How To Clean A Hoarder's House (Step-by-Step Guide)
Ask any professional cleaning crew what kind of homes they can’t stand, and they’ll tell you it’s a hoarder’s house. Hoarders compulsively store everything they possibly can, including old food, pets, and trash. A hoarder house is always a threat to a person’s safety and health. Unfortunately, someone has got to clean those kinds of homes. If you’re stuck with the job, there are a lot of things you need to know…
Admittedly, this is not something that should be done alone. In fact, it’s usually a job for the pros. If you need to clean a hoarder’s house, there are several things you need to do:
- Protect And Prep Yourself
- Have A Strategy
- Empty Out Each Room
- Deep Clean And Disinfect Each Room
- Call Junk Removal Services
To clean a hoarder’s house, begin by picking and cleaning out all the trash of the house. Move all furniture outside of the rooms. Store away all items which have not been used in the past five years in boxes to donate. Next, empty out each room, and thoroughly disinfect them using bleach for dirtier areas.
A hoarder’s house is not something that should be done without a plan. This job can even be potentially lethal. This guide will make sure that you do it all safely.
Before You Begin: Prepping Yourself
Hoarders should not be trusted when they say their home is safe.
Before you go into their house and start cleaning, make sure that you don protective gear (gloves, goggles, respirator, boots) and also take a quick tour of everything. While you are touring the home, keep an eye out for things that could pose a structural threat. For example, if you notice that the ceiling is dipping due to the sheer weight of the items stored in a room, call a professional to help you address that.
Knowledge is power, so remember to keep an eye out for dangers. If you notice something beyond your pay grade, just call a crew. Sometimes, DIY is a DI-NOPE!
Have A Strategy
Make a point of walking through the home in question. While walking through, get a good idea of the house’s layout as well as any particularly gnarly messes that you might need to tackle first. Here’s what you will need to determine from your tour:
- Figure out the room order. Start with the smallest, and then work your way up to the largest. It’s the fastest way to make things move quickly.
- Remove any and all items from the room that you are cleaning. You will need to sanitize everything before you are able to put anything back in. This means that you will need a designated cleaning/sorting/disposal area in the yard.
- Be prepared to have an idea of what you want to do with old items. Not everything should be disposed of. Some may be better donated, sold, or restored, depending on the quality. We suggest donating things to Goodwill and looking for a professional eBay seller in your area.
- Check for specialty cleaning issues. For example, if there was a room that’s overflowing with cat litter, you may need to come up with a special cleaning procedure there.
- Consider paying for a specialty storage service. Some storage services will store items after they’re cleaned, and also place them where you want them to be. This can be useful if you want to clear out the entire house before you add everything back in.
Cleaning A Hoarder’s House: The Play By Play
Now that you have a good idea of what to expect, it’s time to get to the really hardcore cleaning. Now that you have your gear on and you have an idea of what you need to do, here’s a run-through of your cleaning routine for each room…
Empty Out Each Room
When you’re cleaning a hoarder house, you will need to work room by room. Here’s what you will need to do in every room, at a bare minimum:
- Remove all items from the room, no exceptions. Bring the items into the sorting area outside.
- Throw away all debris, garbage, and moldy papers. This can be done by tossing them in a large trash bag or bringing them into a dumpster. If it’s recyclable, put it in a separate container.
- Donate, sell, or throw away any items that have not been used in five years. This is a good rule of thumb, but obviously, there will be different rules depending on your situation.
- Sanitize any and all furniture that you choose to keep. This may require you to wipe them down with sanitizing wipes, spray them with a bleach solution, or undergo a full restoration depending on what it is.
- Go to the next step before you place the furniture and items back in the room. If you are going to be doing a lot of sanitization, then you might just want to place the furniture in storage until the full extent of the damage has been remediated.
Deep Clean And Disinfect Each Room
Believe it or not, hoarding can cause long-term damage to your rooms and even the structure of the building. Here’s what you need to do when you are done clearing out every room:
- Prior to placing items back in the home, sanitize the carpeting, walls, and doorframe. Basically, every part of your room will need to be thoroughly cleaned. It may be best to go for professional carpet removal, as your carpet may look worse after cleaning due to the sheer amount of dirt inside of it.
- Check the walls and carpeting for signs of mold. Moldy walls may be able to be cleaned off with bleach, but if it’s heavily damaged, may need new drywall. On a similar note, you may also need to replace carpeting and vinyl tile due to mold and mildew.
- Patch up any holes that may be in the drywall. This can sometimes happen due to rot.
- Take note of signs of pests. If you notice bed bugs, mice, rats, or roaches, prepare to have an exterminator on speed dial. Since hoarder houses often have extreme infestations, you should not try to tackle this problem on your own.
Fire Safety While Cleaning Your Hoarder House
Due to the sheer amount of damage that hoarding does to a home, it’s important to establish exit routes in the home. Should a fire break out, you need to have a clear path to the outside world. While you’re working on cleaning the house, make sure to replace the HVAC filters and clean the home’s vent system since this can cause your furnace to overheat.
A Biohazard Safety Note About Cleaning And Disinfecting Hoarder Rooms
Along with wearing your protective gear, it’s important to recognize that hoarder rooms pose a serious risk for more reasons than just mold. These are homes that are notorious for having shocking levels of filth, which means that it’s possible to get serious lung infections as a result of the bacteria.
It’s not unusual to have feces or vomit drying on the floors of a hoarder’s house. In some extreme cases, it’s also possible that you may find mummified remains of cats, dogs, and even people. If you notice animal or (god forbid) human remains, then you need to call professional cleaners into the scene as this can be far more hazardous than anything you are equipped to deal with.
Call Junk Removal Services
It’s clear that you will need to remove a LOT of trash when you’re working on this house—to the point that you will need professional supplies. Now, there are two main methods that people use when they are removing junk from a hoarder’s house: DIY and professional. Here’s what you need to know about each method:
- DIY: You will need to rent a dumpster to carry all the items that you will be throwing out. Dumpster rentals aren’t cheap, but they’re more affordable than a “junk lugger” service. Make sure to get tons of garbage bags, as you will need them in quantities that are far higher than you think.
- Junk Removal: This often goes hand in hand with storage services, and frankly, it’s often well worth the high price tag. This is a good choice if you have an extreme amount of garbage. Since junk removers will only dispose of what you ask them to, they can also occasionally help out with the sorting process.
Are Hoarder Homes Salvageable?
Though you may need extensive help repairing a home that has been left to the state of neglect that a hoarder has caused, it is possible to salvage hoarder homes. In fact, most homes and apartments that have had a hoarder are able to be redone fairly well, even if the situation was fairly dire.
With that said, anyone trying to clean a hoarder home should expect to put several thousand dollars aside for repairs at the very least. Most homes will need far more than that to be able to be fixed.
When Should You Call Pest Control For A Hoarder House?
Pest control is a must for almost every hoarder house, even if you cannot see the pests right away. If you spot any of the more common culprits, such as mice, fleas, or bed bugs, you already know that you’re going to need to have thorough pest control. Of course, calling pest control is NOT a good idea to do until after your home has been cleaned and items have been put back inside.
If you call pest control before everything is back inside and cleaned out, you might run the risk of bringing more pests back into the home after it’s already been clean. This could lead you to need a second or even third round of pest control.
How much would it cost to professionally clean out a hoarder’s house?
This can vary depending on how severe the hoarding problem is. Most companies will ask $0.75 to $2.00 per square foot of house that needs to be cleaned for hoarder-level messes. In a small apartment, this could be manageable. For actual houses or larger condominiums, this can easily cost several thousand dollars.
How long does it take to clean out a hoarder’s house?
Hoarder houses are major projects that should not be expected to be cleaned in a day. In most cases, a hoarder house will take at least three to five days to clean. Extensive damage may take as much a week to clean, not including any repairs that could be required to fully sanitize the area.
Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.
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