There’s no question that sanitation is an important part of our lives—and if we’re fortunate enough to have the luxury of turning the task of cleaning our homes over to someone else, all the better. Unfortunately, though, the people who do the dirty work are often overlooked or under-appreciated. Housekeepers clean your messy toilets, dust your ignored ceiling fans, and generally keep your home free of allergens and germs while you’re off living a busy life. They deserve some consideration, is what I’m saying.
Here’s how to maintain a clean home—and a good relationship with your housekeeper.
Know what a housekeeper does
Housekeepers and house cleaners are two different jobs, according to the health and wellness site Care.com. Housekeepers are regular employees of your household, often cleaning on a regular weekly schedule. House cleaners, on the other hand, are hired to do an occasional deep clean your home, such as if you’re getting ready to move or leaving for an extended period of time.
Care.com explains that a housekeeper’s duties typically include:
- Light cleaning in the living areas. This includes dusting, vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping the floors in all rooms.
- Cleaning the bathrooms, including mirrors, toilets, showers, and baths.
- Cleaning the kitchen, including wiping down appliances, counters, sinks, and cabinet doors.
- Washing and drying dishes and putting them away.
- Changing bed linens and making the beds.
- Washing, folding, and ironing clothes.
- Cleaning interior windows.
- Removing garbage and recycling.
- Restocking personal items such as toilet paper, tissues, etc.
- General tidying of the rooms. This includes putting away toys, decluttering, and light organizing.
A housekeeper might also run errands, such as grocery shopping, for you—with appropriate pay increases for the additional time. If you want your housekeeper to prepare meals, you should explicitly state that when you begin your search for the right person.
Know what a housekeeper does not do
Although housekeepers “keep house,” a few household tasks don’t fit their job descriptions—especially those who are hourly or part-time. For example, they are not designers or movers, so don’t ask them to rearrange furniture or lift heavy boxes in your garage. This also goes for risky jobs like cleaning out gutters. Likewise, they should not be climbing ladders or tackling your home improvement projects (it’s unsafe and, therefore, a liability).
Do not expect your housekeeper to watch your children or care for your pets. The housekeeper is not a nanny or pet-sitter, so picking up the kids from soccer practice or walking your dog should not be on their list. Remember that although housekeepers clean, they should not be responsible for cleaning up the bodily fluids or fecal matter for people or pets in your home. Sure, they’ll scrub your toilet, but the task ends there; asking them to handle your toddler’s potty training accident or scoop the cat litter is not a good look.
When it comes to specialized care, hire a specialist. Your housekeeper is not qualified to handle caregiver tasks for elderly household members or anything requiring medical knowledge or experience.
Adequately pay your housekeeper
The mean average wage for a housekeeper is $13.47 an hour. Considering the country is avidly working on making the minimum wage $15/hour, housekeepers deserve more than $80 after six hours of cleaning. Most importantly, pay accordingly for the level of work they’re providing. Housekeeper and Tiktoker Vanessa Amaro explains that having extended house guests, parties, or new pets means adding cleaning for the housekeeper, and they should be compensated for the extra work. You can adjust their hourly rate for those sessions or tip them more generously that week.
If you don’t know the proper amount to pay your housekeeper in your area, Care.com has a pay rate calculator: Enter your zip code, select the number of hours the housekeeper would be working and the type of cleaning they’d be doing, and it will provide a suggested rate.
Leave the house when the housekeeper comes
Give them space. Amaro assures you they are not looking to go through your things, have a wild party, or do anything odd. They just want the room to clean without needing to vacuum under your feet or work around you.
Communicate clearly with your housekeeper
Make sure you are communicating clearly with your housekeeper on their duties and what, specifically, they are being hired to do. Again, if you want add-ons, communicate this before you hire them. Even before you begin looking for the right person, write out all of the tasks you need to be completed on a weekly or monthly basis. Then, review the list, referring to those dos and don’ts of housekeeper work. You might discover you need a nanny, rather than a part-time housekeeper.
Lastly, don’t cancel the work on short notice unless it’s an emergency. Housekeepers likely rely on that paycheck, and canceling at the last minute could jeopardize their ability to get groceries, gas, or pay their rent. Take care of your housekeepers, and they’ll take care of you.