Even the smallest homes in the United States require plenty of upkeep to be considered livable by modern standards. Between all the dusting, sweeping and vacuuming necessary to maintain a clean environment, it’s a wonder anyone has the time to enjoy their homes. An increasing percentage of Americans are turning to professional cleaners to win the war on grime. Believe it or not, professional cleaning services make a lot of sense for many consumers across the country.

The reality is that a house cleaner can be a godsend for busy homeowners that don’t have the time to do the job right. Professional house cleaners make a home healthier and easier to navigate for a nominal fee. What’s more, you don’t have to be a Rockefeller to afford their services. Here’s a quick rundown of everything you’ve ever wanted to know about hiring a house cleaner on a budget.

What to Expect from a House-Cleaning Service

When you hire a house cleaner, your agreement will typically delineate a set of tasks that they’ll be expected to complete within a given time frame. For the most part, house cleaners will sweep or mop floors, vacuum carpets and polish glass or metal surfaces at a minimum. Other services can be tacked on depending on the agreement you’ve signed at the time of hiring.

How to Get the Ball Rolling with House Cleaning

Many homeowners find house cleaners through word-of-mouth referrals. While that approach may work for some, it’s best to do a little independent research and try out a few cleaners on your own. Use sites like Handy, MyClean, Craigslist or Angie’s List to look for established services and solo contractors. Once you find a service provider you trust, you can talk about a more permanent arrangement.

How to Find a Great House Cleaner You’ll Be Happy With

When you’re canvassing house cleaners at the outset, you’ll need to ask a few questions of any potential service provider for the best results. Some of these questions might include:

Can I See Background Check Results and References?

Any reputable house-cleaning service worth its salt will perform in-depth background checks on employees and share the results with clients. If you’re dealing with an independent house cleaner, they should have background check results at the ready for your perusal. Be sure to ask if the same cleaner will come to your house every time should you decide to schedule recurring cleaning sessions.

How Is Your Pricing Structure Set Up?

Every house-cleaning service and independent contractor is a little different when it comes to the fee schedule for their services. Some charge an hourly rate while others have a set fee for a specific bundle of cleaning services. You can typically expect to pay at least $25 an hour for quality work regardless of the house cleaner you end up hiring.

How Will You Ensure My Personal and Financial Security?

It goes without saying that there are inherent risks when you give a stranger unfettered access to your home or apartment. That’s why it’s so important to know exactly how a cleaner will manage that access before you hire them. Ask any services and independent cleaners that you interview if they’re bonded and insured against damage to your property.

What Are Your Cleaning Specialties?

While most house cleaners are generally flexible when it comes to what they will do, some will refuse specific jobs like mold removal. You should know what a cleaner’s limits are before bringing them to your living space for an audition. Knowing where the boundaries lie insofar as cleaning tasks are concerned is especially important if you own one or more pets.

What Are My Responsibilities as a Client?

As a customer, there are certain duties that you may have to fulfill as part of your relationship with your house cleaner. For instance, some cleaners require their clients to provide supplies like garbage bags and furniture polish. Ask prospective house cleaners what they expect you to do before they come over so that you know what you’re getting into early in the proceedings.

How to Save Money on a Quality House Cleaner

Regardless of the specific house-cleaning service you end up patronizing, there are always ways to get more bang for your buck if you’re savvy. For example, some house cleaners will give you a discount if you pay for a month’s worth of weekly cleanings in advance. Many cleaners cut their existing clients breaks on their services if they refer colleagues, friends and family members.

Getting the Most Out of the House-Cleaning Experience

At the end of the day, communication is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship between a house cleaner and his or her client. If the work performed isn’t up to your expectations, don’t be afraid to say something. Likewise, doling out a generous tip when the work is stellar is a wise idea. If you play your cards right and do your homework, securing top-notch house-cleaning services at affordable prices isn’t an insurmountable challenge.