May 27, 2024
How to Get a Job As a Crime Scene Cleaner
  • Stacey Foyster specializes in “crime-scene cleaning,” often after violent or traumatic incidents.
  • She quit her job at a bank to work as a domestic cleaner before training in the specialty.
  • Now she takes jobs involving cleaning prisons smeared with feces or the sites of serious assaults.

This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Stacey Foyster, a 34-year-old crime-scene cleaner from Kent, England. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

After 10 years of working for the Royal Bank of Scotland in risk analysis, I felt like I was trapped and wasn’t growing as a person or in my career. There were office politics and micromanagement.

I started following Mrs Hinch, an Instagram influencer who talks about cleaning tips. She said that cleaning her room was helping with her anxiety, and I realized that I would clean too whenever I was having a bad day. I thought, why am I in this job that makes me feel undervalued and underappreciated when I could be doing something that’s going to help me mentally and will earn me money?

So in March 2019 I left my job, and in April I started working as a domestic cleaner, cleaning an office. I grew through word of mouth, local advertising, and leaflets I gave out. I went from having one office to clean to having 25 clients in six weeks. I had to bring in a subcontractor to work with me.

In January 2020 I was approached by a local council housing asylum seekers, young ex-prisoners, and children who’d left foster care. The council needed to have those houses cleaned. When the pandemic hit, I also started working alongside the council doing COVID cleans.

When the council offered me a cleaning job involving needles, I was terrified and turned it down

I was always scared of injections. But soon I realized I was limiting myself and decided I needed to tackle this head-on.

In 2021 I took a hands-on three-day course in decontamination and biohazard cleaning provided by Ultima, a cleaning academy. I was taught health-and-safety regulations regarding the “control of substances hazardous to health” and how to protect myself from bloodborne pathogens.

I took the plunge and started my own business. I have a team of eight people. They receive training from me in-house.

We cover domestic cleaning and commercial cleaning, but I specialize in trauma or “crime-scene” cleaning that tends to be dirtier or riskier.

If a job is small and urgent, like cleaning a house after someone’s been stabbed, I work on it alone. I have different staff for different roles. Some are full time, while others are contracted to work in an emergency.

We’ve cleaned up prisons after prisoners protested and smeared feces everywhere, and a house after a violent flight involving blood. We’ve also been called to funeral parlors to clean up maggot infestations.

Last March we cleaned a six-bedroom house that had been taken over by drug dealers. It was absolutely horrific — there was graffiti all over the walls and needles everywhere, and the bedrooms were full to the brim with clothes. It took us five days, working about eight hours each day.

We normally work in three-hour stints before having a break. It’s very physical work. Throughout the day you’re lifting beds and using every part of your body to clean. When you wake up the next day, you feel like you’ve been to the gym.

You never get used to the smells

We wear personal protective equipment, or PPE, that is tailored to our faces at a fitting. While we’re working, we can’t really smell anything — but when we come out and take the PPE off, we realize the smell is now on us. It’s on our hair and on our clothes.

In August one of my teams cleared out, cleaned, and redecorated the house of someone who’d passed away. The job included pest control for flies and maggots that were in the kitchen and decontamination for rodent remains. For that we charged £4,510, which is about $5,400.

After every job, we have a debrief outside. I bring them snacks, and we always try to finish our debriefs with a joke.

We have weekly one-to-one check-ins, and we always have a focus of the week, like trialing a new cleaning product.

I place my teams in areas that won’t trigger them

If someone had a very elderly grandparent who recently passed away, I wouldn’t send them to clean a house that someone’s passed away in.

I’m based in Kent, in southeastern England, but we take jobs all over the country. I’m also part of the National Academy of Crime Scene Cleaners, a network of trained specialist cleaners. We all work together and pass jobs on to each other.

We’re normally paid by the local council or a public authority such as the police, and we have other clients who pay us directly. Sometimes we’re contacted by the family of someone who has passed away.

I’m always striving to be better. I’m trained in first-aid — and I spend time researching products, like finding the best microfiber cloths to use.

We recycle a huge amount. We cleaned a house owned by a lady who had beautiful clothes, which we donated to a nearby care home for the elderly. Tinned food from houses we’ve cleared out has gone to local food banks, and toys have gone to homeless shelters in Ukraine.

People think I’m weird because I get a kick out of cleaning. But making a difference is what I love. And my team is like a family.

I feel like I found myself. I’ve never felt more fulfilled in my life and work.