How to Clean Up Blood Spills

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

Blood spills happen more than we'd like to admit, especially in medical settings. In this lesson, we'll cover proper, safe procedures for cleaning blood spills from different surface types.

Blood Spills

Accidents happen all the time, and even though it's never good to see blood spilled on a surface, it is good to know how to properly clean up a blood spill. Why is it important? Well, because pathogens (infectious agents like bacteria and viruses) can spread through contact with contaminated blood. Because of this, a blood spill should always be treated as a potentially infectious material and cleaned up quickly and properly.

Equipment

Most places where blood spills are common have pre-assembled spill kits. These include personal protective equipment (PPE) like disposable gloves and protective caps, gowns, masks, and eye wear. When cleaning up blood spills, it's especially important to make sure blood never comes in contact with any of your mucous membranes (found in the mouth, eyes, nose, etc.), and PPE can help prevent direct contact of these sensitive areas.

Blood spill kits also have absorbent (usually disposable) towels, plastic biohazard bags, bleach, a scoop and broom, and disinfecting towels.

Blood Spills on Hard Surfaces

A blood spill on a non-absorbent surface is the easiest to clean. Here is a basic protocol for cleaning up blood spills on hard surfaces.

  1. Block off the area so no other people come into contact with the spill.
  2. Put on gloves and other PPE.
  3. Wipe up as much of the spill as possible with absorbent towels. Always work from the outside of the spill and move inward to avoid any spread.
  4. Pour a 10% bleach mixture (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) over the entire affected area.
  5. Let the bleach sit for 20 minutes.
  6. Use fresh paper towels to wipe up all of the bleach and remaining spill.
  7. If there are any sharp objects that need to be picked up, don't use your hands. Use a broom and dustpan or tongs to safely remove anything that could cut your skin.
  8. Disposable clean-up materials - including all PPE - should go into a sealed container or plastic bag labeled as biohazard to warn anyone who comes into contact with the bag that it contains human waste that could be hazardous or harmful. Double-bag if necessary. If you are in a setting that has a dedicated team that disposes of hazardous materials, they should be called.
  9. Non-disposable clean-up materials should either be soaked in the bleach solution for at least 20 minutes and air-dried or autoclaved. An autoclave is a device used in medical settings to sterilize and disinfect reusable equipment.
  10. When you are finished, thoroughly wash hands with soap and water.

Disposing blood spill waste in a biohazard bag alerts other people it is potentially dangerous.
Biohazard bag

Blood Spills on Carpet

Cleaning up blood spills on an absorbent material like carpet is a little harder, which is why you rarely see carpeting in medical settings. In general, you use the same protocol as listed above for hard surfaces, but there are additional variables that need to be considered.

  • When cleaning on carpet, act quickly. If the blood begins to dry or set, it is harder to get it all out.
  • Bleach may damage the carpet, so a microbial shampoo may need to be used instead. If this is the case, it's best to repeat the clean-up protocol two to three times to be thorough.
  • Steam cleaning sanitizes better than traditional cleaning.
  • If possible, replace the carpet, or at least the area where the spill occurred.

Blood Spills on You

If you come into contact with blood from a spill, what should you do? First, stay calm. If blood came in contact with your skin, wash the area with soap and water. Remove any clothing that was contaminated. If blood came in contact with your eyes, wash them with fresh water for at least 10 minutes, occasionally moving the eyelids to ensure the area is flushed. As a follow-up, you should see a doctor who can give you the appropriate tests to make sure you weren't exposed to any pathogens.

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