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Unattended Death Cleanup: What You Need to Know

An unattended death is a tragic event. 

Whether it’s a family member, friend, or loved one, finding the energy to make arrangements and move forward can be overwhelming. 

The last thing you want to do is deal with the aftermath and plan the logistics.

During this challenging time, our team is here to help. 

At ServiceMaster of Lake Shore, we provide comprehensive after death cleanup services to Chicago residents meant to sanitize and disinfect the area where the death took place and help you and your loved ones put this trying period behind you.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of unattended death cleanup and why hiring a professional is so critical after such an unfortunate event. 

Let’s start now.

What Happens After Death? 4 Steps of Decomposition

unattended death cleanup

Decomposition is a natural process that affects all bodies after death. It includes several distinct stages:

Stage One: Autolysis

The first stage of decomposition is known as autolysis, which means self-digestion

This stage begins right after death, when blood circulation and respiration stop. 

When these functions cease, the body can’t oxygenate itself or remove waste. As a result, excess carbon dioxide builds up and causes an acidic environment. 

The membranes in cells rupture and release enzymes that begin to consume the cells from the inside out. 

Rigor mortis sets in, and the top layer of the skin begins to loosen. 

Stage Two: Bloat

During the second stage of decomposition, the leaked enzymes that begin during the first phase produce gasses. 

Those gasses cause the body to bloat. Meanwhile, the skin discolors, and the body starts to give off unpleasant odors. 

These odors are often associated with unattended death scenes and can linger long after the body has been removed.

Stage Three: Decay

The third stage of decomposition is active decay. 

During this stage, muscle, skin, and organs liquefy, and the body’s soft tissue decomposes. 

Hair, bones, cartilage, and other byproducts remain after the decay phase completes.

Stage Four: Skeletonization

When decay is complete, the body will skeletonize. This often occurs months after death. 

The Dangers of a Decomposing Body

bacteria body decomposition

While decomposition is a natural process, it poses a substantial health risk to people who come into contact with the decomposing body or the surrounding area.

As decomposition progresses, fluids will leak from the body. These fluids can contain bloodborne pathogens and may pose an infection risk for anyone near the body.  

Additionally, decomposition attracts insects and involves a substantial release of toxic bacteria. 

If you encounter an unattended death scene, do not try to resolve the situation on your own. Instead, leave the area immediately and contact the police. 

Once the police have finished their work, a restoration team like ServiceMaster of Lake Shore will arrive to provide the comprehensive restoration services needed to make the area safe. 

What Does Unattended Death Cleanup Include? 

Since the byproducts of decomposition can be so hazardous, proper unattended death cleanup protocols are essential to ensure a safe, sanitized space.

Here are the steps our team follows during unattended death cleanup:

  • Removal of all porous material. First, our team will remove porous materials like wood, carpet, drywall, and concrete from the affected area. Since these materials can absorb body fluids, it’s essential to remove and properly dispose of them. 
  • Sanitization. Next, our team will execute industrial-grade sanitization protocols to remove all traces of bloodborne pathogens and render the area safe for people to enter. Since even a small amount of untreated biological material can make a residence uninhabitable, this process is critical. 
  • Restoration. Finally, we’ll restore the area to its original condition, replacing flooring and other building materials as needed and providing a clean slate for you and your loved ones to sell the home or move forward as you wish. 
after death cleaning service

Why Can’t I Clean the Area Myself? 

As mentioned earlier, decomposition is a complex biological process that creates many hazardous byproducts. 

As a result, any location where decomposition has taken place must be properly restored by a professional restoration team. 

While decomposition is natural, traditional home cleaning products and solutions are insufficient to properly clean, disinfect, or sanitize any area affected by human decomposition.

Not only will the cleaning process likely be traumatic for you (especially if the deceased person is a family member or loved one), but it’s impossible to remove all biological material with standard cleaning products. 

On the other hand, a professional restoration team will have the tools and equipment needed to remove all traces of biological material and make the space safe and sanitary. 

How Much Does Unattended Death Cleanup Cost? 

The cost of unattended death cleanup services will vary depending on factors like the body’s condition, the extent of decomposition, and the cleaning methods and services required. 

Because the aftermath of an unattended death can be so traumatic for individuals, however, we believe that price is the last thing you should be worrying about.

Insurance companies agree.

In most cases, unattended death cleanup is covered by insurance

When it comes time to file a claim, the team here at ServiceMaster Restoration of Lake Shore will help you navigate the process and get the fastest possible payout. 

Need Unattended Death Cleaning Services in Chicago? We Can Help

If you’re facing the aftermath of an unattended death in Chicago, our team can help. 

We understand that this is a challenging event to face, and we’re dedicated to providing comprehensive, efficient services you can count on. We help you know what to do when someone dies at home expectedly or unexpectedly in Chicago or the suburbs.

We’ll remove all traces of the unattended death and restore the space to like-new condition, so you can sell it or move on as you and your loved ones deem fit. 

Our experienced techs understand the complex emotions surrounding unattended death situations. They will work with you to help you navigate every step of the process – from the logistical cleanup to the insurance claim. 

Contact our team, and let us help you navigate this difficult time with compassionate services: (312) 707-8597

Get Help Now

(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.