Cleaning before cleaning…?

Picture this: A large detached house in middle-class 1980’s Purley. Housewife June has spent a long time advertising for a cleaning lady, and now ‘Mrs Bunce’ has come to her aid, much to the reluctance of June’s husband Terry.

Terry: “June, what are you doing the Hoovering for? I thought Mrs Bunce was starting today?”

June [switching off the vacuum cleaner]: “Yes she is, so I thought I’d just tidy up a bit before she gets here”.  And cue the canned laughter.

Well funny -or indeed not- as that line may be in a sitcom such as Terry & June, we have lost count of the times people have asked us if customers clean before their cleaning operatives go to clean. They really think it’s such an amusing thing to say.

However, to address the point, the answer has to be ‘not usually’. And why would they?

I was somewhat relieved to hear that it’s not just us who continually hears the same phrases being repeated over & over again – balloon artist Melissa Johnson of Blissful Balloons told me that she is frequently asked if she blows up all the balloons herself.

“And, if any of your readers are wondering” she said, “the answer is ‘no I don’t’ “.

Going back to cleaning, if there is one thing on a par with the difficulties associated with cleaning a really dirty, untidy home, it has to be cleaning one which is pristine. In both cases knowing where to start, and what to do, can be impossible.

However, we know that many people who hire a domestic cleaning service will do some cleaning in between the visits from the cleaners so as to keep on top of the day-to-day debris, and likewise tidying up before the cleaners arrive is also a popular activity, at least for some.

“How can I expect you to clean properly if I don’t tidy up first?” was one remark a potential new customer passed as she showed me round her home. “I’m paying you to clean, not tidy, and I want you to be able to clean as much as possible. You can’t do that with everything everywhere”, she said.

It’s a fair point, and there is no doubt that walking into a home and being able to get straight on with the cleaning is something many domestic cleaners would readily admit to having a strong preference for.

At the other end of the scale are those who don’t tidy. This shouldn’t be an issue, so long as it’s factored into the job and everyone in the process knows what they are letting themselves in for, but the potential for problems is very much there. For instance, are the cleaners to tidy up first or clean around whatever they find? Where do they put things? And is the customer willing to pay for extra time to allow for the tidying up, or are they prepared to accept a lesser quality clean to compensate for however long it took the cleaners to find the carpet in order that they could vacuum it?

Customers often have to ask their cleaners where it is they’ve put the things which they can no longer find, and getting a complaint about a house not being cleaned to the agreed standard can be soul-destroying at the best of times; it’s even worse when it comes from the owner of a home where you can’t get to what needs cleaning for all the objects which stand in the way.

There is only one word to use here: ‘communication’. The customer must communicate to the cleaning business owner what it is they are expecting from their cleaning service, and the business owner must make it clear what they can and can’t do. They also have to make sure all their staff are briefed on how to clean each home. This is easier to do when you have the same cleaner week after week, but it shouldn’t be too difficult for a cleaning business with staff to find a way to make sure everyone is kept in the loop either.

One of the DCA did report an incident where they thought one of their customers had been burgled; the home was always tidy and ready for the cleaning to begin, and they’d never seen the place any different from how it always presented to them on a Friday morning.

That was until the day shoes and coats lay strewn across the floor, while in the kitchen crockery stood piled up on the counters with the cupboard doors wide open. The devastation continued upstairs.

They were still wondering what to do next when the owner of the house came rushing in from the corner shop where she’d been to buy milk.

“I am so sorry about the state of the place” she said, trying to catch her breath. “My husband and I have been away for a few days and my girls were here but we didn’t get back until this morning so there was no time to tidy up like we normally do”.

And with that she picked up the shoes then set-to stacking the dishwasher.

So, to conclude, it is clear that some people have their routines which they carry out before the cleaning staff arrive, and they’re obviously not frightened of doing some cleaning when we’re not around, but as for them cleaning their homes in preparation of cleaning day,  I think we can safely say that few people would actually do that.

And given the number of times our members tell us how much satisfaction they get from seeing someone’s home transformed & sparkling from top to bottom following several hours of their hard work, perhaps we wouldn’t want it any other way.