Many people wear gloves when they are cleaning. However, what should you wear when you are cleaning a hoarder’s house? There are many factors to consider when cleaning a home for someone who has a hoarding disorder. Here are some safety tips to help you become more prepared when you are cleaning a hoarder’s house.
In most hoarder’s houses, air quality is low and dust can be high. Mold and mildew spores can be present and become airborne as work progresses. Excessive dust and dust mites are normally present. Generally, a disposable mask is recommended when working in a hoarder’s house. However, if the mask does not fit properly, then the airborne particles can be inhaled, contributing to health issues such as headaches and respiratory infections. You should always choose a disposable mask appropriate for the environment you are working in. The greater the potential for airborne particles, the greater the need for better respiratory protection. Disposable masks with a single stretchable string provide some protection, but N95 disposable masks provide excellent protection. N95 masks typically have 2 stretchable strings for better support and typically have a metal strap at the top of the nose which can be easily adjusted to conform to the user.
Gloves are a no-brainer when it comes to cleaning. However, are you wearing the right kind of gloves when cleaning a hoarder’s house? Depending on the environment, disposable vinyl, latex, rubber, or nitrile gloves may not be enough when providing hoarder help. Disposable gloves are great when you need to protect your skin from chemical contact, but what happens when you are dealing with broken glass, nails, needles, or other sharp items that can pierce the gloves? Combining work gloves over disposable gloves gives you better protection from both chemicals and from sharp items.
When working with chemicals, it is recommended that contact lenses are removed due to the potential of chemical exposure to the contact lens. Glasses offer a certain level of eye protection when working with cleaning chemicals but when excessive dust is present in a room or house, consider using goggles over the glasses. Protective goggles can prevent dust and chemicals from coming in contact with the eyes from all directions when properly used.
In many hoarding environments, the floor is less visible than in typical houses, primarily due to the amount of items in the house and the lack of sufficient lighting. Hard soled shoes or boots are recommended when working in these environments. Steel toed boots provide the best protection, but the high costs of these boots can be prohibitive. In addition to boots, disposable shoe covers are also recommended. These shoe covers should be removed prior to entering your vehicle or any other house. Cockroach eggs, spiderlings, bacteria, mold spores, and viruses can be transferred out of the hoarder house to other environments if the shoe coverings are not removed when leaving the home.
Old clothing should be worn when cleaning a hoarder’s house. But, old clothing is not enough. Even if you intend to throw away the clothing you are wearing at the end of the day, it is easy to transfer bacteria and viruses from the hoarding environment to your vehicle and ultimately to your home. Depending on the environment, you should consider wearing a disposable coverall suit. Note, however, that wearing disposable coveralls for extended periods of time typically results in higher body temperatures and can lead to heat stress and possibly even heat stroke. Take multiple breaks when wearing these suits and stay properly hydrated. If you plan on leaving the property, whether for lunch or to leave for the day, remove the suit and dispose of it. Do not attempt to wear the suit again after it has been removed.
Mike Young is the owner of Palmetto Commercial Services in Columbia, SC. Mike has cleaned over 700 hoarded homes and has completed all 3 IICRC Master Certifications, American Bio Recovery Association CBRT Certification, HAZWOPER Certification, Meth Lab Certification,, Environmental Disinfection Certification, and numerous other certifications. Mike was invited to speak at a national conference in Florida in 2018. Mike writes extensively about the cleaning industry and assists other cleaning companies with cleaning service SEO.