The Etiquette of Cleaning for the Cleaners

published Jul 18, 2021
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Credit: Amelia Lawrence/Kitchn

I’m the type of person who declutters when I’m stressed. But when it comes to the actual dirt? Let’s just say I’m not always thrilled to spend my Saturday afternoons scrubbing the bathroom. That’s why I hire house cleaners to take care of problem areas, including my kitchen, two bathrooms, dining room, and living area. 

While my amazing cleaners take so much hassle out of my routine, for some reason, I find myself feeling nervous before they come. Will they think my bathroom is gross? Will they judge all the dishes piled up in my sink or, worse, will those dishes get in the way of their job? 

On Monday mornings before the cleaners show up, I typically spend 30 minutes stress-cleaning the areas I don’t want them to worry about — wiping down the toilet seat, doing dishes, clearing clutter from counters and floors. I even once caught my husband sweeping the kitchen floors before the cleaners arrived. 

How much of this, I have to wonder, is actually helping? What’s the right amount of pre-cleaning, and what’s veering into “I’m paying someone to do this” territory? To find out about pre-cleaning etiquette, I spoke with some pro cleaners about what’s useful and what gets in the way.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Do: Tidy your counters

Justin Carpenter, who owns Modern Maids in Dallas, says it’s always helpful when people tidy up their counters in the kitchen and bathroom in advance — but not for the reason you think. “The reason is that all clients have a preferred way or place they keep things,” he says. For example, he says if you leave out your hair dryer, curling iron, and other products, the cleaners have to move them so they can clean the counters properly, and could end up placing your items in the wrong drawer. 

Similarly, Natalie Barrett of Nifty Cleaning Services in Australia suggests putting away any important documentation, bills, and other papers you don’t want displaced or thrown out by mistake. 

Don’t: Clean your floors

One thing Carpenter says you don’t have to clean is your floors. “Whether you get a basic cleaning or a deep cleaning, cleaning the floors will always be included,” he says. “Save your time and let the cleaners take care of that!”

The only exception, of course, is if something on your floors could pose an infection risk to your cleaners, like animal poop, blood, and so on. In that case, definitely clean and disinfect before a cleaner (or anyone) steps foot in your space.

Credit: Gina Zeidler

Do: Clear clutter from floors

On the topic of floors, though: One thing that always makes cleaners’ jobs harder, Carpenter says, is encountering boxes and clutter on the ground. If your cleaners charge by the hour, figuring out where to put your clutter is going to eat up time that could be spent scrubbing. Plus, he says, cleaners may not be sure where to put those items, which could mean that area won’t get cleaned at all.

Don’t: Take out your trash

Unless your kitchen or bathroom trash is overflowing all over the floor, or you want to take it out yourself for privacy reasons, Barrett says there’s no need to get rid of it beforehand — that’s something you pay your cleaner to take care of. 

Don’t: Do your dishes

The same principle applies to your dishes: It’s ultimately up to you, but Barrett says most house cleaners should take care of these. You can make the job easier for them, though, by keeping a drying rack next to your sink. 

Don’t: Clean with chemicals 

If you do decide to clean an area of your home before the cleaners arrive, never use chemicals or strong cleaners. “[The cleaners will] most likely use cleaning products and equipment themselves,” says Barrett, “and if the previous chemicals don’t react well with the new ones, there may be damage caused to your belongings.”

Don’t: Leave out private or dangerous items

Decluttering isn’t just about saving time and money. Your personal belongings can also create risk for your cleaners, says Janice Stewart, owner of Castle Keepers House Cleaning in Atlanta. For example, it’s important to properly dispose of biohazardous items, like uncapped insulin syringes and IV bags. Absolutely do not leave weapons out or under pillows or bedside tables. And it’s best to put away adult magazines, movies, and sex toys so your cleaners don’t have to deal with them.

Remember: As much as your cleaners want to help you create a comfortable home, it’s your job to make sure they’re comfortable, too.

Do: Know your cleaners won’t judge you

There’s nothing wrong with pre-cleaning if it makes you feel better. But don’t do it because you’re worried your cleaners will critique you.

“There is no need to clean the general buildup of dirt that is part of daily living,” says Finn Pegler, owner of DeluxeMaid in Indianapolis. “And there is certainly no need to be embarrassed about the condition of your home, as we have seen all sorts over the years!”