$20, SAIT?
April 3, 2014 8:10 AM   Subscribe

How much do you pay your cleaning person? After years of Mefite testimonials I’ve finally decided to take the leap and hire someone to come in and clean biweekly. Currently we’re doing a halfass job, which induces lots of guilt and then frantic cleaning rampages when company’s coming. I’m excited to finally be in a position where this is an option, and have a friend* who is a fantastic housekeeper and is looking for some extra cash on the side. Regular tasks will include dusting, floors, kitchen, bathrooms, and she’d occasionally do more extensive jobs, such as windows or scouring the cabinets, as needed. Because this is a casual arrangement between friends, she doesn’t have established rate.

This seems to work well for all involved, but what do we pay? I think that an hourly rate (vs. flat fee) is the way to go. This way she’s free to decided when the extra tasks are needed, but will still ensure that she’ll be appropriately compensated. Needless to say we trust her alone in our home, and to accurately report how long she was cleaning for any giving session.

We’re professional DINKs in New England. I value the time and effort that this takes, and am grateful that there are people who enjoy cleaning and can benefit financially from my slobbitude. My concern is very much from the ‘am I paying fairly/enough’ perspective, not ‘how little can I pay’. I want this to be a win/win for everyone.

*We will have periodic check-ins, to make sure we’re all still happy. The friendship is more important than the cleaning, so at any point either party can bow out with no harm/no foul, and we’ll look for a professional service.
posted by spinturtle to Home & Garden (35 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Depends on how large your house is and how often she comes. The less often, the more money. I have a fairly large three bedroom house and we pay $70 every two weeks. This is in the northeast, and exceedingly cheap. Most people I know pay $120 for similarly sized homes. Also, I supply the cleaning products. If our cleaning lady did, we would obviously pay her more.
posted by amro at 8:18 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: These rates are all over the map, as they are often based on the agency, experience, skill, demand and social power and/or assertiveness of the cleaner.

In NYC, one standard I've liked is $20 per room, which obviously includes bathrooms. But that's a reckoning by the person, based on the amount of time she knew it would take to clean. That would make a two-bedroom, two-bath home likely around $140, yes.

The hourly rate idea is sort of interesting, under the "do as much or as little" guide. In some ways that's a better working condition, as it allows her to manage her time as she wishes. You could set a price for what you feel is a housecleaning and an amount of time it would take, in consultation, and then work back to an hourly rate.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:22 AM on April 3, 2014

What is the living wage in your area for your friend?
posted by aniola at 8:23 AM on April 3, 2014

This in CA, 2800 sq ft, $85 every two weeks. It is a crew of 3-4 and they are here for 1.5 to 2 hours. Worth every single penny.
posted by cecic at 8:27 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You could get quotes from companies in your area to find out what a competitive rate would be. When I had someone cleaning my 1600 square foot house every two weeks it was $90 each time.
posted by something something at 8:28 AM on April 3, 2014

Best answer: In the Boston area, through last year, we were paying $90 for cleaning a 3-bedroom apt (1600 sq ft), every other week.
posted by mr vino at 8:30 AM on April 3, 2014

I cleaned houses in Massachusetts about ten years ago and always got at least $25./hour.
posted by mareli at 8:31 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: 1300sf (3br, 1.5 bath), biweekly, 1 person (not a crew)
posted by spinturtle at 8:34 AM on April 3, 2014

We pay $79 for a once-every-two-weeks cleaning. This is via a professional cleaning service, we're in the southeast United States and the house is ~ 1700 sqft. There are usually two ladies that come for around 2 hours. They bring ALL cleaning supplies. It's easier to list what they DON'T do instead of what they do do. They don't wash dishes, do laundry, clean inside my fridge, oven, or cabinets, nor do they do any exterior house cleaning. (i.e. they do the windows inside but not outside). They clean everything every time they come, however they use a system where they focus more specifically on certain rooms on a rotating basis.
posted by ZabeLeeZoo at 8:37 AM on April 3, 2014

I believe my sister paid $150 for 1.5h and that was two ladies busting their a**es the entire time.

If this is a friend you might want to pay them a little more.

If your friend has no set rate, then consider 'what is it worth to you' + 'what would be a good non friendship-insulting amount'. $20 is too little, $50 is a good start, depending on the size of the job/room. (Do they clean all at once or just here & there?)

Pro tip: De-clutter before they arrive (sweep it in a drawer if you have to). It's just easier for everyone.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:40 AM on April 3, 2014

Detroit area: I pay $20 cash an hour, 3 hours every week. I know other people that pay $30 to $45 cash/hr. My house is always orderly, no clutter to move, no kids have pig-stied it up. In other words, she's breezing through a semi-clean house.
posted by Lornalulu at 8:43 AM on April 3, 2014

We pay $70, biweekly for a 1000sq ft (2bd, 2bath) house, one person, she's usually there between 3-4hrs. And we declutter prior, so most of what she's doing is the heavy lifting cleaning (floors, surfaces, toilets, stove, etc.)
posted by pennypiper at 8:48 AM on April 3, 2014

Best answer: Central MA. We're going through quotes right now. We see a range of $120 - $150 for an initial deep clean that should gets done every other month, then a range of about $65- $100 for weekly or bi-weekly cleaning. (2bed, 2 bath + loft)
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:50 AM on April 3, 2014

I think $20 cash an hour is pretty standard when you provide all the supplies. (She should leave a list of supplies you need to purchase.)
posted by jeather at 8:53 AM on April 3, 2014

Small Southern US city - we pay $150 for a once monthly cleaning, with 2 people working about 1.5 hrs. This is for 1400sq ft and sounds similar to what ZabeLeeZoo described. The first time we had it done, it was more expensive and took longer to get everything up to a maintainable standard.
posted by bizzyb at 8:53 AM on April 3, 2014

Best answer: Typically it's $20 per 'hour'. The idea is that it's about 4 hours every other week to really clean the house. Although don't be surprised if your cleaning person only spends about 2.5 hours. That's pretty normal, and I'm totally okay with it!

So, if you're doing a spring clean first (and I recommend it) where it's the baseboards, and the celing fixtures and fan blades and all the crap you only do every so often, it'll be an 8 hour job. So $160 for the first deep clean, and around $60-$80 for your regular bi-weekly clean.

It's also worth it to have your windows cleaned, inside and out, by a crew at the same time. That way EVERYTHING is sparkling. I usually do this right around Passover and again in the fall.

I usually tip at holidays or if there's a real, terrible mess, like if you've been fostering Jack Russel Terriers or something.

I'll give you another tip. Usually, cleaners don't do laundry (although you could negotiate it) but if you strip your bed and leave fresh sheets, they'll make up the bed.

But do discuss what you want your cleaner to do and to not do (Don't touch Bill's desk, he'll have a conniption!)

And it's de rigeur to pick up before the cleaner arrives. Be prepaired for your SO to chide you for it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:05 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

In NYC I paid $250 for an initial deep clean and now $160 biweekly for about 1600 sq ft (2 bed, 2 bath) through a co-op. It takes her about 4 hours--the house is never orderly to start with due to small kids and parental fatigue.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:08 AM on April 3, 2014

South Florida, 3400sqft. 4bd/4ba= $125 for about 6 hours of one worker weekly. I have paid between $85 and $170 for this house but the $125 price seems about average.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 9:16 AM on April 3, 2014

$20/hr is standard rate in a northern California beach resort town with a lot of vacation rentals. That rate is based on cleaning after vacation renters leave. When you say kitchen, are you going to have her remove everything from your fridge and clean it? How about your oven? Microwave? Cabinet fronts? That sort of thing is considered "deep cleaning" by most housekeepers and a different rate applies.
posted by Lynsey at 9:33 AM on April 3, 2014

Best answer: Our $90 cleaning is too cheap for our area; it's been that rate for going on 6 years and our cleaner has not raised it in that time. We discuss sometimes our belief that some of the things we think are done a little half-assed may be reflective of this, but I suspect they simply run an operation that has X level of thoroughness and that they're priced accordingly.

Our folks usually send two people but sometimes it's one (who takes longer to complete the gig) and it takes about 2h. They deal with 3 bedrooms (ignoring my sty of an office, which often I'm in when they come anyway) and two bathrooms which they do basic cleaning/vac/wipedown of. A bed gets changed (two if the guest room was used since their last visit and we leave the linens on the bed to indicate this fact) and they toss the dirty linens in a pile - sometimes it makes it to the laundry room, sometimes they leave it in our master bedroom hamper. All trashcans (and diaper pail) are emptied and trash put in the outside cans. The kitchen gets things wiped down and dirty things get put in the dishwasher as necessary.

Personally I think $20/h with the assumption that this is 4 person-hours of work is pretty reasonable, though $25 for someone whose judgment and rigor you trust seems right too. With a friend it's tough. With Joe Strangerperson I think it's fair to think "what would this person probably get in a per-hour job working for someone" and a little more than double that to account for taxes, travel, and the fact that it's not a sufficient number of guaranteed hours to live on. How you manage not to mix that all up with your view of a friend's worth as a person is entirely beyond me.
posted by phearlez at 10:21 AM on April 3, 2014

I live in an area with a higher minimum wage (€8.65 per hour) and we basically double that. We pay our cleaning lady €30 for two hours every week, or about $42. We don't live in a capital but do live in a large metro area.

BTW, I prefer a set number of hours per week. Some things (mopping, hoovering) are done weekly and she decides what other stuff needs doing depending on the day.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:38 AM on April 3, 2014

In a Midwestern city, I pay $135 every two weeks for 1800 square feet with 4 beds 2 baths. She cleans for about 4 hours.
The woman that cleans works for a small company, but I honestly don't know the immigration status of the woman that comes to clean. I know she has been in the US for more than 15 years. I hope she is well paid.
My neighbor is always looking for a deal and will do kinda scammy things. At one point he had someone cleaning for $7 an hour or something really sad like that.
Keep in mind some cleaners/cleaning companies might not be paying the best wages back to the workers, and may not be a good measure of how much to pay a friend.
posted by littlewater at 10:49 AM on April 3, 2014

Another consideration: remember that your friend will be deep into your personal life. Your bathroom trash, your dirty underwear, your nightstand drawers. This can feel kind of intrusive. It could be weird.
posted by littlewater at 10:51 AM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

In San Francisco where I live, agencies charge a lot more than self-employed individuals; if that's the case where you are, ignore what housecleaning agencies are charging.
posted by wryly at 10:52 AM on April 3, 2014

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Don't risk this valuable, close friendship by violating the #1 rule about friendships: don't mix business with friendships.
posted by Kruger5 at 10:56 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

We just finished a "deep"/spring cleaning project. It was a four person crew that worked for three and a half hours. I paid the agreed $200 to the leading lady and then gave everyone a spontaneous $20 tip ($280 total for 14 hours of work). So yeah, $20/hr for heavy duty cleaning is fair.
posted by 99percentfake at 11:03 AM on April 3, 2014

I think it depends on where you are. When I lived in a nice part of CT, it was $50/hour and she did everything. It took 1-2 hours once or twice a month for our small 2 bedroom house.

Now I'm in a lower middle class small city in PA, and I found someone who still does a great job for $15/hour.
posted by elvissa at 11:41 AM on April 3, 2014

Best answer: I'm in Seattle. My cleaner charges $30/hour for regular cleaning and $35/hour for deep (or move in/move out) cleaning. She comes by while we're at work, so I don't actually monitor her hours. She is not the cheapest I've hired, but she's the most consistent, self-motivated, trustworthy, and flexible (for re-scheduling) cleaner I've worked with. When she goes on vacation, she lets me know who her back up is, or works with me to figure out a good alternate schedule. She is also much faster than other cleaners I've hired before. Plus, she uses all organic cleaners that actually smell good to us.

I've had a friend help me clean once (for pay). She spent 12 hours and couldn't get everything done in a tiny apartment.

All that is to say, an hourly rate is fair, but how much depends both on the cost of living in your area and how good she is at cleaning. It absolutely is a profession, with the associated skills and tools that would make a professional different from someone who's just looking for some pocket money.

The last thing is if she's bonded and insured. Or if you're paying her under the table. Of course all of that factors into how much money is in her pocket at the end of the day.
posted by ethidda at 12:29 PM on April 3, 2014

Small 3-BR place in southern Oregon, two older adult occupants, several cats.

We pay our friend $65 every two weeks to perform, more or less, those tasks you have described. She is a pro at this, with a few dozen clients, and brings her own supplies. She sometimes brings along a helper--when her day gets backed up with clients--but that doesn't affect the rate we pay her.

I would imagine that any extraordinary tasks would be negotiated, since her time is generally booked, and she'd have to make an adjustment in her schedule to accommodate us. Usually she spends from one to two hours per session with us, and her tasks vary in detail around a core of sweeping, dusting, vacuuming and such.

By the way, we often give her access to our home if we both are away. I wouldn't suggest this as a general practice, except when you know the person well enough to trust them with your stuff.
posted by mule98J at 12:53 PM on April 3, 2014

Speaking from experience: Hiring a friend to clean your house is a good way to end that friendship.

That said, $20/hour or $50/week is what I've typically paid for a smallish home.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:54 PM on April 3, 2014

Seattle-ish, $150 for one visit a month. If they came twice a month it would be $135 per visit; our house is around 2,000 sq ft. It's two or three women from a larger company, not necessarily the same people each time. I don't know how long they stay because I run away after letting them in.

I had a friend clean my house a few times. She was good but these guys are better, and I didn't feel comfortable critiquing her cleaning job.

I like to hire my friends first whenever possible but have realized there are a few areas -- cleaning, medical care, tax preparation -- where I like to have a bit of distance.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:11 PM on April 3, 2014

Seattle, 800 square feet, every 2 weeks (she takes about 3-4 hours) - $80, and I think we are getting a good deal because they only raised their price $10 in several years.
posted by matildaben at 2:26 PM on April 3, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all of the answers, you've given us a lot to think about. We'll be sitting down with our friend and notes from this thread to make sure all expectations and concerns are discussed, before deciding to move forward with the plan.
posted by spinturtle at 2:44 PM on April 3, 2014

I've paid $90 every two weeks for a 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom, 3 storey townhouse. With a different cleaner, I now pay $60. I have no idea how long our cleaners work, they just charge the flat amount. Were I you, I would call around in your area to find out what the going rate is.
posted by looli at 6:04 PM on April 3, 2014

Best answer: I have a good friend who has a couple of regular cleaning jobs. She isn't a professional cleaner, she doesn't do end-of-lease deep cleaning or anything like that, she just visits a couple of select people once a week and does what needs to be done for as long as it takes. Dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing the shower, cleaning out the fridge, watering the plants... whatever she sees needs doing, she does it. She charges $30 an hour, and she works her butt off. (She's just found out one of her clients has named her in his will, I kid you not. That's how much he values her service.)

I must disagree with Kruger5 upthread. I do the accounts for the aforementioned friend's "real" business, and we agreed at the beginning that if it started to impact on our friendship, either of us could say "no more" at any time. It's worked well for a year, so far, and I don't anticipate any problems in the future. I think it depends on the friendship, and the capacity for honesty between the two of you.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 6:59 PM on April 3, 2014

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