Dear Prudence

Help! Are We Supposed to Pre-Clean Our House Before the Cleaners Arrive?

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

Woman about to clean up before the cleaners get there.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Thinkstock.

Every week, Daniel Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.

Q. Pre-cleaning for the cleaners: What’s the general rule about pre-cleaning before a cleaning service arrives to clean your house? My spouse thinks that all that’s required is to ensure there’s no dirty laundry on the floor and everything else is “what we pay them for.” He says, “You wouldn’t work out right before seeing your trainer, so why would you clean before the cleaners arrive?” I tend to pre-clean everything short of scrubbing the floor and the toilets, and think that a cleaning service shouldn’t have to deal with crumbs on the counter or toothpaste smears in the sink. The day I came home after the cleaners had gone to realize that I hadn’t noticed that my cat had vomited next to the sofa was one of the truly mortifying experiences of my life. At this point, our differing approaches cause more eye-rolls than fights, but generally: How do you balance being respectful of peoples’ work and time while avoiding redundancy?

A: There’s plenty of anxiety and guilt to be found when paying someone to come into your home, but I think the most important thing to do here is to make sure that your cleaners are being paid fairly for their time and labor, as well as communicating to them the nature of the type of cleaning you’re asking for well in advance (so they can send the appropriate tools and employees to deal with a deep clean, or a biohazard like animal waste, etc.). If you are paying for an occasional deep-clean but generally want to have the house at a standard level of tidiness, then you and your spouse should talk about your continued responsibilities. Having a cleaning service doesn’t suddenly mean that every adult in the house can smear toothpaste all over the sink, leave paper towels and tea bags on every flat surface, and stop wiping up crumbs after a spill—at least not without inconveniencing the other members of the household.