is booming for crime-scene cleaners". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, IL, USA. Retrieved 25 Mar 2018.
  3. ^ "Trauma Scene Waste Management Practitioners". California Department of Public Health. 21 Mar 2018. Retrieved 25 Mar 2018.
  4. ^ AJ Agarwal (22 January 2016). "3 Dirty Markets That Produce Big Time Dollars". Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  5. ^ Mueller, Benjamin (27 October 2014). "For Crew in New York, Ebola Virus Is Fought With Scrub Brushes and Cleanser". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  6. ^ "Bill for cleanup of Ebola-tainted apartment: over $100K". USA TODAY. 9 October 2014.
  7. ^ "Bio-Recovery Leads Cleanup of Ebola Spaces in New York". 24 October 2014.
  8. ^ "Blood Borne Infectious Diseases: HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C". CDC Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  9. ^ "Biosafety and microbiological containment".
  10. ^ "Canadian Biosafety Standards and Guidelines".
  11. ^ Smith, Jim (2004). A Practical Guide for the Law Enforcement and Security Manager: A Theoretical and Experiential Approach. Springfield: Charles Thomas Publishers. p. 119. ISBN 0398074623.
  12. ^ Smith, p. 119.
  13. ^ James of National Crime Scene Cleanup Association on Al-Jazeera. YouTube. 27 March 2015.
  14. ^ ISSA. "ISSA › The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association".
  15. ^ "13 Secrets of Crime Scene Cleaners". 2018-08-03. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
  16. ^ Marion, Nancy (2016). Government Versus Organized Crime. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0131724068.
  17. ^ "How to Clean Up a Crime Scene". 3 February 2009.
  18. ^ "Six-figure jobs: Crime-scene cleaner". CNN Money. 15 April 2005. Retrieved 2017-12-01.
  19. ^ "Aftermath, Inc".
  20. ^ "How Crime-scene Clean-up Works". HowStuffWorks.
  21. ^ "Viscera Cleanup Detail on Steam". Retrieved 2016-12-20.
  22. ^ "Safeguard: A Virtual Crime Scene Experience". Retrieved 2016-12-20.
  23. ^ "Public Access - Safeguard - a Virtual Reality Crime Scene Cleanup Game You will Love". Engadget. Retrieved 2016-12-20.
  24. ^ "VR Crime Scene". Retrieved 2016-12-20.