A New Yorker’s guide to getting your apartment or brownstone cleaned
- Most companies offer basic and deep-cleaning services; some do move-in/out and post-renovation jobs, too
- Standard cleaning costs about $100 for a studio, $120 for a one bedroom, and $150 for a two bedroom
- Signing up for recurring—weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly—cleanings lowers the costs
M. Daddio, Inc. Builders | Photo by Mark Roskams
Dust and dirt got you down? It can be hard to stay on top of these household culprits—especially in New York City, where urban grime has a way of getting inside our (often cramped) apartments, not to mention sprawling penthouses and townhouses. Kids and pets only ramp up the muck.
Even if you had all the time in the world (lucky you!), there is an art and science to getting your apartment sparkling clean. Why not rely on a skilled pro to tackle the job, whether you want or need it done weekly, monthly, or as needed?
"That's part of the conversation: In today's world, we didn't really learn to take care of a house; it was all about get educated, make money, be busy—and that's on steroids in NYC," says Sabrina Fierman, founder of full-service cleaning company New York's Little Elves. "So many people don't know how to clean and they're too busy anyway—but you need to be ok with delegating this task."
That is just one of several reputable companies in NYC that offer a variety of services—from basic cleaning (often recurring) to deep cleaning, move-in/out cleaning, and post-construction/renovation cleaning, plus custom options if you have specific target areas.
If you're not sure where to begin, these experts are there to help. Some require a walk-through; others rely on your description or current photos. (Pro tip: Be transparent.)
Brick unpacks the different options so you know what's included and how much it will cost. The terminology might vary across companies, but rest assured: There's a judgment-free solution for every situation.
The most common "housekeeping" or maintenance service covers vacuuming and mopping floors, dusting furniture and other accessible areas, wiping down mirrors, appliances, and countertops, and disinfecting sinks/tubs/toilets. Making the bed, loading (but not emptying) the dishwasher, and taking out the trash and recycling are usually included, too.
If you want to get granular, MyClean uses a 40-point checklist for its "standard clean" and a 50-point checklist for its "standard-plus clean," while Synergy Maids posts its "battle-hardened 55-point checklist" online (though some of those cost extra).
Many companies post a flat rate based on number of bedrooms and including one bathroom. Prices range from $80-$130 for a studio, $100-$150 for a one bedroom, $120-$170 for a two bedroom, and on up, with larger apartments and those with more bathrooms at the higher end.
Add-on services can often be tacked on at extra costs. For example, Urban Company offers laundry folding ($15 per basket), dishwashing ($25 per sink load), and "pet mess cleanup" (at $10 per 10 minutes).
These standard cleanings can be one-time only but are more often scheduled on a recurring weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis—and with pricing that's discounted accordingly.
Urban Company charges $89 (one-time) or $80 (bi-weekly) for a studio, $109/$98 for a one bedroom, and $129/$116 for a two bedroom.
At Handy, if you sign up for a 12-month commitment, the weekly cleaning for a two-bed/two-bath place would cost $125, bi-weekly $132, and monthly $135. If you only signed up for three months, the weekly cleaning jumps up to $300. (A deep clean of the same apartment would cost $500.)
Booking with MyClean lets you see how different variables change the displayed price, much like when booking a flight. For example, different days of the week are considered off-peak, as are different time slots. A standard one-time cleaning for a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment was about $208, with the option of shaving off five or ten bucks by choosing late-afternoon hours and weekends.
New York's Little Elves works differently. It charges a standard hourly of $60 per hour per cleaner (with a four-hour minimum) for all of its services. Any cleaning that requires a crew of three or more cleaners has a supervisor at $72 per hour; this is typically not the case for a routine cleaning unless your space is especially large. You are also expected to provide all the supplies for routine cleanings—though most companies will bring their own basics.
With a few exceptions, cleaning companies in NYC offer deep-cleaning, which goes beyond routine upkeep to include moving around the furniture to get underneath and targeting the inside of appliances and cabinetry, as well as washing down walls and cleaning blinds and shutters (though those are not always covered, so be sure to ask).
"The difference between regular housekeeping and deep cleaning is in the details and is a question of degree," Fierman explains, noting that in the latter, your medicine cabinets will be emptied, bathroom vents vacuumed ("I can't tell you how many those have never been touched,") and light bulbs dusted. "There are so many surfaces in the home—moldings, baseboards, window frames and sills, curtain rods, shelving, under furniture, above furniture, closet floors, which are not maintained on a regular basis." Same for the inside of appliances and cabinets. All of those are covered in a deep cleaning.
If you haven't been keeping up with routine cleanings, you may need to start with a deep clean.
"We like to start with a deep cleaning because this way, we can be sure the home gets cleaned the way it should be cleaned and will actually feel fresh and clean when we are finished," says Kadi Dulude, founder of Wizard of Homes. "If a surface needs serious scrubbing, then a quick wipe-down will not be sufficient, and the apartment will still be dirty when we walk out."
However, getting a deep clean is not a requirement so long as your place is in decent shape. "We just ask for a general picture of each room first to confirm that basic clean is sufficient.
New York's Little Elves also requires a walk-through to determine what's called for "because people will say 'I keep my home clean, I just need a couple of hours,' and then we do the white glove test and show what's on top of the cabinets and armoire and frames, and they're surprised," Fierman says. "But those are things you don't readily see like a dirty sink."
She says they often suggest starting off with a deep cleaning, and then it will be much easier to maintain the cleanliness of the home.
Fierman also answers the common question of how often you need to do a deep clean with "as needed because its a lot of money, and those needs can change depending on what's going on inside your apartment or in adjacent apartments, such as renovations or ongoing construction in a new development." At a minimum, she recommends doing it at least once a year, though at least one client rotates in a deep cleaning once a month along with her weekly service.
For deep cleanings, New York's Little Elves tends to require as many as five to eight people on a crew and be there for one to five days, even for a 2,500-square-foot apartment that's fully occupied and furnished, which requires a significant number of hours. Wizards of Home charges a flat rate based on the square footage and number of bedrooms/bathrooms. "We normally have a pretty good idea how long we will need to be there and how many wizards to send," Dulude says.
If you're not prepared to commit to a full-home deep cleaning, some companies let you add targeted deep cleaning options to a standard cleaning, such as for cleaning the inside of the oven or the fridge. Urban Company lets you do "deep clean upgrades" by paying an extra $15 for the kitchen and each bathroom.
You are expected to leave your apartment in tip-top shape, especially if you are a renter and want to get your full security deposit back. Hence some companies will come in after you've cleared out and do a comprehensive cleaning with similar add-ons.
Urban Company offers full-home move-out packages (starting at $129 for a studio and $259 for a three-bed/two-bath apartment), or you can pay by the room ($25 per bedroom or living room, $50 per bathroom, and $55 per kitchen).
Synergy Maids offers a move-out service that includes "cleaning inside cabinets and drawers, fixtures, inside the fridge, all baseboards, etc." It charges an extra $20 per room and an extra $20 per bathroom on top of its standard cleaning price.
New York's Little Elves will even help with packing and unpacking (at $60 a hour).
If you are undergoing a renovation or moving into a brand-new development, this intensive clean targets the pervasive microdust produced by construction work and is generally (much) more expensive than a deep clean because it requires specialty supplies and training—plus, the companies have to haul in HEPA vacuums along with ladders to reach ceilings and other high places.
The cost will be less if the space is empty, but that's not always the case. Fierman points to instances where people live in the home while updating a kitchen or combining apartments (or dealing with a flood). Having to navigate around all your stuff is going to take more time and hence more money.
New York's Little Elves offers pre/post-event clean-ups and its new "four seasons service" (think cleaning the windows in spring and the patio or terrace in summer, or polishing the silver before the holidays).
Handy (of course) offers handyman services, as does Wizard of Homes, which also does upholstery and carpet cleaning and offers an "extreme clean" (if your apartment has never been cleaned and there's lots of clutter). "Only a very few of our wizards are qualified for extreme cleans because they're not only difficult physically but also mentally," she explains. (The extreme clean rate is $75 a hour per person.) Or can book "the details" (at $50 per hour per person), which Dulude describes as between an extreme clean and deep clean and is "great for clients who like to edit the to-do list, such as wanting their kitchen drawers organized but not the windows washed."
Just because you don't do it yourself doesn't mean you can't have it done the way you want.
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