Cleaning company vs. independent housekeeper: Which is best for you?

March 30, 2020

When it comes to choosing between a company and an individual for your cleaning needs, there isn't one right answer for everyone.

"They need to be a good fit for you and your family and the needs of the household," says Mary Cherry owner of residential cleaning service, Evie's Cleaning Company in Houston, Texas.

"You are inviting someone into your home, to see your mess, and that itself makes it personal." 

Both a company and an independent cleaner can be good choices — but it depends on your situation, preferences and expectations. Here, we asked experts and home owners about the biggest deciding factors to consider when hiring house cleaners.

Number of cleaners

The clearest distinction between a company and an individual cleaner is the size of the cleaning crew. If you go with an independent person, usually it's one cleaner and sometimes an assistant or a couple of employees. But with a larger company, a team of four to six people may be sent to your home to service it.

"Currently, I am using [a cleaning company] because they send four people at a time and it takes them an hour to clean my 3,600 square foot house," says Jené L. in Rotterdam, New York, adding that she has four kids and a pet, and having someone there for long hours, with her family members in the way, wouldn't be ideal. "I like that they are fast and efficient," says Jené. 

Consistency and connection

Lynda D. in Sterling, Virginia, on the other hand, likes the consistent service she gets from an independent cleaner. "I like that it’s the same people every time, and if I need to change something, I can call or text them directly instead of having to call a go-between person," Lynda says.

With some large cleaning services, you may not get the same people cleaning your house every week since customer needs and employee schedules change, and their staff may be dispatched to different homes. Some customers prefer to have cleaners who are accustomed to their home, who they perhaps have gotten to know and trust.

"Many people don’t care to get to know who their cleaner is, and some people are so busy that they’re never even in the house at the same time as their cleaner. For those people, a company works great," points out Jeneva Aaron, a designer, home decor blogger and professional cleaner.

An independent cleaner, on the other hand, is “more likely to give you their personal phone number, which makes it easy to resolve issues if anything comes up," Aaron adds.

Cost

In hiring someone to do any type of service, price is going to be a major factor. And cleaning is no exception. Obviously, you should ask directly about the rate, since it can vary. But, in general, individual cleaners tend to charge less money than companies do, says Cherry.

"For people with average-sized houses, hiring an independent cleaner is usually more affordable," concurs Aaron. "Companies charge more money because they have more overhead. Not only do they have to pay the cleaner themselves, but they also have to cover their business expenses."

Company and employee vetting

Do you have time to devote to researching and hiring a cleaner? If not, you might consider checking out companies first.

"An advantage of hiring a company is that it's easier to check into their online presence and see reviews, [and read about] their core values and ethics since they typically have a larger online presence," points out Cherry. Plus, many companies are diligent in whom they hire, using specific requirements and protocols.

"Our cleaning and organizing company’s hiring process includes full background checks, thorough drug tests and 80 hours of training before they can clean their first home or business," says Val Oliveira, founder of Val’s Services, a Chicago-based residential and corporate cleaning/organizing company. 

Of course, if you've got a word-of-mouth reference from a friend or family member you trust, that can go a long way, no matter whether the cleaner is a company or an individual.

Flexibility In services

When hiring a big company, you may be provided with a list of tasks it completes in each home. Whereas with an independent cleaner, you may be able to ask them to clean out your fridge if it needs it or wipe down your dog's bowl area even if they don't do that in other homes.

"Individual cleaners can be a little more flexible with cleaning tasks," notes Cherry.

With either, though, know that "extras" — services outside the usual scope of a cleaning — may cost a bit more, no matter who's cleaning your home. So ask ahead about that.

Convenience and communication

Also, ask how the cleaners tend to communicate with their clients. While Lynda likes to communicate directly over text with the person cleaning her home, a larger company may offer other avenues of communication, like online booking or an app with a chat feature, as well as contingency plans that individuals may not be able to offer.

"If you have a busy schedule and would like to book appointments online, then a company would fit your needs better," says Cherry. "Companies usually have more flexibility when it comes to scheduling. They have multiple days and time slots open to choose from since more than one person is working. Also, if your cleaner gets sick or cannot make it, they can send someone else."

Employee training

"Our process is to select the best applicants and then train them in our company’s specific and detailed cleaning process," says Oliveira. "Our training provides a step-by-step and room-by-room methodology." 

Cherry says the same, stating that cleaners at her company are educated on which cleaning products can be safely and effectively used on specific surfaces. This may be more variable with independent cleaners so it’s best to interview them thoroughly and ask about their education and training practices.

Insurance policies

It's also a good idea to hire a cleaner or company who's licensed, bonded and insured. "One of the advantages of hiring a company is that you will not have to worry if you are entering employer territory," explains Cherry. 

"Companies will be insured, licensed if applicable, and pay their taxes and workers' compensation. If you hire an individual that is uninsured and does not pay taxes, you could be considered an employer and become liable for taxes and injuries that happen inside your home."

Making the choice

In the end, your personality may help make the decision for you. For example, Lynda says she's not strict about how her house is cleaned and that her independent cleaner does a good job — but isn't always the most fastidious.

"I think I let more things slide with my person [than I would with a company], like a broken candy bowl they didn’t say anything about," Lynda explains. "I think if it was a company I’d probably have complained but with her, I let a few things slide for sure."

Taking the time to get estimates from multiple companies and/or individual cleaners, and asking them lots of questions about how they work with their clients, will help you make the right decision for your household.

"I have used both a company and individuals over the years," says Jene. "I've had luck with both."

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

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