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Trash – What House Cleaners Need to Know

@SavvyCleaner by Angela Brown

Trash at a client’s house – whose job is it to recycle?

It is everybody’s job to pick up, toss and recycle trash. Most people are conscious of recycling and most people now have garbage and recycling bins in their homes. When you are house cleaning, you can empty both, but take care to keep the garbage separate.

trash on curb with recycling bucketHousehold trash includes tissue, wrappers, plastic packaging, Q-tips, empty water and shampoo bottles. These can go in the recycling bin. Left over food, fruit and vegetable waste can go in the compost bucket. Other trash you can’t recycle you can put in the regular garbage bin.Grocery Bags

When you arrive at the client’s house, go in the kitchen and empty the trash first. If there’s room, you can use that bag to collect trash from around the house. Use a second bag (even a grocery bag) to collect items for recycling. I carry a stash of extra grocery bags with me for this reason, and it saves me from using a whole new garbage bag.

Is it okay for you to keep something that the client has tossed?brand-new-luxury-gold-silver-dance-shoes

People throw good stuff away, and usually there’s a good reason, but sometimes not. Before you take something in or near the trash, be sure you ask your client:

“Hey I see you’ve tossed a pair of gold dress shoes. Was it an accident or are you done with them?” If they are done with them, ask: “They are perfect for a dress I have, do you mind if I keep them?”

Asking is important because it lets the client know you would never take anything, including garbage, without asking.

Let’s suppose you take them, without asking, and you wear them to a party. You take a selfie at the party and post it on Facebook. Your client may see the picture and realize those are their old shoes. Sounds crazy right? It happened – and then the house cleaner got fired because the client didn’t remember throwing the shoes away. She thought her house cleaner was stealing from them. Don’t be that girl.

What about privacy for “questionable” things I find in the trash?

man with duct tape on his mouth with the word privacy written on it_mClient confidentiality – even if it’s in the trash. Do not gossip to neighbors, other clients or on social media about stuff you find in your client’s trash. If you do –  all of your clients will assume you will “tell on them” to other clients.

If you see something alarming in your clients trash – take a moment to process it, and then move on. So your client colors their own hair, or they wear Depends, or Dentures – whatever. No big deal. It’s really none of your business. Unless it’s something crazy like a cut off foot or a human body part. Then it’s the police’s business, but other than that – there’s no need to repeat the story.


If you do find a human body part in somebody’s trash:

  1. Take a photo of it. Proof in the event are called as a witness to testify.
  2. Do not touch it, or tamper with the evidence – you are now in the middle of a crime scene.
  3. Immediately call 911.
  4. Do not text the photo, do not share it on ANY social media, do NOT repeat the story to anyone but a police officer. DO NOT repeat the story to any of your other clients. You might be freaked out, but blabbing to other clients about it, could cost you business.

Insurance needed to remove trash

trash cans by fenceDid you know that your liability insurance may not cover you taking trash off the premise? You may need a trash permit. Check with your insurance agent to see what rules apply in your state.

If you don’t have a trash permit, leave the garbage in the client’s bins for pickup on trash day. Do not take it off the premise and you will be safe.

I recommend this because if a client has to go through their own trash for any reason, they can. They don’t have to call you and ask if you saw such and such.

Careful, you could be fined…Illegal dumping sign for trash

If you do remove garbage from the client’s property, and you dump it in a dumpster on private property, you could be fined.

Companies rent those dumpsters by paying for the space and removal of the garbage. Rule of thumb: if you’re not paying for the dumpster, don’t use it. If you don, and you get caught on camera, or they track your license plate on your car, they can contact the police. The police consider illegal dumping as a class 1 felony crime. Minimum fines start at $200, and can be higher for repeat offenders. The crime will also be added to your public records.

Don’t risk it. Don’t dump trash in dumpsters you’re not paying for.

Have you ever thrown away something that you thought the client was tossing, and then later found out they didn’t mean to put it in or near the trash? I’d love to hear your stories.

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