You've started your house cleaning business. Now what? ISSA Residential has ALL the information you need to run a successful home cleaning business.
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Frequently Asked Questions

Why hire a cleaning service?

People hire cleaning professionals for many different reasons. The number one reason is to save valuable time. You can save countless hours on dreaded housework (most of the time you save is the time you spend thinking about not wanting to do it). It is not difficult to find a good reliable professional service that can meet your cleaning needs. It seems that life just keeps moving at a faster pace. It is easy for valuable, personal, or family time to get shortened. Hiring a good home cleaning service can give you back some of that time. Cleaning services are rapidly becoming not a luxury anymore, but instead a needed service in most homes.

I want to hire a cleaning service to clean my home, what should I know first?

Most people that hire individuals or even cleaning services to clean their homes are not aware of what they should be asking before turning over the keys to their homes. Somehow along the way bonding became the industry standard question to ask. This is a false sense of security. When interviewing cleaning services customers should ask the following questions:


  1. Are you insured? This means adequate liability insurance, not a bond. Bonding is not a bad thing and in extremely rare cases does serve a purpose. Ask to see a copy of their insurance certificate.
  2. Do you carry worker’s compensation insurance? (Find out what your state requirements are) A good service will cover workers with WC even if they fall under the states minimum requirements.
  3. Will employees or independent contractors clean my home?
  4. What does your pre-employment screening consist of? Do you perform criminal background checks on all employees?
  5. Who will be cleaning my house? One person? A team? Is there a trained crew leader or crew manager on-site at all times?
  6. How do you train your employees, do you have a formal training program?
  7. Do you provide a satisfaction guarantee with your services?
  8. Make sure all expectations are clear and up front. Ask about any service or task that you expect to be performed that is not mentioned or listed by the owner/ manager.

Are there Industry standards that a service should follow?

While the residential cleaning industry is relatively young compared to many industries there is not currently an official industry standards program or certification program (The Association of Residential Cleaning Professionals is working to develop such a program for our members.)

What does being a member of ISSA Residential mean?

If you are hiring and dealing with an ISSA Residential member you should feel confident that you are dealing with a dedicated professional that is committed to providing a valuable service based on strong business ethics and high service standards.

Nothing less should be expected of a service that has aligned itself with a professional member based association like ISSA Residential. If you experience less than this, we definitely want to hear about it.

What is typically included with residential cleaning visits?

There is a somewhat wide range in service. Some may offer more services while others will not do certain tasks. All reputable professional services should offer a comprehensive list of services that should include most all surfaces in the kitchen, bathrooms, living areas, bedrooms, and the floors. Make sure they perform key services like vacuuming, wet mopping, etc. Ask for a list of what they perform, or request a list of what they will do in your home when the quote is given. Be sure to clarify up front what is included with the service you will receive.

Do I need a maid or a cleaning service?

While many call themselves maid services and others call themselves cleaning services most are the same. Most cleaning services perform basic home cleaning with a wide range in services. The days of the typical “maid” are all but gone. If your expectations include things like laundry, ironing, shopping, organizing, looking after the children, or things beside basic house cleaning you will want to discuss this with the service you are interviewing. While there are people available for this type of work most cleaning professionals do not provide those services. If you are looking for a home manager or a more in depth service you might be more suited to seek out a domestic placement agency. Most everyone’s needs can be met by a professional cleaning service with some input from the customer.

How do I arrange payment for my cleaning service?

The standard procedure for payment is a check to be left at the time of service. Consult with your cleaning service to see what payment options are available. Cash, check, and major credit cards are generally accepted. Payment is most always expected at the time of service. Some services require pre-payment for first time or one time service.

But isn’t it expensive and only for wealthy people?

The answer to that is definitely NO! While there are many services that may charge too much, there are just as many out there that really do not charge enough. A good cleaning with regularly scheduled services will typically not cost more than a nice dinner for two. If you think of the time you save that is a deal.

What kind of insurance do I need to ask about?

Legally just about the only insurance requirements pertain to worker’s compensation insurance. It is very important to ensure that the service carries other types of insurance. Liability insurance should be at the top of the list. Most carry a third party Theft Bond Request. There should be an insurance certificate for each type of insurance. Check policy dates. It will take more time, but if you request an insurance certificate from their insurance company you will get it.

Are you bonded?

While most reputable services do carry a “dishonesty” bond, unfortunately this really is not as important as you may think. Most carry them because they are cheap and they do protect in serious obvious theft problems. This insurance will only pay if the person is caught, tried, and convicted. More importantly make sure there is proper liability insurance, workers comp, and find out what measures are taken in the pre- hiring and screening process. Ask if they do a criminal background check.

Is it okay to leave a note for the cleaning people?

Definitely yes. It is always a good idea to communicate whether you have concerns with the service or if you are very pleased with the service. Do not wait and write notes only when you are dissatisfied. All communicated feelings are good ones!

What if I forget it is my cleaning day?

Most services charge for appointments missed that are not canceled in advance. If the service has a key for your home most will go ahead and clean the home and let you pay later. This is another reason why giving a key is a good idea. Sooner or later everyone forgets and who wants to pay for a service they didn’t get? If you don’t give them a key and you forget it is your day, don’t give them a hard time, pay for the visit and then give them a key.

What do I do about inappropriate behavior?

DON’T STAND FOR IT! Your telephone should not be used UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. Most professional cleaning teams should have their own means of communication. Your food should never be eaten. Your drawers or personal things should be left closed and never looked at. If you feel like anything is inappropriate call the owner/manager at once. Cleaning service owners go to great lengths to ensure they only send well-trained cleaners to your home. If you experience anything other than this then let the owner/manager know at once. They will appreciate your concern and feedback.

What if I have a security system?

Cleaning professionals are used to dealing with alarms and various types of security systems. The ideal is to provide a separate code that you can easily change if needed. Many times people choose to not give the cleaning service the code to the alarm and inevitably it is left on when the cleaning team comes. Not only is this ordeal nerve racking, it can end up costing you money. You may not get your home cleaned that day and still have to pay for it, plus most local police departments charge a fee for false alarms. If you are dealing with a professional service then you should feel confident turning over alarm codes or keys to your home.

What about my pets?

This is an issue that should be discussed in detail before the service begins. Ensure that your pet does not intimidate or scare the cleaning person. If the person does not like the animal or is afraid of it this is a recipe for disaster. Most good services will match up professional cleaners that are animal lovers with clients with animals. You will need to make arrangements to put animals away or secure them if they will impede the work of the cleaning crew. Also, advise them of any animals such as cats that may try to escape quickly if a door is opened. Nothing is more frustrating to a cleaning crew than an escaped animal over which they have no control. Also, it is very dangerous for the animal. If you have a pet with special needs or that makes a mess, please make arrangements to control these occurrences. Cleaning services should not be expected to clean up after pets.

Can I get my oven cleaned?

Most services will accommodate this request. It is rarely included with basic service. Keep in mind that if you have a self-cleaning oven that spray oven cleaner should never be put in it. An experienced cleaning professional should know this. If you have a self-cleaning oven and it does not work properly, more than likely it has had oven cleaner used in it in the past. At this point you and your cleaning professional will have to decide whether or not to clean it with oven cleaner.

What if something is broken?

Unfortunately breakage happens occasionally with even the most experienced and conscience cleaning professionals. Do not wait until it happens; discuss breakage up front. Make sure it is clear who is responsible for what, depending on whether it is a small incidental or if it is something of value.

What if something is missing from my home?

This is NEVER a good feeling and it is almost always the cleaning person who was last in the house! Try and remain calm. Retrace your steps; about 90% of the time, whatever is missing will be found within 24 hours (it happens all the time). HOWEVER if it is not found or if the disappearance is obvious, call the owner/manager. Give a complete description of what is missing including important information such as serial number inscriptions, or any distinctive markings. Give the manger the opportunity to correct the situation. Please keep in mind, though, that ALL good managers treat the accused as innocent during any investigation. However, it is not unreasonable to suspend the service or ask for a different cleaning person until it is resolved. Fortunately, with good hiring and background checks a good service will rarely have REAL cases of theft. Most cases turn out to be simply misplaced items.

Porches, decks, carports, are they included?

Typically most professional cleaning services limit their services to tasks inside the home. If this is a service you require bring it up before the service begins.

What about laundry?

Laundry is such a time consuming task that it is just not feasible for cleaning teams to try and price for it. Some services will wash sheets. This is another area that should be discussed before service starts if it is an issue for you. If laundry is a priority, try using a laundry drop off service. They do a wonderful job and it is A LOT less expensive than paying someone to wait for towels or jeans to dry.

Are they going to do my dishes?

Very few services will hand wash dishes, pots, pans, or especially knives. Some services will load dishes into the dishwasher; typically they do not unload the dishwasher or put things away. Most people would rather put their own belongings away in the proper place. Also some services will not do dishes at all. Just be clear up front about expectations. A good way to ruin a solid working relationship is to leave a sink full of dishes when it is not part of the service. If it is the day of the cleaning and you were running late or did not have time to take care of your part call as early as you can to let the service owner/ manager know and the two of you can more than likely work something out.

What if someone is injured while cleaning my home?

If you use a reputable well-run professional service, they will carry worker’s compensation insurance. States require businesses to carry this coverage when there are a certain number of employees. It varies from state to state on the required number. Even if the service uses independent contractors, they are still required to carry workers comp. If they do not carry workers comp or you have an individual cleaning your home and there is an injury, you will be held liable for the injuries.

Am I better off with an individual or a service cleaning my home?

This is a question that you yourself will have to answer. Both have pros and cons. With an individual it is a more personal relationship, if the relationship is stable. This can be a good situation for both parties involved. In the event that you hire an individual to clean your home you need to be aware of and make sure you comply with local, state, and federal laws concerning taxes and insurance. If you hire an individual and they do not take care of the taxes they owe on the money you pay them, YOU can be held liable for the taxes. If you use a service you are more than likely protected from these liabilities. Another plus of a service is if the person who is cleaning your house quits or is not doing a good job they can be replaced with a professionally trained employee, without any effort on your part.

What am I suppose to supply?

Professionally staffed and home-run cleaning services most always supply their own products and equipment. This is for a number of reasons. Mainly for productivity and training purposes. Not to mention that most customers find it a relief not to have to buy or store cleaning products in their homes any longer. This is especially beneficial when concerning small children and their safety.  Home cleaning professionals are trained on the products they use. This is necessary in regards to using the product efficiently, effectively, and most importantly safely.  If you have a product or cleaning supply you prefer used in your home let the service owner manager know about it. Provide information on the product and if you have it a MSDS (material safety data sheet)

What if I have chemical sensitivities or want only safer-environmentally products used in my home?

The trend in society is toward more “green”, “environmentally friendly”, “Non-toxic” products for everyday life. There are many products readily available for home use. Many service owners already have in place “green cleaning” programs while others are just getting into that segment of cleaning. Take time to ask what products they use. Investigate for yourself (if you do not already know) what products suit your needs or are safe for you, your home, and your family. The Internet is full of information on green cleaning. If you do require special products and want them to be used in your home. Detail each product to the service owner/manager. Professional home cleaning services do not merely start spraying and “going at it” with cleaners. A large part of training goes into product safety and knowledge. If you supply a product you expect to use make sure that you supply the cleaning service with a MSDS (material safety data sheet).

What is an MSDS? (Material safety data sheet)?

MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) are forms that include all information related to cleaning products and supplies relating to chemical make up, safety, chemical reactivity. Cleaning professionals are required by OSHA to have MSDS information for all products they use in their services. It is a good idea that homeowners obtain this information for all products they keep in their homes.

What if I am unhappy with the service I receive?

CALL!! Talk to the person doing the cleaning or call the service owner. Don’t let it go for any length of time. Call the first time you feel the service is not as it should be. A good service will welcome your comments and do all they can to ensure that you are happy. The only way they will know that you are not a happy customer is if they hear from you. Unfortunately, the service is not likely to improve without you addressing it. If it warrants a second cleaning and you are that dissatisfied with the service you paid for, the service should have a policy where they come back out. You will find out rather quickly if they are sincere in their efforts to ensure that you are a happy customer. Usually give it two or three cleaning visits to improve. If no improvement is made, find another service. When hiring a new service let them know what you were unhappy about with the last service; that will go along way to ensuring your satisfaction.

What does guaranteed service mean?

Every professional home cleaning service should offer a service guarantee or satisfaction guarantee. If you are unhappy with service you receive then what ever you are unhappy with should be corrected. If you are unhappy or something was missed call immediately do not wait a day or two when the house will be ‘lived in”. The service owner/manager should gladly send the crews back as soon as possible to correct and over sight. It should be expected that you should only require the service to come back if it is something that was obvious or really matters. If it is a something small, or incidental do not have them come back, but rather call the office or leave a note to ensure that it is not missed again. Neither Service owners nor the cleaning crews like to have to come back to your home for a task that may require a very short time. With a guarantee in place you should be assured good service. If items are repeatedly missed or not performed up to the standards you and the service owner agreed on then it may be time for a discussion of a crew change or perhaps discontinue the service.

What are the difference between an independent contractor and an employee?

There is a big difference. If you are being provided a good quality service it will not be as big of a difference as it is to the IRS. This is a very “gray” area in terms of taxes and benefits. Independent contractors are rapidly becoming more common in every industry. An employee is a person that works for a business or an individual and is paid wages with taxes, social security, and other withholdings. being withheld. An independent contractor is for all practical purposes in business for themselves. The service you hire may ‘contract out” work. This may not a bad thing if the proper steps are taken to ensure that all involved are complying with tax laws and insured professionally. The biggest difference between the two is that the service owner/manager will have more control over the work performed by employees. Ask the service if they utilize independent contractors or have employees. The homeowner should be aware of the classification of the worker. In rare cases the homeowner can be responsible for taxes etc not properly paid by independent contractors.

How do I know who will be in my house?

When you start the service ask who will be doing the cleaning. If it is important to you, ask to be notified when crew changes are made. Ask if it is the same person that cleans your house each time. Some services rotate or change up who does which house and what teams work together. Most try and have the same person(s) each time. Keep in mind that turnover rates for jobs in this industry is tremendous. A good service operator does everything to keep good employees and checks out new ones thoroughly. If you hire a professional service that takes great lengths to hire the right people and train them you should feel confident about the people they send to clean your home.

Am I supposed to tip the person(s) that clean my home?

While tips in this industry are not expected it is common for tips to be left. NEVER feel like you HAVE to tip, and NEVER tip in hopes of receiving better service! ONLY tip if you feel you are receiving great service. Tips usually range from 10 to 15% . Before tipping make sure it is the same person or team each time. In the event that your regular person is not there that day, leave a note with their name(s) to ensure the right person(s) get the tip.

Do I have to hand over a key to a stranger?

While it is YOUR house and YOUR key, it is more convenient and secure to let a professional service keep a key to your home. It is usually not possible to be able to come home at the exact time the cleaning people need to get into your home. Most cleaning services will charge for the visit if the appointment is not canceled in advance. Some services use a lock box where the key is left at your place. A key kept by the cleaning service is the best way for the cleaning crew to gain entry to your home. (Also, it can be a lifesaver if you ever get locked out.)

How can I be sure my keys are safe when I hand them over?

While it can be very scary to hand over the keys to your home to a complete stranger, be sure you check references and insurance information. Ask how they will protect your key and ensure that your privacy and safety are protected. If the person that takes your key will not be doing the cleaning personally, ask what the procedure is for signing keys out and how long they are allowed out. Ask where the keys are kept. Are they tagged with tamper resistant tags or other means that will deter or prevent duplication? Ask how they are labeled. Ensure nothing that could identify you or your address is on the tag (in case they are lost or stolen). Are they locked up? Is the list kept in a separate place that is locked and secure? How many people have access to them? Any reputable service should be willing to discuss their key security policy with you.

What Consumers are Saying About ISSA Residential Members