Maiden voyage

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I clean houses part time to bring in some additional income. .

My newest client has severe allergies, no strong chemicals can be used in her home. Currently I’m using soap and water or a vinegar mix for most of the jobs, but her tub and shower combo are quite grungy, (not the glass),and vinegar just isn’t cutting it.

Any suggestions?

Also, Ivy, since you have worked as a maid, any words of wisdom to pass along to a newbie?


Got it “maid” in Murfreesboro

WinkIvy says:

Cleaning houses part time is a great way to make additional income! I used to have a lot of picky clients, so I understand how that goes. One thing I would suggest is, if they have a specific cleaning product they want you to use, make them buy it and keep it at their house- otherwise your cleaning kit will become very large (and very expensive), very fast.

Vinegar is one of my favorite soap scum busters, but if it is not cutting the mustard, so to speak, I would suggest using a baking soda paste. Just mix the baking soda with the least water possible to make a paste and use it to scrub the tub. If that is not working, I would consider wetting the tub, sprinkling baking soda on the tub so it sticks, and using a cloth dampened with 100% white vinegar. It will cause a foaming action and should make the tub sparkle. Once you have it cleaned the first time, it should not be that hard to maintain.

Heather wanted to add that even with severe allergies, there are some great ways to make a house smell really good- boiling cinnamon sticks in a pan of water, for example, or putting some drops of vanilla on lightbulbs. Heather tells me the natural smells don’t mess with her allergies the way synthetic things do.

She also suggests (if you’re taking care of this client’s linens) that you wash the linens with hot water, to kill dustmites- weekly for sheets, biweekly for mattress pads, and monthly for everything else like dust ruffles and comforters.

I wrote a fab post awhile back at Curbly called “Clean like a maid!” that covers a lot of the tips I learned while working as a maid.  Something else I would suggest is not to spend an enormous amount of time in any specific room, even if the room needs a lot of attention. Explain to your clients that some things take several cleanings to “get up to speed” if they have been neglected a long time. I learned this the hard way- a client of mine had the nastiest toilet I have ever seen and I spent 2 hours on the toilet alone. By the time I walked out of that house, I had ended up making way below minimum wage and her house still was not completely clean.

Also, if you are bidding your own jobs, tend toward the overbidding than the underbidding. It is better to lose a client because you are too expensive than to underbid a job and end up vastly underpaid. Of course, you don’t want to grossly overbid anything, but build yourself in a little cushion in case you run into anything especially heinous. The other thing I would suggest is having a completely separate charge for cleaning ovens, if a client requests that. The clients that request that you clean their ovens are the clients that have completely disgusting ovens. Charge a flat rate for cleaning them, I would charge $30 per oven cleaned here in Tennessee.

Good luck with your maid gig, from one maid to another! 🙂


  1. Shannon on August 8, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Mr Clean Sponges and Water alone clean soap scum better than any chemical cleaner on the market! I use one to clean the shower all of the time!

  2. Mom of three on April 22, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    I would use plain ole shampoo. I use daily clarifying shampoo and one of those puffy scrubbers. If you could convince her to wash the door after each shower, which takes about 30 seconds, in two weeks she’d notice a perfectly clean shower, and the smells don’t bother me either. Allergies to smells cause migraines for me, and this is one way to keep the shower clean, takes very little time each morning, and is cheap to do. You could mix the shampoo in a bottle of water, and have her just spray. I don’t know how well that would work, but it ‘s worth a try. If you only clean once a week, it might take a little longer to notice a big change, but it should be easy to keep it that way, once it’s done. The shampoo will break down the soap and body oils.

  3. Tink on August 20, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    “I would consider wetting the tub, sprinkling baking soda on the tub so it sticks, and using a cloth dampened with 100% white vinegar.”

    Justed wanted to say thanks again. I used vinegar & baking soda on the tub/shower and it worked like a charm!

    The client was thrilled with the result and very happy to have a new solution to beating grunge that didn’t send her into an allergic reaction.

    Thanks again! I appreciate all the great suggestions.

  4. Tink on August 2, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    Thanks Ivy and Heather!

    VERY much appreciated.

  5. DB Ferguson on August 2, 2007 at 10:29 am

    I have found that using Bon Ami in the tub kills even the strongest soap scum. It takes a little elbow grease, but it really cuts through the grime. I, too, only use “natural” cleansers.

    I first spray down the tub with a solution of 1 tbs Tea Tree Oil Dr. Bronners in a spray bottle (I don’t know if the tea tree oil helps but it sure does smell medicinally clean), and then sprinkle the Bon Ami on top of that. Then I scrub this solution into the scum until it comes off, and then rinse it super well.

    The 1 tbs soap to 16 oz water also works well as a basic countertop cleaner, although if it suds up too much you might want to add a little more water to the solution. I’ve also made the soap solution with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint, and it works lovely.

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