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6 Things Housekeepers Should Never Do

Linze Lucas
March 13, 2017

Here's what not to do during your housekeeping job.

If there is one thing we’re all territorial about, it’s our homes! Housekeepers should understand this fact better than most. If you’re a housekeeper, maintain your client’s trust and build your clientele by steering clear of these 6 housekeeping faux pas.

1) Never Enter Without Knocking

Most clients leave their home care provider with a key for easy access, and many clients arrange for their home cleaner to arrive when they are not present. Even if the driveway is empty, if the apartment sounds silent, or if you spotted your client on the way out as you were heading in, be sure to knock before entering the premises. Sick days, family emergencies, and a plethora of other private events could be occurring at any moment in your client’s home.

You would feel shocked if your front door swung open without warning, and your client will too! No matter how silly you feel, knock and wait a few moments before entering the home.

2) Never Challenge Your Client

You may know that lemon juice and warm water is an effective, refreshing and safe method for cleaning delicate hardwood floors, but your employer will always insist you swab his with white vinegar and olive oil. No matter how confident you are in your methods, remember -- the client is always right!

“Learn how to use each cleaning product and understand how to clean each surface and object properly,” warns author of Help! How to Find Hire Train & Maintain Household Help! and The Professional Housekeeper, Marta Perrone.

If the homeowner has left instructions that you know may result in damage, consult with him or her about this risk before proceeding.

If you are an independent housekeeper, make sure you are covered by a general liability insurance provider, and be sure to have a pleasant verbal discussion with your client -- followed by documentation -- about their preferred cleaning practices.

3) Never Put Your Own Fragrance on the Premises

Nothing screams clean like a spritz of rain-mist potpourri, or some lavender oil in a diffuser, right? Wrong. Scents are powerful, and leaving one behind is a guaranteed way to alter a living space.

It’s also a great way to alienate your client. Even cleaning solutions with a telling scent may ultimately present an issue. Do your best to pick products with neutral, if not undetectable scents.

4) Never Keep Something You Find

Change in the couch. A broach in the breakfast nook. A ring in the kitchen drain.

Your client may be absent-minded, but their loss should never be your gain. In fact, one of the best ways to build a strong rapport with your client is to leave found items on a white paper towel or piece of paper in a location you know they are sure to spot upon returning home.

“Develop an eye for detail so that you never miss anything out of place, that needs to be picked up, fluffed, cleaned, organized or removed.” says Perrone.

Whether it’s loose change or family heirlooms, attention to detail and an earnest approach are the elements that transform occasional customers into consistent clients.

5) Never Polish and Prattle

Even if you normally work when your client is off the premises, there will certainly be times when you are both at home. Always be courteous and polite, but try to keep small talk to a minimum.

If your client is engaging there is nothing wrong with partaking in conversation -- but remember that at its core, your relationship is a professional one.

In addition, remember the first rule of housekeeping is that we don’t talk about housekeeping. Even if you can’t imagine how your client got cheese sauce on the chandelier, remember that these oddities are not up for discussion. Remember that your relationship is based on trust, and it is not your business to inquire.

6) Never Make Yourself at Home

That massage chair, that flat-screen TV, those pralines in the pantry, the Hershey Kisses in the candy dish -- do not help yourself.

Your client may be the kindest individual you have ever met, but remember that you are not a guest in their home. You are a professional. Perform your assigned duties as thoroughly and swiftly as possible, then make your escape.

Even though most clients adore their housekeepers and surely wouldn’t mind you helping yourself, the only trace you should leave behind is a pristine home.

Home is where we rest our heads. It’s also where we keep our most sacred and personal possessions. Avoid these don’ts and you’ll keep that trust in pristine condition.

Linze Lucas is a writer and a former part-time nanny from Rochester, New York. She attended the State University of New York at Oswego where she majored in English Literature and Creative Writing. Ever restless, her curiosity has taken her around the globe from New York City, to South Korea, Japan and back.

Carol in Union, SC
April 18, 2019

Most important for housekeepers: DO NOT gossip to us about the messes you find at other houses. We immediately know you are talking about our house as well. We all depend on you to protect our standing in the community no matter how you find our homes. I have let housekeepers go at the end of the trial period simply because I don’t want to look at my friends and think about their house problems any time I see them. I actually get embarrassed for them.

Thank you for all the information it is very helpful. One thing I would like to add, when the think you are done with the room take a step back and take a look . A lot of the times when you think you are done there is always something you might of missed; that one thing could make the difference . If your time is up let the owner know that you would like to finish the task.

Cindy in Chandler, TX
June 26, 2017

I couldn't agree more! I've had some really sweet ladies that insisted that I sit & talk to them for just a minute or the ones liked to follow me around chatting.  Those times were difficult to listen and be silent, especially if I didn't agree with their topic and including if they asked what I thought about it.  I found that to nod, smile, and work thoroughly, even commented that I forgot something or to do something in another room worked best.  WATCH YOUR FACE THO!  They will catch it and you will regret it! If you slip into one conversation, you can have a constant chat buddy or it could come back as misunderstood later.  Best to be gracious but silent & busy.

Another situation, if you have a lady offer you say lunch, I have found that it's best to bring your own lunch & decline politely. Otherwise, if you accept their offer, it becomes routine until the day they cook something you don't care for and you stuck explaining why you don't care for that food item then you've got hurt feelings and you hungry the rest of your work day! Avoid offers graciously and bring your own meal. Eat separately, I eat on the patio or over the kitchen sink or in my car. I found if you eat with your client, it can be used for chatting. Your in business, not there to share your opinion or personal life. Be Professional.

Thanks so much for taking your time to share this vital information. I just signed up with Care.com.

Lydia in Axis, AL
June 18, 2017

SO true! I truly appreciate knowing that others feel the way I do when it comes to housekeeping and earning the family's trust! In this day and age it is always important to never "make yourself at home." Although the family may insist, I always remember why I'm there. I am a service to the family, just as lawn care, or even painters. Although I am close enough to my clients to consider myself part of the family, I never take advantage of a situation in order to make myself comfortable! I am there as a convenience to the family and am being payed for the WORK I do. We should never be the reason for the family to think that they aren't getting their money's worth or worse- they feel that they are being taken advantage of!

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