cleaning person pouring soap on sponge

Some people don’t see cleaning houses as a dangerous profession. It’s certainly not up there with Alaskan crabbing or logging. But house cleaners can run into some dangerous situations. And many of them can be avoided by communication from the client. So I’d like to give homeowners a few tips on how not to kill or maim your cleaning person.

Tell your cleaning people about broken things

You know your house better than we do. Well, that might be an overstatement and would depend on how much clutter and hoarding is evident. Unless you have a live-in maid, your house cleaner is only there once, maybe twice a week. Consider us invisible cleaning fairies who float in and out of your life to make your home more enjoyable.

So when things get broken or become a hazard, it’s nice to let the person who gets all up in your stuff know about it. For example, I’ve told you all here about Midge breaking glasses and just throwing a towel over them, like she’s covering the body and waiting for the ambulance to come (read: me).

When I go to her house, I scan for these little booby traps and dismantle them. But last week, when I was there, she failed to mention that the shower door was off the bottom track and sort of just blowing in the wind. So when I went to clean it, I grabbed it and it went swinging and came crashing down onto the tile floor. I almost went with it. I have no idea how it did not break into a million pieces or how I am still here to tell the story. My cleaning lady angels were certainly with me that day.

stylish woman face down in blue empty pool with duster and vacuum
copyright Sandro Giordano

The Artist has a broken floor board in one of her bedrooms. Had she not alerted me to the fact one day, I would have been taking a tour of her crawl space under the house. ALERT: The Cleaning Lady does not do crawlspaces.

Alert your cleaning person to toxic chemicals you want them to use

With a pandemic in full swing, people are reevaluating what kind of cleaning products they are using. Also, we are buying what’s available on empty grocery store shelves (yes you can clean your house with Windex. Just don’t mix it with bleach). Which is perfectly understandable.

It is a personal choice on the level of “clean” one wants their house. Just let your cleaning person know ahead of time so she can wear her hazmat suit. Many of these chemicals should only be used with proper protective gear and good ventilation.

I had a nurse client a few years back who “borrowed” cleaning supplies from the hospital she worked at and wanted me to use them every time I cleaned. You could literally do surgery on her kitchen counters, drop a kidney on the floor, pick it back up and it would be perfectly fine. Just remember the 5 second rule.

But I basically had to wear a makeshift hazmat suite to use them, and I still had a headache for hours afterwards. And I don’t need any more headaches. I finally told her she should “borrow” the cleaning people from the hospital because they are more qualified then me to turn her house into an operating room.

Tell you cleaning person about faulty equipment

I once worked in a house that was an electrical nightmare. It was like Dr. Frankenstein did all the wiring. Every time I plugged in the vacuum cleaner–ZAP! When I tried to turn on the dishwasher I blew the fuses in the whole kitchen. The dryer couldn’t run unless the breaker in the bathroom was turned off. Don’t ask me why. I’m not an electrician, and neither were these people obviously. But they had gotten so used to it that it seemed to them that everyone lived this way. So if you have nine pages of instructions for turning on an appliance, please let me know. Thanks for the free electroshock therapy and all. My hair came out looking like the Bride of Frankenstein. Not a bad look for me though.