It’s common for homeowners to underestimate the skill and hard work needed for house cleaning, and many look for the cheapest rates above all else. That’s a mistake, says Mary Soutenet, who runs a cleaning company in Santa Cruz, California.
“House cleaners can’t stay in business if they don’t make enough to pay rent, so anyone who charges a low rate is likely to work quickly to be able to move on to the next job,” she says. “You might save money, but it’s just common sense that you won’t get a quality job.”
Soutenet charges a basic rate of $35 per hour. That’s still on the low side of the national average, which runs from $30 to $50 per hour.
A routine whole-house cleaning averages between totals of $120 and $235, depending on various factors. That doesn’t include extras like steam-cleaning rugs or deep cleaning, which can drive the cost for a large house as high as $600. Soutenet notes tips of 10% to 20% are appreciated.
Hiring an independent cleaner isn’t the only way to go. You can also opt for a cleaning service and enjoy faster, more complete work by vetted personnel. That definitely makes sense if you need specialty cleaning like smoke remediation after a fire, but costs can be high. I discovered this after our house suffered smoke damage during the 2020 wildfires in our area. Cleanup was a major operation involving six people working four days, and the bill was more than $14,000. Thankfully, our insurance covered it.
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Types of House Cleaning Services
Most communities have several options for cleaning services:
- Independent contractors: Hire someone you or a friend know, or cold-call someone on Craig’s List or another community resource. Cold-calling is riskier because you don’t know the person, so references are a must. Either way, if you need to negotiate prices, you can probably do it with an independent contractor.
- Local cleaning service: Most reasonably-sized communities have one or more local companies for one-time or recurring cleaning. They may be part of a national franchise, or not. Either way, they tend to charge more than independents and often require a contract. On the plus side, these cleaners are licensed, insured and experienced, often backed up by positive online reviews.
- Live-in cleaning service; If there’s an extra room or dwelling on your property, renting it to a live-in cleaner can benefit both parties. A full-time cleaner can run $30,000 to $80,000 per year, but deducting rent significantly lowers the cost.
- Daily home cleaning: You can contract with an independent cleaner or cleaning service to do daily cleaning for $1,200 to $2,500 per month. This is an option for people with means who work away from home.
Calculating Professional House Cleaning Cost
Square footage mainly determines the cost of a cleaning job. The bigger the house, the higher the cleaning bill. But other factors may come into play, including:
- Location: Cleaning costs are commensurate with the local cost of living. They tend to be higher in large urban areas than rural ones. Cleaners may tack on a mileage charge if they travel a significant distance to your home. Typical rates are around $0.60 per mile.
- Eco-friendly products: Many cleaners, including Soutenet, use eco-friendly cleaning products exclusively. Those who don’t may charge extra if you request them.
- Extra bathrooms: These take the most time to clean, so a house with three or more usually costs more.
- Pets: Animal hair, fur balls and dander, as well as carpets soiled by paw prints, all add cleaning time and hike the cost.
- Ladder work: When cleaners need stepladders to reach hanging chandeliers or the tops of tall cabinets, they usually charge more.
- Construction cleaning: Cleanups after remodeling or other construction projects often involve material disposal. That raises the cost.
- Mold: Cleaners may charge more for mold removal.
Some cleaners will contract for recurring services and offer a per-visit discount. This is a good way to save money.
Questions To Ask Potential House Cleaners
Besides learning more about their experience, references and prices, it’s a good idea to ask potential cleaners the following questions:
- Do you use scented cleaning products? Some common cleaning agents give off powerful, persistent odors that many are allergic to. Soutenet is one, so she makes a point of using only unscented products.
- Do I need to put anything away before you come? Some stuff gets in the way, and most cleaners want no part of moving valuables.
- Are you insured? Think twice about hiring an uninsured contractor if your house is full of valuables.
- Do you bring your own supplies? If you’re asked to provide cleaning products, mops, buckets and a vacuum, the cost should be lower than if the cleaner supplies them.
- Do you work alone or in a crew? You may need to alert the family and neighbors if there’s more than one person coming to the house.
- Can you work around pets? Some cleaners are good with animals. Some aren’t.
Average House Cleaning Costs for Extras
When calculating the average price for cleaning a house, use a range between $0.05 and $0.15 per square foot for normal cleaning. When extra cleaning is needed, the cost will rise. Here are a few typical calculations:
- Windows: $4 to $10 per window.
- Refrigerator: $10 to $40.
- Oven: $20 to $40.
- Cabinets: $20 to $50.
- Carpets: $75 to $200.
Cleaners also occasionally offer estimates based on the number of bedrooms, ranging from $75 to $130 for a one-bedroom house to $200 to $230 for a four bedroom. If there are an unusually high number of bathrooms, cleaners may tack on an additional $10 and $40 per bathroom.
What About DIY House Cleaning?
If there’s one job every homeowner and tenant can DIY, it’s cleaning. For many people, though, the demands of their jobs don’t leave enough time for it. And there are plenty of people like myself who simply aren’t good at it. Rather than feeling guilty, I prefer to support someone who does it well..
Hiring pros becomes really expensive only if you let things go and your house needs a seriously deep clean. To keep costs to a minimum, do the basics — vacuuming, dusting, doing the dishes — as part of your daily routine. That way, when the cleaner arrives, there’s less work to do.