My Story: Hiring a House Cleaning Service

contributed by Annie

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You have decided to go with a house cleaning service. Perhaps your work hours are insane and you have no energy left to do weekly cleaning. Maybe Mom is elderly and can no longer do a deep cleaning herself and you don't have the time to clean your home and hers. Your reasons may vary.

Before you call a company at random from the Yellow Pages, you need to know what questions to ask, what to watch for, and what steps to take to keep from having your safety and hard-earned money go out the window.

Since I have worked in this industry in the past, I have developed a list of questions that you need to ask to protect you and yours:

Is the company listed with the Better Business Bureau? What is their standing with the BBB? How long have they been in business? Remember, while there are many reputable companies in the business, not all are. Avoid those companies with bad ratings and those here-today-gone-tomorrow businesses. Satisfied customer recommendations are a must.

Next, are they licensed, bonded, and insured? Keep in mind that the price you pay per hour does not go to the cleaners. They are paid by the hour from the company, and it is nowhere near the price that the company collects from you. Accidents happen, as do thefts. What is the company's policy if the vase you inherited from Aunt Tilly gets shattered? What if your favorite necklace turns up missing? Request to see proof of licensing, bonding, and insurance before you let a stranger in your home. Furthermore, don't tempt temptation. Make sure your valuables are locked up.

What are you contracting the company to do? Define for the service ahead of time what you do and do not expect them to do. Certain services, such as cleaning windows or your oven, may take them more time and may not be included in their list of "regular services." Your money and their time has to be allocated accordingly.

You also need to be familiar with the tricks of the trade that can get a few maids in and out your door in an hour. While the pattern vacuuming may look wonderful, is your home really clean? One of the tricks in the industry is to "shine" the sink. Shining the sink is not cleaning it. It is merely wiping the sink out with a window cleaner to give the illusion of clean. I have seen employees of a maid service shine most of a bathroom, including the floor and then spray air freshener to "clean" it. Did they thoroughly vacuum the corners? Did they lift items when dusting the furniture or dust around them? Don't be afraid to do a little checking in on them. Remember, you've paid good money for a cleaning service, so you want to make sure it's really clean.

Subsequently, you want to make sure that the nice folks who are cleaning your home know how to clean. Were they educated to clean or just handed a rag and a paycheck? Will they attempt to mix ammonia with bleach? Will they clean your dirty tub with oven cleaner? (Also an industry trick.) Will any caustic chemicals be used? Do they use the same vacuum cleaner bag for you and everyone they see that day? Do you have the potential of inheriting Mr. Smith's flea problem as a result? You can request that certain chemicals be used or not used. If you so choose, you can supply your own (which I would suggest), and request that their cleaners remain outside. If you are chemically sensitive, this is mandatory.

Finally, be prepared to do a walk through with the team leader before and after they are finished. You want to make sure that everything that you covered with their office manager when booking the appointment was completed to your satisfaction before they leave. You want to make sure that they followed your specifications to the letter. You want to visually check that nothing is missing or damaged. It may be harder to file a claim with them later if issues are not brought to their attention before they leave.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by

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