Hired Help vs. Elbow Grease: What's the most affordable way to clean?

The Cost of Clean

Rates vary from region to region, but expect a typical cleaning service to charge about what it would cost for your family to eat out at a nice restaurant. You may be able to take advantage of a competitive market in some locations, but the cost will still be more than a container of disinfectant, a bucket and a few sponges -- substantially more. You may be surprised at what isn't included in the base price, too. Don't expect an oven cleaning or refrigerator overhaul without paying extra.

Can you just get a neighborhood teenager to clean your home for spending money and your eternal gratitude? Yes, you sure can. You might want to check your state and local laws, though. That tidy teen may be considered an employee under some circumstances -- with tax implications you may not want to contemplate. It's also a good idea to check your homeowner's insurance policy to verify that on-the-job injuries, like taking a tumble down the stairs, are covered.

If you're the designated maid or tidy upper at your house, expect to spend around 10 hours per month scrubbing, dusting and vacuuming. That comes out to two and a half hours a week. While you're scouring the sink that may sound like an eternity, but relative to the time you spend doing other things, it may not be so bad. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has compiled a Time Use Survey for the average American. Based on its estimates, you spend about two and a half hours watching television every day. That TV time won't help get your house clean, but it will raise your risk for a heart attack or stroke. It will also make you more likely to develop diabetes and obesity. There's a lesson here somewhere -- household chores offer you a good opportunity to turn TV time into exercise time.

Are you ever going to love cleaning? Don't hold your breath. Consider turning up the volume up on your flat screen, though. You'll want to hear it over the noise of the vacuum cleaner.

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  • Bureau of Labor Statistics. "American Time Use Survey Summary." 6/22/11. (5/9/12). http://www.bls.gov/news.release/atus.nr0.htm
  • Cummings, Betsy. "10 Things Your Cleaning Service Won't Tell You." Smart Money. 6/15/04. (5/9/12). http://www.smartmoney.com/spend/family-money/10-things-your-cleaning-service-wont-tell-you-15941/
  • Dust Busters Cleaning Services. "7 Questions To Ask Prior To Hiring a Cleaning Company." (5/9/12). http://www.dustbustersnj.com/7questionstoask.html
  • Good Housekeeping. "52 Home-Organizing Tips." (5/9/12). www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/cleaning-organizing/how-to-get-organized
  • Housecleaning Tips. "Quick Housecleaning Tips for Your Home." (5/9/12). http://www.housecleaning-tips.com/quick-housecleaning-tips.html
  • Networx. "Why Hire a Cleaning Service." (5/9/12). http://cleaning.networx.com/info/why-hire-a-cleaning-service/
  • Pickett, Marcus. "How to Find a Maid Service That's Right for You." Insider Pages. (5/9/12). http://www.insiderpages.com/articles/how_to_find_a_maid_service_thats_right_for_you

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