How to Become a Crime Scene Cleaner & Understanding if it’s Worth It.
How to become a Crime Scene Cleaner: Crime scene cleanup is demanding work, both mentally and physically. As a crime scene cleanup technician, you will be exposed to highly sensitive, emotional, and from time to time, graphic situations.
In this article, we’ll let you know everything there is about getting a crime scene cleaner’s job.
What Do Crime-Scene Cleaners Do?
A crime scene cleaner responds to the scene of a violent crime, suicide, accident or other trauma and cleans away blood, bodily fluids and other biological material. Blood-borne pathogens are a primary concern.
He also removes bedding, furniture, carpet and other contaminated items. Crime scene cleanup specialists are hired by family members or by business owners where a trauma occurred to spare themselves the emotional pain of dealing with the scene themselves.
Historically, it was left to family or survivors to remove any remnants of violence, death, homicide, or suicide from their dwellings. In the 80s, however, murder rates began to rise, and so did the need for sanitation services.
Over the years, the industry has grown into such a popular field that it has garnered television shows, documentaries, and its own cult following. Crime-scene cleaners go by various titles depending on where you are in the world. Other names for the field include:
Trauma and crime-scene decontamination
What Does the Job Involve?
There are many different types of crime scenes and other messes that cleaners encounter regularly. Cleaning up a crime scene can be a very difficult and involved process.
Cleaners are on call 24 hours a day, and they are expected to perform a very unique set of tasks depending on the nature of the environment they are hired to sanitize or decontaminate. The table below lists a few of the most common materials, scenarios, and situations that biorecovery professionals clean up after.
Needles and Other Drug Paraphernalia
Tear Gas/Chemical Weapons
Biorecovery training required by OSHA
Voluntary certification available
None; support group involvement can be valuable
attention to detail; thoroughnes; high tolerance for coming into contact with potentially physically and emotionally upsetting materials
Median Annual Salary (2018)*
$42,030 (for hazardous materials removal workers)
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Formal education or training is not required to work as a crime scene cleaner, and professionals in this industry come from a wide variety of backgrounds. They don’t need previous law enforcement experience to qualify. However, some organizations offer short-term training courses.
The National Institute of Decontamination Specialists offers a four-day “Crime & Trauma Scene BioRecovery” course, which prepares students for certification as Bio-Recovery Technician from the American Bio-Recovery Association. Students can earn their ABRA certification from the NIDS after completing the course.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not offer salary information specifically for crime scene cleanup specialists. However, the BLS reports that hazardous material removal workers earned an annual median salary of $37,600 as of May 2010.
The Bullett Media article “Inside the Gruesome World of Crime Scene Cleanup” notes that employees for the New York-based cleanup firm Island Trauma Services earn between $35,000 and $80,000 per year.
You don’t have to have a college degree to be a crime-scene cleaner, but you need an iron-clad stomach and a willingness to do things that are thankless, exhausting, and often uncomfortable.