How Long Does It Typically Take to Clean Up After an Unattended Death?

What we describe as an ‘unattended death’ is one where a person passes away alone, receiving no medical intervention or care. Their bodies can remain undiscovered for an almost indefinite amount of time, which plays a huge part in the complexity and risks of the cleanup process. As experienced, trained cleanup technicians, the team at Aftercare is well versed in the challenges of cleaning up after an unattended death and why it must be done thoroughly and professionally. 

Factors Influencing Cleanup Time

  • The nature of the death

Unattended deaths happen for a wide variety of reasons, and the nature of the death plays a fundamental role in determining the best course of action when the cleanup crew arrives. Some common causes of death include:

  • Natural causes
  • Accident in the home
  • Suicide
  • Homicide
  • Accidental Overdose

Each presents specific challenges, mainly if toxic chemicals, drugs, or other contaminants exist. However, all cleanup crews are conscientious to note the presence and extent of biohazardous materials, especially blood and other bodily fluids. These can carry pathogens and diseases after death and must be cautiously treated. 

  • The condition of the body and level of decomposition

The length of time the death was unattended is the main factor in the amount of decomposition. However, violent incidents where the body has been cut and exposed internally will accelerate the process.

  • Environmental and seasonal impacts

External factors like temperature and humidity play a fundamental role in decomposition and the extent of any property damage. Colder, drier climes will preserve a body longer and restrict decomposition; the opposite is true with hot, wet places.

  • Insects and scavengers

Location and climate significantly affect the variety and voracity of insects and creatures that may be attracted to an unattended death. They can wreak havoc and spread contaminated material throughout any property, forcing more complex, extensive cleanup operations.

Typical Timeline for Unattended Death Cleanup

Although the factors mentioned mean accurate estimations are almost impossible to make, the following timings are a rough guide that applies in many situations:

  • Initial assessment and contamination evaluation—Several hours to a full day.
  • Safe removal of biohazards and decontamination—Anywhere from several hours to several days.
  • Structural repairs—If these are required, a new timeline is introduced according to the construction experts, and is impossible to estimate here. 
  • Odor elimination and restoration work—around a week or more.

Critical Steps in the Cleanup Process

  • Initial response and notification of authorities—The first step must always be to inform the relevant authorities before interacting with the scene. 
  • Assessment and containment—Trained professionals must thoroughly assess any safety and cross-contamination issues. 
  • Biohazard removal and disinfection—This must only be attempted by accredited, licensed professionals with the requisite personal protective equipment (PPE), effective chemicals, and responsible disposal practices. 


When an unattended death is discovered, it is critical to engage the services of trained professionals like those at Aftercare to ensure a safe, thorough result. The complexity and potential dangers involved are not for amateurs and can lead to long delays and unpleasant consequences if handled poorly. If you want to discuss any aspect of our highly reputable services, please do not hesitate to contact us today. Our experienced, knowledgeable representatives will gladly give you all the necessary information and guidance.