By Julianne Carell and Nikhita Mahtani

Published on July 27, 2018

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PHOTOGRAPHY AARON BENGOCHEA

Finding an amazing cleaning person is hard work. Are they trustworthy? Is the price right? Do they do a good job? And when you do find the right match, the bond is as sacred as it is with your waxer or hairstylist—your entire home is in their hands, after all.

So, odds are, you want to keep them around for a long time. On the other hand, maybe you can’t keep a housekeeper to save your life (in which case, you need our ultimate cleaning guide). But if you’re really against the DIY life, you need to make sure that you treat your cleaning person right—aka, don’t leave piles of dirty dishes everywhere, thinking that your housekeeper has to clean up after you all the time.

Need some more advice? You’re in luck: We talked to Katie Shea, co-founder of New York-based personal cleaning service Slate, and Layne Brookshire, of Ms. Placed Professional Organizing, to get the details on what you should and shouldn’t do. Here are 15 things your cleaning person is dying for you to know, but has never told you.

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1. It’s all about access.

Meaning, literally tell them how to access your home. After all, there’s no way someone can come into your house if they don’t have a key. “One of our biggest pain points is when a customer doesn’t let us know how to get inside the house,” says Shea. “Proactively share info about how and when we can get in, along with any information like if a doorman has an extra key—so when we get there, we don’t have to bother you.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY AARON BENGOCHEA

2. A walk-through is encouraged.

A home and goals assessment is helpful so that your cleaning person knows what to expect upon arrival. “Consultations are great because we walk you through a typical cleaning, and you walk us through your home,” says Shea. “We’ll discuss your goals and make sure your housekeeper is properly on-boarded and ready before they come in and start cleaning.”

For instance, if you prefer a certain method of cleaning countertops, or if you expect laundry to be included, that’s something you definitely need to have a conversation about. After all, as with all good relationships, communication is key.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY MURCHISON HUME

3. Supplies are nice.

If you’re particular about cleaning chemicals, consider supplying your own. “A lot of people have preferences about safe cleaning alternatives, especially around children,” says Shea. “If you have specific supplies that you want to use, it’s no problem. Just make sure to leave a note about where you keep them.” Need options? These yummy-smelling ones are nice, and another favorite is Method’s Natural Tub + Tile Bathroom Cleaner—the eucalyptus scent is really calming.

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4. Remember to talk about pets.

“Communicating about pets is especially important,” says Shea. “Just let your cleaner know that you have a pet beforehand so we can plan accordingly—in case of allergies or other issues.”

It’s not that having pets is a deal-breaker if your housekeeper doesn’t have allergies, but as with kids, pets come with their own share of cleaning issues—aka, fur, dog beds, and the like. Keeping your housekeeper informed will prevent any surprises, and make sure you’re getting the perfect person for you. 

Also, please leave the supplies necessary to deal with your little critter: Stain removers specifically built for pets (try the Rug Doctor Pet Stain Remover) or a strong odor eliminator (like Angry Orange’s option) should do the trick.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY PEXELS

5. Please, don’t hover.

Sticking around during a cleaning may be tempting—especially during the first session—but don’t. “Hovering during an appointment makes it extremely difficult for the housekeeper to do her job,” says Shea. “If you’re nervous or on edge, you can check in every 45 to 60 minutes, versus following your cleaner from room to room.”

Not to mention, this entire experience is about trust: You’re letting someone into your home, after all. If your expectations haven’t been met after your first session, you can totally discuss—but following someone around isn’t going to do much other than annoy the person.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY AARON BENGOCHEA

6. Clear the clutter on surfaces that need to be cleaned.

You can’t clean a table or bed if it’s piled with stuff. While yes, your cleaning person will most probably put things away and clean up the items themselves, realize that this is just wasted time.

If you leave piles of clutter on the floor or surfaces that you want to be cleaned, your cleaners will first have to spend time removing all the items, which can cut into their cleaning time in other parts of the home—and every minute adds up,” says Brookshire. “Clear countertops and surfaces ahead of time, so your cleaning person can easily access and clean the surfaces in your home.” A quick wipe of Town Talk’s Bergamot and Lime Cleaner would work effortlessly.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY TRACEY HOCKING VIA UNSPLASH

7. Pre-tasks help.

No, we’re not saying clean your entire place beforehand—that would kind of defeat the point of hiring somebody in the first place. But completing two simple (and quick!) tasks can save your cleaner a ton of time.

“There are two tasks that the user can do before the keeper comes—pre-soaking dishes and separating laundry,” says Shea. “Soaking the dishes can be a huge time-saver, especially if you don’t have a dishwasher. Additionally, if you’re asking your keeper to do laundry in your home, separate it beforehand, rather than force him to play the guessing game. It keeps everybody happy, because there’s less a chance of screwing up important items.” After all, they’re cleaners—not mind readers.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY DYSON

8. Ditch dust.

Here’s a tip for you to utilize so that your cleaner can spend less time dusting that bookshelf, and more time focusing on important tasks, like scrubbing your oven or cleaning your bathroom.  

“I don’t know what it is about certain houses, but they just get dustier than others,” says Shea. “A tip I picked up is to invest in an air purifier. Personally, I notice a huge difference in the amount of dust that accumulates.” The Morihata Chikuno Cube is relatively affordable at $72, and uber chic, to boot. As a bonus, it’ll help with those seasonal allergies, too.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY PEXELS

9. Don’t assume they know your pet peeves.

If you don’t share them, they won’t know. “Different people have different rooms that they spend more time in, so those rooms being spotless matter a lot more than, say, that unused office,” says Shea. “Also, many people have different opinions about how much access they want to give their housekeeper. If you want yours to put your clothes away, speak up. If you’d rather them leave the clothes at the end of the bed, that’s fine too.”

If you like your clothes folded a certain way, for example, it’s best to mention those things so you can make your preferences known.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY PEXELS

10. There’s a difference between cleaning and organizing.

A lot of times, people believe their cleaners should be organizers as well, i.e, fixing a pile of papers or rearranging clothes according to size and color. Know that organizing and cleaning are completely different: An organizer will make sure things are kept in a way that’s easy for you to find, while a cleaner will, quite literally, just make sure your home isn’t in a mess.

“If there’s a stack of papers on your desk or personal clutter laying around, it’s probably best to organize that so nothing important gets tossed,” says Shea. “Otherwise, leave the dirty stuff to us.”

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11. Give feedback.

Constructive criticism is essential for getting the results you want. “Positive affirmation is a big motivator for your cleaning person,” says Shea. “Sometimes, people think they’re being too pushy, but there are so many ways to give feedback. And if you’re worried about language barriers, leave a note that someone can Google translate.”

We all want to know how we’re doing when it comes to our jobs, so why should your relationship with your housekeeper be any different?

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY AARON BENGOCHEA

12. If you’re not satisfied, finding someone else who fits your needs is completely fine.

Brookshire notes, “Cleaning service management should be providing a line of open communication and checking in with you regularly to make sure you are satisfied with the level of service you are receiving, and to see if there’s anything you’d like them to add to their workload. Professionals know this is the best way to increase the chances of a happy, long-term client.”

Granted, sometimes having someone do more might require you to spend more, but if you have certain expectations and a certain person isn’t meeting them, there won’t be any hard feelings should you decide to go a different route.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALLEF VINICIUS VIA UNSPLASH

13. Tipping is discretionary.

There’s no right or wrong answer, really, but small acts of kindness go a long way. “We don’t necessarily expect tips,” says Shea. “But with that said, we definitely have people who will leave a 10 percent tip every week. We also have people who never tip, but then on holidays, gift $100 and a thank you card. I also see a lot of people doing seasonal detoxes, purges, and cleaning out closets. Your housekeeper may benefit a lot from that.” It really just depends on your budget and what you feel comfortable with.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY AARON BENGOCHEA

14. Please crank up the AC.

“Cleaning is no easy task—if it was, we’d all be doing it 24/7,” says Brookshire. “Your cleaning team will be working hard, and is likely to work up a sweat. Make their life easier by keeping the house cooler on the days they will be working.”

And if you’re worried about the electricity bill, try a fan or keep the windows open, so that you don’t stress out your cleaning person too much. This cheap fan will do the job at just under $19.

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AARON BENGOCHEA

15. And lastly, your cleaning person is not Mary Poppins.

Don’t expect a miracle. “If you live in a multi-bedroom apartment with a bunch of 22-year-olds and nothing has been cleaned in a year, a standard two-hour session is not going to cut it,” says Shea. “So just be realistic about what results are feasible.” After all, if it took years for your apartment to get that messy, it’s not going to take an hour for it to suddenly stop looking that way.

This post was originally published on May 13, 2017. It has been updated with new information.

See more cleaning tips:
Your Ultimate Home Spring Cleaning Guide
How to Care for Your Vintage Rugs
The Best Spring Cleaning Tips For You, Based on Your Zodiac Sign
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