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  • Kenetia Lee

License to Clean

Quarantine has brought a fresh perspective to many people on old ways of thinking. Recently on Bill Maher's HBO show REAL TIME, television producer Seth MacFarlane said, "People like us take things for granted. We take our housekeepers for granted. Things like laundry and changing the cat box . . . Even figuring out how to do floors. My God, it's a hell of a lot harder than making TV.”


Cleaning has often been thought of as unskilled labor and treated financially as such. But is it really? And how much should cleaning really cost?

To some extent that depends upon where you live. Metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and New York are much more expensive to live in than cities like Gainesville or towns like Barstow. A low income living wage in San Francisco is closer to $35-45 an hour versus the $20-25 you can get by on in Boise or Duluth.

Some cleaning companies charge by the hour, others by square footage, some by the number of cleaners, and others by the scope of the job. Kitchens and bathrooms require more labor; an office with more tile and surface spaces like laptops, desktops, desks, counters, draperies, upholstery. and carpeting, may take more labor than a more open space like an empty warehouse. Medical offices require a specific license to make sure that the cleaning company knows how to deal with hazmat issues and render the surfaces sterile.

In California, a janitorial license costs $500 annually. The state fines companies up to $10,000 for the first time and $25,000 for each subsequent occasion that they don't pay for licensed cleaners. Not only does a license mean that the company you hired has worker’s comp, insurance and are paying their taxes, but it evens the playing field because it prevents someone from coming along and undercutting business. It also means that, more likely than not, the cleaners are earning at least closer to living wage.

While a company may have higher rates than an individual with a minimum fee and an hourly quota, they also have backups in case your cleaner calls in sick and you can sue them if they destroy your property or you are unhappy with their work. You are also likely to get cleaners who know what they are doing because they do this for a living, who understand cleaning products and how not to use them, who speak your language, and who are capable of handling more specific issues like mold and mildew removal, oven cleaning, carpet washing, steam cleaning floors, or getting stains out of upholstery.

So how much should a cleaning cost? For individuals, you might pay as low as $15-30 an hour in a major market. For companies, as high as $100-300 an hour, again, depending on how many people they send and how intricate or difficult the job. Deep cleans and move-in/move-outs can cost $100-400 per hour. If the job is especially brutal, you might pay even more.

Before you suffer sticker shock or start thinking that those rates seem high to pay someone who might not have anything past a high school degree, ask yourself, "Would I rather do this work?" Because while it might not be as difficult as brain surgery—or as creatively challenging as making a television show—it's physically demanding, sometimes back-breaking, often arduous work. And it does require skills—and knowledge—that only someone who has done it again and again and again would have.

Our name is Paige Blue Industries...we have a license to clean and we take our mission seriously.

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