Beyond cleaning: How Singapore trauma cleaners risk their lives to help reset others

At left, the DDQ Services team cleaning out a home, and the aftermath of a death in another home, at right. Photos: DDQ Services
At left, the DDQ Services team cleaning out a home, and the aftermath of a death in another home, at right. Photos: DDQ Services

A local cleaning company that does the dirty work for those who can’t bear to do it themselves might seem like a straightforward business, but its graphic videos tell a different story.

DDQ Services, (“DDQ” being the first initials of founder Rahman Razali’s three children), is a hygiene cleaning company that has dealt with thousands of dirty jobs. Most involve mold and mildew, but a good number also involve trauma cleaning, the term used to describe the specialized cleaning procedures needed after events such as unattended deaths and violent crimes— jobs that require removing bodily fluids, blood, and other potentially infectious materials from a property.

DDQ’s compact team, armed with full protective suits, steps in after being called to clear the homes of those who have tragically died in the apartments due to suicide or murder, as well as individuals with incredibly unkempt homes.

Soiled mattresses, piles of trash reaching up to the ceilings and swarms of rodents and bugs flying and scurrying around are just some of the sights they see on a regular cleanup day.

@ddqservices Hey guys, so I would like to share with you about a case we came across just 2 days before Raya. The job took me to a small rented room above a shophouse where an elderly Malay man had died alone. His body was only discovered by the shop owner below, when the smell and the pool of water mixed with bodily fluids had seeped through the shopfloor. Upon entering the room, I was confronted with a shocking sight. The flood was almost ankle-deep, a combination of water from a choked sewage pipe, bodily fluids, and remnants of decay. The murky water was filled with maggots swimming through the tainted water. The scene was distressing, and I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the tragedy that had unfolded in this tiny room. In the midst of the chaos, my eyes were drawn to a corner of the room. There, hanging neatly, was a pair of baju kurung, a samping, and a pair of shoes. These items stood in stark contrast to the horrifying scene surrounding them, and they served as a poignant reminder of the Pakcik anticipation for the upcoming Raya celebration. As I began the somber process of cleaning the room, the shop owner shared with me the conversations he’d had with deceased a few days ago. The elderly man had no family or relatives left, and yet he had been looking forward to Raya, excited to celebrate the special occasion even if he had no one to share it with. He had also shared his dream of finally owning a home, a dream that was so close to becoming a reality. The Pakcik story is reminder for me of the importance of cherishing the relationships and moments that bring us happiness and to extend a helping hand to those who may be struggling in solitude. It taught me to hold on to hope even in the darkest of times, for life is fleeting, and we never know when our own story might come to an end. #bts #life #of #a #traumacleaner #in #singapore #traumacleaning #afterdeath #fypsg🇸🇬 #fypsg♥️ #fypsg ♬ Pelangi Petang – Dato’ Sudirman

How traumatic, exactly?

Many of DDQ’s jobs involve cleaning up the homes of the deceased, usually those who pass away between their 50s to 90s. Rahman says they’ve seen an increase in trauma cleanups since 2019, mostly involving elderly people living alone.

The first-ever cleanup job Rahman did involved an elderly woman who was found dead in her kitchen. As a trauma cleaner, it was certainly traumatic for him.

“During that time, trauma cleaning was unheard of. I remembered the first time I saw, I froze and my brain was working immensely trying to figure out how we can complete the job. I still remember how the smell stuck to me till I reached home,” the 41-year-old said.

But that was years ago. Rahman says he no longer gets uneasy or queasy, but the smell, which is often a combination of trash, human waste and rotting corpses, is still something he can’t quite get used to. 

“It can still make me want to vomit sometimes, even when I am using a full face mask,” he said.

Jobs can take anywhere from two hours for relatively quick cleanups to harder ones that can last as long as eight. 

The first day of the fasting month this year started with yet another trauma cleanup for DDQ. They had received a call from a family member of the deceased who asked if they could clear the deceased’s home, which was filled with crumpled newspapers and discarded food scattered everywhere.

The deceased had cut off all communications with their family and even neighbors. 

That particular cleanup was horrifying for Rahman because, funnily enough, he’s terrified of cockroaches and the space was infested with them.

“The cleaning was quite a challenge for me personally because I am afraid of cockroaches but, no choice, I have to face it,” he recalled. He still has visions of them crawling around his protective gear and face mask.

@ddqservices Earlier today, we did a trauma cleaning of a house full of rubbish and infested with cockroaches. However, this video isn’t about the cleaning itself but rather, it’s about the story behind it. It tells a story of how neglecting our mental health can have a profound impact on our physical surroundings. The state of this house, filled with rubbish and infested with cockroaches, is a stark reminder of how easily things can spiral out of control when we do not take care of our mental wellbeing. It’s a reminder that our emotions are deeply intertwined with our environment, and that taking care of our mental wellbeing is just as important as taking care of our physical health. The deceased family approved this video to be shared on social media as a reminder of the importance of mental wellness. Let’s work together to create a world where mental wellness is given the attention and care it deserves. Please take care of your mental wealth, for the sake of yourself and those around you. Let us work together to create a world where mental health is given the attention and care it deserves. #bts #life #of #a #traumacleaner #in #singapore #afterdeath #cleaning #storytime #fypsg🇸🇬 #fypsg♥️ #fypsg ♬ Can We Kiss Forever? – Kina

Rahman said his largest cleanup ever involved a hoarder who was found in a toilet whose house was entirely filled with junk that reached the ceilings. The team cleaned the space for six to eight hours nonstop and used up 50 large trash bags.

That was also the hardest cleanup, according to Rahman. He heard that the hoarder “refused” to get help from family members and family service centers.

But the team doesn’t step in to clean as soon as they’re called. They can only commence once the police give them clearance. That means there are at least no dead bodies by the time the team arrives, but there sure is a lingering smell that greets them at the entrance.

Taking breaks is impossible while donning a full PPE suit surrounded by biohazardous waste. Every time the team does a cleanup job, they risk exposing themselves to lingering blood-borne pathogens, which lead to Hepatitis infections and even liver damage.

It’s certainly not a job for everybody. Potential employees require empathy and both physical and emotional resilience to deal with the distressing messes they will face onsite, Rahman said.

Giving a fresh start

According to Dr. Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist who runs the Dr. BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, poor mental health can greatly impact one’s ability to maintain a clean and organized living environment and make decisions about their living space.

An unkempt, dilapidated home can be associated with mental illnesses such as hoarding disorder, depression, and schizophrenia, which can disrupt a person’s general function, rationality, and concentration, impacting their ability to make decisions about their living space.

Hoarding behaviors develop from “a strong perceived need to save items, a fear of losing or discarding items with sentimental value, and difficulties with decision-making and organization,” said Dr. Lim.

This behavior could stem from genetic or environmental factors, or even a history of psychological trauma or loss.

Cleaning companies like DDQ Services can help hoarders “restore a healthy and comfortable environment” and give them a fresh start, said Rahman, who noted that they also refer hoarder clients to professional help.

Because of their unkept environments, it is possible that those suffering from mental health issues may develop a higher tolerance for uncleanliness, said Dr. Lim. But not everyone.

“Individuals with mental illnesses may become more desensitised and accustomed to living in an unclean or cluttered space over time. However, it is important to note that individual experiences and tolerances can vary significantly, and not all individuals with mental health issues will necessarily develop a higher tolerance for uncleanliness,” he said.

Bringing closure

To call it challenging work would be an understatement, but Rahman is experienced enough to separate his emotions from his professional duties and focus on doing the job, making sure he and his employees follow all safety protocols and ultimately help their clients achieve closure over tasks that they can’t do for themselves.

On that note, Rahman is also a good person to ask about giving comfort to grieving those in grief, since he meets them so often.

“It’s simple — approach them with empathy, compassion, and professionalism, while maintaining clear communication and respecting their emotional needs and boundaries,” he said.

While it’s never good news when they are called in for a cleanup, these days the DDQ team is focusing on retelling the gut-wrenching stories of the deceased in the hopes of spreading a positive message about maintaining relationships and caring for each other’s mental health.

@ddqservices A heartbreaking story of an elderly man who spent his last moments alone. A simple phone call or visit can make all the difference in someone’s life #bts #life #of #a #traumacleaner #in #singapore #afterdeath #cleaning #storytime #fypsg🇸🇬 #fypsg♥️ #fypsg ♬ Get You The Moon – Kina

Other stories you should check out:


Support local news and join a community of like-minded
“Coconauts” across Southeast Asia and Hong Kong.

Join Now
Coconuts TV
Our latest and greatest original videos
Subscribe on