If you’re just starting to look around at potential cleaning companies, you might be surprised by the range of options that are available, from large well-known franchised companies to solo independent cleaners working out of the trunk of their cars. Then there’s us. Buckets & Bows Maid Service is a locally-owned professional cleaning service with long-term employees, many of whom clean the same houses for the same families every week, supported by a small administrative staff who free up the cleaners to do what they do best: clean. Each business model has its own advantages but what’s most important is what feels right for you.
In most cases, the price quote you receive from an independent cleaner will be lower than one you get from a professional service, making it the most attractive option if price is the only factor in your hiring decision. However, there are many other factors to consider, and you should evaluate the trade-offs you are making if you solely focus on price.
So, besides price, what are these other critical things to consider when deciding between a larger service versus a solo independent cleaner?
Cleaning time vs. relationship with your cleaner
Have you ever used a cleaning service that pulls up to your home with five cleaners who blitz your entire 3,500 square foot home in 45 minutes? It’s incredible—how do they do that? Those companies are a great option for someone who wants their home cleaned fast, like a person who works from home or has young children and who needs the cleaning company to be in and out like a flash. If a quick cleaning time is most important to you, you trust the large company to hire the right people to get the job done, and you don’t care who shows up each time.
Or maybe you’re someone who wants the same person to clean each time so that you can build a long-term relationship with them. If that’s the case, the option of five fast cleaners is probably not for you. You’ll be happiest with an independent cleaner or housekeeper instead.
If you are somewhere in between these two extremes, wanting a fast clean but also to get to know your cleaners, there are companies that meets both these needs. (We know; we’re one of them!) Regardless of which option you prefer, be sure to ask how the cleaning company vets its cleaners and ask solo cleaners for references, then take the time to check them.
Flexibility of schedule
If you have a specific day of the week when you want to schedule your cleaning, a single cleaner may or may not be available and you’ll just have to settle for the next open slot. If you really love this cleaner, you may be willing to take the less-desirable day, for now. But if you only have one possible day that works for you, a larger company can usually be more flexible because they have many more available workers who can slot into the schedule that works best for you.
When you have a single cleaner, your cleaning won’t happen if anything happens to them. Car problems, illness, caring for a sick child are only a few of the many reasons why your solo cleaner might not be able to come to your home. Your independent cleaner also might decide to stop cleaning one day and go out of business, then you’ll be back on the market for a cleaning person. A professional service is better equipped to to handle those sick days and car troubles, and they’re much more likely to have a backup cleaner to take your usual cleaner’s place. When you’re trying to decide between hiring an independent cleaner versus a professional cleaning company, determine how important reliability is in your hiring decision.
Insured and bonded
Professional house cleaning companies are registered companies. They have liability insurance to protect you from responsibility for accidents on your property (like a cleaner slipping in your shower and getting hurt) and they are bonded to cover any theft or damage that might occur.
Many times, individuals working on their own lack these basic legal necessities, which could put you at risk. Always ask how the independent cleaner or cleaning company you are hiring would handle an accident at your home and about their policy to protect you against theft or breakage. Know the risks you accept in hiring someone who is not insured and bonded. Financial responsibility for a cleaner getting hurt on your property may lie with you and there may be no compensation for your shattered keepsake or damage to your precious objects.
Avoid tax headaches
If you’re working with an independent cleaner, the IRS may determine that you are the cleaner’s employer and you may be required to withhold taxes from their pay that you then have to pay to the government. Professional cleaning companies pay taxes for their employees, not you, making it one less thing you have to worry about.
When you work with a professional cleaning service, they’ve handled the legwork in finding good cleaners to offer you, most likely with background checks and weeks of training. Be sure to ask the cleaning company you are hiring how they vet their employees or ask independent cleaners to provide their background checks. People who have nothing to hide and take their business seriously are never insulted or upset by such questions. You’re giving this person access to your home, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Administrative layer handles any problems
With a professional cleaning service, you can call the office to complain when you have an issue. When you work with an individual, you have to confront them directly which may be hard for you and which may also be less effective. The professional service provides a buffer that absorbs and solves the problem. You have a place to escalate the issue to and have those tough conversations about price, quality, and reliability as needed, and it’s not with the person who just cleaned your home and who you hope will show up next week.
Personal, customized service
Many people hire a single independent cleaner because they can give that cleaner specific work to do when they come to clean, compared to a cleaning company whose menu of set services offers little customization. Offering a set of services is how cleaning companies keep their prices lower while maintaining high quality and consistency. You’ll need to decide what you want from your cleaning service and which option works best for you.
Many professional services do offer a Priority Cleaning where you pay for a set number of hours and direct the cleaners to just focus on your cleaning priorities, like cleaning just your bathrooms and the kitchen. Priority Cleanings are not regular service but they may help you manage your budget while still getting a great cleaning.
Don’t be afraid to ask for specific services and a price you can afford to give the cleaning company or solo cleaner a chance to meet your needs. This isn’t rude or insulting— it’s creating a business relationship.
Whether you decide to choose an independent cleaner or go with a professional cleaning company, there’s no wrong choice. Just ask yourself what is the most important part of your hiring decision—price, time, reliability, flexibility, security, relationship, etc.— and let your answer guide you to the option that feels best to you.