Hoarding is a behavior generally characterized as the collection of items such that the living space of an environment is tough to use. There are many different types of hoarding behavior and each type of hoard can be approached differently in order to have more effective results. Palmetto Commercial Services has completed over 650 hoarded homes and provides consultation services to families affected by hoarding. We generally meet at the home and develop a comprehensive approach to deal with the environment. We have worked numerous cases where government agencies are involved, but we are not required to report hoarded homes to these agencies. We have completed state, local, and federal background checks on each one of our technicians. On most bids, we can generally have a written quote back to the family within 24 hours. Scheduling can be complicated, as weather is a factor, but we try to prioritize jobs by the urgency of each case.
Below is a blog article we produced in 2013 and recently updated, describing possible costs involved in completing a hoarding clean up job.
Hoarder cleaning is unique in that there are so many different elements involved in them. Many times, what some people consider hoarding is actually clutter and disorganization. Homes affected by hoarding are normally labeled as having lost some, most, or all use of functionality of its rooms.
Because of the factors involved, the costs of hoarder cleaning services vary greatly. Some people choose to hire day laborers and pay them about $10 per hour until the job is complete. However, the worker’s backgrounds are not checked, personal protective equipment (PPE) is not supplied (and many times not used), the workers have little to no training, the workers are not licensed, bonded, or insured, and the job could do additional damage to the person suffering from the hoarding disorder. Additionally, if a hired hand is injured on the job, a lawsuit could be filed against the homeowner when performing hoarder cleaning jobs.
Some of the factors that are involved in the price of hoarding cleanup is the presence of biohazardous material. Biohazardous material can be defined as infectious agents or hazardous biological materials that present a risk or potential risk to the health of humans, animals or the environment. Most biohazard cleaning companies offering hoarder cleaning, but not all hoarding environments containing biohazardous material. Biohazard cleanup is extremely specialized and requires a high degree of training, specialized knowledge, and specialized equipment. Many biohazard cleaning companies charge between $200 – $300 per employee hour plus costs (PPE, disposal fees, mileage, per-diems) while remediating the biohazard threat. Most biohazard companies will charge a daily rate, such as $3000 per day, to handle these homes. Because of the specialization of these services, hoarding jobs containing biohazardous materials cost significantly more than hoarding environments without biohazards present.
The simplest of hoarder cleaning jobs are limited to a trashout, or a removal of all items from a room, area or house. Trashouts are generally faster and cheaper than an entire hoarding cleanout. As long as PPE is worn and OSHA guidelines are followed, trashouts can cost as little as $35 per employee hour plus the cost associated with the job (PPE, trash containers, disposal fees, mileage, per-diems, etc). Junk haulers can be hired for these types of cleanouts, as they typically specialize in removing unwanted items and generally charge by the truckload.
Working with an individual that has a hoarding disorder can be challenging and time consuming, as making and sticking to decisions can be for them. If many of the items in the home need to be examined prior to throwing them out, the pace of the work slows down significantly and therefore the cost rises. Also, as the person with the hoarding disorder makes more and more quick decisions, they tend to become overwhelmed, and sometimes cannot continue until the following day. Out-of-town companies typically charge per-diems, as they are required to pay per-diems to their employees. Per-diems are allowances for food and lodging for employees when working outside of a certain range from the company’s office. Most companies will charge as little as $50 per employee hour plus costs. So, out-of-town companies tend to cost more on jobs that take longer than local companies.
Container costs must also be considered when cleaning a hoarder’s house. There are many roll off container dumpster companies and each one has different pricing models. Many companies have 10, 20, 30 and 40 cubic yard roll off containers, and each container has a weight limit. If the weight limits are not observed, the price of the containers increases. The prices of the containers can range from about $300 to over $1200, depending on the contents of the containers and the length of time they will be used.
Many people assume that the cost of actually cleaning the home is included in the price of a hoarder cleaning. Some companies will include the cleaning costs, while some will offer a line-item cost. Once the debris has been removed and the biohazard threat has been eliminated, the cleaning process can begin. Hoarder cleaning costs can range from $.75 per square foot to $2 per square foot, depending on the amount and severity of cleaning involved.
Some situations require that an individual or a family complete the cleanup themselves. Perhaps the individual or family doesn’t have the money to hire a company. Perhaps local companies are too far booked out and there is a deadline approaching (ie. code enforcement). Individuals should be aware of the potential dangers and logistics involved in cleaned out a hoarded home without professional help. Disposable bags can be one of your best options. Depending on your state, you may need to separate the recycling from the trash. Using different color trash bags can save you time with the sorting process. For example, use white bags for recycling and black bags for trash. If you have boxes available, they are great for staging glass and other sharp objects that may penetrate trash bags. Although this system may not be perfect, pick an item to be recycled (Ie. soda cans) and attempt to fill up one bag. Once those items become scare, choose a different item and fill another bag (ie. newspaper). Continue this process until the majority of available recyclable items are bagged. Then, start using black bags to bag the trash. You may need to work in several areas or rooms before you fill up one bag; however, the goal is generally cleaning out the debris, so the system you choose should be as effective as possible. As each bag becomes full, tie the bag and remove it from the house. Place it in the bed of a truck (if available) and take each truckful to the local dump or landfill.
Tips for cleaning a hoarder kitchen are similar. However, many kitchens do not have a door leading to the outside of the home, so those kitchens may not be the ideal place to start. Kitchens are likely to contain perishable items that will need to be thrown in the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) section of a local landfill or dump. MSW trash is usually collected weekly in most cities, characterized by bins that can be rolled out to the road on days pre-set by the sanitation department. However, placing MSW trash in a bin picked up weekly by the city will take several weeks to complete, as most bins will only hold 3 – 4 bags of trash, depending on the size of the trash bag.
After the contents have been removed, the actual cleaning of the home needs to be addressed. Here are some hoarder home cleaning tips. In many situations, the surfaces of the home haven’t been cleaned in many years. Backpack vacuum cleaners can be used to vacuum the ceilings, walls, baseboards, doors, windows, floors (if they aren’t wet), etc. Vacuuming first will remove a lot of built up dust from the surfaces and will make them easier to clean. After vacuuming, dust all of the surfaces again (except for the floor). The more dust you can remove from the surface, the better the cleaning chemicals will work to remove the build up. Once the dust settles, pick a wall in a room and clean the walls from top to bottom. Commercial foamers are great for allowing a chemical longer dwell time on a surface. Clean the walls, baseboards, molding, interior glass, windowsills, doors, etc. and proceed until each wall, including the closet, is complete. You may have to clean some sections more than once. Once all of the walls are complete, address the floors. Soiled carpet may need to be removed. A carpet rake may come in handy in certain areas too. Vacuuming, sweeping and mopping are the final steps.
In some cases, what is referred to as hoarding behavior is actually a symptom of depression. Severe depression can lead individuals to change their behavior patterns and can lead to homes and vehicles becoming less usable. While the accumulation of trash and debris is considered hoarding, the person living in the home may not actually be attached to the items they have accumulated. For example, homes that have many fast food bags and styrofoam cups piled up could be an indication that a person’s behaviors have changed. Generally, the individual does not want to keep these items, but their trash can may be full or inaccessible, they don’t have trash pickup service, they simply don’t have trash bags, or the pile is simply too big and is emotionally overwhelming. Although unsightly, these types of environments generally contain flies, fruit flies, maggots, cockroaches, bed bugs, mice, and/or rats, but tend to be easier to clean up, as fewer decisions about what can be kept are easier to make.
Working in a hoarded home can be challenging. Knowing what to wear can reduce those challenges. First, masks are recommended, even if there are no biohazards present. A disposable dust mask should give you a minimal level of protection from dust and other airborne materials. A disposable N-95 respirator is advised, but if you are an employee of a company, OSHA requires a fit test and medical evaluation, even for these types of masks. If you are not an employee, read the instructions for proper fitting before starting.
Next, select snug disposable gloves to work in. These gloves can be latex, vinyl or nitrile. Change these gloves as often as feasible, or generally when you take a break. Do not re-use the same gloves after you remove them. Because you may be working with items that can tear the gloves easily, you may want to purchase light weight work gloves, preferably with vinyl coating, to help protect the nitrile gloves and to help you grip items you are bagging and transporting. You can generally purchase these gloves in the hardware section of most hardware stores, the gardening section or online.
If the home has a lot of contamination, you may want to purchase a disposable biohazard suit or disposable hazmat suit. Although the price of these varies greatly, most economical suits cost about $10 each. However, when purchasing a biohazard suit, it is recommended that your purchase a suite 2 sizes higher than your daily clothes (ie. purchase extra large if you generally wear medium). These suits tend to wear out under the arms and in the crotch area when working, so they need to be bigger. However, be careful to tape the excess on the shoe cover to prevent tripping issues. You may want to purchase disposable booties to help with this issue and wear them over the built in booties.
When getting a quote for hoarder cleaning, consider the above factors. The lower the threat to an individual’s safety, the lower the cost of the job. Also, local companies tend to cost less than out-of-town companies because their cost of doing business tends to be lower. The presence of hazardous and biohazardous material will significantly increase the cost of the job, and factors such as the number of roll off containers used and the detailed interior cleaning will affect the cost of the job, which in turn will affect the price. When dealing with mice, rats, roaches, spiders, bed bugs, scabies and/or lice cleaning service prices will vary greatly. In short, hoarder cleaning can cost anywhere from $50 per employee hour to $125 per employee hour plus the costs involved with the job.
For more information on biohazard remediation companies throughout the United States, visit American Bio Recovery Association at https://www.americanbiorecovery.org/. For information on hoarder cleaning in South Carolina, click the previous blue link.
Mike Young is the owner of Palmetto Commercial Services in Columbia, SC. Mike has received all 3 IICRC Master Certifications and the American Bio Recovery Association CBRT Certification, as well as multiple crime scene cleanup certificates, hoarding certificates, meth lab remediation certificates and an environmental disinfection certificate. PCS has been awarded the BBB Torch Award for Business Ethics in 2017, The State’s Best Cleaning Service 2017 – 2021, Post and Courier/Free Times Best Cleaning Company 2019 – 2021, Lexington Life Best Restoration Service 2021 and 2022, Columbia Metropolitan Magazine Best commercial cleaning Service 2019 – 2022, Top Rated Local Best Janitorial Service in South Carolina 2019 – 2021, SC Best in Business Best Janitorial Service in South Carolina, Best Floor Cleaning Service in South Carolina, and runner up for Company of the Year 2021. Mike has completed over 700 hoarding cleanups and is an avid cleaning blogger and helps cleaning companies rank organically by writing cleaning service SEO blogs.