Odor Removal in Crime Scene Cleaning

Crime scenes are unfortunately a fact of life, often resulting in the death of a loved one. Whether a crime took place or someone living alone passed away from natural causes, the scene needs to be professionally cleaned in the aftermath.

One of the biggest challenges facing crime scene cleaners is odor removal. The longer a cadaver has been decomposing, the more pungent the smell. This article will take a closer look at what can be done to effectively remove the smell of decomposition, rather than just masking the odor.

Typical equipment for crime scene cleaners

Before delving into the best ways to remove odors from a crime scene, here’s a quick look at the typical gear crime scene cleaners have on hand.

  • Personal protective gear such as a protective suit that is worn once, gloves, chemical-spill boots, and a filtered respirator.
  • Biohazard waste containers are also essential for the safe and hygienic disposal of crime scene waste.
  • Typical cleaning supplies like mops and buckets, sponges, brushes, spray bottles, and so on.

Now, the following sections will focus on some hardcore products and methods for effective crime scene and cadaver odor removal.

Ventilate and clean the scene

The very first step is to provide ventilation to the scene by opening all the doors and windows. A steady flow of fresh air will start the process of odor removal. Ceiling fans and portable fans should also be utilized to enhance the flow of fresh air throughout the premises.

A thorough biohazard cleaning of the crime scene will then commence to restore the scene and remove all traces of the source of the odor. Until the area is completely clean, it’s almost impossible to remove all traces of the smell.

Once the area has been cleaned to industry standards, it’s time to put in place measures to absorb and completely remove all traces of decomposition odors.


There are a number of different types of fogging machines at the disposal of professional crime scene cleaners. A low-volume fogger applies a cold fog to the air, dispersing an odor-counteractant or disinfectant solution. This type of fogger is extremely effective in penetrating tight and hard-to-clean spaces (air ducts is an example). A low-volume fogger is also efficient in large spaces and acts quickly in reducing and eliminating odors. The drawback of these foggers is they produce a wet fog, so it’s important to place protective coverings over delicate items present at the scene.

Another type of fogger used in crime scenes and unattended death cleanups is a thermal fogger. The advantage of this fogger is it produces a dry fog and is extremely proficient in removing odors from large spaces. Emitting a small particle size, the thermal fogger can penetrate a variety of different materials and places to eliminate offensive odors. Solvent-based solutions are more effective than water-based solutions, but the main drawback with thermal foggers is they can be expensive to use.

Air filtration devices

Also known simply as AFDs and sometimes referred to as air scrubbers, these devices come in a variety of sizes and designs. Negative air pressure is generated inside a room. Contaminated air is removed from the environment while the machine draws in fresh, clean air. Before the contaminated air is expelled from the room, it is first filtered to remove impurities using a HEPA filter. These filters are 99.97% effective.

AFDs can be used even if the scene is currently inhabited, or whilst work is still being carried out. Both odors and dangerous airborne contaminants are simultaneously targeted by the HEPA filtration system, making air filtration devices ideal for biohazard cleanup scenarios.

Using AFDs is effective, but they need to be deployed in conjunction with other deodorizing equipment and countermeasures.

Ozone generator

The ozone generator is another highly effective piece of kit in the crime scene cleaner’s arsenal. They are generally put into action once all other processes have been completed. How these machines work to remove odors in the atmosphere by converting oxygen into ozone. This process destroys contaminants.

Once the scene has been thoroughly cleaned and other odor removal processes have been deployed, an ozone generator rapidly removes any remaining contaminants from the air that may cause bad smells.

The downside to ozone machines is they can’t be used if people or pets remain on the premises, as they are an inhalation hazard. Serious medical problems and even potential death can be the result. Therefore, the scene must be evacuated when an ozone generator is in use.

Crime scene cleanups in Virginia

Take advantage of Aftercare’s professional crime scene cleanup services. Our Virginia crime scene cleanup expertise will soon have your premises fully restored and free of offensive odors. With more than 20 years of cleanup experience and providing quality emergency response services, you can count on Aftercare for amazing results 24/7.