Fair-practice professional home cleaning is an industry at the turn of a page in history. In the US, it has recently become more affordable, allowing vast numbers of people to hire out the help when it was recently considered a luxury for just the well-to-do. While cleaning rates suitable to a majority a of the population may be a fresh sight, the industry of home cleaning reaches far back in history, driven by creative ideas and good intentions.
Archeologists found soap from as long as 4,800 years ago in what was then Babylonia. Soap was a staple product for the ancient civilization, which used it for cleaning and medical purposes. Other eras were not so thorough in their cleanliness. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the middle ages saw a serious decline in public sanitation services as well as personal hygiene practices. This had a damaging effect on public health, and illness became rampant worldwide.
During the Industrial Revolution, our growing understanding of microbiology and disease began a shift in the attitude toward cleaning. Technology and cleaning came together in the 1900s, when British and US inventors ran with the idea of machine-powered vacuum cleaners. They created both gasoline and electric versions, and cleaning services carried this heavy equipment in horse drawn carts as a door-to-door business at the cutting edge of the industry. They used long hoses to reach inside the homes and charged $4 a vacuuming- more than $100 in today’s economy.
The home cleaning industry has since grown to service a far greater population and with more efficiency than ever before. Modern professional home cleaning services have somewhat standardized cleaning practices and products around the world and the results of a professional home cleaning have not changed much in recent years. Clean houses are obtainable with just a few basic tools and the proper amount of time. The biggest change in this industry's history is its recent availability to a wider public. For much of professional cleaning history, the service was limited to the higher echelons of society.
Companies like Homejoy are adding the newest page to the history of fair-service home cleaning. Homejoy uses an accessible technology base and a shared economic approach with their cleaners to offer rates more affordable to a wider audience. Well-paid professional home cleaners are no longer limited to the very well-to-do households.
Much of Homejoy’s success in offering lower prices comes from within the company, but there are still some changes to modern living that have helped create an accommodating environment.
Adora Cheung, cofounder and CEO of Homejoy, spent 2.5 years working on her master’s degree in economics before she broke into the exciting world of startup companies. She references access to cheaper technology as one outside factor that helped for her new company, which is why Cheung also cites recent social changes as factors that helped drive down costs of home cleaning. One clear shift is in the expectation that a woman living in a household will also be the one cleaning it. If both partners are busy with work or other matters, they would naturally have less time to clean the house. This increase in demand creates more room for offering lower prices.
“People value their time now more than ever,” says Cheung, who thinks someone is likely to pay $20 an hour if it means more free time with their children or hobbies. Homejoy has already started to made their mark on history. In less than one year of business they expanded to more than 20 cities and set the stage for more affordable professional home cleaning services.
There will always be room for changes and improvements in the future of the home cleaning industry, but it has come a long way already- from a little soap shop in an ancient city to offering affordable, friendly and professional home cleaning at the touch of a button.
-- Scott Barrett, Client Account Specialist