Frequently Asked Questions—and answers—about housekeepers

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There's nothing quite like coming home to a clean apartment after a long day of work. Especially when you had nothing to do with said cleaning. 

While hiring a cleaning person (whether it's a one-off service or a single person who comes on a regular basis) is certainly a luxury, it's one that many New Yorkers do rely on. But there are some tricky issues that can arise in the process. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions, and answers.

• Should I be there or not?​

At first, yes, by all means. When a new cleaning person is starting, it's helpful to walk him or her through your apartment and discuss the task at hand. After that, it helps to make yourself scarce. 

"The results are usually better when you're not there," says Kadi Dulude of Wizard of Homes. "When I was a cleaner it was more stressful and often made me feel uncomfortable when the person was there and I had to work around them," she says.

Obviously, though, if this is your first time hiring someone, you're going to want to build trust before you leave them alone in your apartment. You don't necessarily have to be gone the whole time, either. If you work at home, for example, you could take this opportunity to get a coffee while your office area is being handled.

"Thereafter you can make them a key or have the building staff admit him or her at predetermined times," says Brick's very own etiquette expert, Ms. Demeanor.

• How should I prepare my apartment?

"Straighten up as much as you would expect a guest to straighten up—dirty clothes and towels in the hamper, dirty dishes in the sink—but don't clean for the cleaner," says Ms. Demeanor. 

Dulude says she encourages clients to pick up toys and other odds and ends around the house so that the cleaners don't have to devote too much time to putting things away, eating into their cleaning time. 

"Organization makes our job a lot easier and a lot more effective," says Michael Scharf, CEO of MyClean. "It also helps avoid issues surrounding things getting misplaced. And this way we can focus on cleaning, scrubbing and getting the place immaculate."

• What kind of cleaning products should I buy?

If you're hiring a service, the cleaner will often bring his or her own products. But if you're supplying them, think about the cleaner's health and opt for less harmful products when possible.

"Mrs. Meyers is a good brand. It's non-toxic, inexpensive and works well," says Dulude. For her own home, she uses a brand called Shaklee (which is organic and only available online).

• What if I'm worried he or she has stolen from me or broken something?

First off, lock up any real valuables if you're worried about them. "We usually ask that clients put away any valuables and breakables so we can avoid touching those things," says Gary Hu of Synergy Maids.

If you suspect something is wrong,ask directly about misplaced or missing items. "A cleaning person is more often than not an extra set of eyes rather than a pair of sticky hands," says Ms. Demeanor. But "if you do not feel comfortable with the person in your home, it is time to consider other options."

• What should I do about my pets?

When you're hiring someone, and before they come to your apartment, make sure you tell them about your pets. If you have a dog that can be aggressive, consider taking him or her outside while your cleaner is there. 

"We also need to know in advance about pets because cleaning pet hair can add more time," says Hu.

• How can I make my cleaner feel comfortable?

While you're not expected to cook elaborate meals for your cleaning person, it's a nice gesture to offer some water or tea, or even a light snack if they're going to be there for a few hours.

• How much should I tip?

The standard holiday tip is one week's pay when the person is a regular employee. And it's always good to communicate how much you appreciate your cleaner.

• If I have a regular cleaning person, do I pay them when I go away?

This is a tricky one because your cleaner is likely depending on the income regardless of your vacation plans. If you're going away for the a week or two, we suggest asking your cleaning person to come in and do some heavy duty cleaning that he or she doesn't get to do on a regular basis (e.g. polishing silver, organizing closets). If you're going away for a long period of time (e.g. all summer), just make sure you give enough notice.


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