"Generally, when we tell people what we do, it's a conversation-stopper," says Jennifer Ott, whose cleaning kit includes respirators, "bunny suits" and two sets of extra-thick nitro gloves that reach to the forearm.
Ott and her husband, Steve, own Critical Care BioRecovery, specializing in heavy cleaning jobs—which often involve biohazards at days-old scenes of violent death.
"We have to always assume that what we're cleaning—blood, any kind of body fluids—has pathogens, is HIV-positive, hepatitis C-positive," explains Ott. "The majority [of cases] is suicide, followed by unattended deaths—people who die and they're not found for a period of time. Followed by that are homicides and crime scenes."
The former human-resources specialist views her service—part of a burgeoning toxic-cleanup industry—as part custodial and part therapeutic.
"It's a bit dismissive to say we're making it like it didn't happen," she says. "Our goal is not to make [the area] the way it was before, our goal is to make it safe and habitable again."
And what does a death-scene cleaner encounter?
"It's generally going to be brain matter and skull fragments and blood," says Ott, "and spinal cerebral fluid, which is very oily. It keeps the blood wet for weeks. Because it is oily, it makes it even more difficult to clean."