About Cathy Sanders

Cleaning Business Now is my life, my passion, and where my heart is. Help me help others start, run, and grow their profitable cleaning/janitorial businesses!

How to Clean Grout and Impress Your Clients

One of the toughest cleaning challenge I have at work is cleaning my clients’ shower. More often than not, their showers are showing signs of deterioration. My clients are disgusted at the grout but as a cleaner, I have successfully cleaned grout so many times that I know how to deal with it. Soon you will know how to clean grout. Needless to say, my clients often appreciate my calmness.

Grout is just a mix of sand, cement, and water, but the quickness with which it can repulse people is second to none. So without procrastinating any further, break out that cleaning bucket, bring some necessary cleaning materials, and an old rag, and let’s get this problem solved once and for all.

One of the most important steps in removing grout is to pretreat the area you are going to be cleaning. Treat the area with either vinegar, ammonia, or both. Follow your normal procedure in cleaning the tile, as this will remove the top layer of dirt and grime. This will make the harder work a little bit easier, as you will have less to work through. This will save you time and energy.

Now it’s time to get your Walter White on and he’d tell you how to clean grout by start mixing things together like as if you’re the greatest methamphetamine producer in the world, except, not quite. Get a bucket out and add in 6-8 cups of warm water. It doesn’t have to be absolutely scalding, but you want some zest with it. Then toss in half a cup of baking soda, and about a fourth of a cup of white vinegar. Give that solution some time for all of the components to dissolve and mix fully, so that the baking soda is dissolved.

Second step is to take the solution and pour it into a plastic spray bottle. Fill the bottle completely, and then shake the bottle well, just to ensure that everything is mixed properly. I always use a bottle because it allows me to control the amount I need. It will allow you to use however much you need in each spot, and allows you to better govern the direction, something that you can’t do with just pouring out of a bucket.

Third step is the less complicated part. Spray the grout onto the desired area. Let the solution do the work for you. Let it stand for three to five minutes. After that time has passed, start scrubbing. The best tools are the hard-bristled cleaning brushes or a toothbrush. Apply some force behind it, and get the grout out. There may some weird liquid discharge. Use a damp cloth to clean this up and wring the towel out in a different container.

Finally, do one final wipe-down. Looking back over you work, you should notice considerable improvement making your clients really happy with your service. If you prefer shelling out some money to buy a grout cleaner instead of this home-made solution, check out the best grout cleaners out there. And that’s how to clean grout.  

Now if you know a better way comment below!

How To Remove Ink Stains

Let’s say, you were in a hurry, and you put your ballpoint pen on the breast pocket of your shirt or inside your blouse pockets. You forget it is there until you get home and discover an enormous ink stain on the corner of the pocket! What do you do?

How to remove ink stains is a common question among my clients and housewives. Some people use bleach while others use cola. But do they really work? There are different kinds of ink: water based, permanent, and ballpoint ink. Water based ink are easier to remove than all the others, but permanent and ballpoint inks may prove to be a challenge if you don’t know what you’re doing. Here are some tips you can try.

Washable Markers and Water Color Markers Are Water Based Angels

The simpler, the better! When handed the stained clothing, just apply water to the area and blot the stain out with a damp cloth. As you dab, you will see that it magically transfers to your cleaning cloth. Keep repeating the process until the whole stain is as good as gone.

It’s easy and made more fun when kids are around to see for themselves. That way, they can do it on their own at school or at home.

 Permanent Does Not Mean Forever

Ink from permanent markers is a difficult stain to reckon with. So pull up your sleeves and explore these options to take them away or at least fade them.

First, use the rubbing alcohol from your supply toolkit since some types of ink are alcohol based. Set the fabric on a towel then wet the area with alcohol and carefully dab with a clean cloth. Some people like to use nail polish remover in the same way that they would use alcohol. Be gentle with the solution that you use though as it may damage the fabric.

If nail polish remover does not work, try using acetone. Remember that this is your last resort as it can damage fabrics; you wouldn’t want your or someone else’s favorite shirt or blouse to be gone forever. Never use acetone on rayon and acetate fabrics.

Ballpoints Always Have A Point

Going back to the ballpoint pen that was in the shirt pocket, what do we do? Throw it out and buy a new one? Nah, let’s try saving it first.

This type of stain is pretty tricky. We put the fabric on top of a clean towel then try all the solutions that we have talked about one by one. Alcohol always goes first. This type of ink usually responds to it, but if it doesn’t, your nail polish remover should do the trick. Let’s say the stain is so stubborn that alcohol and nail polish remover do not work. Then acetone, as a last resort can be used. And that’s how to remove ink stains easy as pie!

Final Tips

After all these remedies had been used, the stain may have been long gone! Just remember a few pointers when removing stains: 1) Always put a clean towel underneath the cloth, 2) Never mix all the solutions together, 3) Make sure you test the solution on a hidden fold of the fabric before using it on the stain to avoid any damage to the cloth, and 4) If all else fails, you can always purchase an ink stain remover from Amazon. Here are our reviews for the best ones out there.

Do you have any tips or tricks on how to remove ink stains?  Comment below or forever hold your peace!

How to Hire Employees: Employee or Independent Contractor

If you work by yourself, there is a limit to how many clients you can serve. I started my cleaning business with myself as the sole cleaner and while I wanted to do more and make more money, I realized I needed help.

Not only are my hours spent cleaning, I also spent time advertising my services, buying supplies, and managing records. If you find yourself at this point, you may want to start thinking about hiring help. But first, if you want to know how to hire employees, you need to determined whether to get a regular employee or independent contractor.

Choose between regular employee or independent contractor

There are a few important things you want to consider if you are going to expand and hire employees. Do you want to hire them as regular employees or independent contractors? Regular employees will require worker’s compensation, withholding taxes, and a payroll system. On the other hand, hiring independent contractors does pose its own challenges. For example, they will need to provide their own tools and not be beholden to set hours or schedule. Contract labor will carry their own insurance and business license.

My personal take

Personally, I would hire contract labor for one-off cleaning services that I will need help with. For example, signing up a client that has a big home will require extra hands. If you are unable to find contract labor at such a short notice, you can also hire family or relatives and pay them via contract labor. However, if I have clients who need my services on specific days of the week, then I would hire employees and pay all the necessary taxes. I also recommend hiring employees if you prefer to have more control.

Do the right documentation

When hiring contract labor, make sure you have all the agreement and documents in place. You must also report the amount you paid contract labor each year on a Form 1099-MISC, but you do not have to withhold taxes.  Otherwise, if for some reason the IRS determines that your contract labor was actually an employee, you could be held liable for back withholding taxes and potentially penalties.

One specific document you may want to review is IRS Form SS-8 (Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Taxes and Income Tax Withholding) which provides information on the criteria used by the IRS to determine work status. It is available on www.irs.gov.

Ramp up slowly

When hiring employees, one tip is to start out on a part-time arrangement. He or she can then slowly take your place on certain days of the week. This will free up your time for admin and other work such as looking for new clients. Therefore, I recommend a slow ramping up on hiring. If you quickly book lots of clients and suddenly your employee quits, you will struggle finding an immediate replacement or lose credibility by cancelling on clients.

After some time, you can have your employees do all of the cleaning. You can then focus on running the business, such as keeping records, employee scheduling, and advertising. Having staff means needing to manage admin tasks such as insurance, taxes, and background checks. Once you know the kind of staff you want, whether employees or independent contracts, and the implications of each, then it is time to start advertising your job openings.

Do you have any other advice on how to hire employees?  Chime in below!

How to Remove Coffee Stains

Imagine enjoying a nice hot cup of coffee on a lazy Sunday morning. Suddenly, you spill coffee on your white shirt. This can be an infuriating experience. For fresh stains, wash the cloth in cold water and dab the stain with a wet paper towel.

For harder to remove stains, there are a few more sophisticated ways to remove the coffee stain:

  • Commercial stain remover. Using a stain-removal product, saturate the stain and wait one minute for the product to penetrate the stain. Launder the cloth immediately.
  • Vinegar. Vinegar is a great natural stain remover. Mix a teaspoon of white vinegar and quart of cold water. If the stain persists, you can use the vinegar at full-strength. Use a sponge or paper towel and gently dab on the stain.
  • Baking Soda. Apply baking soda to the coffee stain and gently rub the cloth or object. Let the baking soda settle and then rinse with cold water.
  • Egg Yolk. Mix the egg yolk and a few drops of alcohol with warm water. Use a sponge to rub the mixture on the stain.

Of the four methods, a commercial stain remover will be your best bet. The other options are for cases when you do not have access to laundry supplies. These methods are best for clothes and washable items. If you happen to spill coffee on antique linens or silk clothes, I would recommend you take the item to your usual dry cleaner immediately.

Two bonus tips:

  • Do not use a hair dryer or dryer machine as heat sets stains.
  • If possible, never let a coffee stain set. Remove the coffee stain as early as possible to increase your chances of removing it.

Do you have a better way to remove coffee stains?  Comment below and let us know!

Business Funding: 6 Ways to Finance Your Cleaning Business Without Going Broke

Money comes in many ways. Figure out what makes sense for your situation!

Whether starting your own cleaning business from home or embarking on a larger cleaning company, you will need business funding. Here are five options that you should consider to finance your cleaning business.

1) Personal Savings (INVEST IN YOURSELF!)

Personal savings is the easiest and most common way to fund your business. There are no interest expenses nor creditors that will come knocking on your door if you are late on your payment. Consider this an interest free or interest rated loan.  But, set a series of payments to pay yourself back!

However, most people have already planned for how to use their personal savings such as retirement or the kids’ education. It will help if you have extra cash that you can dip into. Otherwise, you can start saving a small portion of your income or savings each month to use for your business.

2) Family and Friends (Also known as the “Father-Mother Fund”)

Are you ready and willing to risk relationships by mixing personal and business? One advantage for approaching family and friends is that some banks may not be willing to extend loans to people who are starting their first business. With family and friends, funding may be readily available with less contractual hassles.

However, there are risks to involving your family and friends and do proceed with caution. If the business fails or success is taking longer than expected, Money issues can strain relationships. Asking for money can be awkward. It is easier to accept rejection from someone you don’t know personally because then you understand that it was a business decision. Worse is if for some reason you are unable to pay people pack which will effectively ruin your relationship. You know the nature of your relationships best so consider these factors before asking for funding.

3) Small Business Administration Loan: 7(a) guarantee small business loan

The common type of loan offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to help you start your cleaning business is the 7(a) guarantee small business loan. You can apply for the 7(a) loan at any bank that participate in the SBA loan process.

Generally, the 7(a) loan program is for business that are already two years since inception and are generating cash flow. Since not all banks offer this type of loan, select one has offered this on a regular basis to make the process easier and simpler for you. Learn more by visiting the SBA loan program website to check your eligibility. This may be the easiest way to get a small business loan.

4) Business Loan

Getting a business loan is another way to fund your cleaning equipment and startup costs. Business loans are usually short term ranging from 5 to 7 years, depending on the type of financing. You will need to offer a collateral to secure the loan such as real estate or another type of asset.

To get started, you will pay a loan origination fee and also interest. However, if the bank you reached out to only offer loans for an amount beyond what you need, you can try to reach out to other financial institutions that may be more flexible. Be prepared to provide details on the amount and purpose of the loan and how you plan to repay it. Submitting documents such as tax returns, checking and savings accounts, as well as credit score will help

5) Business Line of Credit

A business line of credit is relatively easier to get compared to a business loan. It is an unsecured loan and you can use it to finance your costs as you incur these instead of borrowing a lump sum upfront.

It can be used to refinance debt as well as to finance working capital, payroll and all the same types of expenses as a credit card financing. It is typically designed to be a short-term loan and may have a variable interest rate and an annual fee. Some banks may only offer large business lines of credit, such as $25,000 and up, so this may not be the right option for you if you only need access to a small amount of credit.

6) Credit Cards

If you already have or if you qualify for a credit card, you can always use this to pay for some of your initial costs. One advantage for using your credit card is that the minimum monthly payment is low. If you are only starting out and not yet cash flow positive, you can put your expenses on your card and just pay the minimum requirement.

However, there are many disadvantages to using credit card financing. The biggest disadvantage is that interest rates are high and your balance can build up very quickly over time. Annual interest rates can go to 24% or higher which is much higher than the 5% – 6% interest rates on commercial loans. To learn more, you can check out The Pros And Cons Of Small Business Credit Cards.

There you go! Business funding is key early on when starting your cleaning business. If you already have a cleaning business, share your thoughts below on how you financed your business and what worked or did not work for you.

Comment below if you have different business funding tips or tricks!

Business Name Ideas for Your Cleaning Service

What’s in a business name? Why everything!

What’s in a business name? Why everything!

Choosing the right name for your business can be a stressful experience. Here are some business name ideas for your start up! You will want a business name that will draw business in itself, will embody your company’s values, and will last for a long time.  The name should convey what’s unique about your business and relay that to your clients. There are a few sites out there that has more info such as the U.S. Small Business Association website.

What’s in a name?

To start, think of what you want your business name to communicate. The more your name communicates your business services to your clients, the less you need to explain it. Since you are a small business, your name should give clues about the services you offer. This is why a lot of cleaning business have the word “cleaners” in their name or why many landscaping business have the word “landscaping” in theirs. Use real words over made up words because people naturally gravitate towards words they can relate to. Stay away from cute puns. At the same time, the real words you use should be easy to spell so that your clients will remember it easily.

Evoke a positive image

Second, a great business name has to have positive connotation. Choose a familiar name that brings up pleasant memories so that it touches potential clients on an emotional level. For example, consider the difference between

“Grandmother’s Cookies” vs “Mom’s Cookies” or “William’s Janitorial Services” to “Bill’s Janitorial Services”. As you select these names, make sure the connotations are suitable for your business. As a cleaning business, you want the name to convey cleanliness, reliability, and professionalism. A name such as “Crystal Cleaners” conveys just that kind of image.

True colors

Third, think about the colors that you want your name to be associated with. This is important for your business logo and promotional materials. Colors have emotional associations which is why, for example, a lot of restaurants tend to use the color red. A great color for a cleaning business is green because green connotes nature and growth.

Make a shortlist!

Think of 3 – 5 business names and once you have this shortlist, evaluate each again based on the above criteria. Select one that you will be comfortable with. Once you have done this, a few final steps is to claim a website address or URL. Your website address should use keywords that reflect your business. To check availability, you can visit BlueHost.com web services by clicking here (recommended and used by Cleaning Business Now), the WHOIS database, or do a simple web search to see if somebody else has already claimed that name. Once you manage to do this, establish your social media identity by creating a page on social media sites Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. After you have gotten a certain number of fans or likes, you will be able to claim a custom URL which should be your business name. For example, www.facebook.com/CleaningBusinessNow.

Once you claim your social media identity. Go ahead and get listed on online local directories such as Yelp and Angie’s List so that your business can be more easily found. There you have it, some business name ideas to get you started. Now you are ready to register your business name!

What’s the best business name you’ve ever heard of? Post the best names below and let’s battle it out!

How to Clean a Bathroom from Top to Bottom!

Cleaning a bathroom is the most difficult part of the job, BUT, the cleanliness of the bathroom is going to be key factor in whether or not  you are going to get that repeat business.  People HATE to clean their bathrooms because they are unhealthy and if you can clean it for them they will gladly pay you multiple times a months for your time!

Steps to cleaning a bathroom:

  1. Spray down the tub and the toilet
  2. Ventilate the bathroom
  3. Scrub down the toilet first
  4. Scrub down the tub next
  5. Hands and knees on the floor
  6. Handle the mirrors
  7. Finish off with the sink

Did you see how we worked our way from the dirtiest and most unpleasant parts?  It’s because in every step of the way you don’t want dirt from another part of the cleaning to fall in to a place where you’ve already cleaned!

What would have happened if we cleaned the floor first?  The dirt from the toilet and the mirror and the hair from the sink would have fallen down after you’ve done all that cleaning.

Start from the top and then go to the bottom!  As long as you have the right tools and the best cleaning products that we’ve written about, you’ll get this done in no time!

Do you have any other cleaning tips that you’d like to add?  Please comment below because we’re always trying to improve!

Pricing Strategy: How to Price House Cleaning Services Part 2

This is Part 2 of our multi-part conversation about how to price cleaning services. Did you miss Part 1?  No problem, you can check out Part 1 of how to price cleaning services here.

If you are still unsure on your pricing strategy, a good way to get you going is to know that in today’s market, hourly rates generally range from $25 to $35. However, if you are only beginning to market your services, you may want to charge a slightly lower rate such as $20 to $30 per hour to help you enter the market.

Over time, you can slowly increase your prices as you gain more credentials and references. Continually work to upgrade your image and have happy clients so that in the future, clients will pay your rice for the quality service you are known for.

First cleans

Remember that first time cleanings will take longer because you will need to determine how much time you need to spend in a home. First cleans also require more work due to neglect and dirt that have built up over time. In such cases, you may want to charge a premium such as doubling your hourly rate. For example, charging $40 per hour instead of $20 for 3 hours will generate you $120 in revenues. After the first cleaning, you can then revert to charging your normal rate.

Cleaning frequency

In addition, your rates will vary depending on frequency of cleaning. The rule of thumb is that the more times you come in to clean a house, the lower the cost per visit. For example, if you normally charge $30 per hour, you may want to agree to charging $25 per hour in exchange for the client signing up for your services twice a month. Another option is to offer a discount if the homeowner is willing to pay for multiple cleans upfront or of they agree to a long-term contract, i.e. two cleaning visits a month for six months.

Payment Schedule

As you finalize your pricing, make sure to work out a payment schedule. Home cleaning is usually paid on the same day the service is performed. However, if you managed to nail on a long-term contract, you may agree on letting the client pay in full at the end of the month as a sign of goodwill and to reward the client for customer loyalty. Whatever you decide on, make sure to be transparent and communicate the payment method to your clients early on to avoid misunderstandings.

Do you have any stories about pricing strategies?  Comment below and share!

Pricing Strategy: How to Price House Cleaning Services Part 1

Having the right pricing strategy is an area that cleaning business owners struggle with the most. One on hand, you will want to make sure prices for your services are competitive. On the other hand, you need to make sure you generate profit so that your business continues to grow. Luckily, there are a few general guidelines which I will list out to help you in determining your pricing.

Types of pricing

There are two main pricing methods for quoting your services: by the hour or by square footage. For residential cleaning services, the pricing method used is usually by the hour. This is because some clients may only need cleaning for a bedroom or certain parts of the house.

Research First

The first thing you need to do is to research and determine how much other cleaning services in your area is charging. Note the going market rate and factor that into your pricing. Compare their level of experience with yours. Note any differentiating factors such as whether your use more expensive or eco-friendly products. Your prices must be reasonably but still enough to give you a profit. A few ways to check for market rates is to visit www.care.com and enter your zip code, read reviews of cleaning services in your area on www.yelp.com, or ask for a quote from www.redbeacon.com.

Location, location, location

The second thing you will want to do is to determine the location of the client’s house. You should factor in your transportation cost and value of your time which could have been spent cleaning another residence. The other reason for considering location is that there may be room to adjust your pricing strategy depending on the neighborhood. You can probably quote a higher price for a house in a nice neighborhood than you can in a university dorm.

House size

The third thing you should consider in is the house itself. Obviously, the bigger the size of the house, the longer it will take to clean the house which will be factored in your per-hour charge. However, if the house has more people living inside it, if the owners have pets, or if the level of clutter is above average, you can potentially negotiate a higher per-hour rate. Houses that are more luxurious and have amenities such as pools or gyms can also probably afford a higher quote. However, do not raise your prices too much that it turns potential clients off.

Cleaning tasks

Finally, consider the cleaning services the client is asking for. Cleaning the carpet, windows, and garage will merit additional charges or a higher per hour fee especially if these are not included in your “full house cleaning service”. If your client is reasonable, he or she will understand that these requirements will need extra labor and effort from you or your team.
Now that you know the different factors that come into play when determining your pricing strategy, I will discuss a few more specifics to get you started on your pricing in the second of this two-part pricing series.  Check out Part 2 of how to price your cleaning services here.

Do you have any other tips on how to maximize the price?  Comment below and share!

Types of Insurance for Your Cleaning Business

As a cleaning business owner, having cleaning insurance will help you manage your risk. In addition to protection from losses and claims, the other benefit of being bonded will increase the likelihood that clients will contract your services since they will feel more comfortable and secured any untoward incidences. What types of insurance do you need?

Some states will require you to be insured and bonded while other won’t. Check with your state to see what is required. If you are required to hold a license of some form, then most likely your business needs to get bonded and insured. Here are the main forms of insurance you should be familiar with:

Liability Insurance

If your business is aimed towards home cleaning, you may not be required to get liability insurance although there are still benefits to having one. Liability insurance is meant to protect you financially if you or a member of your staff inadvertently damages a client’s possession such as knocking off a vase or breaking a window. If you own a commercial cleaning business, there are more liability risks. For example, one of your crew members may have forgotten to lock a door which resulted in theft. If you have the right coverages, your insurer can help pay for any damages related to the incident.

Bonded

Being bonded protects your business from theft. Being bonded protects your clients in the event that a staff member is arrested and/or convicted of stealing from them. The employee may be responsible for the crime but you could be held responsible for the loss. While this type of insurances is not mandatory, having it is an advantage when trying to sign up clients especially if your competitors do not have it.

Vehicle Insurance

If you own a vehicle for your cleaning business, it is recommended that you have insurance to covers the vehicle. This will protect you in the event of accidents especially if one of your crew was behind the wheels. If your crew drives from one home to another and is carrying cleaning equipment and tools, you could be held responsible if they cause an accident. One way to solve this is to endorse your auto insurance policy as “hired and non-owned autos” so that any liability that arises will be deemed to be on company business.

Workers Comp

If you employ a cleaning crew, you will definitely need workers comp to cover your employees’ work-related injuries or illness. Check your state for statutory requirements. Some states require three employee while others may require four.

Summary

On a final note, before you sign up for any of the above types of insurance, talk to a local agent in your area who has experience writing insurance for small businesses. If you need help finding an agent, scour the internet or check your yellow pages under commercial or business insurance. The premium will vary from one company to another so make sure to call and get quotes. Discuss your needs and sign up for the minimum to get you started. Note that no standard carrier is going to write a liability policy on an entirely new business so you may need to call a local, independent agent who can access the excess market.

Do you have any success or horror stories around the types of insurance for your business or being bonded?  Comment below and let us know!