career

'The kitchen had mouldy dishes.' Three cleaners on what people don't know about their job.

Cleaners; they are like angels with mops and vacuums, helping make our homes liveable. But most of us have had a moment where we wonder if what we’re leaving a cleaner to do is… normal. Acceptable. Appropriate. 

You might have also wondered about the sheer extent of what cleaners have to put up with. Surely it’s worse than our grubby windows and grimey showers?

Mamamia spoke with a group of cleaners who shared six things you wouldn’t know about their job.

Four cleaning hacks to make your life easier. Post continues below.

Video by MMC

1. It isn’t an easy job that anyone can do.

Renee, a domestic cleaner of over four years, says “the biggest misconception of cleaning is that it is an easy job and a dead end one, for people who aren’t able to get into anything else.”

She said that the nature of the job, which can often mean being self-employed, is excellent in some respects due to the freedom, but it can also be difficult in others because “if you don’t work you don’t get paid”.

*Kylie, a domestic cleaner of three years, said cleaning is actually “hard labour. It can be very physically demanding.”

“Because cleaning is viewed as a non-skilled trade, sometimes clients will turn their noses up at us,” she added. “It is usually these same ones who will also view us as a housekeeper and order us around to try and get every dollar’s worth.”

2. We can’t do our job properly if the house is too messy or isn’t cleaned at all between our visits.

Renee said she’s learned that “there are two stages to cleaning”.

“The first is the tidy up – making sure everything can be reached to clean – then, there’s actually cleaning it.”

Sometimes clients will have so much clutter that getting to the second stage is quite a challenge.

Kylie told Mamamia that she was once faced with cleaning the home of a hoarder. “There was about half a metre of ‘stuff’ on every surface – the kitchen benches, tables, counters. There were piles of clothing and shoes on the floors, her house was just full of stuff. I was booked for three hours to clean the entire house. She expected it to be spotless at the end but I hadn’t even been able to begin actually cleaning it once the three hours were up and she got so upset with me.”

Renee said one of her biggest challenges was when it was clear that no cleaning had been done in between her last visit, two weeks prior. “The ensuite had a floor to ceiling mirror covered in make-up and that was at least 3 mm thick. It was also on the surrounding furnishings, the toilet and the shower. The kitchen had mouldy dishes and you could not see the silver of the sink or much of the bench space. By the fourth visit I left the key at the door and told her the job was not for me.”

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3. Most of us enjoy our job and feel it is important.

“The best thing about my job is that I can mostly pick my own hours so I can pick up and drop my kids at school. I can also attend their activities and special days which means I don’t miss out on anything. I also truly find my job really rewarding. A lot of the time I am really helping and making a difference to people’s lives for the better,” said Renee.

cleaning shower glass Ikea hack
"QUOTE" Image: Getty.

4. Some of us will snoop – it’s human nature.

Kylie said while “I wouldn’t personally snoop, I have been tempted and I know that some of my colleagues have definitely had a sneaky peak once or twice. It’s human nature, isn’t it?”

Although never admitting to snooping, Kylie has discovered a number of illegal objects within the houses she has cleaned. “There were a few bongs and drugs left out on a table at one client’s house. I think he had forgotten to pack them away," she said.

*Mel, a domestic cleaner for a private company said, “if you leave important papers laying around, most of us are going to look at them. Once I found some court papers for a client, the charge was public nudity.”

5. Sometimes cleaners are asked to do some strange things.

Renee told Mamamia “the oddest thing I’ve ever dealt with was when I was working for people who had previously had live-in maids. They asked me to de-clutter their bookshelves and paperwork for them which is not really something anyone else can do for others.”

Kylie said she was "once asked to match all the odd socks in the household. There was two laundry baskets full and in the end over 200 pairs! It took hours.”

6. Our clients can sometimes be the biggest challenge of the job.

Mel said she has been hit on by both her male and female clients, sometimes married ones. "I've had husbands and wives outright flirt with me. One time I was even offered a ‘bonus’ for performing extra duties. It is insulting, unprofessional and makes things very uncomfortable.”

Shona Hendley, Mother of Goats, Cats and Humans is a freelance writer from Victoria. An ex secondary school teacher, Shona has a strong interest in education. She is an animal lover and advocate, with a morbid fascination for true crime and horror movies. You can follow her on Instagram @shonamarion


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