Hiring a Cleaning Lady - What Do I Need to Know?

Updated on December 21, 2011
K.R. asks from Chicago, IL
8 answers

I need some advice on hiring a cleaning lady. I have three different women, all who work solo, coming to interview to clean our home. I need some advice on how to do this. Should I have them each do a "trial run" and see who does the best work? I cannot imagine I would be able to pick one if I didn't do it that way. Of course they will come with references, but each person's standards are different and I don't think references, if they all have them, willl set any of them apart. Other suggestions/tips?

Background: I have had two cleaning people in the past. One lady and her mother cleaned for us for about 6 months. I couldn't figure out why I felt as if the house wasn't clean when I got home. Well, that is because it wasn't. They weren't even doing basics like mopping. Then, hired a second solo lady, she was AMAZING, but quit showing up after two sessions and never called. So, as you can see, I don't have much luck! I need some tips on how to interview to make sure I can prevent another bad apple as best I can. With the other two, I checked references and they both had decent ones.

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answers from St. Louis on

I have always hired people I already know that clean. Still even then there were things I like done differently. Telling them, I prefer it done this way, doesn't offend them in the least. I have a few friends that clean, they will all tell you I would rather do it the way they like than have them fire me or bad mouth me behind my back.

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answers from Washington DC on

i'm sorry you've had sour luck with cleaning ladies!!

Ask if they are insured. To me- that's important - one cleaning service stole my engagement ring - no one ever fessed up but their insurance company cut me a check for the loss.

Ask for a detailed list of what they do when they clean - floor boards, dusting (do they pick up items or just dust around them)

How long do they expect it to take for them to clean your home?
What is their fee?
How do they handle Holidays? My preferred cleaning day is Friday - there are times when a holiday falls on it - do they skip that week or come in earlier?
Do you supply the cleaning products or do they? (here if you supply the products - it CAN cost less).
Do they clean out toasters?
Kitchen? move appliances like coffee pots (do they empty that out too?)
Bathrooms? Do they pull up shower runners? How do they treat mold?
Mopping the floors? What do they use? A mop? or a Swiffer?
Vacuum under beds? (I had a service that did NOT do this - YUCK!)
If you have blinds - do they clean those? I have wooden blinds - one service did NOT clean them - so I would end up having to do it.
Do they change sheets and towels? Is this something you want done?

How is payment expected? Cash with a receipt? Check? Credit Cards?
Do you want weekly, bi-weekly or monthly cleaning? Do they handle charges differently for weekly? For me? weekly was less than bi-weekly. So when I was working - it was great!!!

I would NOT have them do trial runs - that's not fair to you or to them - in my opinion. Let them tell you what they do...ask if they leave a weekly cleaning list - my service did...we cleaned all rooms and focused on the kitchen today...(when they did a focus cleaning - they cleaned the fridge (without removing food) and wiped down the seal. They also cleaned the oven...

Go through each room that you want cleaned with them.
Make sure they KNOW what you expect to be done and have them give you a quote on those services.

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answers from Cleveland on

I used to clean for years. The best way I feel you can find a match is to sit down yourself, and make a list of the what you are looking for in the cleanliness of your home. Not everyone I worked for wanted the same things. Some customers asked that certain floors in their home cleaned by hand, not a mop because mop weren't thorough enough on certain floors, like tile floors with large grout. Some customers wanted all their furniture pullled out when we vacuumed, others wanted every other time etc. Same with cleaning ceiling fans, windows.
This will also make it easier to determine rate of pay. And always check references, and ask if they are still working for them, if not would they ever have them back as an employee. And sometimes word of mouth can be the best answer! I started off with a few jobs, and within a year or two had a full schedule! And never advertised.

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answers from Chicago on

the most important thing to know is exactly what you want done. It is easy to say you want the house clean (this is what I always say lol) but what that means to me and what it means to someone else may be different. I have a cleaning lady. I pay her $25 an hour. I am not willing to negotiate by the job. I pay by the hour I want cleaning done during the hours I pay for. I want the bathrooms scrubbed, floor, sink, toilet , mirror and shower. I want the kitchen done the same way, floors, sink, counters. I want the vacuum run and the basic dusting done. I want the sheets changed and bed made. I do not want each curio cabinet item removed and dusted each time she comes. I don't need the fans to be detailed each time she comes. Those are great things but if she does those and skips the other stuff the house doesn't feel like its been cleaned to me. I pay her every third time extra to do the extra dusting. and then the house feels really really clean. but I want the other stuff. So I am clear with her each time she comes.

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answers from San Francisco on

The best way I've ever found is to ask my neat freak friends. Often times the best cleaning ladies are the ones who speak practically no English and are just doing cleaning on the side for some extra money. (Sorry to say, the Merry Maids of the world are terrible in my experience - all the licensing and bonding in the world can't make up for their inattention to detail!) So interviewing them (for me) is silly, because my Spanish is terrible. :) My usual process is to walk through the house with them so they can see how we live and how much stuff there is to clean. They'll give a price for the first-time cleaning (which will always be more, unless you are a super neat freak yourself). They may want to know if you expect your laundry to be folded, bed linens changed, refrigerator cleaned, etc, or if you just want the "basics" such as floors, windows, bathrooms, dusting. (Although a really fantastic cleaning lady will do it all, because the best ones can't STAND to leave stuff undone!)

Then, once you've agreed upon a price, have them clean your house. I would make sure to be there the first few times in case they have any questions (such as where the garbage and recycling bins are, where your extra Windex is, etc), and to make sure you're comfortable with the job they're doing and can offer corrections if needed.

Our current cleaning ladies have a key to our house. Not a single dime has ever gone missing, and they get the house SO clean that you can literally smell the clean from outside the front door. I knew they would be good during the first cleaning when one of them came to ask me for a tall ladder so she could clean the chandelier in our foyer and replace a light bulb that had burned out. It was like the heavens had opened up and angels were singing. :)

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answers from Los Angeles on

I've never had luck. Once I hired my sister cleaning lady; but only had her over once because she somehow got the idea I would pick her up and drive her back 30 miles each way. Another lady (in the maintenance crew of the apt building I lived in at the time) did a very good job, but all my requests/list went in one ear and out the other. she was very honest and hard worker, but I needed to be charge not her. A third lady was nothing but a gossip about her other client's home. I was very uncomfortable wondering what she says about my home. I suppose I would ask what the length of service is for her other clients, in case she/he is the common denominator for many one time only clients. I've given up hiring, sometimes my niece (best cleaner in the world) will help me, but I feel so bad because she's family. She swears she LOVES to clean and it's therapeutic for her. Good luck.
Oh I also had a jewelry piece go missing, but I could never pinpoint it to any of these individuals.

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answers from New York on

I would definitely make it clear up front what you want done. We did not want our cleaning lady to do our laundry, since we didn't have much of it -- but now that we are a family of 4, things have changed. She has agreed to do our laundry but she does a half-hearted job and there are piles of clothes everywhere. I should have told her about that up front.



answers from Houston on

Why don't you hire a company that provides cleaning services like "Merry Maids" etc. They do excellent work...every so often you earn a bonus...they will clean your fridge or stove or microwave.

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