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How to Clean up After an Unattended Death

Death is always difficult to face, especially when a loved one dies alone. This kind of death is called an unattended death and requires a thorough, careful approach to remediate the scene.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the steps you can take to clean up after an unattended death, and when to hire after death cleaning services.

What Does Unattended Death Mean?

The term unattended death refers to a case where nobody discovers the deceased’s body for days, weeks, or months.

Today, unattended deaths are most common with older adults, especially those who live alone and do not have family or friends that check on them frequently. In other cases, unattended death can be the result of an accident, suicide, or homicide. 

How to Clean up After an Unattended Death

When a person dies, the natural process of decomposition begins quickly. Within hours of death, dangerous bacteria are released into the air surrounding the body and will start to impact nearby materials. This bacteria causes the odor of decomposition, and remediating it requires a comprehensive, skilled approach. It’s not enough to bleach the floors and throw away the bedding.

Instead, take the following steps to begin reclaiming the area:

  1. Contact the authorities. The first thing you should do if you find yourself in the unfortunate position of discovering an unattended death is to call 911. Police will arrive at the scene to investigate and determine the cause of death. Even if the deceased died of natural causes, this is a critical step. The police will help you contact the local coroner’s office, who will transport the body to the morgue. 
  2. Notify friends and family. Since the death was unattended, friends and family won’t know the deceased has passed. With this in mind, reach out to notify friends, family, members of the individual’s church, and other individuals in the social circle of the person’s passing. 
  3. Avoid DIY cleanup. Biohazard cleanup can be dangerous. Don’t risk your health or wellbeing by attempting to clean the area on your own. Instead, contact a professional cleanup service to deal with substances like bodily fluids, blood, and other pathogens. You should also wait to collect sentimental items from the deceased’s home, as they may be contaminated. 

Why Hire a Trauma Cleanup Specialist?

Cleaning the house after an unattended death is an extensive process that requires commercial-grade training, tools, and equipment.

Trauma cleanup specialists follow this process:

  • Dispose of porous materials. Wood, carpet, concrete, drywall, and other porous housing materials will absorb decomposition odor, fluids, and bacteria. Because of this, unattended death cleanup specialists recommend throwing them away, rather than just cleaning them. Keep in mind that these items are considered biohazards, and must be disposed of properly. A bioremediation company can help ensure safe disposal. 
  • Treat all biological material. Depending on the deceased’s health conditions, there may be bloodborne pathogens and other biological material present at the scene. It’s critical to clean, sanitize, and disinfect the area, as even the smallest amount of untreated organic material can render a home unlivable. 
  • Deodorize the space. One of the most troubling aspects of an unattended death is the odor associated with decomposition. If a human body is left unattended for more than a few days, the smell of decay will become intense and challenging to eradicate. Unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible to get rid of these odors on your own. Instead, you must contact a commercial remediation company that uses commercial-grade deodorizing chemicals to eliminate the odors. 

Dealing with an Unattended Death in Chicago? We Can Help

Here at ServiceMaster of Lake Shore, we specialize in unattended death cleanup services. We know how difficult these situations can be, and we strive to provide compassionate, discrete, comprehensive cleanup services you can rely on at one of life’s most challenging moments. 

Whether the accident was the result of a crime, suicide, or natural causes, our team will remove all biohazards and other sensitive materials and restore the space to a livable condition. Our after death cleaning services are thorough and sensitive enough to respond to jobs that require the utmost care and attention. Contact us today for emergency help, or to learn more about our unattended death cleanup services. 

Give our team a call for help with after death cleanup: (312) 707-8597

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(312) 707-8597


Our office is located in downtown Chicago, IL just west of Millennium Park, nearby Willis Tower and Magnificent Mile. We provide 24 hour emergency fire and water damage cleanup to all of Chicagoland including Lincoln Park, Logan Square, Gold Coast, Lake View, Magnificent Mile and Little Village. We also provide a variety of specialty cleaning services.