One of the best things about being a self-employed house cleaner is the freedom to experiment. When I worked for Merry Maids decades ago, I had to follow their cleaning methods, materials and workflow.
That meant there was only one method to clean customers homes, there were only certain cleaning liquids I could use and I had to clean rooms in a certain order.
When I started my own business, I stuck with their methods for a while because that is what I was used to. I was a speedy cleaner, but not always the most thorough.
When I settled into being self-employed and wasn’t rushing from house to house for another company, I started working at my own pace. I became more detail oriented. I started to place more emphasis on deeper cleaning instead of faster cleaning.
I wanted my customers homes to gleam when they walked through the door on cleaning day. That doesn’t happen without a plan and a lot of attention to detail.
Old Patterns of Cleaning
In the early days of my business, out of habit and training I either started on the top floor of the house and worked my way down or started in the basement and tackled the top one or two floors after the basement was done.
I always cleaned the bathrooms first and the kitchen last. I also cleaned each room one at a time.
I lugged a lot of my equipment and supplies along with me from level to level and room to room. That included the supply tote with my cleaning liquids, my vacuums and cleaning cloths. I also dragged along bags for trash and soiled cleaning cloths.
Then I began to experiment with when and how I cleaned rooms. My first experiment was doing the scariest thing first, like vacuuming sofa and chair cushions covered in cat and dog hair (eek!) Or huge marble-walled showers with glass doors (ugh!). Or my personal favorite, sunken Jacuzzi bathtubs with a dozen dirty water jets that had to be scrubbed individually (groan!).
I found when I did the things I disliked first, I jumped a mental hurdle. Cleaning the rest of the house was much easier with the weight of the scariest task gone.
Moving Into Batch Cleaning
After a few years, I found myself moving toward a very different workflow in my cleaning. I wanted to make my cleaning more efficient and thorough. I began to pay attention to what took up the most time in each room.
My first change was to place cleaning supplies and equipment in the first rooms to be cleaned just after I arrived. Cleaning cloths, vacuums, the supply tote, the lambswool duster and any protective equipment like knee pads and ear plugs were put in a starting room before I began cleaning.
No more dragging things from room to room or hunting for a piece of equipment while I was in the middle of cleaning. What I needed was where I needed when I needed it.
Seven Repeatable Batch Cleaning Steps
Then I developed a clear-cut order for cleaning each house. I wanted to make sure the order was easy to remember, repeatable in all my customers homes and created the best results. I came up with this seven step cleaning workflow:
1. Tidy up: Pick-up clutter (toys, papers and clothes), prepare sofas and chairs for vacuuming by lifting all cushions, dry wipe crumbs from kitchen counter-tops and dining room tables onto the floor, remove grates from gas stoves and burn elements from electric stoves.
I clear sinks and bathroom counters and make beds, if needed. During this step, I also make note of cobwebs, “explosions” of spaghetti sauce in the microwave and extra grime on floors.
2. Trash Collection and Rugs: Empty trash and recycling in each room. Wash and dry kitchen and bathroom trash containers, if needed. Line trash receptacles with plastic bags. Shake area rugs or position them to be vacuumed later. Wash hands thoroughly when done.
3. Vacuum upholstered sofas and chairs. Then fluff sofa cushions and pillows. Fold and replace decorative sofa throws.
4. Glass, Mirrors and Tiles: Put glass cleaner, tile cleaner, grout brush, cleaning cloths and magic eraser sponge in a bucket. In each room, clean all mirrors, smudged windows (that can be reached without a ladder), glass doors and tabletops. If bathroom and kitchen tiles needs deep scrubbing, do that last.
I spot clean fingerprints from walls and light switch covers. I also use a magic eraser sponge to clean scuff marks and fingerprints from walls and baseboards.
5. Dusting: With an extendable lambswool duster, remove cobwebs. Then thoroughly dust the furniture in each room with microfiber cloths. If I agreed to oil wood furniture, this is when I do it.
Note: In some homes, I clean kitchen appliances, countertops and cabinet doors after dusting. In other homes, I clean the entire kitchen last. In both cases, I make sure all crumbs, trash and grime are removed from kitchen surfaces before I vacuum the floors.
6. Floors: Starting with the master suite bathroom, vacuum hard floors (wood, stone, tile or vinyl) first. I use a lightweight (ten pound) canister vacuum with extender wands and a floor brush for hard floors. I also edge clean hard floors and carpeted areas with the vacuum crevice tool.
Before vacuuming carpets and rugs, spray disinfectant in the master suite bathroom toilet so the disinfectant has plenty of dwell time on toilet to kill germs.
Then vacuum carpets and room sized rugs, plus area rugs in each room. Carpets and rugs are vacuumed with a lightweight upright Riccar vacuum.
Hard floors in the living room, dining room, bedrooms and den are mopped before I clean the bathrooms and kitchen. They are usually dry before I move into the kitchen. Bathroom floors are mopped after the bathroom is clean. Kitchen floors are mopped last in every home.
7. Bathrooms and Kitchen: These are generally the last rooms cleaned. In the bathrooms, the toilets are sanitized first. Then bathtubs and shower floors. The sinks are scrubbed last. Once bathroom floors are dry, I replace rugs and close windows.
Making Batch Cleaning Work
The key to making batch cleaning work is preparation. In addition to placing supplies and equipment in starting positions when I set up in a customers home, there is also preparation I do the night before I clean.
All of the bottles in the cleaning tote are topped off so I don’t run out of product in a customer’s home. All cleaning cloths and mop heads are clean, dry and folded. From experience I know how many cloths to take to each customer’s home, plus some extra for “surprises”.
The vacuums are in good working order with the dust bags no more than half full. Even the plastic trash liners are already counted out, opened and ready to use.
I leave as little to chance as possible. I try to avoid last minute fumbling in the customer’s home.
For me, batch cleaning helps keep me focused on one set of cleaning tasks in my customer’s home at a time. With that focus, I clean everything deeper and with more care. The results are:
- No more missing grime spots behind doors.
- No more rushing through baseboard wipe downs.
- No more forgetting to clean the inside of the microwave or dishwasher.
With batch cleaning, I’m able plan and prepare my work days with very little wasted time, effort or supplies. Best of all, I scrub my customers homes till they gleam. They love the attention to detail and I love the plan.
We both win.
What improvements have you made in your cleaning methods since you became self-employed? Share your experiences in the comments below. ⬇︎