Frequently Asked Cleaning Questions

what questions should I ask a house cleaning service?

Here’s a list of  the most popular frequently asked cleaning questions which we receive via email, over the phone, or when meeting face to face.

Simply click on any question that interests you and the answer will drop down into view.

Click the question a second time and the answer will disappear.

Q) You’re a ‘cleaner and ironing introduction service’ what’s that mean?

We introduce cleaners  and then manage the ongoing provision of the overall service to individual clients.

The term ‘introduce’ simply being a term that we use to describe our method of operation. 

When we search our database for a suitable cleaner to match our client’s requirements and location and subsequently organise a meeting between both parties, this is what we classify as being an ‘introduction’.

The cleaner will provide cleaning and/or ironing  on a regular basis, be that weekly or fortnightly, with all services being designed to meet each client’s individual needs and requirements and being agreed directly between our customer and their introduced cleaner.

Many companies foist someone on you without offering any form of introduction, both you and the cleaner have no choice in the matter as to the placement – with us you are introduced before cleaning takes place – this gives an opportunity for both parties to meet – and agree between each other – the terms under which the cleaner’s services will be engaged by the Householder, the legal term being a ‘Contract for Service’.

Q) So what does your Service Charge of £2 or £2.95 ph (dependant on which service I have) give me?

To provide an accurate and full answer to that question, we’ll need to digress for a short while and describe the realities of employing a cleaner yourself.

To take on your own cleaner you’ll not only have to expend time and energy in trying to find a good, reliable, honest and competent individual, but you’ll also need to undertake interviews, as well as checking the accuracy of what you’re being told, including reference checking etc., followed by which, who will pay for breakages or damage to your property, repair or replace a broken hoover, an iron, or crockery if they occur?

What happens if she’s unreliable? Has an issue which means she can’t work her normal day? How are you going to organise the cleaning schedule? How do you know she’s working the amount of hours she’s employed to do? Unless you’re there of course – but many people aren’t.  What happens if there’s a problem with her cleaning competency? What happens when she wants to take a holiday? What happens if she’s ill or has a health issue which may require weeks off work?

If you’re not there, what happens if she brings a friend, or even her child into your home (unknown to you) on the day she does the clean? Think that wouldn’t happen? We’ve heard from other customers that it’s happened to them with some other cleaning companies, or private cleaners, we would never tolerate that kind of behaviour, not only because of the security of your home, but for insurance reasons too.

If you’ve cut some corners to save your valuable time, i.e., taken on the first person you meet because she ‘looks’ and ‘sounds’ ok, and/or skipped reference checking for accuracy and authenticity, or even taken on an individual because they were recommended, someone will have to sort out any shortcomings you experience – and that someone will ultimately be YOU!

Taking on a recommend may sound a good idea, after all, isn’t that what people say about plumbers, electricians, TV repair man etc? However a plumber, electrician or TV repair man are being paid to fix items which are more or less universally the same no matter whose premises they visit, a cleaner however has to adapt to suit a different person’s cleaning needs and expectations, it’s also human nature that she’ll invariably need to like the person she’s working for as well.

A plumber, electrician or TV repair man, frankly aren’t really bothered whether they like a customer or not, they’re merely being paid to carry out a once in a blue moon service.

Despite the cleaner performing her cleaning duties to a friend’s or acquaintance’s satisfaction, doesn’t necessarily guarantee an automatic duplication of her work ethic with someone else, who obviously will have a different home, different cleaning standards and a different personality, as well as the fact that cleaner’s are only human and some of them need the income more than others, this can lead to some of them taking on too much work which leads to a drop in standards simply because they’re tired and trying to do too much.

Imagine having a hard day at work, you’ve been on the go for most of the day, or perhaps you’re in poor health or elderly and consequently less mobile than you were and your cleaner fails to turn up with no explanation, or leaves the job with no notice, who’s going to have to start the process of finding a new cleaner all over again?  You!

Will that be something you’ll tackle with relish and gusto? We suspect you’ll feel disheartened (at the very least) and you’ll have to get yourself mentally psyched up to begin the process all over again with the ensuing delays and disappointments that you’ll experience along the way.

We effectively manage the cleaning service for everyone of our near 500 customers, by treating every one of them as if they’re the only one we have, every person is different, having unique needs and requirements to greater or lessor degrees and we have to ensure those needs and requirements are met in order to make certain our clients obtain what they’re paying for – more ‘me’ time, less hassle and at the end of the day, a clean home to their own standards.

Take A Break does far more than simply provide a cleaner, we are perpetually in a state of adding to our cleaner database by using a variety of different methods, initially telephone interviews, followed by personal home visits, followed by reference and police checking, but once we’ve taken someone on board, that’s only the beginning.

Take A Break can’t afford to be reactive by waiting until a problem occurs  – and then beginning to sort it out, instead, we need to be pro-active, thinking ahead and making provision for such problems before they happen, something that we’re better equipped to do, simply because that’s our job.

In short, all of the issues that are listed above as potential areas of conflict is what you’re paying us our small fee to take away from you.

The job of Take A Break is to shield you from the hassle we’ve described above.

Think the things listed above rarely happen? We can assure you that they most certainly DO occur – clients who’ve employed private cleaners themselves have told us countless times over the years, of the problems that they’ve experienced, that’s why they want to pass the baton over to someone else, as they usually have neither the time nor the inclination to sort their problems out – but the effectiveness of the way we operate means that your cleaning service is fully managed by ourselves and handled and sorted without you even being aware (on many occasions) that there’s been an issue in the first place – in essence any situations are not your problem to solve – they’re ours.

I confess, we may make our part of the service look easy, in reality we merely make it look that way because of our experience, knowledge, commitment and professionalism, which added together means that we know what we’re doing and there’s absolutely no situation that we haven’t experienced and handled successfully.  As a consequence, we take deliberate steps and have measures in place to avoid, or reduce any potential impact on both ourselves and the client.

If someone ever says, what do you do for your fee? It’s not always guaranteed to be out of genuine curiosity (although it can be) but sometimes it’s asked because there can be a misconception that finding a cleaner is as simple as placing an ad, seeing two or three people and starting someone, indeed, one enquirer told us, “cleaning isn’t really rocket science”.

That statement, taken literally is true, however finding the right kind of individual who can listen, ask relevant questions and who can deliver the service that a customer requires is not that simple.  In addition, finding an effective, professional company to oversee and manage the ongoing service from A to Z is not a piece of cake and requires a definite set of skills and experience, particularly in the administration and general management of people.

For £2 or £2.95 per hour  we think everything we do behind the scenes (and in front of it) is a bargain, especially considering that a competitor who invoices you or collects in cash, say, a gross hourly rate of £12, £14, £18 (or more) and who pays the cleaner themselves (perhaps the same as our database cleaner’s are paid  – i.e., £8.00 per hour – is effectively charging you £4.50 ph,  £6.50 ph  or £10.50 ph respectively for their part of the service that we are quoting £2 or £2.95 hour for – and – we guarantee that our Service Charge will never increase – how many cleaning companies can promise that?

Not forgetting that we have heard of a number of private cleaners charging £12 to £15 + per hour and for that increased charge, some of them don’t even include insurance cover, in which case you’re paying 100% of your hourly rate to them, even if they do provide their own insurance cover, what happens if they subsequently fail to turn up, prove unreliable, leave, go on holiday or break something?  You’re on your own.

Q Are introduced cleaners vetted and are all cleans insured?

Yes, they most certainly are and as to the vetting, it’s a two part process.

A truncated version of the steps we undertake before taking a cleaner onto our database and introducing them to a Householder, is as follows:

Firstly a telephone interview takes place where we assess their suitability for the work, a series of questions is asked to ascertain characteristics and work ethic, however, sometimes within minutes, we can terminate the interview if it is obvious the person we’re talking to isn’t suitable.

One such instance was a Chinese gentlemen who rang up on behalf of his wife who wanted to clean for us – but apparently she couldn’t speak a word of English – we brought that conversation to a close quickly because a cleaner who can’t speak to our clients is simply not going to be able to carry out her duties efficiently and to the level the client expects.

Incidentally, all of the cleaners we introduce are presently British, that’s not a choice, merely the way it’s worked out over the years – if we come across anyone, from any country, who can speak English fluently, or adequately, and has the necessary work ethic and provable references, as well as a CRB check, they’ll be considered equally, along with their British counterpart – however we are very rarely approached in the North East by foreign nationals – therefore all introduced cleaners at present – and for the foreseeable future – are likely to be UK nationals.

Assuming the telephone interview is passed, we move onto procedure number two – the home visit interview.

We ALWAYS visit every cleaner in their own home, never at our premises.

We undertake reference checks and where available CRB checks too, if the latter are not available at the time of application we ascertain if the cleaner in question is prepared to obtain one.

We pride ourselves on KNOWING where our cleaners live and that they are who they claim to be and they do indeed live where they claim to live – there are never any exceptions.

Even after a cleaner commences her duties with us, we never make assumptions, our Customer Satisfaction team make contact at set intervals (by text or by phone – the preference is left up to the customer) in order to make certain the client is happy with the provision of our overall service

Full insurance details are available upon request.

Q) Are there any long-term commitments?

We utilise an easy in – easy out Agreement. It runs initially for a 3 month term, however you can leave at anytime you like  – terms and conditions apply. After the first 13 weeks the Agreement continues on a rolling basis month by month until cancelled. Our Agreement terms are open to variation to meet special and unique circumstances.

Q) Who supplies the cleaning equipment or iron etc?

You do as it helps to keep your costs down.

If the cleaner provides the products and/or equipment, a higher rate would have to be charged.

Q) What happens if my cleaner is on holiday?

We can introduce you to a temporary cleaning lady if you wish, the decision is yours – some people avail themselves of the opportunity to take a break from having to pay the cleaner until she returns – it’s entirely up to the customer.

Q) Is your Service Charge still payable if I don’t want cover or if I don’t require a cleaner for whatever reason?

Yes, our Service Charge is payable in the same way as your car/home insurance, mobile phone rental or electricity/gas Standing Charge continues to be payable if you’re on holiday and don’t use them – that said, in our experience, apart from two to three weeks per annum when holidays occur etc., most clients use our services consistently without a break – of course the upside is, there’s no requirement to pay the cleaner for any holiday breaks etc., and since she is paid the larger of the two fees, there is a definite saving to be made in such a case.

The small hourly rate of £2 or £2.95 that makes up our Service Charge contributes towards not only the provision of the service but also the running of the company, the latter of course doesn’t cease when the cleaning services are not required – the insurance policies which we provide (as an example) are still payable (as are yours) week in week out.

Q) What happens if I don’t like the cleaner that has been selected for me, or she doesn’t like me?

It can happen, but it’s rare.

To cut down on that risk, cleaners meet you prior to commencing their duties to look around and discuss in finite detail the terms of her engagement – if there’s any issues we’ll get to know very quickly from either party and we’ll introduce another cleaner, usually within 7 days.

We have over 165 cleaners on our books, we’ll only worry if you hate everyone 🙂

Q) You mention on your Home Page and elsewhere, that the prices you quote are ‘typical’ – what does that mean?

Occasionally over the years, we’ve had customers contact us who live, shall we say, off the beaten track, usually out in the country where buses are few and far between – and we’ve also on rare occasions had clients who, by their own admission, have stated that their cleaning requirements are more excessive than normal, for both eventualities, the cleaner, understandably, has the right to charge a higher hourly rate than usual if she feels her travel to work is further than normal because of where the client lives – or if the work she is asked to carry out is over and above normal parameters.

That said, this rarely happens, however, because it’s always possible at some point in the future that we could be contacted by customers who fit the criteria mentioned above, we have to state that our quoted prices are ‘typical’, meaning that the majority of our clients enjoy the rates advertised.

Unlike the Royal Mail who, as part of their charter, are obligated to deliver mail to all addresses within the British Isles for the price of a normal postage stamp, the cleaners on our database would find it unviable to travel to see a client whose home required excessive travel to get there – equally it would be impractical to undertake a regular excessive workload at the same charge as normal – therefore we say the prices quoted are ‘typical’ just in case we ever meet a client where the cleaner feels she needs to alter her normal hourly rate.

In reality, 99% of our customers live in urban locations and even the rural clients don’t generally live more than a few miles away from a major conurbation, so travel isn’t a major issue – and as for cleaning requirements – virtually every cleaning duty the cleaners carry out, can be defined as normal, domestic, house cleaning – however, as stated, IF, a client falls into the previously mentioned two categories, the cleaner may, at her sole discretion, wish to negotiate a different hourly rate for herself directly with the client – OUR Service Charge however will NOT change – ONLY the cleaner’s charge ‘may’ alter.

That said, out of nearly 500 clients, only 2 are paying the cleaner slightly more than their normal hourly rate, so it’s not really an issue that most clients will come up against – or even need to concern themselves with.

Q) I understand I have to pay your Service Charge quarterly by Standing Order – I don’t like SO’s, can I pay cash?

Unfortunately the answer is no, we’ve tried an invoice system and a quirk of human nature is that not everyone pays their bills on time.

We often had to chase up late payers in the past, not a huge amount, but enough to increase our costs – besides, banks charge us more to place cheques into our account which further affects our profit margins which are not huge by any stretch of the imagination.

Standing Orders cut down on slow payers and are cheaper to administer.

We are occasionally offered quarterly cash payments too, however we’re a limited company and the Inland Revenue frown on this type of payment as it’s open to abuse – so cash or cheques are simply too problematic or expensive for us to accept and administer.

Q) Do you offer ‘stand alone’ ironing services where you take our ironing away and iron it on your premises?

No, the cleaner irons at your home.

The majority of our customers (if they require ironing at all) utilise a mixture of ironing AND cleaning. If they require, say 2 hours of cleaning a week or fortnight, they add on an extra hour for ironing too, making 3 in total.

We do have some customers who use our introduction service exclusively for ironing, in this case our normal cleaning rate applies of £10 an hour (or £10.95 ph if you have our fortnightly service) on an easy in, easy out agreement – exactly the same as for cleaning.

Q) What happens if the cleaner fails to turn up one week or fortnight?

Emergencies or illness can happen, not only to cleaners of course, but to customers too.

In our experience, it’s not a common occurrence, but if something goes wrong, here’s our protocol.

If a cleaner fails to arrive, let us know as soon as you are aware of a problem by telephoning 0191 586 55 32, you may sometimes know before us simply because in the case of an accident, emergency or illness, it isn’t practical or possible for the cleaner to contact us.

The cleaner may arrange to call on a different day of the same week, call in twice the following week, or merely add on some additional time for a set number of weeks until the missing hours have been recovered, there is normally always a compromise that can be reached in the case of an emergency, accident or illness.

Please note that it is very rarely practical or possible for us to introduce a replacement cleaner at the ‘drop of a hat’ for an accident or emergency that occurs on the same day – and especially so where we’re given an hour or two’s notice – this is simply due to the logistics of finding a cleaner who just happens to be free at the exact time the problem occurs – who also lives close to the customer – and in addition has access to transport to enable her to obtain a key to the customer’s home.

Not forgetting of course that any temporary cleaner rushed in within a few hours wouldn’t have a clue what the cleaning arrangements were, or where implements such as hoovers and cleaning materials are kept etc. So all in all, emergencies and illness should first of all follow the protocol mentioned two paragraphs above this one.

In ALL other non emergency cases  – or illness, we don’t really have any issues in providing cover, e.g., holidays and pre-booked dental or hospital appointments – only sudden illness or emergencies with little to no notice will necessitate following the protocol suggested earlier.

If a customer falls ill or has an emergency the protocol as described should be followed and we should be informed as soon as possible so we can avoid the cleaner calling and having a wasted trip, however we appreciate this may not always be possible, nevertheless, we’re always grateful if customers can inform us as soon as practical after a problem develops.

Q) Do you clean ovens or carpets, prepare meals too?

No, ovens and carpet cleaning require specialist equipment and in the case of ovens – chemicals too – and preparing meals is more of a ‘housekeeping’ position as opposed to domestic cleaning.

We do however have contacts in the oven cleaning and carpet cleaning niche who can do this additional work for you.

Q) Do you clean commercial premises, such as pubs, clubs, shops, offices etc?

No, we specialise in domestic, home cleaning only.

Q) I want to proceed, or I have more questions – what do I do now?

Please ring or use our Contact Us facility.