Cleaning up after hoarders

Jamie Woodhall, Technical & Innovations Manager, Rentokil Specialist Hygiene

Netflix’s latest series to go viral, Tidying up with Marie Kondo, may have left many Brits feeling motivated to clear-out their wardrobes or reorganise their workspace. The show, though aiming to uplift and inspire viewers to cleanse their minds through tidying their homes, has also highlighted what is a fairly common issue – hoarding.

According to the British Heart Foundation, as many as eight in ten Britons admit to hoarding, while the average Brit has up to £514 worth of unused items lying dormant in their home. Almost a quarter of us (23%) have a bedroom stored with excess clutter, the majority of which (70%) has not been touched for more than a decade.

Hoarding can often create an issue for those who manage rental properties, making it harder to prepare homes, so they are clean, safe and ready to be let to new tenants. It is important for housing managers to note that problem hoarding is not just a bit of clutter or a few unused items lying around. It can be a serious problem where an excessive number of items are stored in a chaotic manner, which can then in turn create a real hygiene issue. For example, extreme clutter can prevent adequate cleaning of a property enabling mould and bacteria to form unabated, hoarding can also block access to amenities such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Consult the experts

While Marie Kondo helps participants on her show to clean by only keeping items that bring joy, my main advice for those who own or encounter properties where a hoarder has been residing is don’t try and tackle the clean-up yourself. A serious property clean can take a single person days or even weeks to complete, and there can be some strange and potentially dangerous encounters along the way. Our teams have come across just about everything you could imagine when cleaning up after hoarders. For example, at one site we encountered a tenant whose house was filled with all sorts of bottles and plastic containers, all containing urine. Drug paraphernalia and sharp objects are also relatively common.

Ensuring site safety

A meticulously planned deep clean is required to restore a site back to its original state. The safe and controlled removal of needles, syringes and other sharp objects, for example, is extremely important. This type of waste can carry harmful diseases and if not removed and disposed of correctly, could cause serious infections.

Similarly, biohazards such as bodily fluids and faeces can carry viruses like Hepatitis B and HIV. The safe decontamination and cleaning of areas that have been soiled by a bio-hazardous incident is vital in order to reduce and eliminate the risk of infection from exposure.

The cleaning and disposal of waste like this should always be dealt with by a specialist disinfection team which is trained to sanitise an area using specific biohazard cleaning removal equipment and who have access to the appropriate PPE.


Another benefit of bringing in professionals to clean up after a hoarding incident is that they are trained to use the most effective cleaning techniques. For example, Ultra Low Volume (ULV) disinfectant fogging creates a mist of disinfectant that can be quickly applied to a large area. The disinfectant mist settles on top of, underneath and on the sides of objects, soft furnishings and hard-to-reach areas, offering maximum surface area coverage.

Studies have shown the application of disinfectants and biocides via aerosol or fogging can significantly reduce the number of pathogens when compared to manual surface cleaning alone.

Managing odours

Ensuring an affected environment looks clean can be a large part of the battle, but bad odours can often remain after the hoarded items are removed, and the initial clean has taken place. A professional cleaning service can really help in this regard. After using ULV fogging, we often apply a second scented residual fog to the area, which eliminates bad odours and leaves a fresh scent that lasts between 24 and 48 hours.

Final words

Hoarding is a more common issue than people think, and it can have lasting impact on a property. Depending on the items collected and the state of the property, cleaning up after hoarders can be difficult and potentially dangerous. This is precisely why so many landlords choose to bring in the experts, who will use their experience and specialist equipment to ensure a property is clean and safe to be to re-let or sold as quickly as possible.