Cleaning a hoarder’s home is overwhelming. Hoarders often collect items for years and end up living in appalling conditions that are difficult to remedy.
Hoarding cleanup is not an impossible task. However, if you aim to sell a hoarder’s home or simply help a loved one live in better conditions, you can create an action plan to turn their home into a livable space.
However, it’s essential to acknowledge that hoarder cleaning is a challenge. So we’ve put together some actionable steps to help you stay on track and manage this time-consuming project.
How to Clean a Hoarder’s House
You need to take a strategic approach. We recommend visiting the home in advance to assess the situation and snapping some pictures of each room.
Next, you can start preparing.
Get Some Help
Get a friend or family member to help you. Hoarding cleanup is not something you can do alone. They’re also non-profits or hoarding cleaning services that can help.
Hoarding cleanup services know how to clean a hoarder’s house, even if you’re dealing with an extreme case. These professional cleaners can deal with years of accumulated filth and use trauma cleanup methods if the mess includes garbage or body fluids.
Calling a cleaning company is an option you have at any stage of this process. You might actually find that getting help from experts is faster and more cost-effective compared to taking the time to clean the home yourself.
Gather the Right Supplies
Invest in some cleaning supplies. You’ll need disinfectants, baking soda, white vinegar, all-purpose cleaners, and dish soap. You should also purchase mops, brooms, dustpans, a quality vacuum cleaner, scrubbing sponges, microfiber clothes, buckets, and some heavy-duty trash bags. Empty boxes can be helpful for heavier items.
You will likely need protective gear. Hoarding typically stems from a mental illness, and unfortunately, hoarders sometimes live among old garbage, body fluids, or a pest infestation. You’ll need gloves, splash goggles, face masks, and disposable coveralls.
Plan the Cleanup Process
Plan on what you’ll do with all the trash. You can look into a dumpster rental service, call a junk removal company, or drive your own pickup truck to the dump.
Have a timeline for the cleanup project. Unless you’re dealing with a mild hoarding case, you’ll likely need a full weekend to remove trash and three to four days to deep clean the house.
Choose an Approach
Now that you have a cleaning checklist, you can start thinking about a strategy. You can start by getting rid of large items first and focus on what’s left. You can also go through the whole home and remove trash everywhere before deep cleaning.
Another possible approach is to focus on one room at a time. It can be a good way to clear up a staging area if your goal is to look for cash home buyers in Texas.
Hoarders tend to accumulate waste due to a mental health problem. They either become unable to clean or can’t bring themselves to throw things away. In some cases, hoarders suffer from OCD or anxiety disorders and obsessively collect a specific category of items.
If you’re wondering how to clean a hoarder’s house, the first step is usually to simple pick up waste. You can do an initial walkthrough and pick up everything you find. This initial walkthrough can make the home easier to navigate if piles of junk prevent you from moving around.
Once you’ve picked up the bulk of the waste, you’ll have to actively look for more trash. Hoarders often adopt systems to store and organize items. You might find cupboards, drawers, or shelves full of trash.
Over the years, a hoarding situation can spread beyond the living area and extend to the attic, basement, or shed. Check these areas and declutter any trash you find.
Determining What to Keep and What to Remove
Unfortunately, hoarding cleanup often happens after a loved one passes away. If you inherited a house and want to look into selling a house without a realtor, you’ll have to clean out the home before you can start looking for buyers. During this process, you should preserve some items to remember your loved one.
If the person with the hoarding disorder is still alive, you should keep the items they’ll need in their new home.
As you get rid of waste, functional items will emerge. Ask yourself a few questions:
- Is the item salvageable? Can you disinfect or restore it?
- Does the item have a purpose? Is it something your loved one cares about?
- How much would it cost to replace the item?
- Are there duplicates of the item?
Make this process easier by putting items in three categories:
- The first category is trash. Throw away these items as you come across them.
- The second category is the items you want to keep. Store them in a small room you’ve finished cleaning or box them and keep them at your place.
- The third category is for the items you’re not sure about. You can go through this pile later to get rid of duplicates and determine whether deep cleaning these items is realistic.
Deep Cleaning a Hoarder’s House
Now that you’ve removed the bulk of the trash and stored the items you want to keep, you can move on to deep cleaning the home.
One of the main issues of hoarding is that it makes a living space unusable. Hoarders are often unable to clean their home because some spaces are impossible to access. Mental health issues can also make house cleaning insurmountable.
As a result, grime, dirt, bacteria, mold, and mildew can build up over the years. Deep cleaning can be the toughest and most expensive part of the process. Here are a few steps you can take:
- Deep clean wood furniture with a mix of warm water and dish soap.
- For couches and upholstery, baking soda and white vinegar can do wonders. However, you might have to throw these items away if they have stains or mold.
- Wash the walls with an all-purpose cleaner. Use a step ladder or telescoping mop to get to the top. You might have to do the same with the ceiling.
- White vinegar can remove years of grime from hardwood floors. If you’re dealing with wall-to-wall carpeting, rent a carpet cleaning machine or consider recarpeting.
- Scrub and disinfect all the bathroom and kitchen amenities, including the sinks, toilet, shower, fridge, oven, and dishwasher.
- Use hand tools like scrub brushes or picks to brush and scour every square inch of the house.
- Pull appliances and furniture out so you can clean underneath.
- Use a brush to clean the baseboards.
- Disinfect as many surfaces as you can as you go along.
Checking for and Removing Infestation
Hoarding creates the perfect environment for pest and mold problems. Piles of junk give insects and rodents plenty of places to hide, and garbage and old food are a prime food source. Hoarding newspapers or cardboard boxes can also result in a termite, silverfish, or cockroach infestation since these insects eat wood products.
The signs of infestation will often become apparent once you start removing trash. You will likely come across droppings, notice some holes chewed through boxes, or find nesting materials. You might even see bugs or rodents near food sources.
Mold and mildew can be more difficult to notice. You will typically notice a musty smell and might see dark marks on the walls or ceilings.
Note that mold spores are a biohazard. If you suspect a mold infestation, have a mold removal company treat the home so you can keep cleaning in a safe environment.
You should also wear gloves and protective coveralls if there are insects or rodents in the home. These animals can transmit dangerous diseases through urine and feces.
Removing food sources and places to hide will make a huge difference, but you’ll have to take additional steps:
- Fix holes and cracks animals are using to get in and out.
- Inspect the exterior of the home and fix any openings. An infestation can also indicate a more serious structural issue.
- Set traps to catch rodents.
- Use baits to neutralize insect colonies.
Infestations are not always easy to spot. Insects can live in the walls, and mold can grow in a crawl space underneath the house.
It’s best to have a pest removal expert inspect the home and look for signs of infestations. These experts can catch and release rodents, help with getting rid of termites in a house, or use advanced mold removal techniques to make the home safe again.
Get Help Finding a Cash Buyer for a Hoarder’s Home
At Sell My House Fast, we often see sellers dealing with hoarding situations. If you feel that hoarding cleanup is too much, we can help!
We’re no strangers to hoarding situations and understand how difficult decluttering and deep cleaning can be. We’d like to invite you to look at our case study to get a better idea of how we can help sellers in this difficult situation.