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Cleaning and Janitorial Services:
What's the Difference?

When shopping around for cleaning services, it’s important to understand that businesses that fall into this category may be operating as maid services, housecleaning services, janitorial services, and business cleaning services, or may even be a more specialized company.

All of these kinds of businesses will either operate as a residential service provider, meaning they provide services to homeowners and residences, or as a commercial service provider, meaning they provide a service only to other businesses. The more specialized companies may provide both residential and commercial solutions.

Residential Cleaning Services

The most common association people have with companies that provide residential cleaning and janitorial services is that of a maid service. Contrary to what the name implies, this doesn’t necessarily mean that one person is doing the work for the customer.

Nowadays many maid service companies have several employees, often spread out over a wide area covering many cities and states. In addition, within each local franchise or location there may be one employee or there may be dozens. This varies quite a bit depending on how big the company is, how many customers they have and what the advertised response time is.

Keep in mind that there are also small businesses and individuals for hire that simply call themselves house cleaners, house cleaning pros, etc. Quite often there isn’t too much difference between what one business will provide in terms of its service compared to others, but there are some differences you should note when shopping around.

For example, they all commonly offer general housework and cleaning, which can include (but may not be limited to): vacuuming, dusting, kitchen and bathroom cleaning and sanitizing. Most providers work once per week as part of a monthly or contract basis, but some will provide single one-time visits.

Commercial Cleaning and Janitorial Services

Commercial cleaning businesses (more commonly known as janitorial companies) provide businesses and offices with the cleaning services they need.

While most residential cleaning services operate during the daytime, commercial or janitorial cleaners do their work at night or during non-business hours to avoid getting in the way of employees and customers. These companies often use large cleaning machinery, so it’s not practical for them to interrupt the routine of a business or office during the day.

Commercial service companies are also typically scheduled more often than a residential service. Most are on the job every night, or for small businesses, a few times per week.

Read more on commercial cleaning pricing.

Specialized Cleaning Service Providers

While cleaning service companies may not use the word “specialized” in their company name, quite often they are very specialized in terms of the types of service they provide. There are a number of specialized niches to shop around for depending on your needs.

Some companies specialize in cleaning carpets. Others specialize in outdoor window cleaning (which is nice if you happen to own a tall building). Even more specialized are indoor plant cleaners (for businesses with a lot of natural or artificial plants), fish tank/indoor aquarium cleaners and indoor fountain cleaners.

There are many of kinds of cleaning and janitorial services, each with its area of specialization. Make sure you research a variety of cleaning companies so you find the one that meets your needs.