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Thursday, April 4, 2019 12:07 am

Dangerous work

Steri-Clean deals with hoarders, overdoses and crime scenes

Hoarding cleanups represent 80 percent of Steri-Clean’s business.


When a loved one dies of a suicide, violent crime or a drug overdose, the Sangamon County coroner gives the deceased’s family a list of biohazard businesses to help with cleanup needed in the home or vehicle.

“Most people don’t know companies like us exist until something happens to them,” said Tony Moser, the franchisee and operations manager for Steri-Clean Illinois.

Steri-Clean hopes to soon be added to the county’s list of biohazard cleanup businesses since Moser expects to open an office in Springfield later this month to service central and southern Illinois. The company currently has a presence in more than half the states in the country, including Moser’s existing franchise in Lynnwood, Illinois, a south Chicago suburb near the Indiana border.

Moser’s line of work means he and his employees are often employed at locations that are a source of grief for surviving friends and family. Some job sites can also be an emotional challenge for the work team.

“I’ve been in a situation where a child had died,” Moser said. “I did one case where it was a triple murder by machete. You could actually see the struggle; you could see the swing marks and the blood splatter and the blanket of the girl who tried to hide in the closet. Those situations get very difficult.”

The company also assists in the clean up of car accidents and substances left at the scene of drug busts. It’s Moser’s job to think about the spread of blood pathogens and other foreign matter. So when he sees a fatal car accident, he said he’s concerned about the spread of disease from blood being washed into grass.

“That’s pretty bad, because kids play there and people carry a lot of diseases,” Moser said. 

While the company offers biohazard cleaning services, its main focus is assisting in the clean up of hoarding cases.

Cory Chamlers, Steri-Clean CEO, started the business in 1995, but his work received national attention once he helped create and hosted the hit A&E show “Hoarders.”

Moser said he’s already worked with some hoarding clients in the Springfield area and expects to have a staff of four people in the local office.

Hoarding is a disorder that affects about 5 percent of the population, which equates to around 680,000 Illinois residents. What most people don’t understand about hoarding, Moser said, is that those affected by the disorder are usually intelligent and have experienced some type of loss.

Steri-Clean doesn’t intend to fill the role of a therapist, but Moser said he understands he’s dealing with clients who’ve experienced something traumatic that has led to a change in behavior. Moser said the last thing he wants to do is walk into a client’s home and remove possessions without first understanding the significance of the items the client is attempting to keep. He said he sees his company as one of the first steps a person takes to overcome those challenges, which requires a lot of care and establishing a relationship with clients who are attempting to correct their behavior.

“People don’t realize and recognize that it’s a mental disorder,” Moser said. “A person may go through something traumatic in life that changes them.”  

Lindsey Salvatelli is an editorial intern with Illinois Times as part of the Public Affairs Reporting master’s degree program at University of Illinois Springfield. Contact her at intern@illinoistimes.com.


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