Cleaning houses involves a lot more than scrubbing toilets and dusting bookshelves. The job requires hard, physical labor, for one thing, plus healthy doses of diplomacy and discretion. More clients, say house cleaners, should take the totality of their work into consideration when it’s time to pay.
“The work we do is a profession, just like the professions of doctors, nurses, secretaries,” says Aida Valero, a cleaning professional based in Charlotte, through an interpreter. “The fair thing is that we’re treated in a dignified way.”
Here’s what the experts, cleaning professionals, want you to know about paying them.
The cost of a cleaning
How much a client owes for a house cleaning largely depends on three major factors: the size of the home, how frequently it gets cleaned and whether the job requires additional tasks.
“Every house is different,” says Guadalupe Ojeda, a cleaning professional in Chicago, through an interpreter. That’s why she charges by the job, rather than by the hour. Even if two homes have the same square footage, one with more stairs or larger bedrooms will be more difficult to clean. That’s why many cleaners want to visit a home in person before they give an estimate.
During those visits, they’ll evaluate factors such as the flooring (carpet takes less work than hardwood because it doesn’t require mopping), whether there are pets in the house, and whether the client wants their refrigerator, oven or other appliances deep cleaned.
Appreciating these nuances can prevent misunderstandings, Ojeda says. She recalls one client who had been referred by an older client; the new customer raised concerns that Ojeda’s price was higher than what the referrer paid. But the new job involved “a bigger house, the bedrooms were differently sized, it was more disorganized, and it was a townhouse so I had to clean all the stairs for three floors.”
Zeynep Mehmetoglu, co-owner of Maid Bright in Herndon, Va., says the number of bedrooms and bathrooms is one of the key ways her cleaning company determines prices, because “those rooms take the longest to clean.”
Plus, many cleaners charge more for a first cleaning, with rates then getting less expensive for regularly scheduled follow-ups. “That initial clean is always going to cost you more because we’ve never been to your home,” Mehmetoglu says. Subsequent visits are all about maintenance, and “the more often you get a cleaning, the less it’s going to cost” per visit.
Paying house cleaners
Clients hiring an individual to clean their home, rather than an agency, should pay a minimum of $25 to $30 per hour of work, according to a pay guide from Hand in Hand, a nonprofit network of domestic employers, created with help from the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Look up the living wage for your region and make sure you’re paying at least that much. Angi, a website that connects professionals who offer home services with people looking to hire, lists the average house cleaner pay between $30-50 per hour. Cleaning agencies typically provide specific instructions about how to pay – they’ll often put your credit card on file, or require you to use an online service such as Zelle. But homeowners working with independent cleaners should ask the professional directly how they want to be paid.
“I prefer cash,” says Adriana Cazorla, a cleaning professional based in the Vancouver area, speaking through an interpreter. She says she’s had checks bounce and knows other cleaners who’ve had payments through apps canceled after they left the client’s home. “Really, anything can happen.”
Tipping your house cleaner
Tips aren’t necessarily expected, but they signal that a client appreciates the work. As Cazorla says, “Who doesn’t like tips?”
While individual cleaners set their own rates, agencies are more likely to pay the minimum wage. So, if you use an agency, tips might be even more meaningful to the professionals who clean your home.
If you’re still in the market for a cleaning company, you can ask around to determine which agencies near you pay fairly and offer benefits to workers such as sick pay and health care. That’s how Saarika Sharma selected the agency she hired for her regular house cleanings. Sharma lives in the San Francisco area, and is a member of Hand in Hand, the nonprofit network of domestic employers. Even though she chose a business with a good reputation for its treatment of workers, she still tips $20 per cleaner, usually in cash to ensure the money goes straight to the workers.
Mehmetoglu recommends putting the cash in a clearly marked envelope, so that the cleaners know the money is intended for them. If clients add the tip to their credit card payment, not all agencies will pass that along to workers. “It’s common that we don’t get the tips,” Cazorla says.
If you have a regular house cleaner, you should give them a bonus at the holidays.
Cazorla has received different kinds of gifts from clients around the holidays, including clothes and gift cards, and while she appreciates all of them, she’d prefer to receive money.
Ojeda agrees, especially because the holidays are such an expensive time of year and extra cash can go a long way for her family. She views holiday bonuses as a client telling her: “This is extra for your work, as a thank you.”
A generous holiday bonus would be equivalent to the cost of one cleaning.
If you cancel last minute, you should still pay for the cleaning
Clients who need to cancel a regular cleaning ought to give as much notice as possible. “I always say, ‘Try not to cancel on me because that day I lose my work day,’” Ojeda says, “‘but if you’re going to do it, I need you to let me know far in advance so I can find another job.’”
If you work with an independent cleaner and you have to cancel unexpectedly, the decent thing to do is to pay them anyway. And if you can’t bring yourself to pay the whole fee, then at least pay part of it.
Agencies often have their own policies for dealing with cancellations. Mehmetoglu says Maid Bright charges a flat fee for last-minute cancellations (unless there was a true emergency). Same goes if there’s a lockout, meaning that the client forgot to leave a key or provide access to their home. In those cases, she says, the cleaners still get paid, but the company loses out on money. (They’re planning on increasing the penalties in the new year.)
Clients ought to offer their regular cleaners an annual raise to reflect, at minimum, the increased cost of living. “It’s very unlikely that an employee is going to ask you for a raise,” says Sara Sanderson, another member of Hand to Hand, who hires an independent cleaner. But “somebody could slip away from you if you don’t stay on top of it.”
After a few years of keeping prices the same, Mehmetoglu says Maid Bright informed clients that it would raise them starting in 2024. “Every year, the cost of doing business increases,” she says, due to higher prices for equipment, gas and providing employees with raises and benefits like health care, paid vacation and sick days.
She says a few customers weren’t happy: “Some people are just like, ‘Oh, no way. You can’t increase my price.’ Well, why not? We have the expenses of the company, too, and we have to pay our employees, and we do provide all these benefits to our employees. And we have to factor those into our costs.”
Source: Boston Globe
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