How To Hire A Home Cleaning Service

Reader MecuryPDX left a detailed comment about how to hire a home cleaning service that was so good we thought it would make a great front-page article.

I had a bi-weekly cleaning service for the past 3 years. Unfortunately when I got laid off I had to suspend them too, but they should be back within a month (fingers crossed). This is a short guide on how to choose:

1. Seek out references. Do any of your neighbors or co-workers use a cleaning service? Ask them: How much they pay hour and how often they have them scheduled.

2. Ask Questions! When you get the service on the phone, ask, ask, ask, in no particular order…

a. How long have you been in business?
Obviously the longer, the better. Look them up in the BBB to make sure they have a spotless record with them.

b. Do you have insurance?
You want a resounding yes. If they break something or get hurt in your home you’re off the hook without using your homeowners insurance.

c. Are your employees screened/licensed/bonded/insured?
You want a yes here too. This means the employees have had a criminal background check AND should something go awry you can be compensated.

d. Are your employees *actual* employees of the company, and not contractors or third party vendors/suppliers?
You want actual employees. Contractors and third party vendors/suppliers are a gamble you do NOT want to take.

e. What type of services do/don’t you provide?
Some don’t do windows or laundry, some do. If you have specific things you need done, ask and ask how much extra it costs.

f. Do you give an in-home estimate?
If the people cleaning your home see what they have to do, it helps determine how much you pay. You may get an hourly quote over the phone, but you won’t know how many hours until the cleaners arrive and check it all out.

g. What is your cancellation policy?
Some companies require anywhere from 24-48 hours notice if you need to cancel. Will they charge a fee? Hopefully not, but some do. The company I use charges 50% your weekly fee if you don’t cancel within 24 hours of your appointment.

h. What are my payment options?
My cleaners would only take cash or a check made out to the company due at time of service. Some companies will allow you to charge to a CC, or invoice you.

i. Do you have any kind of Guarantee?
Most companies will guarantee your satisfaction. Find out ahead of time what the “rebuttal process” is, and what you can expect compensation-wise ahead of time. The company I use will either re-clean to my satisfaction or apply a discount… but only if I complain within 48 hours of service.

j. Will the same people be cleaning my home each week?
Since your housecleaner will be following a routine, you want consistency.

k. Do I need to be home for you to clean?
This is YOUR call. If you feel comfortable enough to let them clean when you’re out [I do], then do so. If you choose to be home, try to stay out of their way. Save any suggestions and critiques until they are done; do not hover and say “missed a spot” over and over.

l. Can you supply me some client references?
If they’re worth their salt, they can and will. You should call the references they supply you, and visit if possible.)

m. Do you supply cleaning products and appliances?
This varies by company. Mine brings all their stuff. If you want them to use specific products [eg. “Green”/Eco Friendly, Pet Friendly, only X Brand, etc.], ask. You will probably have to supply those.

3. Expect the initial visit or two to be slightly more expensive. Before they get into a regular routine, the service should do a top to bottom clean-up of your entire home. This will take longer than a regular appointment. The cleanings they do after that are more like maintenance.

4. Having a service does not mean you can live like a slob. You should try to maintain your home’s appearance as much as possible between service visits. Try to keep things uncluttered and tidy; once your house is clean you’d be surprised at how easy this is to do. If something spills, clean it up… don’t leave it for a week until the cleaners come back. The idea again is that they come to do maintainence cleaning, and not a top-to bottom scrub every time they come to your home.

5. It’s going to be an adjustment the first few times your house is cleaned. If you have a problem, speak up. The housecleaner may not know your pots and pans go in the third cabinet from the left, or that they shouldn’t put pens in the junk drawer. Cut them some slack on knowing where things go for the first few visits. I made an arrangement with my housecleaner that the dining room table is the “Where does this go?” area; anything they can’t figure out where to place goes there.

6. DO leave a tip and call in compliments. If you’re getting great service you should tip anywhere from 15-20% of your service for the week. Be sure to call in to their office and compliment the staff when they do a good job. It’s in your best interest to have a good relationship with your housecleaning team.

(Photo: stephcarter)