Am I too demanding of a home cleaning service?

Our house is starting to come together. Even the parlor is nearly finished. As more and more furnishings, picture frames, window treatments and so forth come in, there is more and more to clean. Just to give you some context, our home is a fully restored one-and-a-half story farmhouse built originally in 1910. It has all original beadboard walls and black gum flooring. The restoration was complete and meticulous. All modern wiring, cable and computer networking, a great room, a deck, full basement with garage, etc. The place made my wife cry when she first saw it. It looks like something that would be featured in Southern Living magazine, and our intention is to keep it that way.

This morning, I interviewed a maid. During the nickel tour, she kept remarking about how beautiful everything is, and how well we’ve kept it up. I purposefully had left the floors unbuffed, the carpets unvacuumed, the windows unwashed, and a couple of other things to see whether she would notice them. I even coaxed her, asking her specifically what she saw in this or that room that might need to be done. Same stock answer every time. I dust. I sweep. I clean. I do general cleaning.

Well, this house needs more than just general cleaning. The hardwood floors look like bowling alley lanes. They don’t just reflect light; they reflect objects. They’re mirror shiny. They have to be waxed with a paste and buffed. She had never seen a buffer before. I showed her ours. I don’t do that, she said. She doesn’t clean windows. She doesn’t clean inside appliances (like the microwave, for instance.) She doesn’t polish leather furniture or wood tables. (She only dusts them.)

So, I asked her what she had to offer that would be above and beyond what I already do, making it worthwhile to hire her services. I mean, if all she does is run a feather duster over the tops of everything, this place will look like hell in a few weeks. Not gonna happen. I want every ceramic figurine picked up, dusted (with a cloth, not a feather duster), cleaned, polished, and returned exactly where it came from. I want wood to shine. I want leather to gleam. I want the glass in the chandeliers to sparkle. She said, “I just clean real good.”

Does anyone else have experience with these sorts of services? If so, how do you approach explaining what you’re looking for? How do you find someone who can appreciate the toil and money that went into restoring a house like this? Someone who understands that it needs to be kept in mint condition? Or am I asking too much, and need to just go ahead and set aside Saturdays for buffing and polishing?

If you’re only offering to pay the going rate for normal housecleaning, then yes, you’re asking for too much. You might look for a service that specializes in more difficult jobs, maybe even see what sort of service your local museums offer. (I’m not trying to be snarky; I was just thinking that a museum might have a better than usual housekeeping service.)

Or am I asking too much, and need to just go ahead and set aside Saturdays for buffing and polishing?

I’d say the answer to this would be a big fat yes. Unless you found a cleaning person who had the exact same standards you’re bound to be unhappy with the results.

What I really want to know is exactly how you accomplish the reflective floor thing. I have slate in my entryway. They look dingy - even when clean. I see identical floors in institutions and they glow. I’d love to have the same effect at home and suspect this buffing/polishing idea is what is needed.

So if you don’t mind - what materials and equipment are you using?

I don’t think you’re asking too much. It sounds like what she does is just basic housecleaning, but nothing above and beyond. However, she doesn’t do windows? That seems weird to me. Windows are part of basic housecleaning, not an add-on. I’ve never had somebody clean my house (now, apt.), but it seems like at least some of the things you asked her to do is pretty standard. Buffing the wood floor might not be standard, but I don’t think she should refuse to do it (you might need to offer extra pay to someone to do this, or at least extra on the weeks or months or whenever it needs to be done).

Well, you can demand anything you like (within legal limits, of course) as long as you’re demanding it clearly before you hire and you’re willing to pay for it. Will there be someone willing to meet your demands? I can’t really answer that, not living where you live.

Where I live, there are definitely two “levels” of cleaning ladies (almost always ladies). There’s the vacuum-and-dusters and then there’s the deep cleaners. It’s not always a matter of money, it’s sometimes a matter of personality. My friend has a simply immaculate house, yet her cleaning lady is always buffing or scrubbing at stuff it would never occur to me to clean. While I’m sure this is as stupid and flawed as any stereotype, it’s “well-known” in Chicago that if you want a good vacuum-and-duster you hire Mexican, and if you want a good deep cleaner, you hire Polish. Sounds like you want a deep cleaner. Sounds like this first person you interviewed was a vacuum-and-duster. Nothing wrong with either of you - just not a good fit.

I say keep interviewing, and see who shows up. Be nice, but very clear with people *why *you’re not hiring them, and ask them if they have any ideas for referrals. Assuming you live in a decent sized area, I wouldn’t hire anyone, nor would I give up, until I interviewed at least a dozen people.

When my wife and I were both working long hours we employed a cleaner who did a nominal 3 hours once a week. One day she turneed up while I was doing work from home. She actually had a friend that she worked with and they did the whole place in less than 2 hours. They did none of the stuff you expect and I guaged their value on how long it would take me to do what they had done. That was good enough. But I’m sure that they would have happily done more if we had paid for more hours of labour and said what we wanted.

For most housecleaning services, yes, you’re asking for a much, much bigger job than they’re willing to take on. For one thing, you’re asking for a bunch of services a lot of people don’t really know how to provide, like polishing the couch. I have no idea how one would go about polishing a couch, and I don’t know of anyone who would be able to clue me in. And since they’re not familiar with the task, they don’t know hard or time-consuming it’s likely to be, so they have not idea what to charge. That’s a road most independent contractors aren’t particularly eager to go down.

The other thing is that this job sounds like it’s going to take a hellacious lot of time. I mean, you’re used to doing all this stuff, and you’re talking about setting aside an entire day to do it every week. For someone unfamiliar with the tasks, we’re talking about more like a day and a half, most likely. That’s really going to eat into the number of other houses the cleaner can do every week. Unless you intend to pay very handsomely indeed, it’s going to seriously cut into her income. Again, not a road most independent contractors are eager to go down.

It really sounds like you want much, much more than standard housecleaning. DeadlyAccurate’s right on the money–if you want your house kept to museum standards, which it sounds like you do, you need to get a musuem-level service. Your odds of getting that from the gal off the street are so low as to be reasonably called zilch.

We use a buffer that we bought online. It looks sort of like an upright vacuum cleaner, but it has two hubs that rotate at a fast RPM. We got ours from here:

We use Johnson’s paste wax, which we buy at Lowes. Apply the paste (I use a plastic butter knife) to the rough brushes, and spread it all over the floor. It’ll look kind of like a car when you’ve just applied wax. Kind of dingy. Then, run another pass, using the course pads (green or brown) to distribute the wax evenly. Then, run another pass, using the felt pads to polish the wax. After this stage, it’ll look about like a liquid wax. Finally, run a pass using the lambs wool pads. When you finish this step, you’ll need rubber strips for your throw rugs because they will fly out from under your feet like a flying carpet! :smiley:

It’s hard enough to get someone who does a good job at the basics, much less all the special stuff.

Face it - to be a good housecleaner, you need to be fastidious, have an eye for detail, and like to work fairly hard. People who excel at those traits typically are skilled enough to get a job that’s more interesting and pays better than housecleaning. I’m not saying it’s impossible, it’s just that more often than not it’s going to be hard to get someone who will clean as well as you might clean if you were doing it.

It’s really a dollars and cents issue, Lib. You are, indeed, looking for services beyond the norm for cleaning services. I have one right now. They do all the floors (sweep, mop, vaccuum) and clean the kitchen’s and bath’s top to bottom. No dusting or furniture maintenance. That’s the standard deal here (and in Virginia where I was before). If you want more you’re going to have to pay for it. But I betcha it ends up being a couple of hundred dollars per visit. Possibly several.

In other words…you can get someone to do it…but it’s gonna cost you.

Way back when I was in college I worked for a small agency as a house cleaner. We had levels of cleaning. Dusting, for instance was just running the feather duster over surfaces. Dust Good = picking up each and every little item and wiping it with a cloth. Dust Good costed more than Dust. Likewise floors. Mop the kitchen floor meant that I mopped with a standard bucket and mop and nothing more. Mop good meant that I got down on my hands and knees with a scrub brush. Waxing the floor was extra. KCCA (kitchen cabinets, counter tops and appliances) was another add on. Kind of an ala carte maid menu. I had placed where I just did floors. Other places where it was laundry and dishes (this one old guy didn’t do his dishes all week, left them for me)

My experience only experience hiring a maid was a disappointment. I just wanted someone to come in and scrub my bathrooms and do the floors (mop and vacuum) because these were the things that I just couldn’t seem to get to. My mom offered to get me a maid for a couple of months for my birthday. She was OK but just wanted to “tidy up” but never really scrubbed the bathroom like I was expecting but she did other things that I didn’t ask for like straightening up a stack of magazines or folding laundry. I eventually just went back to doing it myself.

Good luck finding someone.

Not cleaning inside appliances and not doing windows seems pretty standard for the cleaing services I’ve used. I have no idea why windows are such a big deal, but I can kind of understand the inside appliances thing. Some people’s microwaves and ovens are disgusting! Plus they run the risk of something breaking and then getting blamed for it.

You are asking for more than the usual cleaning job. You may have to find a specialist or perhaps offer to pay someone more than their usual fee. The cleaning lady I use varies her charges by the amount of time she spends at each place (something she can do in half a day cost less than a full day job). If I asked her to do what you mention, she probably would since she’s very flexible but she’d charge more. For example, a couple times a year she’ll do an in depth srping/fall cleaning. It costs extra, but it’s something she’s willing to do for the extra fee.

I also agree that most cleaning services will not do windows. My reasoning is thus:

  1. A house can easily have 40 or 50 or more windows. It would take hours to clean 40 windows. If the cleaning arrangement is “3 hours and I do x, y, and z” they won’t have time to do windows too. Unless they wish to stay longer and be paid more, of course. Some people don’t wish to work all day long, or they have other clients to get to.

  2. If they are regular double-hung windows (the old-fashioned kind, not the tilt kind), you can’t clean the outside anyway if you are inside, so any cleaning done on the inside glass doesn’t matter much since they still look kind of dirty.

  3. If they are tilt windows, nobody is going to tilt them in in the winter anyway and freeze while cleaning the windows.

As to the OP: you are asking WAY too much for a regular cleaning service. Although if you offer to double the hourly rate, you might find someone who is willing to buff floors and spend an hour polishing a couch.

I guess I sort of get the picture now. Thing is, the things she’s willing to do — run the feather duster, wipe the counter tops, and so forth — these are things that, even in our apartment, we had to do every day. We can’t wait two weeks just to get the floor swept. If you don’t do these basic things every day, any place would be a pigsty in no time at all.

I guess y’all are right that it’s just going to take patience, waiting for the right person, and a willingness to pay for it when we find it.

…On preview…

I realize it must sound ridiculous, but this really is an extraordinary circumstance. It is a $15,000 couch (with a love seat, chair, and ottoman as well), made of plush, top-grain leather, a hand-made oak frame (which isn’t even visible), and filled with that special stuff that never flattens (can’t think of the name right now). Letting it just go to hell would be a travesty. When it’s just clean, it looks good. But when it’s polished, it looks like something from a castle.

The lady you interviewed was fine. She is the norm for house cleaning.
My mother has a house cleaner like that because she can no longer reach or stoop. But she doesn’t need to see objects reflected in her bowling alley.
So, you don’t want a cleaning woman, you want a museum conservator. Why don’t you ask the people at the Biltmore estate whom they’ve dismissed lately?

Oh, I don’t think it’s ridiculous to want to take care of that couch in the proper way at all – just it’s not reasonable to ask a basic-type cleaning service to do it unless you’re willing to pay a commensurate wage. You have to pay for special service.

I don’t think you should have to increase the hourly rate to have someone do extra tasks, if the tasks are comparable in difficulty. They should jump at the chance to spend more hours at the same location, less unpaid travel time is one benefit. As long as they get paid a competitive wage for the many extra hours it will take to polish the couch and floors, why would someone balk?

Now, if they do not enjoy or want to do that sort of work, that’s a different story and their personal choice. As a base assumption, I’d expect to pay the same wage, just for more hours.

Maybe it’s just me, but I would think that dusting a table would require polishing-if you’re talking about a dust cloth and a can of Pledge or whatever.

Liberal, you need a serf, not a cleaning service. Time to convert half of that basement into servants quarters… :wink:

I agree that similar tasks should be paid similarly. But I also think that cleaning a $15,000 couch should be worth more than wiping a counter.

Does an art restorer get paid more to clean a Picasso than a Dogs Playing Poker? I would imagine so, because the Picasso is worth a lot more. Even if the actual task of restoration is the same for both paintings.

I’d say that using a floor buffer is definitely not a standard housecleaning duty, and it should be worth more money to do it. Washing ceilings is much harder than washing floors, for example, and should be worth more even though it’s all still “washing.”