“Me and my business partner Brendan Reilly started out in the fire and flood restoration industry. It kept us busy – and still is – but I’ve always wanted to do crime scene cleaning.
I thought about it for a couple of years, and then I finally told Brendan. We started our business Forensic Cleaning Services Ireland in 2011.
In a typical week, we offer specialty cleans for crime scenes, hoarding, fire and flood damage, and cell decontamination at Garda stations. For a few weeks we are conducting clearances on properties that have been derelict for a period of time and may have been used as drug storage facilities.
Some of the jobs are a bit bloody. They’re not for everyone, let’s put it that way. There are jobs that nobody would approach, but then we are recommended and say: “No problem, we’ll do it”.
I grew up on a farm in Leitrim and Brendan on a farm in Galway, so we’re not afraid of hard work. And although the first job is always the worst, over time we got used to it.
We wear full PPE with masks at all work. We disinfect everything first for our own safety and for everyone else who works with us, and then we get started.
Some of the jobs we do may take a few days. With hamster jobs, for example, you deal with a lot of garbage. And we not only tidy up, we also clean.
There is a lot of hoarding going on across the country and this is very sad because it could happen to anyone. It’s often people who have lost a loved one and couldn’t deal with it. And it’s gotten to the point where they’re embarrassed to ask for help.
We are usually contacted by family members or health services, but there are times when the hoarder will call themselves to ask for help, although this is very rare.
When we arrive at the property we iron out the process with them before we begin. We explain how we’re going to do it and say, “If you need something of sentimental value or are looking for objects you can’t find, just let us know”.
Sometimes we find hidden money in the house. We once found thousands of euros hidden under the cove in a room. Of course we give away everything we find. We run our business on an escrow basis and you would have no luck keeping anything like this. At least that’s how I was raised.
In my experience, hoarders tend to live alone. And there is often a kind of sadness involved. Many of them have lost a loved one. I’ve seen some cases where they’ve lost two loved ones in a very short time and I can’t even imagine how hard that is.
When we started the business, it was hard to see sentimental pictures in the house. It would give you a cold. But now we block it out – we have to, otherwise it’s not good.
At the same time, it is very enriching work. We give people a fresh start. They don’t know where to go or what to do and then we come in and clean and clean for them. We also feel really good about it. You feel like you’re helping people, I suppose.
On rare occasions, we may get a phone call to get back to you because the person has slipped into old habits. But for the most part, a fresh start will help people form better habits.
Trauma cleansing is another service we offer. It could be a crime scene where something malicious or violent happened; it could be the aftermath of a suicide, or it could be a decomposed body that hasn’t been found for weeks or even months.
Neighbors sometimes know they haven’t seen the person in a while, but they usually assume they’re on vacation. Jobs like this definitely make you think about yourself and the future. They can make you think, “Could this happen to me?”
It makes you appreciate life and appreciate your family, and it makes you do the best in life that you can do for everyone. It also reminds you that you don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life or what thoughts are going through their mind. You think a little bit more about others.
Cell cleaning is another big part of our work. We go to Garda stations and prisons to ensure that the cells or common areas are decontaminated and disinfected. There might be blood or excrement that needs to be cleaned. We start at the door and then disinfect the walls, floors, ceilings, doors and toilets.
Sometimes we clean properties that have been used as drug storage facilities or prisons. Usually we get a call from the owner so we go in and disinfect and then check for needles. We have to be very careful with jobs like this.
At the beginning of the pandemic we did a lot of Covid cleaning. Sometimes we disinfected family homes while one person self-isolated in a bedroom with an ensuite bathroom. We have also done shops, radio stations, Garda stations and vans.
We still do a lot of fire remediation work and people don’t really think about the impact it can have on people. Okay, they survived and can fix their home, but you have to keep in mind that they won’t be home for a long time either.
Sometimes homeowners aren’t in top shape, which is totally understandable. Your home will be turned upside down. And then they might have lost something like a sentimental photo. It could be a photo of a deceased parent that was on their mantelpiece and no one else has a copy. It may seem like a small thing to you or me, but it is priceless to them.
In my experience, people don’t get upset about their clothes or their furniture after a fire. They are upset about things that have been passed down from generation to generation or about something that a deceased parent gave them. It could be something so small that you or I might think it has no value at all.
We’ve also done a few jobs where it turns out the person doesn’t have home insurance. They don’t usually tell us when they call because they’re afraid we won’t get out. But then they tell us when we arrive and we help them as best we can.
It’s a job at the end of the day, but we have great empathy for people. And if we can help them, we will help them. That’s how we were both raised.
And when you see that you’ve changed someone’s life, remind yourself that we don’t know what life is going to bring us. We go into every job thinking that.”
As Katie Byrne was told
https://www.independent.ie/life/life-as-a-forensic-cleaner-sometimes-we-clean-properties-that-were-used-as-drug-dens-or-grow-houses-we-have-to-be-very-careful-on-those-jobs-41849722.html Life as a forensic cleaner: “Sometimes we clean properties that have been used as drug storage facilities or prisons. We have to be very careful with these jobs.