Introduction – 28 Questions to Ask a House Cleaning Service
Don’t let this many questions intimidate you. They are intended to educate and help potential cleaning clients clarify what it is that they’re looking for in a home maid service.
Most people really don’t know what questions to ask before hiring an individual or service to clean their homes.
Keep in mind that my company, Alchemy Maids, operates in Westchester (Yonkers, New Rochelle, Mt Vernon, Bronxville, Larchmont, Scarsdale & Eastchester).
We clean mostly houses and some apartments. Although all of the following questions apply to cleaning apartments, there may be some additional questions you may need to consider if you live in a house.
If you read this short guide in its entirety, you will likely be better prepared, make better choices, and be happier with the service option you choose.
If you’re in a rush, then go straight to question #6 – which really goes to the heart of this blog series.
Questions to Ask House Cleaning Services Before Hiring One
1. Why do you want to hire someone or some service to clean your home?
Individuals like yourself have many reasons to hire a professional cleaning service. Probably the most frequently cited reason is to save valuable time.
You can save many hours on housework (and the wasted time thinking about about it). Life just seems to keep moving at a faster pace. It is easy for important personal and family time to get shortened. Hiring a good cleaner or maid service can give you back most of that time.
The second most popular reason given is the peace of mind that comes when you hire someone else to do the work and, thereby, largely put your home cleaning on autopilot.
Now think a bit deeper. What is the best use of the time savings you’ll get if you don’t have to do the bulk of the work yourself anymore? Whatever it is – catching up on sleep, getting more work done, exercising or socializing more – after hiring to get the work done – just do it! Since you’re paying for the service to enhance your life anyway.
The value of having someone else handle the cleaning is not just about having a clean home, it’s the other areas of your life – including your state of mind – that get a boost as well.
2. Do I need a maid or cleaning service?
While many call themselves maid services and others call themselves cleaning services, the two are typically the same. Most cleaning services perform basic cleaning with a wide range in services.
If your expectations include tasks like laundry, ironing, shopping, organizing, looking after the children, and other things beyond basic home cleaning you will want to discuss this with the individual or service you are interviewing.
While there are people available for this type of work, most maid professionals do not provide these services. If you are looking for a home manager or a more in depth service you might want to hire a domestic placement agency.
3. What is typically included with residential cleaning visits?
There is a fairly wide range in service. Some may offer more services while others will not do certain tasks. All reputable professional cleaning companies offer a comprehensive list of services that should include most all surfaces in the kitchen, bathrooms, living areas, bedrooms, and the floors.
Make sure they perform key services like vacuuming, wet mopping, etc. Ask for a list of what tasks they do or request a list of what they will do in your home when the quote is given. Be sure to clarify upfront what is included with the service you will receive.
4. Should I get online or phone estimates or in-home quotes?
In-home quotes allow you to better evaluate individual cleaners or cleaning companies. You get your questions answered and have the opportunity to communicate your expectations. And the price you’re quoted is the price you’ll pay. That’s because the individual giving you the quote has seen your home and can take into account the dirt level, clutter, square footage, number of pets, etc.
If you choose to get estimates online or by phone – which can be a great convenience – just remember that you are receiving a price estimate that can suddenly go up once the cleaners do arrive to see your home. That can happen for any one or a number of reasons. Perhaps your home might not have been thoroughly cleaned recently or maybe it’s a bit larger than the norm or you have 2 cats and 3 dogs or your home is clean but has a lot of clutter or knickknacks. Maybe the cleaning company is without scruples.
And while the individual cleaner or service may wind up undercharging you for the cleaning, the quality of cleaning your home does receive might not be up to your standards. That’s because no one is going to do the work at cost or at a loss.
Or you, the client, does pay the full extra cost but then feels duped or resentful. And that’s a bad situation for everyone.
My cleaning company does offer online and phone estimates because, increasingly, prospective clients expect it. However, we do follow up to see if we can arrange a phone consultation in order to answer questions and get a clearer idea of what the potential client is looking for in a cleaning service. The conversation only takes a few minutes and seems to be the best compromise for everyone.
Finally, whether you get an estimate or a quote – in almost all cases, you’ll probably be charge the full one-time price – even if it’s your intention is to receive regular on-going service – say weekly or every 2 weeks – and even if your home has been thoroughly cleaned recently.
5. Am I better off with an individual or a service cleaning my home?
This is a question that you yourself will have to answer. Both have their pros and cons.
If you hire an individual and they do not take care of the taxes they owe on the money you pay them, you can be held liable for the taxes.
If something does go wrong and your cleaner does not have the insurance coverage to pay or reimburse incurred losses, you might be responsible for a heavy financial burden.
If you use a service you are more likely to be protected from these liabilities. Another plus of a service is if the person quits or takes time off or is not doing a good job they can be replaced with a professionally trained employee without any effort on your part.
6. I want to hire a maid/cleaning service, what else should I know?
Question 6 is really eight of the most important questions of the 27 questions you should ask before hiring any cleaning service.
Most people that hire individuals or even cleaning services are not aware of what they should be asking before turning over the keys to their homes. Somehow along the way, bonding became the industry standard question to ask. This gives a false sense of security.
When interviewing cleaning individuals or services, you should ask – at minimum – the following questions. In most cases, the reason behind each question is obvious. Ask them.
- Are you insured? This means adequate liability insurance, not a bond. Bonding is not a bad thing and in extremely rare cases does serve a purpose. Ask to see a copy of their insurance certificate.
- Do you carry worker’s compensation insurance? Find out what New York State requirements are. A good service will cover workers with WC even if they fall under the minimum requirements.
- Will employees or independent contractors clean my home?
- What does your pre-employment screening consist of? Do you perform criminal background checks on all employees?
- Who will be cleaning my home? One person? A team?
- How do you train your employees? Do you have a formal training program?
- Do you provide a satisfaction guarantee with your services?
- Ask yourself: Are all my expectations clear and up front? Ask about any service or task you expect to be performed that is not mentioned or listed by the owner/manager.
7. How do I know who will be in my home?
When you start the service ask who will be doing the cleaning. If it is important to you ask to be notified when crew changes are made. Ask if it is the same person that cleans your home each time. Some services rotate or change up who does which home and what teams work together. Most try and have the same person(s) each time.
Keep in mind that the turnover rate in this industry is tremendous – about 300% turnover annually. A good service does everything to keep good employees and checks out new ones thoroughly. If you hire a professional service that takes great lengths to hire the right people and train them you should feel confident about the people they send to clean your home.
8. Do I have to hand over a key to a stranger?
While it is your home and your key, it is more convenient and secure to let a professional service keep a key to your home. It is usually not possible to come home at the exact time the cleaning people need to get into your space.
Most cleaning companies will charge for the visit if the appointment is not cancelled in advance. Some services use a lock box where the key is left at your place. A key kept by the cleaning service is the best way for the cleaning crew to gain entry to your home. Also, it can be a lifesaver if you are ever locked out.
9. How can I be sure my keys are safe when I hand them over?
My cleaning company, Alchemy Maids, serves southern Westchester County and over 80% of our clients give us copies of their house keys. Others leave them in a lock box. Either way, it allows my cleaners accesss without clients having to be home waiting when something important needs doing away from their homes. And it greatly reduces the number of times I have to impose a fee because a client failed to be home or as running late somewhere else.
While it can be very scary to hand over the keys to your home to a complete stranger, be sure you check references and insurance information. Ask how they will protect your key and ensure that your privacy and safety are protected.
If the person that takes your keys will not be doing the cleaning personally, ask what the procedure is for signing keys out and how long they will be allowed.
Ask where the keys are kept. Are they tagged with tamper resistant tags or other means that will deter or prevent duplication?
Ask how they are labeled. Ensure nothing that could identify you or your address is on the tag (in case they are lost or stolen).
Are they locked up? Is the list kept in a separate place that is locked and secure? How many people have access to them?
Any reputable service should be willing to discuss their key security policy with you.
10. What if someone is injured while cleaning my home?
If you use a reputable, well-run professional cleaning service, they will carry worker’s compensation insurance. Even if the service uses independent contractors, they are still required to carry workers comp. If they do not carry workers comp or you have an individual cleaning your home and there is an injury, you could be held liable for the injuries.
11. What if something is missing from my home?
This is never a good feeling and it is almost always the cleaning person who was last in the home. Try and remain calm. Retrace your steps: About 90% of the time, whatever is missing will be found within 24 hours (it happens all the time).
However if it is not found or if the disappearance is obvious, call the owner/manager. Give a complete description of what is missing including important information like serial number or any distinctive markings. Give the manager the opportunity to correct the problem.
Please keep in mind though that all good managers treat the accused as innocent during any investigation. However, it is not unreasonable to suspend service or ask for a different cleaner until it is resolved. Fortunately, with good hiring and background checks a good service will rarely have real cases of theft. Most cases turn out to be simply misplaced items.
12. What if something is broken?
Unfortunately breakage happens occasionally with even the most experienced and conscientious cleaning professionals. Do not wait until it happens; discuss breakage up front. Make sure it is clear who is responsible for what, depending on whether it is a small incidental or if it is something of value.
13. What if I have chemical sensitivities or want only safer-environmental products used in my home?
The trend is toward “green,” “environmental friendly,” and “non-toxic” cleaning products for everyday life. Many service owners already have in place “green cleaning” programs while others are just getting into that segment of cleaning. Take time to ask what products they use.
Professional home cleaning services do not merely start spraying and “going at it” with cleaning products. A large part of training goes into product safety and knowledge. If you supply a product, make sure that you supply the cleaning service with a MSDS (material safety sheet).
14. What is a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet)?
These are forms that include all information related to cleaning products and supplies relating to chemical make up, safety, and reactivity.
Cleaning professionals are required by OSHA to have MSDS information for all products they use in their services. It is a good idea for consumers to obtain this information for all products they keep in their homes.
15. Are there industry standards a cleaning service should follow?
While the cleaning industry is relatively young compared to many industries, there is not currently an official standards program or certification program. Some national professional groups are looking into setting up such standards sometime in the near future.
16. What am I supposed to supply?
Professionally staffed services usually supply their own products and equipment. This is for a number of reasons.
Mainly for productivity and training purposes. Not to mention that most clients find it a relief not to have to buy or store cleaning products in their home any longer.
This is especially beneficial when concerning small children and their safety. Home cleaning professionals are trained on the products they use.
17. What about laundry?
Laundry is such a time-consuming task that it is just not feasible for cleaning teams to try and price for it. Some services will wash sheets. This is another area that should be discussed before service starts if it is an issue for you. If laundry is a priority, try using a laundry drop off or pick up service. They do a wonderful job and it is a lot less expensive than paying someone to wait for towels or jeans to dry.
18. Are they going to do my dishes?
Very few services will hand-wash dishes, pots, pans, or especially knives. Some services will load dishes into the dishwasher, typically they do not unload the dishwasher or put such things away.
Most people would rather put their own things away in the proper place. Also, some services will not do dishes at all. Just be clear up front about expectations.
A good way to ruin a solid working relationship is to leave a sink full of dishes when it is not part of the service. If it is the day of the cleaning and you were running late or did not have time to take care for your part call as early as possible to let the service owner/manager know and the two of you can work something out.
19. What about my balcony?
Typically most professional cleaning services limit their services to tasks inside the home. If this is a service you require, bring it up before the service begins.
20. Can I get my oven cleaned?
Most services will accommodate this request. It is rarely included in the service. Keep in mind that if you have a self-cleaning oven that oven cleaner should never be put in it. An experienced cleaning professional should know this.
If you have a self-cleaning oven and it does not work properly more than likely it has had oven cleaner used in it in the past. At this point, you and your cleaning professional will have to decide whether or not to clean it with oven cleaner.
The last few questions in this article, “28 Questions You Should Ask Before Hiring Any Cleaning Service,” are intended to make you think about what services you need your cleaning service to perform. For example, if you want or don’t want your computers monitors wiped clean rather than just dusted then speak up (especially if the latter is the case) beforehand. Some screens can be ruined if improperly cleaned.
Do you have any more questions you should ask before hiring any cleaning service? Post your question or comment below and I’ll answer you shortly.