The 2020s have forced most of us to spend a lot more time at home, and the results have not been tidy. Dust coats every surface (where does it come from?! It’s not like we live in the Sahara!). There are new bits of schmutz all over the bathroom. The kitchen looks as if it regularly hosts food fights. You can vacuum, wipe, scrub, mop, and dust to exhaustion, or you can find help to restore order.

The first step in getting someone to do your dirty work is to choose whether to hire a company or an individual. You may find it more comfortable to deal with a single worker for such a personal job. But if you go with an individual, a major disadvantage is the added legal responsibilities you’ll assume as an employer. Many families who hire household workers either are unaware of their legal obligations or choose to ignore them.

The first section below covers housecleaning companies, including tips for hiring one and a review of our ratings of area services for quality and price. The second part will help you screen and hire an individual, and deal with him or her fairly. It describes arrangements some of our subscribers have made with housekeepers, and provides guidelines for making your own.

Before hiring an individual, obtain references and check them. Former employers can fill you in on your potential Mr. or Ms. Clean’s strengths and weaknesses. Describe your job expectations, and ask if they encountered any problems.

Write out a job description listing all tasks and how often you want them done. Make sure you describe jobs you are picky about or that could be considered out of the ordinary. Review with the worker all terms of employment—duties to perform, pay, schedule, and benefits—and put them in writing.

Whether you hire a company or an individual, plan on being home for at least the first few visits, and store valuable and/or fragile items in safe places.

We also have ratings of window washing services and carpet and rug cleaning services.