Extreme cleaning

31 March 2015

Spring is the time to embark on a good clean and tidy. Old papers and dust aside, most of us are unlikely to discover anything too dreadful. For the Orbis clean and clear team however, dealing with murder scenes, compulsive hoarding and pest infestations are all part of the job, as Cleaning Matters found out

Hoarders' properties are commonly encountered in clean and clear work. In two years as relet manager at vacant property security experts Orbis, Dave Turner has been called out to quite a few properties littered with junk. One house was so full of yellowing papers, magazines, junk mail, plastic bags, clothes, cardboard boxes, empty food packets, broken furniture and rubbish that the resident could no longer get to the bathroom. He was relieving himself in buckets and bottles. The sink and toilet were blocked and overflowing and the kitchen was piled high with dirty plates, mugs and saucepans. There was dirt, mud and excrement everywhere.


At the request of the social housing provider, Turner’s team began clearing the property whose condition was endangering the health and safety of the man living in it, and that of the neighbours. The team spent several hours a day over several days working hard on it.


Up to three million people in the UK suffer from compulsive hoarding, a complex mental disorder. It is also very difficult to treat – and so Turner and his team were called back just six months later to clear and clean it all over again.


Extreme jobs are part of the course and have included deep cleaning a corridor in a tower block in London after someone was murdered in it. The team has also been called out to deep clean a property after an elderly tenant died in it in his sleep, clean bodily fluids from communal areas used by heroine addicts, and clean dog mess that had been smeared across walls and floors. 


Orbis teams also deliver pest control services. It is not uncommon for a house with pets to have to be treated to remove a flea infestation, or for a property riddled with bedbugs to have to be treated, before the clean and clear can begin. "We have seen some sights," Turner says. "But to be honest, it’s all in a day’s work for the team." 


Training & equipment 

Staff must pass several training modules before they are allowed to work on cleaning and clearing properties. They learn about working with potentially hazardous materials, health and safety, and the best equipment to use.


"We’re fully trained and we wear personal protective equipment (PPE) where necessary so we’re totally protected and equipped to deal with anything really," Turner adds. PPE varies according to the job. When fumigating a property, the team might wear white disposable suits, rubber gloves and respiratory protective equipment masks. Or it might be enough on some jobs to wear steel toecap boots and overalls.

Mops, cloths and buckets used for cleaning bathrooms are not used in any other areas, to prevent cross-contamination and the spread of bacteria and viruses. Red buckets are used in the toilet, yellow in the kitchen and blue in other areas. Only new cleaning cloths are used and old cloths are disposed of appropriately.


Typical cleaning agents used include hard surface cleaner, de-greaser, acid de-scaler, toilet gel, disinfectants, air fresheners, toilet blocks and other cleaning agents. Where a deep cleaning service is required, the Orbis teams uses an infection control treatment that vaporises a high integrity, completely non-toxic disinfectant called DuoMax. This is capable of killing 99.9999% of airborne pathogens and surface bacteria.


If best practice is not followed the result can be anything from disastrous to embarrassing. Anyone on a clean and clear job who has made the mistake of using pine disinfectant on wooden floors knows that the foul odour can linger for days.


So, is Turner expecting much more work during spring? "Let’s just say we don’t tend to get involved in typical spring cleaning work," Turner says, with a chuckle. "But you could say that every day is a spring clean as far as we’re concerned."