Avoiding decomposition after someone passes away is unavoidable. Within the first few hours, this process begins. During the next 72 hours, the internal organs will begin to decompose, then within the next three to five days, the body will begin to bloat and possible blood-containing foam will leak from the mouth and nose. Depending on the preexisting health conditions of the deceased individual, there’s a chance you can come in contact with bloodborne pathogens, so biohazardous personal protective equipment (PPE) is vital when near a dead body.
Decomposing bodies pose several health risks as biological material can emanate airborne bacteria, develop mold, and in some cases cause insect infestations if left unattended for over a week. Professional cleanup is an absolute necessity if the deceased has remained in a room or area for several days. Don’t panic though, your homeowner’s insurance will probably foot the bill.
Depending on how long the deceased individual has gone unnoticed will determine the cleaning process. How the person passed away, the size of the room in which they died, and the climate/weather in that area will all play a role in the decomposition process. Renting a carpet cleaner and grabbing some spray bottle won’t cut it. It’s not as simple as cleaning the site by simply throwing out the contaminated items and scrubbing walls and floors with basic cleaners; this is a serious process.
The natural decomposition process begins relatively quickly after we die and human bodies will release potentially harmful bacteria into the affected site in a short time. Considering the nature of what needs to be cleaned, it is probably something that should be outsourced to a company that specializes in bioremediation. If you have decided to clean the site yourself, do not attempt to clean any porous material (wood, drywall, carpet, etc.) that has been in contact with bodily fluids. You need to hire a specialist who is with a licensed company that will properly dispose of these items for you.
What is the Process of Cleaning an Area Where Someone Has Died?
Have the Right Tools
Equip yourself with the basic biohazard protective equipment before attempting to clean and sanitize the affected site of an unattended death. This consists of goggles, a mask/respirator, gloves, and a barrier between your clothing and the affected site (i.e. an apron, smock, or uniform).
Remove any hazardous waste from the site (blood, biological material, and any other bodily fluids). Any items that have been contaminated, such as mattresses, carpeting, and other surrounding furniture must be removed as well.
The sanitation process may begin once all biohazardous waste has been removed. You’ll want to use registered disinfectant products with a broad kill claim, so be sure to research chemicals that kill bacteria. To ensure that all the potentially harmful/dangerous pathogens are permanently eliminated is by using hospital-grade sanitizing chemicals. You can use a quaternary ammonium-based cleaner. This is effective against most bacteria, enveloped viruses, and some fungi. This type of cleaner should be used on non-critical surfaces such as floors, railings, and walls. Alternatively, sodium hypochlorite, which is commercially available as bleach can be used to effectively kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses. This can also be used to clean blood after the affected area has been pre-cleaned and all organic matter has been removed. When cleaning surfaces be sure to wipe from the outside, working your way towards the center to avoid spreading.
Deodorization is the last step of the process. The use of disinfectants during the sanitation process should have helped to alleviate the odor. If you decide to use more disinfectants to aid in deodorizing, be sure to ventilate the area using portable fans and opening windows, doors, and any other points of entry. Should the odor linger you can try setting a bowl of vinegar, or baking soda near the cleaned area (be sure to place the bowl out of reach of young children and pets). This should help capture any lingering smells.
Do Paramedics, Police, or Firemen Help Clean Up?
In short, no. Though paramedics, law enforcement, and fire rescue deal with unexpected death and bodily fluids in their field, they are not responsible for cleaning up after decomposition or unattended death.
Well then, who does this? Privately owned companies are the best resource for proper cleanup in these situations. A decomposition team composed of bioremediation specialists (professionals who use microorganisms to degrade organic contaminants) help clean, sanitize, and restore the site to a habitable condition.
Cost of Unattended Death
Based on where you are located, the exact type of clean up, the amount of time the body has remained in the area, the spread of fluids/other organic matter, and the number of specialists; all play a big role in what the final bill might be. It can be as low as $1000, but in severe cases, it can be more than $10,000.
At RestorationUSA, we have specialists that can assist after an unexpected death. We work with various insurance providers to make sure you do not pay out of pocket if you don’t need to. Our network of providers have years of specific experience with death and biohazard cleanup.