Crime scene cleanup

Crime scene cleanup is a term applied to any situation involving biological cleaning and or health concerning issues. Such issues may include:

  • Clandestine methamphetamine laboratory contamination
  • Flood and sewage backups
  • Suicides
  • Homicides
  • Human decompositions
  • Hoarding (pack rat houses)
  • Bird or rodent droppings (hantavirus/histoplasmosis dangers)
  • Toxic mold, spore, and fungus remediation
  • Distressed property remediation (unfit for habitation)
  • Animal and pet odors
  • Biological terrorism
  • Mass casualty scenes
  • Police chemicals usage
  • Disease outbreaks
  • Medical 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.

The generic terms for Crime Scene Cleanup include trauma cleaning, biorecovery, crime and trauma scene decontamination, CTS Decon, blood cleanup and bio cleaning and crime scene clean up. The State of California refers to individuals who practice this profession as Trauma Scene Waste Management Practitioners.

Types of cleanup

A crime scene cleanup[1] may involve a single blood loss event following a burglary, battery, or homicide. Companies also clean suicides, unattended deaths, tear gas damaged environments, and other crime and trauma scenes. Larger crime scenes involve terrorist attacks, mass murder scenes, and the cleanup of anthrax and other biochemicals.

Crime scene cleanup companies may also clean bird and rodent infested areas. Crime scene cleanup companies are trained to clean up "compulsive hoarding" situations where the dwelling owner, over time, refuses to remove items of any kind such as trash, food, and animal and human waste. The crime scene cleaners' experience and equipment more suits this type of cleaning than a typical cleaning company's.[2] Besides the Federal Government's OSHA standards, many state Health, OSHA or EPA departments have created similar standards and regulations. Similarly, the Center for Disease Control establishes standards and regulations for working with blood soiled environments as well as exposure reporting.


Crime scene cleanup is a small business activity in most cases. At times small businesses, such as carpet cleaning and water damage companies add crime scene cleanup to diversify their activities. Due to the legal and ethical complications crime scene cleanup is becoming either its own business entity or a complete division. Those who hire a crime scene cleanup company should make sure that they are properly trained in federal or state OSHA regulations and can provide documentation of proper biohazardous waste disposal. If in California or Florida the client should confirm that the company is registered with the State Department of Health. As of December 2010 California and Florida are the only states that require specialized licensing for crime scene cleanup. Other states may require biohazardous waste transport permits.


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.

In the U.S. OSHA regulates this industry through its Bloodborne Pathogen Rule 1910.1030. California regulates this industry directly through the Trauma Waste Practitioners Act of 1997. Other states have a smattering of regulation for Crime and Trauma Scene Cleanup usually through the State's Department of Natural Resources and Health Departments.


The generally recognized organization for this field of cleaning is the American Bio-recovery Association, ABRA. IICRC is a certifying body for the cleaning trade in general.

In popular culture and the media

Crime scene cleanup as a profession in its own right has only popped up a few times 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 vehicle, Cleaner, and most recently when Amy Adams and Emily Blunt teamed up for Sunshine Cleaning. On television it's found its way onto a smattering of documentaries aired on The National Geographic Channel and The Discovery Channel, as well as reality series such as Grim Sweepers. In print and online it’s been the subject of Alan Emmins book Mop Men: Inside the World of Crime Scene Cleaners,[3] been featured in an Entrepreneur Magazine Ten Off The Wall Businesses profile,[4] and in a piece on six figure jobs that appeared on CNN.[5]


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