When most people hear the word ‘biohazard’, they think of things like hospitals or other locales were bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms may be present. But did you know that your house is full of them, too? As a company that specializes in biohazard cleanup, one thing we also offer is educational information such as this post, so that you can be informed and take precautions to protect yourself and hopefully not need our services.

Before we discuss what kinds of infectious organisms you might find in your own home, we should define the word ‘biohazard.’ Knowing what this means will help you understand what follows. From the Merriam-Webster dictionary, its most basic meaning is:

a biological agent or condition that is a hazard to humans or the environment

A biological agent is something that is (or was) alive. This is different from an inert substance that might be poisonous or dangerous. We think of biohazards mostly in terms of infections microorganisms like certain bacteria, fungi, and viruses. (Note that there are friendly fungi and bacteria as well.)

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look of what biohazards are commonly found in a home. Except for needles, these all originate in human and/or animal bodies.

Blood: It might surprise you just how common blood is in a home. Have a cold? You might get a bloody nose when you blow it. Bloody diarrhea might result from an intestinal illness. Someone working in kitchen preparing supper might nick themselves with a a knife or on the can opener, perhaps without even realizing it. That blood then might make its way into the food. Blood can carry all kinds of viruses and bacteria. Some of the most dangerous bloodborne pathogens are HIV as well as Hepatitis B and C. (These can all be fatal.)

Human and Animal Waste (Feces and Urine): Waste products from both humans and animals can carry all kinds of infectious or dangerous biohazards. Some may even be part of the dust that you commonly find in your home, because as feces particles dry, they crumble and if fine enough can be inhaled. Cleanup of animal or human waste should always be done with caution, as waste products can carry diseases. Fecal contamination of water and food is common; hence the frequent outbreaks of e coli and other ‘food poisoning’ organisms.

Pathological (Tissue) Waste: Though more commonly found in labs and hospitals, at times human or animal tissue may be found in a home. Here’s an example: Home births are becoming more common, and the placental tissue is considered a pathological waste product and needs to be disposed of properly. You may also have similar placental tissue if you have pets giving birth at home.

Sharps (Needles): Though technically not a biohazard themselves, we’ve included needles because both legal and illegal both drug use as well as insulin injection are common. Because of how they are used, needles automatically become contaminated with blood and may result in transmission of a biohazard (see ‘Blood’ above).

So how do you protect yourself and your family from these things? Knowing how to property clean, dispose, and disinfect is the answer. If you have any questions, we’re here to help. And if you have recently experienced a trauma in your home that has resulted in a large amount of biohazard material – especially blood – we offer safe, sanitary cleanup. We are a licensed biohazard cleaning and remediation company serving the Pacific Northwest, particularly in the Spokane and Seattle areas but other PNW communities as well.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the CDC has recommended people wear face coverings in public. In addition, many entities such as retail stores, health care facilities, and other places require them.  They are also required for businesses re-opening in the State of Washington when the 6-foot social distancing cannot easily be maintained.

woman wearing surgical mask and protective coveringThere are several types of face masks the general public is using, but in this particular article we’re going to cover the disposable ones most people are familiar with.  These include surgical masks as well as the N95 masks worn both by health care professionals as well as other industries such as painters.  The woman shown at right is wearing a surgical mask. The photo below shows an assortment of industrial N95 masks and respirators.  (Please note: until very recently industrial grade N95 masks were not approved for health care workers; this restriction was lifted due to the short supply of medical-grade protective masks.)

The first thing you should be aware of is that the CDC DOES NOT recommend the public purchase and use the surgical grade masks or N95 masks (unless you have been directed otherwise by your health care professional) due to these masks being in limited supply and sorely needed by health care workers and first responders.  Still, you may see individuals out in public with either of these types of masks. 


Because there is such a limited supply of surgical and N95 masks that are required for health care workers, what was once considered a disposable item is now often being reused by necessity.  The question then arises – can disposable face masks safely be re-used?

The answer is a little complicated. No, it’s not recommended (after all, they were designed to be disposable – removed and safely disposed of as the person is leaving the restricted area, such as an operating room or a hospital room where a patient is in isolation, such as someone with MRSA or another infectious disease.  They were NOT designed to be reused, but under the current circumstances there is often no choice.  But for them to be safely re-used, there are certain precautions that need to be taken.

  • DO NOT touch the front of the mask when removing it.  Proper removal is crucial.  Medical personnel are taught to avoid touching their masks, but it’s a difficult thing to do.  Most of us – without realizing it – touch our faces about two dozen times an hour.  If you’re wearing a mask, you’ll need to make a conscious effort to avoid doing so.  Take the mask off using the ear loops.
  • Store the mask in a sealed yet breathable container for a few days. Based on what we know about how long the virus will live on paper or cardboard, we recommend 48 hours.  Some nurses use a simple paper lunch bag. You’ll want something that will allow the mask to air out and breathe; putting it in a sealed package like a plastic container or zip storage bag can trap moisture, causing mold.
  • Can you clean the mask to re-use it?  No. Hospitals have special equipment that uses gas to sterilize disposable masks that are not available to the general public. Don’t attempt to clean it with a spray, and DO NOT microwave it.  There have been some social media posts recommending both of these, but they are not advisable.  Cleaners will remain in the mask, which means you’ll be breathing in the vapors when you next wear it.  And microwaving them may start a fire, especially if the masks contain any metal (the N95 masks often have a metal strip in the nose bridge area).

In an upcoming post we’ll discuss how to safely use and re-use those homemade cloth masks you’re seeing everywhere.  The purpose of that type of mask is to prevent YOU from passing on infectious organisms, not to prevent you from catching COVID-19.  As far as that prevention goes, these masks will only provide you with a false sense of security.

We’re very familiar with the safe and proper use of face coverings like surgical masks and N95 types, as our biohazard remediation techs usually wear them.  MedTech Cleaners is one of the Pacific Northwest’s leading biohazard and trauma cleanup companies, and COVID-19 cleaning is one of our services.  We serve the greater Spokane and Seattle areas, as well as other Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Idaho communities, including Boise.


Sure, it may have been annoying the way your mom made you wash your hands so much as you were growing up.  Wash after going to the bathroom, wash your hands before you eat, wash your hands after playing outside.  Wash, wash, wash.  And water as hot as you could stand it and plenty of soap were required.  With the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus and near panic worldwide, the focus on how to protect against an infectious disease is at the top of the list for conversations on social media, news programs, and more.

Perhaps you’ve seen photos and videos of people in China walking around out in public wearing masks over their mouths.  Even here in the U.S. it’s happening, and with the prevalence of celebrities doing so, many people are rushing out to buy those disposable face masks, almost to the point of them selling out.

First, the good news.  You don’t need those masks, because they really won’t keep you from getting a virus. They were designed mostly to keep someone’s cough droplets from spewing forth.  The CDC and other health experts say the only ones who should be wearing those respirator masks are those who are already sick with a virus and health care workers.  It gets further complicated by the fact that for those masks to be effective at all, they have to fit properly and remain in place.  This morning on “Good Morning America,” Dr. Jen Ashton, their resident health expert, said she had to try five different ones to find one that fit her well.

The other thing to keep in mind is that if you’re wearing one of those masks, you have to resist the urge to lift the edge to scratch your nose.  Touching your face is one of the ways that infectious diseases are spread.  That mask is worthless if you’re going to touch your face underneath it.  The mere act of placing your finger underneath means you’ve already contaminated the surrounding are with whatever bugs your finger is harboring, and now it’s in close proximity to your mouth and nose rather than being dispersed into the air.

And there’s more good news.  Turns out Mom may have instinctively known some things.  Hand washing with hot water and plain old soap is sufficient.  You don’t even need anti-bacterial soap.  (In fact, there is some evidence that overuse of anti-bacterial agents has actually contributed to the development of resistant organisms.) What’s the proper hand washing standard?  A recent study showed that about 97% of us don’t do it right.  This is what the official site of the Centers for Disease Control says:

Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.

And 20 seconds may be longer than you think.  Here’s a good guideline to teach your kids:  Sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song twice – that’s just about the right amount of time.  (Some places recommend the ‘ABC’ song instead.)Washing should be followed up with drying, using a clean towel.  Air-drying is the second best if no clean towel is available.  And please don’t use those wall-mounted blower dryers; they only spread disease around in the air.

Obviously there are other guidelines for health care workers, especially doctors and nurses about to go into an operating room. And technicians who work for a biohazard and trauma cleanup company like ours have other protective protocols. But for most of us, washing our hands sufficiently with soap and running water whenever available is one of the best ways to cut down on transmission of infectious diseases.


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