Finding a housecleaner in Phoenix
March 1, 2014 7:46 PM   Subscribe

I want to find a housecleaner for Mr. Nat, who lives across the country from me, in Tempe, AZ. I have never hired a housecleaner of any sort myself, and don't really know how to find/evaluate people, especially at a distance. I'm interested in both general advice and specific Pheonix recommendations.

Other possibly pertinent information: Mr. Nat is not a slovenly sort but really doesn't like cleaning, and tends towards the cluttered; the real issue is he hates cleaning kitchen+bathrooms+dusting+vacuuming. So, when you're an adult and you know a thing needs doing, but you hate it/are bad at it- you either learn, or hire someone else if you can.

He'd like to hire someone else. I'd like to help him find someone. Ideally I would do legwork and get some names, then pay for the first service; it'd be up to him to continue it if he likes.

However, neither of us knows anything about getting a good housecleaner, and treating them appropriately. We'd both like to make sure the person is appropriately paid, and well treated. General etiquette tips would be nice too.. I mean, there are probably things one just doesn't leave out for a housecleaner to pick up, but I haven't the slightest what those things would be! I grew up doing my own dusting and cleaning the tub and whatnot, so I'm a little lost here.

So, educate me. How does one find a housecleaner (for 2 bedroom apt, probably for 1/monthly or such), especially at a distance? How in specific do I find one in Tempe? Do any of you know someone in Tempe to recommend?
posted by nat to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Homejoy makes this really easy to book online.
posted by grouse at 7:50 PM on March 1, 2014

I would call one of the franchise type operations like Merry Maids. Also, does he know his neighbors in the apartment complex? I would ask them for a recommendation or an introduction.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:38 PM on March 1, 2014

Does he live in an apartment complex? There may be someone that the building recommends. My mom used to live in a building that had a preferred service (Merry Maid franchise or something like that).

In terms of etiquette, it's generally a good idea to do a quick tidying, put stuff away and get things off the floor. They'll straighten and such but you don't want them spending time picking your dirty clothes off the floor.
posted by radioamy at 11:12 PM on March 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've used the franchise cleaners and they always did a mediocre job for me -- plus they treat their staff horribly. Self-employed cleaners set their own terms of work, and get to keep all the money they make. I always felt better about having a self-employed cleaner.

I've had three who were terrific, and found them all through word-of-mouth. If you know anyone persnickety who has a cleaner, that's a good bet. (Loose ties are good here: try older colleagues, and put the word out to friends-of-friends.)

From an etiquette perspective, the deal is that you leave the place neat-ish, but dirty is fine. It's fine to leave out unwashed dishes in the kitchen, but nothing disgusting like old food, and you should put unwashed clothes in the hamper and shovel clutter into drawers and cupboards as much as you can. Try not to leave out hobby materials or similar messes that will impede her from doing her work, and that she won't know what to do with. Don't stay home when she cleans, and if you do need to, try to stay in an office or something, away from her.

Cleaners vary in what they will and won't do. Some will do laundry including changing bedding, and some don't. A "deep clean" is more expensive and includes e.g. washing the inside of the refrigerator, cleaning the oven, and maybe dusting blinds and washing walls. A normal clean includes neatening/straightening, washing floors and other surfaces, making beds, and cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. Some cleaners will bring their own materials and others will ask you to supply them. A good cleaner will have preferences that you should accommodate, and that often includes non-toxic or unscented products.

The first time she comes she'll expect you to greet her and show her where things are kept. She may ask questions about your preferences.

Apart from that there's not much you need to know. Oh, except be very careful to never imply you don't trust her. Cleaners don't steal (they'd have to be crazy), and the ones I've known are sensitive about being falsely accused, I think because it happens a lot.
posted by Susan PG at 1:39 AM on March 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Susan PG has hit on what I mean: I don't really want to go with a large service, unless they are known to treat their people well and also do a good job.

However since I don't live there, it's hard to do the word-of-mouth thing...
posted by nat at 11:50 AM on March 2, 2014

Best answer: I'm a self-employed house cleaner (in Portland, though, not in Phoenix) who works as an independent contractor on her own terms. I am paid appropriately and treated well, and I love my clients and love what I do. I want to echo everything that Susan PG wrote above.

I've built my business entirely by word-of-mouth. So far, I haven't even needed to advertise - my happy clients have recommended me to their friends and colleagues after being impressed with my work, and that is by far my favorite way to be matched with new clients. Could you put the word out that you are looking for a house cleaner in Phoenix via social media and Mr. Nat's social network? Maybe Mr. Nat's dentist, doctor, hair stylist, or massage therapist - or anyone he knows in Phoenix with a large clientele - has a recommendation. I got my first client through my Facebook social network, and the rest followed in time.

I use only non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaning supplies, and I specialize in cleaning homes for people who have asthma, allergies, sensitivities to perfumes, etc., so if that sort of thing is important to Mr. Nat, be sure to mention it when you are screening people.

Most of my clients give me keys to their homes so that I can clean while they are away, and this arrangement works well for both parties. If someone must be at home while I'm working, I adjust my workflow to accommodate this, but it's not ideal for either party.

I do laundry (wash, dry, fold, and put away) and change bedding for some of my clients, and they appreciate this a lot, since not all cleaners will do these tasks. My normal tasks for most clients are sweeping and mopping floors, cleaning bathrooms and kitchen, and dusting. I can lightly dust miniblinds on my regular visits, but for more thorough cleaning, I consider them a specialty job - some clients have blinds that need to be taken down before they can be properly cleaned. Insides of ovens, cabinets, and refrigerators are also specialty jobs. For carpet cleaning or cleaning of windows from the outside, I refer my clients to other people.

On days when a cleaning is scheduled, my clients usually pick up items off the floors to facilitate vacuuming, and it saves time if clutter is temporarily put into drawers or boxes as well. I charge by the hour, and moving a lot of small items (e.g., jewelry, bottles, etc.) in order to dust underneath them will increase the time and cost.

I am unusual in this business in that I don't drive, so I couldn't work for a franchise even if I wanted to, since they require their employees to have cars. I haul all my cleaning supplies (except for vacuum cleaner and other bulky items - my clients provide those) on public transit in a wheeled backpack. There are some trade-offs here - I can't accept jobs in homes that are too far from bus stops, for example - but it's well worth it to me, because I am able to work on my own terms for people I like and respect, and I receive better pay.

Trust is essential in this kind of work, and as Susan PG mentioned, cleaners are often suspected of theft, so tread carefully here. A good reputation is golden. I would never, ever steal from a client! If I did, word would get around and I'd be out of business in the blink of an eye. Sometimes prospective clients ask if I am bonded, and while I understand their concern, I explain that since I do all the work myself, I have a very personal stake in keeping my clients happy. These inquirers usually end up hiring someone through a franchise.

Good luck, and thank you for posting this question - your concern for proper etiquette and appropriate treatment of the person you hire is much appreciated.
posted by velvet winter at 12:08 PM on March 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

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