Cleaning up after crime or trauma

CRIME Wash was conceptualised four years ago when an ALS paramedic - Linda van Winkel and hygiene, cleaning entrepreneur Catherine Wheeler - joined forces in addressing the aftermath of trauma situations that required the removal of blood, pathogens and bodily fluids.

Speaking to the Fever, Wheeler said with an increase in suicide, natural deaths of many people living alone, health concerns and the spread of airborne and blood-borne pathogens in increasingly dense populations, there is a need for their business in society.

“Health and safety issues are on the increase and legislation demands that blood and bodily fluids needs to be disposed of in a specific manner due to the spread of harmful viruses.
“This is not being done with regular clean ups, and cleaning contractor companies are not generally skilled in the correct approach to a trauma clean-up,” she said.

Wheeler said that the task of Crime Wash is to enter the scene after clearance by authorised personnel and only attend to the areas that require cleaning.

“There is no glamour nor investigative involvement in this sector of the scene,” said Wheeler.

When asked about training, she commented: “Crime Wash technicians essential need to have the ability to detach from the events of the scene. A poor olfactory sense is always a positive and approach there role as offering a service to the community at large so they do need to maintain an emphatic approach to the survivor to ensure that the service offered does not result in a secondary trauma.”

She said that the hardest part of their job is that almost every survivor (parent, spouse, sibling, etc) wants to hold onto the belongings that the deceased was wearing or surrounded by at the time of the trauma.

“Due to health requirements we are obliged to remove all items that have been affected by blood and/or bodily fluids and incinerate these items.

“Explaining that this procedure needs to be followed is a sensitive one. The second area of difficulty is the final stage of the clean-up wherein the survivor is debriefed by a Crime Wash representative and re-introduced into the trauma area. Anxiety and fear is constantly present and we attempt to minimise as far as possible the immediate pts which will require counseling by professionals. This is an important phase of the clean-up and unique to the Crime Wash approach.”

She said that although their job is a difficult one, it is their passion is to serve the community and support individuals that they interact with which keeps them going.

“Watching a survivor re-enter the trauma area and interact with the Crime Wash team means we made a difference. Leaving a memory that says ‘We Care’ makes it all worthwhile.”

Her message to those that want to follow this career path is that: “You have to have a passion for it”.

“You need to be willing to serve the community and reap the rewards of reaching out to someone and easing their pain. If anyone intends to make money from this industry, they are in the wrong profession,” she added.

To find out more, email

Caption: Linda van Winkel and Catherine Wheeler are the owners of Crime Wash.

Kalisha Naicker



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