Fragile Collections – what are the do’s and don’ts of cleaning them? Do you include cleaning fragile collections of knick-knacks as part of your regular cleaning? And how much should you charge to clean fragile items like ceramic figurines?
Cleaning collections needs risk assessment. Dusting fragile items, porcelain or glass figurines needs safety and handling training. If you’re handling and moving delicate objects and they bump, break or shatter to the touch, you’re responsible for them.
Listen: Fragile Collections: The Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning Them
Watch: Fragile Collections: The Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning Them
Hey there, I’m Angela Brown, and this is Ask a House Cleaner. This is a show where you get to ask a house cleaning question, and I get to help you find an answer. You can find this and 400 other answered questions in this series on our YouTube channel.
Customers With Fragile Collections
How do you handle customers with really fragile collections of knick-knacks and trinkets? All right, when I go to a customer’s house and I’m doing a customer walkthrough, I’m going to discover the collection for the first time.
People are proud of their collections. You’re going to walk in, and usually, they will be displayed somewhere. One might be an entire room, from wall to wall, floor to ceiling, of glass shelves.
It will have all kinds of these little trinkets. One in every style, in every color, in every size. They’ll have ceramic, and glass, and plastic, and cloth, and whatever versions of whatever it is they collect.
What to Do When Customers Have Fragile Collections
The very first thing I do is stop, and my eyes get big and I look at the collection and I say, “Wow. This is impressive.” They go, “I know, right?”
Then they go onto explain how impressive it is, and I let them talk. They’ll go on for a couple of minutes before I cut them off. I want them to tell me how important that collection is to them because I want to assure them, I am not the right person to be meddling with your collections by cleaning them. “That sounds expensive, and it sounds like you have the whole entire cleaning and organizing under control.
As a house cleaner, I’ll tell you what we should do. Let’s say that this area is off-limits to me, so that when I come in and I’m in a hurry doing my job, working, and cleaning, and being efficient. That, I’m not bumping into, and banging, and breaking your precious collectible items.”
Make a Note That the Collection is Off Limits
So, I take on my worksheet, and I make a note. “We’re not cleaning any of the collectibles.” Then they might ask you, “Well if you were to clean these, if you were to dust these, how much would it cost?” I’m not going to give them a price now, because I don’t want to underestimate or underbid my price.
The price of the collection has nothing to do with the regular house. Even if you only charge $25 an hour, or $30 an hour, you’re not going to be cleaning a collection at that price. The reason being is every different item has a different way to clean it.
There are different ways to clean collectibles. So, unless you’re trained in collectibles, don’t do it.
Walk Away From Fragile Collectibles
What I’m going to suggest you do is walk away from the collectible items. Because, for the most part, it’s not scalable. Here’s what I mean.
You might be very skilled at cleaning collections, but that’s going to be a separate price. It’s going to be on a different day, or when they’re out of town. That way you can dismantle everything, and treat it with the ultimate care that it deserves. That is going to be enormously expensive, okay?
Cleaning Fragile Collections is Not Duplicatable
The next thing I want to mention is that it is not a duplicatable business. If you’re skilled at this, good for you. But, if you hire an employee and they come in, they may not be as skilled.
Now, if you turn an employee loose, the employee could be angry at you, or angry at another co-worker. They’ve got all these glass trinkets, and glass ornaments, it’s not a risk I want to take, right?
They go in and let’s say they start cleaning something, they break something. Now you’re on the hook for replacing them. It’s not scalable, it’s not duplicatable, and I don’t recommend it at all. You’re asking for a lawsuit, you’re asking for breakage, for damage, to get fired. I mean, you’re asking for a lot of things.
Customers are Proud of Their Collections
My suggestion to you would be on the initial walkthrough, give a couple of minutes. It is very important to the homeowner. They would not have spent an entire life collecting this time, unless it means a lot to them, okay? They are proud to show it to you, so just sit there in the pride of the moment.
So, stop and be like, “Oh my goodness. Wow, look at this.” Then go, “You know what? Let’s agree right now, I am not the right person to clean your collection.”
Have a Signed Agreement to Not Clean Their Collection
Then, write a note, and then have them sign it before you leave. Now, this is your written agreement that goes in your personal file for this client.
In the event that they ever said, “Well you clean my whole house, but you didn’t touch my collection.” “Yeah, we agreed to that. We agreed to that on day one when I came to your house. I and none of the people that I ever hire are going to touch your collection. We’re going to walk right on by very carefully as if it was never there.”
“We might look at it, and admire it. But, we will not touch, because that is not what we do.”
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