Housekeeping duties: What you can expect from your housekeeper

April 7, 2021

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 parents who are 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 house cleaner

The first thing you should know is that a housekeeper is not exactly the same thing as a house 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.

What is a housekeeper? A housekeeper is a more consistent presence in your home. They 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 in your home, and you provide the cleaning products they need to do their job.

What is a house cleaner? A house cleaner is someone you would hire less frequently and often 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 generally the way to go.

That said, these definitions are not always 100% clear cut. Every job description and housekeeper or house cleaner's skills and services can vary, so the line between housekeeper and house cleaner can be a bit murky at times. That's why it's critical to communicate about duties and consistency you require and that those duties are agreed upon by the person you hire.

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 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 step stool. They 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 hire 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 home care 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 house 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.

To find the going rate for home care in your community, check out the house cleaning rates calculator.

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.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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