Photo credit: Folding Shirts by Vladans
At the end of a long, busy work day years ago, my co-worker, Matt and I were munching on popcorn and drinking sodas at the break-room table at Merry Maids. When I said how glad I was the end of the week arrived, Matt nodded and sighed. “I wish it was the end of my week,” said Matt, “I still have two more houses to go”. Surprised, I asked if he had a job at another cleaning company.
“No” he replied. “I have a few customers of my own. I’ve cleaned their houses for years”. I asked Matt if it was hard juggling a full week at Merry Maids with his own customers on the side. He said it wasn’t hard because he usually cleaned for his own customers late in the day or on weekends. Then he said the only thing he didn’t look forward to with a couple of his customers was doing their laundry.
Matt told me how he started doing the laundry by offering to change bed sheets, plus washing the dirty sheets and pillowcases. Then he dried and folded the bedding. He said over the years, his customers got into the habit of leaving more and more clothes with the sheets for him to launder. Matt obliged and before he knew it, he found himself washing all of the household laundry while cleaning their homes. As Matt finished his snack, he told me, “never offer to to a customer’s laundry. It’s a dirty job that gets out of hand really fast.”
Climbing Out of The Laundry Chute
If you have fallen down a laundry chute like my former co-worker, Matt, there are ways to climb out. The first, a simple note is the quickest way out of the pile of laundry you fell into while trying to please your customers. Use the note to define any laundry chores as an “extra service”, then stick to your original Service Agreement. This should keep you from doing more unpaid laundry chores in the future.
The second way is to turn a pile of dirty laundry into clean profits by selling laundry services as a premium service, separate from regular cleaning. That way, you can charge for your time and labor. You can do laundry while cleaning your customer’s home. Be aware you will need to schedule extra time for cleaning plus laundry customers.
You can also schedule special hours or days for laundry projects during times that work best for you. For example, you might choose to do laundry service for customers only on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons or Saturday mornings. You can choose to do another special project while doing laundry or wash, dry and fold only.
Many people with more money than time would love, love, love handing off the chore of washing, drying and folding to someone else. Offering laundry service can be a winner if done with a solid plan.
One way to offer laundry service is to charge by the bag. You purchase large cloth bags and provide them to your customers. There are a lot of companies online that sell cloth laundry bags. Many of them will add your company name and logo to the bags. Some have no minimum purchase requirements. Your laundry bags should be large enough to hold two to three loads of laundry (colors, whites and towels) for a couple of adults.
Your customers fill the bags with clothes they want cleaned. The customer’s own washer, dryer and detergent, etc. are used to clean their clothes. You wash, dry and fold (or hang to dry). Wrap bundles of clean, dry folded clothes in plastic bags to avoid contamination and put back into your laundry service bag.
Hint: If the laundry service bags you choose are easily washed and dried, wash them with the rest of the laundry and skip the plastic bags for the clean clothes.
Invoice and bill laundry as an extra service even if you choose to do the laundry while you are also cleaning the customer’s home that day. It is important your customer knows laundry service is an add-on service and not part of their regular cleaning. Since laundry is a premium service, charges per bag can start in the $50 to $75 range. You can charge extra (per piece) for bulky items like mattress pads, comforters, blankets, duvets, pillows and area rugs.
Be clear and careful about what you offering. Some things to decide before you start:
• What will you not wash?
• Will you do hand wash items?
• Will you launder cloth diapers?
• How much extra will you charge for washing bulky bedding, rugs and sneakers?
• When will you do laundry projects: while you clean your customers homes or will you set aside special days or hours for laundry only?
• Will you include pre-treating?
• Will you offer ironing? (Another extra service that is very time consuming. Charge accordingly.)
• What happens if you ruin a piece of laundry; how will you handle that situation?
If you choose to offer laundry service, invest in learning how to do it right. Have your customer show you how their machines work. Ask what products they use for their laundry and why. Get the make and model number of their washer and dryer. You can go online to get the owner’s manual for almost any washer or dryer. Simply search for the manufacturer’s name + the model number. The use and care manual will be somewhere on the information page. Download and study the manual.
Get a laundry folding tool to speed up folding time and make the clean laundry look crisp and professional. This tool can be used to fold shirts, pants, towels and other pieces of laundry. There are a lot of brands on the market. Find one that works for you.
Create a laundry checklist that includes each customer’s preferences and space for notes to customers, if needed. Follow the checklist steps each time you do laundry. The checklist should include tasks like:
• checking pockets
• color sorting
• drying, or hanging to dry for delicates and exercise clothes
• folding (or hanging shirts, blouses, sweaters and pants right out of the dryer)
Put your company name and contact information on the checklist and leave a copy in the bag with the clean clothes. That way your customer can call, text or email you right away if they have any questions.
What Matt Didn’t Know
In one way, Matt was right, doing a customer’s laundry can be “a dirty job that gets out of hand really fast.” He offered a simple wash, dry and fold of bed sheets. His customers wanted more. Problem is they piled more and more dirty clothes on Matt. He found himself doing all of the household laundry without being paid for that service.
What Matt didn’t know was there was another, more profitable way to give his customers the services they craved while earning extra income for those tasks. Matt allowed his good intentions with laundering the bed sheets to balloon into a major case of services creep. Matt was not alone. We have all done it.
What could have been an income opportunity turned into unpaid drudgery.
If you want to sidestep unpaid drudgery, have a well thought-out plan and procedures. Learn how to do laundry right. Learn how your customer’s machines work. Get the right tools. Done right, laundry service can add profits to your cleaning business.
Unlike my former co-worker, Matt, if you have fallen down a laundry chute, you can choose to climb out. Or you can turn piles of your customer’s dirty laundry into money bags.
Do you offer laundry as part of your cleaning service? How do you handle this part of your business? Share your experience in the comments below. ⬇︎