Cleaning service advice?
March 15, 2008 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Advice for hiring a cleaning service (or a recommendation for one in the Northern VA area)?

Every few months, it seems that my house gets totally out of control, in terms of tidiness and I need to spend a weekend cleaning everything up, and I hate doing it. I think I'd be greatly helped by someone coming in every week or two weeks and just generally straightening up cleaning the bathrooms, floors, counters, etc. My main problem seems to be that after the house gets to a certain point, i get much worse about leaving shit around wherever, and having someone come in every once in a while to reset things will at least make me feel worse about being sloppy.

I'm not looking for the least expensive option, I'm just looking for advice on finding a service I can trust in my house that won't steal my stuff if I'm not around. Is theft something that's common with cleaning services? Any horror stories along those lines, or things I can do so I won't have to worry about it so much? Anything else I should know about? Any recommendations for a cleaner in the NoVa area?

(Also, if you're going to respond with: 'Clean your own house' or cleaning advice, that's not an answer to the question)
posted by empath to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I recently hired a cleaning person to come to my house once a month and it was one of the best things I ever did. I highly recommend it if you're at all clean-conscious. If possible, ask your neighbors for recommendations. If you're concerned about theft, do what I did and lock up your credit cards in a safe -- but at some point you're going to have to resign yourself to the fact that someone is in your house and there is a certain level of trust involved. Good luck!
posted by drinkcoffee at 2:43 PM on March 15, 2008

Best answer: I've found craigslist to be a good resource when I'm looking for help around the house. When I look through the 'household' section of the 'services' ads, I disregard those from people spamming the category several times a day, and also ignore ads that say the person works in a very wide geographic area. Meet the people one at a time, and if you feel good about one, ask for references -- and check them. Ask as many specific questions as you want to. Stay away from housekeepers who have low rates, because good housekeepers can usually get paid well. If they're cheap, there's probably a reason. Also, if a cleaner works for a service, he/she might not be getting a big percentage of what you pay. I usually try to hire an individual or a very small service. Sometimes a cleaner who doesn't speak English has someone else (not a boss) as a mediator. That's a good way to go if you're comfortable with it.

Various people do different things. Ask if they bring their own equipment and supplies, if they prefer certain products, if they do laundry/ironing -- there are few general rules in that regard, except that almost everyone prefers cash.

I'm very sloppy myself, and I find that if I tidy up before the housekeeper comes over, then he/she can spend her time on the real cleaning. And if the intervals aren't too long, the tidying isn't a terrible chore for me.

Nobody has stolen anything from me; I did have a few problems with things getting broken by a cleaner who worked very vigorously. I solved it by asking him to slow down, and making sure he knew that certain items aren't replaceable.
posted by wryly at 3:08 PM on March 15, 2008

Look for one that is "bonded" and insured.

From what I understand, bonded means that there is protection for you as the customer if an employee steals from you. Insured means that there is some sort of liability coverage for personal injuries to the cleaner while on your property, a well as some insurance for property damage by the cleaning person. Make sure that you know exactly what types of insurance they have.

I researched this pretty intensely a while back when I was too busy at work to have time for cleaning, but never ended up hiring anyone. I was looking primarily into medium-sized companies. My friends told me that in their experience, employees from a smaller company would be more likely to be conscientious about cleaning well. At the same time, you would be more likely to have more protection as a customer than from a really small cleaning company.
posted by gemmy at 3:23 PM on March 15, 2008

The worst problems I had with cleaners is not showing up. I had two cleaners in a row that just stopped showing up or changed their appointments multiple times. Just check for references.
posted by hazyspring at 6:11 PM on March 15, 2008

We use "The Maids" in N.VA. It's sort of a franchise operation as I understand; there are "The Maids of $LOCATION" in many areas. We're using the Alexandria branch. You've almost undoubtedly seem them driving around, they have bright yellow cars.

They're good. I was frankly uncomfortable with the idea of having people in the house when I wasn't around, but we've had no problems. They're definitely not the cheapest, but they're bonded and insured, come in a group (which to me seems less sketchy than a single person), seem to have the same people show up week after week, and are very professional overall. The cleaning job they do is enough to pass muster with my germophobic/clean-freak roommate, which is higher praise than anything I can say.

I suggest being at home when they come the first few times, just so you can get an idea of what they do and express your preferences in terms of what you want them to do. I think their basic service involves vacuuming throughout, cleaning the bathrooms, scrubbing hard floors, cleaning the kitchen, and changing bedlinens, tablecloths, and towels, if you provide clean ones. The rate is based on the size and number of rooms in your house. The first cleaning costs a bit more than subsequent ones, and their normal schedule is to come every other week. (Mail me if you want hard numbers; I don't have them in front of me right this second.)

Ultimately whether it's a worthwhile service depends on how much time you spend cleaning yourself and the value you place on that time. We were basically spending one day a weekend just doing housework and it sucked. Getting back 50% of my weekend is worth every penny.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:18 PM on March 15, 2008

I have had very good experiences with Merry Maids ( in Falls Church.
posted by mnop at 8:28 PM on March 15, 2008

You've already marked a best answer, but in relation to the last two, I'd strongly recommend staying away from Merry Maids/The Maids type agencies, just on the basis of how they treat their workers. Bonded, insured and experienced is great. Workers who aren't treated like brainless, biology-less automatons are even better. Housecleaning should be well-paid and well-treated, respected work.
posted by Dreama at 1:16 PM on March 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

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