Thoughts on professional cleaners

After putting our house on the market, we hired professional cleaners because we couldn’t keep up with keeping the house spotless on top of everything else.  Normally we live in squalor and we’re fine with that (so long as there’s no mold or anything growing).  But when you’re regularly showing a house and the people you have a verbal agreement about the lease with drag their heels for a month, it’s best not to have deep cleaning on the list of things to constantly worry about.

The first person we tried charged $120/session (so ~$60/hr), which we would have been fine with if she’d done a good job cleaning.  But she didn’t.  There were crumbs on the dining room table, dust on the bookcases, toddler hand prints on the windows, cat hair on the carpet and in tumbleweed form and on and on and on.  I came home and couldn’t tell anybody had been there to clean, except she’d apparently spent a large amount of time scraping soap out of a soap holder (but not cleaning any of the rest of the shower).  Even more than I hate spending money on things I don’t value, I hate spending money and not actually getting what I don’t value.  I hate paying someone a lot of money for something I could do myself and then I have to do it anyway.  If I’m paying a lot of money, they should do as good as or better than I do.

So then we tried a local agency (that everyone who doesn’t use the lady we tried first uses), bonded, insured, etc.  $175 for the first clean, $100 for a weekly clean.  They left the place mostly clean and I could tell things had been cleaned when I walked in the door.

$100-120/week is $400-500/mo is $5000-$6000/year.  We could give someone at DC1’s school an 80% scholarship for $6000/year.  It’s such a waste for something we don’t even need and I don’t even get to feel noblesse oblige about paying for it because most of that money is probably going to the owner of the company– the women who actually do the cleaning are not getting $100/clean.

Also I don’t like the smell of cleaning products.  And it lasts for two days after they’ve come.  And a few times they’ve come after 5:30 on Friday, which means I’m home while they’re cleaning which hurts my midwestern sensibilities– I feel like I can’t just kick back and relax (or make dinner because they clean the kitchen last) and I should be cleaning too, which is ridiculous.

So that’s me being grumpy.   DH, of course, likes having the cleaners, probably because he’s the one who usually does the bulk of the cleaning given my dust allergies.

Do you have someone clean the house?  Do you love it?

47 Responses to “Thoughts on professional cleaners”

  1. Zenmoo Says:

    We have a cleaner. She is awesome. Does a great job, is a lovely person and very reasonablely priced ($25/hr & she takes 3hrs to clean our 3bed/2bath place. She dusts, cleans surfaces, tidys, vacuums, mops… I would give up many many things before I gave her up

  2. hollyatclubthrifty Says:

    I finally hired someone earlier this year. I keep a fairly clean house because I’m here 24/7, but she comes and does a really good deep clean. I pay her $100 and it takes her about three hours.

    I’ve been thinking about seeing if she wants to bump it up to 2X per month because I am having trouble keeping up on cleaning in between. And when I have four hours on a Saturday, cleaning is not what I want to do! I’m cheap though so we’ll see. I think my husband likes having a cleaning lady because then he doesn’t feel guilty about not cleaning all that much.

  3. bogart Says:

    No. I embrace squalor. Also, am much more comfortable with and prefer (mundane) dirt as compared to cleaning chemicals and their scents.

  4. Debbie M Says:

    No, I feel like I can do that myself, though I don’t do it as much as I would like to have it done.

    I would kind of like to hire the kinds of people who clean up for apartment complexes between renters to clean the impossible-seeming stuff like grout. Actually, maybe that’s the only thing I want them for.

    I do know people who have cleaners and love it. It feels luxurious after they come, and knowing they’re coming inspires them to keep the place tidy (even if they’re not about to throw a party). I admit that I do kind of love the way being on vacation often means free cleaning–by the hotel or cruise ship maids (even though I’ve heard things aren’t really clean, they just look clean).

  5. Susan Says:

    We had a woman in our old town, who cleaned our 2bed/1bath apartment for $70 every two weeks. I loved it. It feels so great to come home to a clean house, and she did things better and deeper than I did.

    We cannot seem to find anyone in our new house (3bed/2bath), in a much lower cost-of-living area, who will do it for less than $200 every two weeks. $400/mo is over my threshold of casual spending; it’s almost paying rent, for 10 hours of work a month, and I know that the whole sum doesn’t go to the cleaner herself.

    The market seems to be dominated by one or two bigger operations. Any suggestions on how to find a single person in business for him/herself, but with the necessary insurance and all?

    I did try to hire one woman, but she was craaaaazy, and when she finally never ended up coming over I felt like I’d dodged a bullet. That experience alone turned me off of Angie’s list — she was craaaaaazy (and according to one later review, outright horrible at doing the job) but had an ‘A’ rating, with lots of what must have been fake reviews, and Angie’s list should protect me from … exactly that.

    • Susan Says:

      I just checked Angie’s List again, and it’s the same few operators, listing “specials” that work out to $40-50/person/hour. I don’t want to underpay someone, but argh.

      Seems like the places I called wanted more money for longer intervals (eg $120 every week or $190 every two weeks or $250 every month) regardless of hours. Is this common?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It’s common in our town. We’d really want someone like once a month, but until recently we couldn’t justify paying what they were charging for that service.

  6. Sue Says:

    I have friends who have cleaners come in and they clean up before their cleaning person arrives. Why bother?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      The service we use won’t tidy, it just cleans. So if you want the floor vacuumed entirely, you have to make sure there’s no clutter on the floor, similarly with dusting. This is another reason I dislike cleaning services– they force cleaning that I would not otherwise do, and I have to remember what day the cleaners are coming to make sure to pick up beforehand.

  7. SP Says:

    We did for a few months at our last place, just once per a month (~$120) to do a better job at scrubbing stuff than I ever am motivated to do. T used to largely take care of bathroom and kitchen floor scrubbing, but his first year at his new job he didn’t really have time to keep up on it as often- and I wasn’t able/willing to pick up the slack.

    We quit the service when we moved into our house. It was really nice to not have to worry about the deep cleaning and I did like to have everything clean…. but it is just too much money. I think our house would have been more money too. I’d pay $100/month for help, but that doesn’t get you what you need.

    The only time I get stressed about it is when my in-laws come to visit, because my MIL was a stay-at-home mom values a sparkly clean house fairly highly, and I feel those expectations being burned onto us (and mostly on me, because patriarchy).

  8. Cloud Says:

    We have a cleaning service. It is a small local service that uses environmentally friendly products, is bonded and insured and (at least when I asked several years ago when picking the service) gives their staff paid time off.

    They do an OK job. It varies a fair amount depending on who our cleaner is- we have an assigned cleaner, and some have been better than others. I’ve only ever thought the quality was low enough to complain three times over the course of 5 years- and two of those times have been for using too much of some product and thereby leaving a surface sticky.

    The house definitely looks clean when I come home. You’re right that it doesn’t last, but someone has to clean the kitchen and bathrooms, vacuum, sweep, and dust on a somewhat regular basis, and I’d rather it not be me. In fact, I can’t be the one dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming unless I wear a dust filtering mask.

    The service comes every two weeks. We pay $125 for our 1300 square foot house. I don’t know how much of that is making it to the cleaners, but it has to be something reasonable because they see how much we pay (they pick up the check) and turnover is very low. We get a new cleaner less than 1x/year, and at least three times the change has been because of life events (graduating college, having a baby, etc).

    I do clean the toilets on the off weeks sometimes, and we sweep and spot clean the kitchen after doing the dishes most nights.

    They don’t do windows unless we pay extra, which we don’t- we do those ourselves sometimes.

    My husband grumbles that he’d do a better job cleaning than they do (and he’s right), but I point out that they do a better job that I would do, and so far he hasn’t decided he wants to take over the cleaning full time, so we keep the service and then do some other specific tasks (e.g., windows, dusting the ceiling fans, pulling all the crap out from under our bed and dusting under it) ourselves on a somewhat random schedule.

    I value the cleaning because if it doesn’t get done, my asthma gets worse, and the act of doing it myself makes my asthma worse. If I needed to cut household expenses, I’d drop some child care before I dropped the cleaner, especially now that my kids are old enough to play on their own while I work (for awhile).

    • notofgeneralinterest2 Says:

      Having asthma makes having a cleaner imperative, I would think, because as you say, the process of cleaning makes it worse.

  9. hypatia cade Says:

    We have a cleaner. Both my husband and I work full time, we have a kid. Having a housecleaner means we can have people over without me feeling guilty. We pay $60/week for approx 4 hours of work: Laundry, clean kitchen and living room and main bath weekly, alternately clean bedrooms and playroom office + guest bath. I usually have to start a load in the AM before the cleaner comes and take 1 load out of the dryer (usually towels) to get all of the laundry done in the 4 hr period.

    I actually like that we have to tidy weekly – I like a tidier house than my husband and he’s more willing to clean for the cleaners than for me. I also love having all the laundry done weekly. The cleaning isn’t perfect but given what our lives are like, I’d rather do almost anything else on the weekend other than deal with laundry and toilets.

    (If we ever had to conserve money it might be one of the first things to go though…. )

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Wow, that seems really inexpensive for what you get. How did you find the person?

      • Hypatia Cade Says:


        We do live in the Midwest in a univ. town and competition for this kind of work is stiff. We pay more for the stability of a non university student.

  10. middle_class Says:

    I don’t have a regular cleaner but once in a while we hire a woman we know to do heavy scrubbing and stuff we never find time to do or really hate to do. We provide the cleaners to avoid the chemical smells. I wish I could hire her more often!

  11. Alyssa Says:

    We’ve had cleaners since we moved into a house and it’s one of our top priorities in terms of what to spend money on. That’s mostly because 1) we used to fight about who cleans what, and that argument is gone and 2) we didn’t like spending our free time doing it. That being said, we’ve had to switch cleaners a couple of times because of lack of quality. But, I think that’s pretty common when hiring cleaners. We have someone come in every two weeks, and she charges $70 per visit (and she’s here for 2-3 hours depending on how much of a mess our place is). So, it’s only $140 per month, which is something we can afford. I would definitely think twice if it was costing $400 a month!!

  12. Ana Says:

    We pay a $100 every 2 weeks for 2 women who come and spend about 2-3 hours cleaning our 3bedroom/2.5 bath house—they clean the kitchen, floors, bathrooms, empty trash, dust, and change sheets on the beds. They don’t do windows. We provide the cleaning products (some homemade, some commercial, nothing stinky!). I try to pick up before they come, but they will tidy a little bit if I don’t (though then I can’t find stuff). They mostly do a good job. The business is run by one woman and she has 3 employees under her. If they don’t do a good job—something specific—I tell the boss and its almost always better the next time.
    We got a cleaner for the first time just before my first son was born—we used to pay $120 for her to come every 3 weeks. We let her go and this new service insisted they would not come any less often than every 2 weeks since it would get too dirty in between and take longer. I think this is true—we have a dog and 2 kids.
    Now that the kids are older and I have more energy and they play independently more, I sometimes think I’d like to save the $200/month, but my husband isn’t on board with taking on half the cleaning if I quit the service. I’m not ready to clean the entire house myself so they stay until I can convince him—or—I teach my kids to clean bathrooms (will be a few years)

  13. Susan Says:

    We love it. We have someone come every 2 weeks (would probably do 2x if our house was on mkt). We pay $70 for 2 gals to come. They are efficient and fast. They take less than 1.5 hours to do our 1200 sq ft home. We are in Austin.

    I think it is helpful in the beginning if you can direct your cleaners and give them an idea of what your expectations are. This seriously gives me major weirds since I feel like I should be helping also.

    Ours at a minimum do linen changes (I provide already washed sheets, vacuum & mop floors (and move furniture to do so), sweep front porch, empty trash cans and take out trash/recycling, deep clean of kitchen and bath including wipe out fridge and microwave and light dusting. Less frequently they do things like dust baseboards, windowsills, clean blinds and ceiling fan blades.

    Also, mine use cleaning products I provide – green cleaners except for a shower cleaner with bleach (necessary for our poorly ventilated shower) and reuseable rags (no paper towels). Sounds to me like you need to find better cleaners. At a minimum I’d insist they use your cleaning products because of your allergies.

    Good luck!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yours do a lot more than ours do at a lower cost! But our house is also ginormous (3000 sq ft plus patio with 3 bathrooms), which is part of why everything costs more. (Ditto our lawn being huge and mowing costing more.)

      Their cleaning products don’t give my allergies any problems. I just don’t like the smell of cleaning products in general. (When I clean, I generally just use white vinegar.)

  14. rs Says:

    I love our cleaning ladies (I pay $75 dollar for 3br/2 bath), but hate the fact that I have to spend 2-3 hours before they come to make the place tidy so they can vacuum and mop. Now I just invite friends for tea/dinner and that is enough incentive for me to do vacuuming and mopping on top of tidying up the place. Once you tidy up things, it’s really not that much of a job to clean the place.

  15. chacha1 Says:

    I note that throughout the comments there is a common theme of husbands being essentially no help at all with housekeeping. Le sigh.

    From time to time, I think “I want a housekeeper,” but I don’t really want one. Whatever it would cost would be more than I’d want to spend. When I am really fed up with housekeeping, I order takeout.

    Our apartment is just under 1500 square feet, including the patio. The patio garden gets groomed & swept every other week on average. I dust & vacuum the bedroom maybe once a month. The bed is made daily, clothes are put away daily, and I’ve gotten really good about not piling stuff on every flat surface. I do “daily maintenance” on my bathroom and the kitchen, keep the living room-dining room-den tidy (and Swiffer when the mood strikes), and pick up really obnoxious dust bunnies fairly regularly.

    I have taken to scrubbing the husband’s toilet once a week because the rest of his office & bathroom are his problem, but a dirty toilet is everyone’s problem.

    He does the laundry.

    We have a gorgeous Chinese rosewood dining table with chairs for ten. Each chair takes ten minutes to clean because of all the carving. I think I’ve thoroughly dusted them all ONCE. LOL That set is not coming with us into retirement.

    • Cloud Says:

      If it makes you feel any better, back when we did the cleaning ourselves, we split it essentially 50-50. Now that we have a professional service, I think the additional work averages out to roughly 50-50, but its hard to assess because we tend to specialize on the things that bother us. So I clean toilets more often, he cleans windows more often. OK, I never clean the windows.

      When I said in the earlier comment that he didn’t want to take over the cleaning full time, I meant that I told him we could pay a cleaner or he could do it all. I was done with doing my half of the maintenance cleaning. This happened when the second kid arrived and I decided it was stupid to spend what little free time I had cleaning when I could outsource that. Now that our kids are approaching the age where they could do some of the maintenance cleaning we might revisit- but the allergies/asthma issue makes this tough. To make it even tougher, I have one kid who seems to have escaped having allergies and one who is probably going to have fairly bad allergies. Making the chores “fair” without dooming one kid to being sick would be a challenge.

      • Ana Says:

        Oh my husband did 50% of the cleaning before we got cleaners. He is also way more particular than me and took a lot longer to do his share of the cleaning than I did. That’s probably why he wants to keep the cleaners—I could zip through my half quickly and he’d painstakingly spend hours getting things sparkly. Even now, he does “touch up” cleaning (vacuuming) every few days and it never ever occurs to me. So I guess he’s more willing to want to spend the money on cleaners because cleaning would take up more of his time.

    • Sarabeth Says:

      In defense of husbands, mine does 100% of the non-kitchen cleaning (we alternate the kitchen cleaning nightly). And we don’t have anyone come in to help. Our house is not sparkling, but it wouldn’t be any better if I did the cleaning.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Like some of you here, we solved the division of labor in our household by NEITHER one of us doing it. (Mostly.) I do more daily stuff since I’m unemployed right now, but he’s more likely to initiate an apartment-wide deep clean.

  16. monsterzero Says:

    We pay someone $75 to come in once a month and clean our tiny house and it is awesome. We do run around the day before washing dishes and picking up the cat toys so they don’t waste their time doing that. We’d much rather they vacuum/mop/dust/clean counters/bathroom etc.

    It did take some getting used to…finding my DVDs de-alphabetized and my desk slightly shuffled. And we learned to leave the windows cracked open to cut down on the smell.

  17. Flavia Says:

    We have someone come once a month, who works for herself (I found her on Craigslist), $60 for about two hours of work in our 1600sqf house. I love it and would be upping it to twice a month if we were staying here! Really, just having someone do the stuff I hate–bathtub, kitchen floors, dusting–and knowing that everything is cleaned thoroughly every four weeks is worth it for me. She doesn’t use smelly products, and is relatively flexible about schedule–texting me to make sure particular hours work.

    In-between I do do most the tidying and cleaning, but my spouse does all the grocery shopping and cooking, so he’s definitely pulling his weight.

  18. notofgeneralinterest2 Says:

    I am fascinated by this topic and the responses. I’ve never had anyone clean our house except ourselves (Spouse & I, who have shared the work forever, including laundry, dishes, washing floors, cleaning bathrooms, etc.), but having someone to clean the windows would be nice.

    We haven’t opted for a cleaner because (1) we would have to clean the house thoroughly in any case before the cleaner got here, so what’s the point?; (2) I hate and dread any scheduled appointments of any kind, including social events, unless they’re a recurring thing like work. This means that I would waste a few days dreading the day that the cleaner comes (which is crazy but true), which sort of defeats the purpose of saving time.

  19. notofgeneralinterest2 Says:

    But having cleaners is a great idea, especially if you’re moving and need to keep the house spotless.

  20. coffeelover Says:

    We have cleaners come every other week for $90. I get stressed out for a few days before they come because of the effort it takes to get most of the tidying done (they do tidying, but we’ve got to keep it manageable), mostly because my husband doesn’t worry about it as much. We make sure the dishes are done, the floors are mostly clear, and the laundry is tucked away in the basement. They do remaining tidying, vacuum, clean surfaces, and change the beds. And the bathrooms, which I have no interest in doing ever. It’s definitely worth it. I also like having an excuse to force the kids to really pick up their rooms every other week. They still get messy, but this helps.

  21. J Liedl Says:

    We had cleaners for a few years until my partner stopped having full-time employment. Now it’s all on us again. We split the work pretty evenly but we’re not super-organized at getting the girls to manage their share. (I admit: getting Autistic Youngest to manage chores is such a pain that I end up opting to do most of them myself. Not a good plan but, hey, I will work on this.)

    I would love to have cleaners come in and manage the big stuff like sweeping everywhere, washing all the tile floors (there are SO MANY in our house and what isn’t tile is hardwood) and, I don’t know, maybe helping me tackle my messy oven? This will not happen but maybe I can use part of my summer to get on top of these chores?

  22. Omdg Says:

    We have cleaners come every other week. I hate watching my husband waste his precious free time cleaning (when we could be doing something fun) almost as much as I hate cleaning myself. He’s in charge of them because picking up for them, getting cash to pay them (undoubtedly so they can evade their taxes), and communicating with them take more time and energy than I am willing to expend. I am sure they are exploited, but hopefully it’s a better life than wherever they came from.

  23. Donna Freedman Says:

    We have a Roomba rather than a housekeeper. This actually makes me want to mop. Every Monday my partner (DF) picks up chairs and such and clears the floor then sets Roomba loose. After it’s run twice, I mop the main living area in about 20 minutes.
    I like clean floors but I hate sweeping and vacuuming. I figure if Roomba will sweep everything, I’ll mop everything.
    The bedroom gets vacuumed at least once a week. When I see how much dust is in the Roomba bin I cringe, since I have asthma. I vow to set it up twice a week, then forget to do it.
    The office, ditto.
    One bathroom and it gets cleaned in stages. He’ll take it in mind to do the double sinks and counter and the tub, and eventually I’ll clean the toilet. Or vice versa.
    He probably does half the cleaning and laundry (maybe a little more) and definitely does more of the cooking — so I do most of the dishes, figuring it’s easier than sauteeing and stuff like that.
    I’m 57 and he’s 63, and we’d like to continue doing our own chores as long as we can. It’s fairly easy to keep the place tidy because we don’t have kids at home. If each of us does one clean-ish thing a day, nothing piles up.
    This would be a lot tougher if we had small children (and the various appointments, lessons and other activities associated with such) and demanding jobs that required many hours of meetings and schmoozing.

  24. Donna Freedman Says:

    ‘Nother comment: When you hire a company, make sure of what you’re getting. Some of those maid services do a pretty casual sweep-and-squirt and are outta there.
    Of course, the comments indicate that individual cleaners may also not be working that hard. I know a woman who cleans as one of several part-time gigs and had the chance to watch her in action. Here’s what she did:
    Run a lamb’s-wool duster over most flat surfaces.
    Use Windex on countertops (!), sinks (!), stovetops (?) and, I swear to god, the shower.
    Run a vacuum over the linoleum and wood floors.
    Pour a big glug of straight ammonia into a pail of water and mop — never moving the area rugs but rather mopping around them, and never changing the water even though it got used in five rooms.
    She was in and out in maybe 35 minutes, for which she charged $30. When I mentioned to the homeowner that T didn’t move the rugs or scrub the sinks or anything like that, she sighed and said she knew that, but that T is a distant relative of her husband’s and he wanted to help her out by giving her the job.
    All I know is that the place stank of ammonia for quite a while, and that it was hard for me not to guffaw while she worked because I kept picturing the father from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” squirting Windex everywhere.
    I cleaned houses here and there from age 18 to 21, and I did it the old-fashioned way: moved furniture and vacuumed under it, wiped down baseboards, took apart the stove, scrubbed floors with a brush if they were super-dirty, and used cleanser on tubs and sinks. I thought that was the way everybody did it.
    When I was a kid we swept the kitchen floor three times a day, wiped down the wood stairs with a damp sponge daily, dusted and vacuumed every day, cleaned the bathroom twice a week and used bath towels once only before laundering.
    Do I keep our place that eat-off-the-floor clean now? Nope. But it’s clean enough for us, and that’s what matters.

  25. Engineer Cents (@engineercents) Says:

    “I hate paying someone a lot of money for something I could do myself and then I have to do it anyway. If I’m paying a lot of money, they should do as good as or better than I do.” Yes, 100% feel you on this!

    I usually also embrace the squalor, but mostly because up until now I’ve been renting. I’ll probably hire a monthly cleaner when I move into my condo though.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Why does renting vs owning matter?

      • Jenny Says:

        If the condo is an improvement maybe he wants to keep it nicer? My last apartment was pretty horrible. There were all kinds of maintenance issues and the people who lived below me were hoarders (and my apartment tended to smell as a result) so I was very un-motivated to clean. Now that I have a condo in a nice building I clean a lot more. At 650 square feet I don’t imagine I will ever pay someone but if I had a bigger place I might be tempted

  26. Ask the grumpies: Ethics of being “our level of rich” | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] of whatever services are available.  For us that’s just yardwork because I hate the way cleaning crews cost money and get in my space and don’t clean things as well as I was brought up and grumble […]

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