Help to get the house cleaned for the holidays

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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With the amount of preparation that goes into hosting holiday events, house cleaning is one task which you can hire help. Whether you need an overall deep cleaning or need a spare bedroom cleaned up for holiday guests, hiring a housecleaning service can be a wonderful opportunity for you and your family to open up free time amidst your busy schedules.

Angie's List asked highly rated house cleaners for advice on hiring.

Common housecleaning services:

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.

Individuals versus companies:

Consider the distinction between individual cleaners and companies.

  • Companies will have bonded, licensed employees but will 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 will send out at least two workers on any job and will 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 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.

Angie's List Tips: Hiring a house cleaning service

  • Trust is extremely important: Unlike most other service providers, house cleaners come to your home while you're at work so you need to feel comfortable allowing them access to your home. Ask about insurance and bonding. Insurance covers damage by the company, such as bleach stains, and a bond covers an employee's dishonest criminal conduct, such as theft. Do they provide background checks on their employees?
  • Don't delay: Book as early as possible if you need a housecleaning service for the holidays. Companies will fill up fast.
  • Communicate: If you can comfortably tell your house cleaner what your expectations are and not feel intimidated, that is a plus. Also, cleaners are only human. They miss things sometimes. Often clients don't feel like they can tell the cleaners where they fell short. If you cannot express areas of concern to a company without getting a snotty attitude or snooty response, then they aren't right for you. Open communication is key on both ends of this relationship.
  • How cleaners charge? Call a few companies and ask for an in-home estimate. 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, some house cleaning companies may raise their rates during the holiday season.
  • Are you green? Demand for greener cleaning has encouraged more traditional cleaning companies to incorporate eco-friendly methods into their business. When looking for this type of cleaning company, you have to do your research. Ask what products the company uses and what they are made of.

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