Cleaning Up Household Biohazards
After working in the health care field for over 15 years and raising two children, I have had more than a passing familiarity with biohazards. I think there is a tendency for many of us to feel that biohazards such as blood, feces and vomit in the home are somehow less dangerous.
It’s important to know how to not only handle biohazards, but how to properly clean them up. Hopefully, the clean-up will also spare your furniture, carpets and drapes.
How to stay safe from biohazards
Wearing protective clothing, face masks, or eyewear is probably over the top for most people, but everyone can at least practice the simplest form of protection from biohazards, which is to wear disposable gloves while cleaning up.
Latex or rubber gloves can be kept in everyone’s kitchen and bathroom. Disposable gloves are cheap and can be bought at any pharmacy and most grocery stores.
Please remember, you may not know everything about a family member or friend’s medical status. They may not even know, so it’s up to you to protect yourself. You can potentially be exposed to Hepatitis B or C, HIV or other blood-borne pathogens. If handling feces, you could end up with Hepatitis A or parasites. Vomit can contain any number of components, including blood.
First contain the biohazard
Naturally, you don’t want a bigger, more costly mess to clean up. Once you have donned your disposable gloves, bring a waste basket with a plastic liner to the spot you need to clean up. For solid material, use a dust pan or similar item to scoop the material into the waste can. For blood or other liquids blot with heavy paper toweling or an old cotton towel you won’t mind tossing. You can also contain the fluids with an absorbent product such as kitty litter or salt.
When you eventually dispose of the biohazard in the trash, please make sure to double-bag and have no sharp objects in the bag that could pierce the bag. Wash your hands thoroughly after disposing of the waste.
Cleaning up blood in the household
If you have a spill on a hard surface, clean with paper towels and a bleach solution. Bleach will kill most viruses and pathogens. The Mayo Clinic suggests leaving bleach solution on a contaminated area for a minimum of ten minutes. Wash the area with a detergent solution and rinse well. Dry the area thoroughly and dispose of the waste properly.
For fabrics, seltzer water, if applied quickly, is great for getting a good portion of the remaining blood out once you have blotted the area. I’ve cleaned up blood with seltzer many times.
The website iCleaning Specialist recommends using plenty of water to flush the blood from the carpet or cloth-covered furniture repeatedly, and then using a wet-vacuum to suck up the fluids. Continue until the stain is removed. Be aware of where you are dumping the fluids from the wet-vacuum. Don’t be tempted to pour a biohazard down the drain. It would be better to dump the waste water outside if you can. For a large spill, you may need to have a professional clean the area.
Feces and vomit, be it dog or human
I don’t think too many of us have been spared the unpleasant experience of dragging dog poop into the house. Sometimes children can leave remarkable messes with their own poop as well.
Feces contain pathogens, like bacteria and parasites. Clean hard surfaces by getting up as much solid as possible and using a disinfectant cleaner.
Carpet naturally will take more work. Some stubborn stains may require a professional carpet cleaner. After getting up as much solid as possible, the blog Army Wife Toddler Mom suggests using hydrogen peroxide to clean the carpet. If there is a remaining stain, most commercial rug cleaners will take out the stain and smell. Always test a small area of the rug before applying hydrogen peroxide or any carpet/fabric cleaner.
Flush or double bag the poop or vomit and any toweling (don’t flush the toweling) you used and dispose of it with the garbage.
Last, always wash your hands well after you have cleaned up a biohazard in your household.