After our post How to Clean Up Before the Housekeeper Comes, readers wanted to know so much more about how to hire a cleaner and how to handle any sensitive or awkward situations. We talked to Beatriz Rojas, owner of San Antonio cleaning company C&B Facility Services, and she answered all our questions.
How to choose a service
You've got options. You could hire a solo cleaner over Gumtree or through a personal referral. Or you could hire an agency, which might send different cleaners to your home at different times.
With a solo cleaner, you might choose to pay cash directly, and you might build a more casual professional relationship. You'll also know exactly who is coming to your house each time.
An agency often costs more, says Rojas, but that cost usually covers taxes and insurance. An agency can also send a team; Rojas often leads a team of three to a house cleaning, tackling multiple rooms at once, so they can clean an entire house in a couple of hours.
If you're looking for a level of professionalism and protection from damages, an agency could be your best option.
How to set the cost
Most cleaning services prefer to settle on a flat rate per visit. But that rate is based on assessing your needs, estimating the time commitment, and applying their hourly rate. (That could be anywhere from $30 to $120 an hour, or more.) To set this rate, Rojas says, it's important to go around your home or office with the cleaner, describing all you want done, or not done.
The flat rate balances everyone's incentives: Your cleaner can't make more off you by dawdling, but they can rely on your regular payment without haggling.
The problem, Rojas says, is if you break your end of the deal. If you clean up before the cleaner's first visit, but not before later visits, you've just given them a hidden pay cut. Now they'll have to decide whether to address this with you, or to drop you for more honest clients.
So cover everything you can now, and stick to it, because it's easier than correcting miscommunications later. Set expectations for things like:
How to prepare your home
Like we said, clean up your clutter! Get it out of the way so the cleaners can do actual cleaning. Clutter encourages your cleaner to just skip an area, cleaning up only what's visible — or to throw everything in a pile with less care than you would take yourself.
Shoes are a big one, says Rojas. Toss them in the closet where they won't screw up the vacuuming process.
The old trope of "cleaning up for the cleaning lady" isn't entirely silly. While you should leave the real cleaning for the person you've hired to clean, you should also tidy up — and maybe even do a few spot-checks. If it's your cleaner's first time in your home, you should also have some instructions prepared. It will make both of you much happier.
Put away your valuables, says Rojas. This is partly to prevent theft, but most cleaners don't want to jeopardise a steady job. It's really to prevent an awkward situation when the cleaner sticks your cash in a weird drawer or vacuums up an earring.
You can lock up the valuables; Rojas isn't insulted by that. Or you can just put them in a drawer. "I don't want to see any money in your house," Rojas says. "You can expect me not to open your furniture." But it's very uncomfortable when something goes missing and the client suspects the cleaner. So do what it takes to prevent that suspicion.
When Rojas moves anything valuable, she tells the client, just to avoid this kind of discomfort. So if your cleaner is constantly updating you on what they've had to move , take the hint and start cleaning up better.
Put away your sex toys too, and anything else that might make a cleaner uncomfortable. (Rojas hates seeing a room full of taxidermy.) If it's important to you to leave these out, again, talk about it at that initial meeting.
How to treat the cleaner right
Get out of the house. Rojas hates to clean when the client is home; because her team cleans in multiple rooms at a time, it's hard to manoeuvre around an extra person. "Your home is my workplace," says Rojas. She's had clients stop her from vacuuming while they were on a business call — and those clients don't get prioritised later on.
If you expect to be home during a cleaning, you might be best off with a solo cleaner. When I worked at home, I would head to a coffee shop, or my cleaner would just let me know when she needed access to the office. Like a lot of these rules, it depends on the cleaner's personality and work habits.
If you have security cameras, put those away too. They make cleaners feel untrusted, invaded, and abused. Hidden cameras are, of course, out of the question, and in many places they're illegal. Your cleaner will find them. Don't invite a lawsuit.
Sexual harassment from clients is a big problem in the industry, says Rojas. Your cleaner can't afford to give you a background check, so they rely on what they can observe directly. Establish good boundaries, make it easy to trust you, and always give warning if anyone will be in the house when the cleaners arrive. Again, your home is your cleaner's workplace.
How to communicate
Too many unpleasant surprises and your cleaner will drop you. So like we keep saying, bring up everything in the initial visit. Be professional but open, and be ready to keep searching. Better to spend some time finding the right cleaner than to run into arguments, or even lawsuits, down the road.
So in your initial session, talk about everything: who provides supplies, what they need, when the cleaning will start and end, what will and won't get cleaned, what clients will be there, what cleaners will be there, whether the cleaner is insured. And of course payment details.
Then if anything changes, address it. If you need more work done, bring up whether it affects the rate. Cleaning is a very personal business, and good clients get treated best.
If all this sounds exhausting, well, yeah — you're inviting people into your home to touch all your stuff, for money. It's complicated! But it still beats vacuuming.