If you’ve ever tried to deep clean your house, you know that housecleaning is a profession that takes specialised knowledge, attention to detail and physical strength to tackle high or difficult spots.
It’s also a profession that does not get enough respect for how hard it can be. A significant number of domestic workers, including housecleaners, are paid “under the table” in informal arrangements, working without anti-discrimination and health and safety protections.
And on TikTok, cleaners have been sharing some of the misconceptions about and boundaries they have around their work with hashtags like #thingsiwontdo #housecleaner.
To separate general fact from fiction, we grabbed a few of these videos and also turned to the experts and asked other housecleaners about what they won’t or wouldn’t do after years of experience in the field.
1. Don’t expect a cleaner to do a pile of dirty dishes
“Cleaning litter boxes or cleaning up after pets who have accidents. I’ve had people expect that, and that is just something I can’t do. I’ve been in houses where you’re constantly stepping in urine and I just have to walk away from that type of situation.
“When it comes to feces or anything, that’s where it hits off-limits. It’s not super common, but I have run into it where people think that is a thing, and I’m just saying, ‘That’s your pet, that’s your baby, I’ll leave that to you, and then I’ll take care of everything else for you.’
“Dishes are a big one, too. I don’t mind at all doing them for clients who need them done once in a while. But there have been people who try to take advantage and they’ll leave you a huge pile of dishes and expect you to do them, which is time-consuming and not something normal housecleaners usually do. It’s more housekeeping instead of housecleaning.” – Amber Elise, owner of Bubbles and Buckets in Otsego, Minnesota
2. Don’t hover in the house while a cleaner is working
“I would not stay at home while they are cleaning. A lot of my clients think they need to stay at home and help me clean. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and it is very frustrating. Housecleaners do not need your help. I’ve said this until I am blue in the face. You hire us for a service, and most of us are very good at what we do, so get out of the way and let us do our jobs.
“Most of us clean two, three houses a day and are on a tight schedule. Clients that want to help usually slow us down. I cannot clean the kitchen while you are trying to rearrange your Tupperware.
“I understand the trust issue, and if you have a new cleaning crew come in, or if you can’t physically leave, by all means, stay at home. Just seclude yourself in one part of the house, like a bedroom, so they can clean the rest of the house. When it is time to clean that room, move on to another part of the house they have already done. Once you build trust with your cleaners, you can give them a key or stash it outside somewhere.
“The best jobs that I go to are the ones where I know no one will be home. I can zip through the job while I crank my Beastie Boys Pandora. I can’t do that with my little old ladies at home.” – Sara San Angelo, The Cleaning Lady in Charleston, South Carolina
3. Don’t leave the thermostat cranked up high
Housecleaner Sharel Moore posted a TikTok saying clients should turn down the thermostat for housecleaners. “We’re HOT!!!” her caption said.
A critic in the comments replied, “Their house, their temperature choice. You don’t have to work there.”
“You are right!” Moore shot back in a reply. “Being my own boss I choose to work for people that treat me like a human! And not just hired help.”
4. Don’t expect a cleaner to become your BFF
“After being a housecleaner, the main thing that I would not do is cross the line from treating a client like friends or even family.
“I have had some really bad experiences before that. Because they treated me like family or friends, they felt that they were entitled to certain benefits, almost as if my work was no longer valued the same because I had to give them a deal.
“Also respect was no longer there, which led to several occasions where because those boundaries were crossed … there was no clear line of ‘This is the list of things I do and no more,’ it was like ‘Can you also do … ? Etc.’ The list can go on and on. I feel that it can be like this in many jobs, but I feel more so in a housecleaner situation as it is very personal as you are in their home.” – Ileana Cabrera, a Los Angeles-based housecleaner
5. Don’t get blinds and carpeted stairs if you want to avoid dust
Lisa Sosa of Clean Happy Company posted a TikTok explaining what she would not want in her own home after working as a professional cleaner for nine years:
“I am not going to have blinds in my future home. Those things just collect dust and they are a pain in the ass to wipe, so I’m going either to have the Roman shades or no blinds at all, just really good curtains,” she said, adding later that carpeted stairs are her other big no-no because they are a “pain in the butt.”
6. Don’t buy chemical or strongly scented cleaners
“I won’t use strongly scented cleaning products, even if they are marketed as natural, because they give me headaches for two or three days after the job.” —Gail, a New York City-based housecleaner and member of We Dream in Black, an initiative of the National Domestic Workers Alliance that centers the voices of Black, Afro-Latina and Afro-descendant domestic workers
“After working as a housecleaner for so many years, the main thing I do not do anymore is use cleaners with chemicals in my own home. Many of my clients insists on using toxic cleaners in their homes and as I get older, I am getting very concerned about breathing all those chemicals in as well as them absorbing through my skin.
“I now wear gloves at those clients’ houses if I use anything with bleach in it or other harsh ingredients, and make sure to use them in a ventilated area.
“In my own home, I basically make my own cleaners using vinegar, baking soda and maybe a little Dawn dish detergent. You really don’t need cleaners that can take the chrome off a bumper to keep your house clean.” – San Angelo
7. Don’t expect private holiday lets to be squeaky clean
Tiffany Williams, a Granger, Indiana-based housecleaner, said on TikTok that one of the biggest things she will not do after working as a housecleaner is to stay at a privately owned vacation rental, like an Airbnb.
“I’ve been in a lot of Airbnbs over my sixteen years of doing this. I’ve seen a lot of neglected Airbnbs, I’ve seen a lot of mould in dishwashers, coated ceiling fans, vent fans barely functioning, gross stuff on walls, boogers on bed skirts,” Williams said. “I’ve seen it all, and I personally would never stay at a vacation rental.”
8. Don’t get small grouted tiles as your kitchen backsplash
Housecleaner Alyssa, who works in Oakland, California, and Macomb County, Michigan, shared that after working as a housecleaner, she would not have many small tiles with a lot of grout in her ideal kitchen backsplash, because of how hard they are to clean.
“Grout is annoying, it requires maintenance, and it’s in your kitchen. It’s going to get a lot of buildup and grease,” Alyssa said, “I would opt for a slab … There’s no grout and you could match it with your countertops. That’s what I would opt for.”
9. Don’t pay your cleaner unfairly
“I won’t accept a job without agreeing on a minimum of five hours per cleaning and receiving a clear agreement of the client’s housecleaning needs in order to quote a fair hourly rate. I won’t work for less than $25 per hour.” –– Gail
10. Don’t ask to pay your cleaner later, instead of upfront
“I’ve had people say, ‘I get paid on Friday, so I’ll pay you on Friday.’ And that’s just not how it works. When your cleaner gets there, have the payment ready to go.
“It baffles me because I know I wouldn’t be able to tell a cleaner, ‘Hey, I’ll pay you when I get paid in two weeks,’ and I’ve experienced that, and that’s not the way it works when you’re cleaning someone’s house. Especially when you are self-employed and you might need that money by the end of the week for a certain bill.” –– Elise
11. Don’t assume cleaners have no other choice of job
“If I were to ever hire a housecleaner I would 100% make sure I treat them with the utmost respect and never assume that they do not speak English or that they do not have an education.
“I have a Bachelor of Science in applied mathematics and speak perfect English and if I am cleaning houses, it is not because I have no other choice. It is because it is my choice. I earn more now than I ever did working in any office job I ever had, but never had the flexibility I now have and need for my family.” – Cabrera
Some answers were edited for clarity and length.