How much does it cost to hire a house cleaner?
Most house cleaners do basic tasks such as vacuuming, dusting, toilet and shower cleaning, general kitchen cleaning and tidying up. (Photo by Elizabeth McQuern)
Keeping your house clean can be a monumental task, especially if you work full time, have young children or pets or all of the above. As a result, many busy homeowners are hiring a professional house cleaner to help lower their stress and make their lives easier. But how much should these services cost, and exactly what are homeowners getting for their money?
How house cleaning services charge
Professional house cleaners typically charge one of two ways: By hour, or by square foot. Hourly costs range from $25 to $35; square foot rates are often used for a "first clean," as a baseline for pros to work from. First cleans are also more expensive, as cleaners need to determine how long they'll spend in a home, and if there are any rooms which require extra work — for example a family bathroom or large play area.
In addition, rates will differ based on how often you want pros to clean. Generally, the more times a cleaner comes in a month, the smaller the cost per visit, though this is often a matter of $5 or $10 per clean. Some cleaners offer a discount if homeowners are willing to pay for multiple visits upfront, or if they sign a long-term contract.
Individual cleaners versus cleaning companies
It's also important to consider the distinction between individual cleaners and companies. Companies offer bonded, licensed employees but charge more for their services. This means, however, that if a cleaning job isn't done to your satisfaction, you can take the issue up with the company, or take them to court. Most companies send out at least two workers on any job and charge a minimum price no matter the size of your home.
Many individuals also run their own cleaning businesses but may not be licensed and often want to be paid in cash or by personal check. Their rates are typically lower and often their ability is equal or superior to large companies, but they are inherently fly-by-night. There is little recourse for a homeowner if a job isn't done completely to your satisfaction, especially if the cleaner chooses to shut down his or her operation. There's also a concern if an individual cleaner gets ill or has a personal emergency. Companies typically have backups available.
What you get for your money
While there's no "standard" set of cleaning services, most house cleaners will include basic tasks such as vacuuming, dusting, toilet and shower cleaning, general kitchen cleaning and tidying up. Once they've run through the list of typical tasks, many will ask for an additional list from homeowners -- for example, cleaning blinds, tackling tough soap scum stains, or dealing with stained carpets.
Some professional house cleaners bring tools (vacuum, mop, dusters) with them, while others ask homeowners to provide what's necessary. Similarly, some bring their own cleaning products and others want homeowners to provide a set of products for their use.
Extra costs in house cleaning
If you want a particularly deep clean in an area, or require specific products to be used due to allergies or sensitivities, expect to pay more. Some cleaning companies charge you upfront and bring what's required, while others ask you to have anything you want on hand when they arrive. If you want to them to use only eco-friendly cleaners from a specific brand or use a special type of duster, expect your costs to go up.
Hiring a professional house cleaner means you can expect to pay between $80 and $150 for each visit. Your money covers basic services such as vacuuming, dusting, bathroom and kitchen cleaning. Both companies and individual cleaners can offer solid value for your money; which you choose depends largely on your preference and comfort level.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of a story originally posted on April 30, 2013.