While having a clean house seems more important than ever, the potential risks that come with bringing someone in to do the cleaning have caused the industry to see a drop-off in business amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Jonathan Browne, owner of Rochester-based Sparkle Clean Maids, said he’s had about a quarter of the jobs he usually does, so he only has a skeleton crew working to clean the few residential properties that don’t mind bringing someone in.
His remaining clients are mostly in their 20s and 30s, Browne said.
Barbara Goncalves, owner of New Bedford-based Clean 4 U, has also kept cleaning for some residential clients, but has a more varied group than Browne.
Her clients include a couple who are both hospital workers and an 80-year old woman.
Goncalves said she and her clients continuously check in on each other via texts and calls to make sure no one is showing any symptoms and when she goes into the houses to clean, both she and her clients wear masks.
Asked why she thinks the 80-year old woman still wants her to come in and clean, Goncalves said, “I think she’d rather have the house clean.”
Goncalves said her clients also know that she has a daughter and wouldn’t do anything to put herself or her daughter in danger.
Paula Waters, owner of New Bedford-based Nu Maid Inc., said her few remaining residential clients have been older, as well.
“They’ve been older shockingly, like 70s,” Waters said.
She’s been giving her clients the option to cancel but said these few elderly clients have told her, “No, no it’s okay, just come.”
When she arrives to do the cleaning, Waters said the clients don’t stay and she guesses that they’re okay with her company coming in to clean because they’re practicing good social distancing and everyone is wearing masks.
Waters said when she arrives at a client’s house she immediately wipes everything down with disinfectants, then does the normal cleaning she would do, then wipes everything down again.
In addition to checking on her clients’ conditions and wearing a mask, Goncalves said she only uses cleaning products available at the clients’ houses, so she doesn’t bring anything from one house to another, and is using more disinfecting and santizing products than she used before the outbreak.
Browne is also having his employees take extra precautions, providing them with masks and other personal protective equipment including gloves, he said.
Like Browne, Goncalves and Waters have had to limit their numbers of employees.https://6f6d8fdf668a4b8869ebb46a1da02f5d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Usually Goncalves has two employees aside from herself, but she had six households cancel their cleaning service, so she’s cleaning the remaining homes herself.
Goncalves said her employees understand, but it “is very sad because they don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from.”
Waters usually has six employees, but now only she and another employee are working and the rest are collecting unemployment.
Some of her employees decided not to work because they didn’t want to potentially expose themselves to the virus. Waters said she takes a lot of extra precautions to keep herself healthy, including taking off her clothes and shoes right when she gets home and taking a shower.
Waters said Nu Maid Inc. went from having eight residential properties to clean a day to one or two properties a week.
Right now the company is mostly just cleaning commercial buildings, according to Waters, but even with the commercial buildings she and her employee are only working about 15 to 20 hrs a week.
During the pandemic, Browne has been working to adapt his business to include commercial cleaning, where there is more of demand during the pandemic.
He’s already been able to secure some office-cleaning jobs, he said, and has been working to get more commercial certifications so he can attract even more commercial clients.
The certifications he’s looking to get include blood-borne pathogen certification and he’s also trying to acquire commercial-grade sanitizing equipment, but it’s been difficult.
Browne said he’s been trying to buy electrostatic spray guns, which are used to spray disinfectants and sanitizers, but the guns are selling for $5,000, five times what they usually cost.
While their three companies have been able to stay open, others have closed.
The Maids South Coast has a message posted to their website that they will remain closed until May 4.
“With the continued closure of schools, day care centers, and businesses we feel it is in the best interest of our employees, customers, and community to remain closed until May 4th,” the statement reads, “During this extended period we are maintaining all benefits for our employees, as well as helping coordinate substitute income. We have also donated inventory of PPE such as gloves, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant to local first responders and health organizations.”
Though things look bleak now, Browne suspects things could be looking up for cleaning services in the near future.
He said he guesses that once the state begins to reopen there will be a new push for people who want to “clean everything to a completely sanitized level, so we’re trying to get ready for that.”