Do You Tip House Cleaners? (& Other Etiquette Tips)
If they’re making a living wage– or setting their own rates because they’re a self-employed housekeeper– do you really have to tip them?
After all, you don’t tip your plumber or landscaper. You pay for the service and that’s the end of it.
But then… you do tip your hairdresser and other service-based jobs.
There IS a tipping system for housekeeping services, but the etiquette around this isn’t entirely clear. So we’ve broken it all down for you, below.
Do you tip a house cleaner (from a company vs. self-employed)?
Bottom line, there’s really no one standard answer.
It’s not like going to a restaurant, in which most people understand that the societal norm for gratuity is 20%. Some may tip more or less, but most stick with that standard.
After a little digging, reviewing, and conversations with housekeeping services (and independent housekeepers) on what they generally experience, we began seeing some trends in housekeeping tipping etiquette.
From a company
Most homeowners do tip housekeepers coming from a company, recognizing that many cleaners working with these services do not make much.
Homeowners recognize that any tip they give is a message of appreciation for a job well done and acknowledgment that they may not always make what they deserve.
The standards around tipping a self-employed housekeeper are wildly different, and that’s because this person sets their rates.
Homeowners hire them with the understanding that they’re accounting for the exact time and effort they know they’ll be putting in.
Since most housekeepers will work on the same property for months or even years, they come to know the house well, the owners, and the way they like things done.
So it’s common not to tip the self-employed housekeeper.
How much should you tip your weekly house cleaner?
While you still have independence over how much to tip your weekly house cleaner if they come from a service, we’ve found that most homeowners like to tip around 20%.
Since we’re familiar with tipping for other service-based work, and those tips also fall around the same percentage of the total fee, housekeeping is developing that same standard.
There is some wiggle room around this.
If you’re using a service, but you see the same housekeeper each week or month, you may feel more comfortable giving your cleaner a monthly tip instead.
If you’re hiring self-employed cleaners, you may choose not to tip your housekeeper regularly.
Instead, you may give them occasional gifts or a generous bonus around the holiday season and/or the end of the year.
The standard for such a bonus is anywhere from half a day to two full days of regular cleaning wages. So, if your rate for cleaning is $80 per clean, you might tip $40- $160 in addition to their typical fee.
Some feel a little more generous and offer more, depending on how long they’ve been cleaning your home, how well you know them, and their level of service.
Tipping based on the size of your home
For the average three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a weekly cleaning through a housekeeping service, most people experience paying $80-100 for the cleaning itself.
A tip of $20, assuming the standard 20% that other service-based workers receive, is fairly common and sometimes expected. Some cleaning services will even leave hints about this tip with your invoice or at the time of booking.
If your home is a bit larger (over 2,500 square feet), and depending on your area, costs for a single cleaning may amount to over $200.
On one hand, some homeowners think this fee is high enough, and they only feel an obligation to pay an additional fee if the work done is above average. On the other hand, a larger house requires more work, so perhaps tipping is an appropriate gesture, especially if it’s not included in the overall quote.
Quality of work
A 20% tip has become the rule of thumb or the “standard” for tipping on each clean (at least for those popping in from a cleaning service), but that’s just for a “standard” cleaning.
Basically, they come in, they do the work to satisfaction, and that’s that.
But if the house cleaner is exceptional, and goes above and beyond the call of duty (germs are serious, ya know), you might feel like giving a little more.
(Some homeowners mentioned giving extra due to additional messes beyond the norm, such as sleepovers and parties, though the tip is subjective)
Acceptable forms of tipping
It’s not entirely unusual to gift housekeepers clothing or household items. Depending on how close you are with them, you may even give them birthday or holiday gifts.
Other interesting gifts for home cleaners may be:
- Food (holiday peanut brittle or chocolates)
- Hand lotions and perfumes
- Unused household and clothing items
- Gift cards
- Nice bottle of wine
The gold standard remains a cold, hard cash tip, but if you’re feeling generous or have gotten to know your housekeeper, it’s not unusual to gift them other items.
What’s the proper etiquette for house cleaning services, beyond the tip?
What should you have the cleaning person clean? Should you offer cleaning tips? If they’re at your home for a long time, do you feed them? Should you help them clean? What should you expect from them?
We’ll use the example of a restaurant again because there are a set of unspoken rules there.
You get seated by a hostess, order drinks, appetizers, entrées, and dessert, and then leave a tip upon payment.
You’re not going to start expecting services beyond the scope of getting you food and drink items, cleaning your area, and checking on you periodically (and occasionally taking a photo here and there…).
Housekeeping services aren’t always so cut and dry, because every service is a bit different, as is every home.
If you look for services right now, either on a directory for an individual housekeeper or on a company website, you’ll often see services listed. Some services we’ve seen include:
- Refrigerator cleaning
- Move out cleaning
- Steam cleaning
- Post-renovation cleaning
- Holiday cleaning
Clearly, not every company or individual will offer all of these services, so there really can’t be a standard etiquette that applies to all.
But for general housekeeping, you’ll often have a choice of what areas of your home they clean and for how long they’re at your property.
When you first call a service provider, they’ll do an initial assessment of your home, taking into consideration the services you’re requesting and the rooms that need to be cleaned, to work up a quote.
You’ll determine the frequency of cleaning, and sometimes even the order in which they clean (hey, when you have a process, you have a process).
What does a maid service do/ clean?
If you’re just hiring a general cleaning service, you can expect them to do some of the following:
- Sweeping/ mopping (unless you have a Roomba® robot vacuum or Braava® robot mop to handle that for you)
- Making beds/ changing bed linen
- Scrubbing toilets and showers (or just general bathroom cleaning)
- Sanitizing surfaces
- Washing windows
- General tidying
- Cleaning fans and blinds
Some may even offer lawn care, cooking, and even transportation for the elderly (though in that case they’re more like general task-doers and helpers than housekeepers and are very rare to find).
What you should do before your maid service comes
Feeling slightly pink in the cheeks at your mess before someone comes over is a completely normal sensation. You might feel the urge to run around your home and perform a quick cleaning job of your own, not wanting to load extra work onto your housekeeper.
There are legitimate reasons to clean up before your housekeeper arrives.
For one, if you have clothes or toys laying around and your housekeeper isn’t familiar with where they go, they might not be put away or end up in the wrong spot. If anything, your housekeeper just won’t know what to do with them.
Perhaps you just have your own system, and way of doing certain things. Your housekeeper might just be there to do a deeper clean or clean things you don’t get to so often (like those darn fans and the tops of mirrors).
Or, maybe you’re going away for some time, and you want to come home to a clean home, but the housekeeper wasn’t hired to clean everything.
While there are a wild number of reasons you might clean before (and even after) your house cleaner, there are some slightly standard things:
- General tidying of your clothes, and papers (mail and schoolwork are always laying somewhere)
- Dishes (unless this is part of your services)
- Moving heavy pieces of furniture if you’re expecting them to clean under or around them
- Put away any fragile items, if you’re worried about damage
- Secure pets and pet items
Remember that your housekeeper isn’t there to do everything. If you’re not hiring them to clean the dishes, but they will clean the kitchen, put the dishes away so they’ll be able to scrub out the sink.
Anything that’s in the way, such as items on the floor, makes it harder to get cleaning tasks done fast and efficiently. If they’re trying to vacuum, but they have to remove a bunch of clothes first, it may add to your fees. At the very least it’ll take them longer to complete the task.
Can you clean with your housekeeper?
This question comes down to “should I stay or leave when my housekeeper is working”, more than whether or not you should clean before or with them.
As answered above, you should do general tidying first. As for cleaning with your housekeeper…
Don’t feel obligated. In fact, you might just be in their way. Others may feel as though you’re watching them (no one likes a head over their shoulder while they work).
Most housekeepers have a system that allows them to clean thoroughly, but with speed and efficiency.
Sometimes this is hindered if you’re moving objects around, placing wet dishes on a surface they just cleaned, doing laundry while they’re trying to sweep your floors…
You’ll get the most out of your housekeepers if you’re not even in your home while they’re around. You may use the time to run errands, take kids to the park, or the dog(s) on a hike. If none of these are options, try to remove yourself from their work areas as much as you can.
This might mean enjoying the weather from your backyard for a while, or doing other activities in a part of the house the house cleaner isn’t expected to work in.
Areas your housekeeper won’t clean (laundry?)
Unless you’ve hired a service (or individual housekeeper) that specifically states they’ll clean those areas or do those tasks, don’t expect them to.
You’ll always outline expectations before service starts, and if you hope they’ll perform certain services once in a while, make sure to ask during your vetting process.
That said, there are certain areas and tasks that most housekeepers won’t clean, such as:
- Trash (as in, taking it outside or to the curb)
- Blinds and curtains
- Pet areas (such as litter boxes)
- Changing bed linen
Is there house cleaning tipping etiquette for specific/special circumstances?
There is no set standard on tipping for special occasions, such as a holiday (like Christmas), a party, or when your kids’ friends have been over.
But there is still a tipping etiquette for these situations.
If you’ve had the same housekeeper time and time again, you might feel compelled to give an extra cash bonus around the holidays– or one of those non-cash gifts we mentioned earlier.
But for instances like a party, deep cleaning, or particularly big messes, an additional 5-10% would be gracious.
Do you have to tip every time your cleaning lady (or gentleman) cleans?
Short answer: no.
The long answer: it depends on a few factors. If you’re working with a cleaning company, and see different cleaners for each clean, you might consider tipping for each and every clean to make sure they always get that extra dose of appreciation.
You may also feel compelled to tip each time your housekeeper comes, even if it’s the same person (and even if they’re with a company).
Though if you know for sure they’re going to send the same person, you might choose to tip them once a month, or only around the holidays.
Where the short answer applies with fewer questions is to individual housekeepers, since most people don’t tip them (beyond holiday gestures).
What you should consider before you tip
We’ve touched a little on the scenarios that may be cause for a smaller or larger tip, and what that tip may look like. But when you’re trying to determine how much YOU should tip (because there’s no standard, and it is subjective), there are a few things to consider:
1. Are you satisfied with your service, or do you feel like you might have to clean up after your housekeeper?
You might not always be satisfied with the level of service, and in that case, you shouldn’t feel obligated to tip.
2. Did the housekeeper go above and beyond, doing a very thorough job or cleaning areas and items that you might not have expected. Does your home now sparkle?
3. What was the state of your home when they began cleaning?
Remember, if you’ve recently had a party, family over, or other special circumstance, you might want to tip more. They may be a housekeeper, but they don’t always know what they’re walking into.
If they’re used to your home being semi-tidy before they start cleaning, but are suddenly cleaning a much larger mess for the same rate, tipping a bit extra is a good show of appreciation.
4. The service company you’re hiring from matters.
If you know that your housekeeper isn’t getting paid a huge amount each time they clean your home, and you feel they deserve to be paid beyond a standard tip for their hard work, then you might not even hesitate to offer more.
5. The amount you pay for your service also matters. If you’re paying over $200 every week or every other week for a cleaning, you might already feel you’re giving a lot to get the relief of not having to do the work yourself.
In other words, consider your budget. There’s only so much you can pay before the service is no longer worth it. However, tipping is an important factor to consider if/when you decide to hire a cleaner. It may be better to tip more when it costs more.
6. How much notice did you give them?
If your cleaning request is last minute, they may have to move their schedule around to make you a priority or scramble to find someone to cover your service.
In this case, you may tip more to show appreciation for responding so quickly and making accommodations.
They may be part of a service, and this type of request may happen from time to time, but someone may have had to put in extra hours or go out of their service area to ensure they meet your request.
7. Does the company you’re hiring from offer recommendations around tipping or even have a tipping policy? Some services offer suggestions on how much to tip your housekeeper for their service (much like restaurants that show how much to tip based on percentages at the bottom of a receipt).
This suggestion can be helpful, as it’ll let you know whether or not the housekeeper will expect a tip to begin with (let alone how much).
Some may even have rules against gifts as a means of tipping (or against tipping altogether). It’s exceptionally rare, but they may choose to do so on a basis of fairness for all of their employees.
At any rate, it’s a great idea to check with the company on what’s standard practice for their cleaning business.
8. How often do you see your housekeeper? You may leave a small tip less, or tip less often if you’re seeing the same housekeeper each week. Constantly giving a 20% tip to the same person may not always be conducive to your budget.
9. What type of services are you hiring them for? If your housekeeper is only cleaning one room or doing minor cleanings such as dusting and vacuuming, then a smaller tip or no tip is more reasonable.
On the other hand, if they’re doing a deep clean such as cleaning your refrigerator or cleaning your windows both inside and out (especially if they’re large windows), then a larger amount may be appropriate.
You’re not obligated to tip your housekeeper, regardless of them being with a service or doing an extraordinary job. It’s simply a way to show appreciation and recognition for the work they’re doing.
After all, you’re gaining a sense of relief that you don’t have to dust your fans and shelves or spend hours scrubbing your bathrooms and kitchen.
If you want a live-in maid that takes care of your floors daily (and one you don’t have to tip), a Roomba® robot vacuum might be right up your alley.