My wife and I carefully calculated the cost of cat ownership before we took in our first stray. Our calculation wasn’t perfect, though. We failed to account for at least one hidden cost of owning pets: cleaning bills.
Now that we have multiple cats, our home is far dirtier than it used to be, and it gets dirty quicker. As renters, we spent valuable time and a considerable amount of money on weekly once-overs and monthly deep cleans. I devoted hundreds of hours over the better part of a decade to mopping wood floors in a succession of apartments.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t always enough. Poor pet hygiene contributed to a substantial reduction in our security deposit refund at our last rental property. Now that we own our home, we don’t have to worry about keeping the landlord happy – but that doesn’t mean we’re willing to tolerate mats of hair in every corner and fine layers of litter on the floor.
As our lives get busier and our household budget grows, we’ve relaxed our old “no professional cleanings” rule. We now invite a cleaning service into our home for two to three hours at least once per month. Although I’m still not entirely comfortable with the cost, I have to admit that our house is cleaner for it.
If you’re unable or unwilling to keep your home as clean as you’d like, perhaps a hired home cleaning service from Handy.com is in your future too. Here’s what you need to know to decide whether it’s right for you.
Things to Consider Before Hiring a Cleaning Service
As you weigh whether to hire a home cleaning service, consider these factors.
1. Your Household Budget
According to HomeAdvisor’s estimate, U.S. cleaning companies charge $50 to $90 per hour, on average. Even the most efficient cleaning team working through a modest-sized residence is likely to take an hour to complete its work. If your budget can’t bear an extra $50 to $90 hit at least once per month, regular professional cleanings may not be in the cards.
Independent cleaners are cheaper, though my research suggests HomeAdvisor’s estimated $9-per-hour minimum is wildly optimistic. Expect to pay a single independent cleaner at least $20 per hour if they provide their own cleaning supplies and perhaps $15 per hour if you provide your own.
Solo cleaners take longer to complete their work than two- or three-person professional teams, so the price difference likely won’t be that stark. Still, cleaners not affiliated with hierarchical cleaning companies can better accommodate tight budgets – though budgets with very little leeway might not have room for any hired cleaning help at all. A one-time investment in an eco-friendly steam cleaning system, coupled with old-fashioned elbow grease, might be more cost-effective.
Pro tip: If you haven’t set up a budget for you or your family, sign up today for Personal Capital. Once you connect your debit and credit accounts you will have a clear picture of where your money is being spent each month.
2. Your Home’s Size
Professional cleaning costs increase in proportion to residence size. According to HomeAdvisor, the typical single-family home costs $130 to clean. The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) pegged the median U.S. house at 2,467 square feet in 2015. A more modest home might cost $100 or less to clean, while a massive McMansion could cost $200 or more.
3. Your Cleaning Requirements
The numbers above are rough averages. Your personal cleaning requirements and preferences will determine where your actual cleaning costs fall. Factors that might affect your cleaning requirements include:
Your Cleanliness Tolerance. Do you demand a spotless home, or are you OK with some dust, grit, and grime?
Your Lifestyle. Do you cook full meals every night and frequently host guests? Do you treat your home like a museum? Or do you fall somewhere in between?
Your Family Size and Composition. Do kids and pets account for more than their fair share of the mess?
Your Home’s Active Areas. Do you rarely use certain rooms, or is your entire home lived-in?
Your Expectations For Cleaning Staff. Do you expect cleanings to be basic once-overs – vacuuming, dusting, mopping, and freshening, with special attention paid to the kitchen and bathrooms – or thorough deep cleans?
Longer, detail-oriented cleanings that cover the entire house will cost more than lower-key cleanings that skip lesser-used areas.
4. The Value of Your Time
How valuable is your time?
You can ask this question literally: Is your hourly household income higher than what you’d pay a cleaning service?
A more abstract way to frame it would be: Is it worth your while to devote the time necessary to clean your home to your standards on a regular basis?
Either way, this is a personal question. When I was living alone and working low-wage jobs, DIY cleaning was a no-brainer. These days, the dollars-and-cents calculation is a closer call, but I’m personally less inclined to take several hours out of my week to maintain an orderly house (or perhaps I’m just getting old). Your calculation might differ.
5. Your Family’s Schedule
Professional cleaning is disruptive. If you don’t mind hanging out around the house while one or more cleaning staff mill about, running vacuums and kicking up dust, this won’t be an issue. If you’d prefer to be out of your cleaning team’s hair, though, you’ll need to schedule cleanings when you’re at work or can otherwise be out of the house. If your cleaning service doesn’t let you schedule at precise times – as is often the case – then you’ll need to choose a date on which you’re reasonably confident you can be out of the house.
In households with at least one work-from-home or stay-at-home parent, scheduling is a real issue. My wife and I both work full-time, but I work from home much of the time, and the cleaning service we’ve been using occasionally schedules visits when we’re at home. In our small older home, that’s not really tenable, so we escape to a coffee shop or park if the weather’s nice.
6. DIY Cleaning Tolerance & Skill
If you enjoy – or, at least, don’t mind – cleaning the house, more power to you. As long as you can find time to keep pace with your home’s cleaning needs and meet your co-residents’ expectations, why would you pay someone else to do it for you?
Make sure your cleaning expectations are realistic, though. Budget one hour a month for something that requires more like two hours per week, and you’re set up to fail. Likewise, if you’re not keen on using step ladders to dust high places or scrubbing out caked-on cooking grease, you might want to rethink your DIY cleaning plan.