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Housekeeping duties: What you can expect from your housekeeper

Kate Ward
Oct. 31, 2018

If you’ve ever looked around your house in a moment of high stress and wondered if you should hire a housekeeper to help, the answer is probably yes. These days, many households have two parents who are both working outside the home. Working full-time jobs and taking care of the cooking and cleaning while also keeping up with your children’s busy schedules can be overwhelming to say the least.

If you have the means to pay for an extra set of hands to help reduce your weekly stress, hiring a housekeeper may be the perfect solution to your problems. But before you start looking, you’ll need to know exactly what types of duties a housekeeper generally performs. Read below to get the lowdown on the most common responsibilities for housekeepers and how to hire the right person for your home.

A housekeeper is different from a home cleaner

The first thing you should know is that a housekeeper is not exactly the same thing as a home cleaner. While they sound very similar, it’s important to know the distinctions between the two so that you can hire the right person for the job you need filled. The major differences between a housekeeper and a home cleaner revolve around the frequency of visits and the services that they perform when they’re in your home.

A housekeeper is a more consistent presence in your home. She would be there one to two times per week or more, depending on your needs. A housekeeper completes a list of daily or weekly duties while she’s there and you provide the cleaning products she needs to do her job.

A home cleaner is someone you would hire for a bigger job, such as a top-to-bottom deep cleaning of your home, getting a home ready for sale or prepping a vacation home. If you’re looking for someone who is a steady presence in your home and who would complete the following general list of duties, a housekeeper is the way to go.

General duties you can expect your housekeeper to perform

The complete list of what a housekeeper would be responsible for doing in your home really varies depending on your needs. Ask yourself if there are specific needs that do not fall on the list below (such as caring for pets) and, if so, make sure to include those in your job listing. Here are the general duties of a housekeeper:

  • Light cleaning in the living areas. This includes dusting, vacuuming, sweeping and mopping the floors in all rooms.

  • Cleaning the bathrooms, including mirrors, toilets, showers and baths.

  • Cleaning the kitchen, including wiping down appliances, counters, sinks and cabinet doors.

  • Washing and drying dishes and putting them away.

  • Changing bed linens and making the beds.

  • Washing, folding and ironing clothes.

  • Cleaning interior windows.

  • Removing garbage and recycling.

  • Restocking personal items such as toilet paper, tissues, etc.

  • General tidying up of the rooms. This includes putting away toys, decluttering and light organizing.

  • Running errands for the family. This can include things like grocery shopping or dropping off dry cleaning and mail. Make sure that you go over this item with your housekeeper and provide her with some method of payment. Not all housekeepers will be willing to perform this duty, so have it in your listing and address it in your interviews.

  • Preparing meals for the family. If this is something you want your housekeeper to do, make sure to specify this on your listing as some housekeepers may not provide this service. Discuss their level of comfort in the kitchen during your interviews and make sure you get an idea of what kinds of meals they make.

  • Keeping track of cleaning supplies and letting you know when they are low and need to be replaced.

Duties you should not expect a housekeeper to perform

There are some duties you should not expect from a housekeeper, including anything that puts them in physical danger or is not in their area of expertise. Here are a few examples of duties you can’t expect your housekeeper to perform:

  • Deep cleaning or outdoor window washing. You’ll want to hire a specialized cleaning service to come in and handle that sort of job. Do not expect your housekeeper to climb on anything higher than a stepstool. She may be willing to take on a seasonal deep cleaning job, but you would be expected to pay an additional fee if so.

  • Child care. If you need someone to take care of your children in addition to general housekeeping, you will want to look for a nanny who also takes on light housekeeping duties.

  • Cleaning up human waste. Exposure to human waste can be dangerous, so you should call in a waste removal service for that sort of job.

  • Lifting heavy objects or move furniture. As a general rule, housekeepers will not move anything heavier than a 35-pound object. This is a safety issue and you should look for someone specialized to help you do jobs that require that type of physical strength.

How much you will pay for a housekeeper

There is no one-size-fits-all formula for how much a housekeeper will cost. How much you will pay can vary greatly depending upon the housekeeper’s experience level, your location (it will cost you more in big cities, less in more rural areas), the size of your home and how many people (and pets) live in the home. But, generally speaking, a housekeeper will charge less than a home cleaner.

Where a housekeeper can cost anywhere from $15 to $40 an hour, a house cleaner will be more pricey, charging $25 to $65 per cleaner, per hour. It may be possible to come up with a flat fee that you pay your housekeeper each week, but that will be based initially upon how many hours it takes to finish the job. During the interview process, make sure you discuss payment methods with the candidates. Most housekeepers are self-employed and will not take credit cards. Some may prefer cash to checks. Make sure that you are aware of their preference and that it matches with what you are comfortable doing.

Hiring a housekeeper doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process as long as you understand the general duties that a housekeeper performs. Be as clear as possible in your job description and make sure to cover anything out of the ordinary or things that are really important to you during the job interviews. Communicating your needs clearly with the applicants is the best way to ensure that you find the perfect housekeeper for your family.

Read next: 101 odd jobs you can hire someone else to do

Yvonne in Bronx, NY
Nov. 10, 2018

I believe the app for job postings allows for the client to post what they want and as much as they want. If they click on housecleaning, why are they not limited to select chores specific to the job? Child care, driving children to activities, dog walking is not housecleaning. Perhaps those posting jobs should be encouraged to use Errands as a category rather than housecleaning or open up more categories. Browsing for jobs is laborious when you have to read through all their requests. I’m thinking maybe k I may be a good fit but now I’m reading you want me to drive your children or organize your closets ( which is a separate job) while I’m there for the 4 hours. Care.com help us out please. The app keeps old jobs postings on the new category when clearly it’s outdated...why?

User in Cranbury, NJ
March 11, 2018

I cant believe the comments here and my God the outrageous pay scale.. I know that this kind of a position does not require rocket science skills or a college degree. It was what most people originally do in life. I have had a live in nanny/housekeeper etc. for the past 5 yrs. We pay decently well. At this point we are almost family. She understands her responsibilities well and helps out when needed without having to ask (That is most important, we do not want to have to pay someone who sits around and says the kids are in school). All the same, there are days when nothing much gets done, like in any regular household and we are ok with that as long as basics are taken care. It is an understanding between employer and employee. Some of the claims in here about charging $30/hr. makes me wonder what college degree or education was required to warrant this kind of overscaled expectation. And the comments here about post one job and expect 2/3 different things, yeah well, there are things in a home that dont need doing every day (ex: change sheets) and there are others that need to be done every day (ex: pack lunch). I also once had an unfortunate incident of a housekeeper who insisted on changing sheets and washin them everyday, for what purpose? i dont know but when we are paying per hour we would rather pay them for things we want done not what they are comfortable with. I felt that this section lacked employer comments and viewpoints. Hence my comment.

India in Boston, MA
July 15, 2017

I just want to be the devils advocate for one moment....the way that this site is set up you can only select certain "descriptions" for job positions. I understand that what many of you are describing DOES happen, people take advantage and ask for more and more and more. For me, there is no exact job description for what I need, I am 44, so i am not elderly, but I had to select eldercare because it is the closest to what I need. When you delve further into the job description and then follow up with me I am VERY clear in my needs, but I used to own my own business so I am super clear about my needs and write them all down in a contract and everything. If someone does not want the job then that is cool. It is hard for people to hire for in the home, they just don't know how. Advocate for yourself and draw clear lines of what you will and will not do, put it in writing at the beginning, and keep it professional, that is my best suggestion, it will help you and your employer.

Everyone here makes great points. But the 10 dollars an hour is not accurate these days. Most charge from 15 to 30 dollars or more per hour,depending on the private person or cleaning company. I have been in business for 35 years. I am American but I`m definitely not lazy. You can get someone who can do all that stuff except maybe for cooking. But there are a few rules that apply. If someone has the ability to do more than clean and is experienced at doing it,it will cost you more. Some clients will want more of one thing and less than another.  Time is all relative. Certain things require more time. In that case the house cleaner should should advice his/her client of that ahead of time. Unless you have a full time Housekeeper,most cleaning ladies have more than one account on any given day. Giving everybody what they want becomes quite challenging when there are time restraints. There is not much I have not done in so many years. But yes,it is hard to find someone like this now days. Honesty is a HUGE deal in this business. It can make or break your livelihood if you do this for a living. Apparently people have chose to keep me around or I would not still be in this business. And who drinks on that kind of  job? I managed to break a couple of bones over the years on falls,but I was sober,lol. Pick your priorities when hiring a housekeeper or cleaning lady, other wise she can do it for you. ;-)

User in Alabaster, AL
March 20, 2017

Basically American women are lazy ...getting and keeping a good housekeeper is hard some will work others I've had wanted a raise in the 1st Day .... the Diva types will not even apply I've also had the perfectionist types lol .. also those who drank on the job. ... I will not tolerate stealing the police will be called

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