The Ultimate Guide to Checklists for Cleaning Businesses

As flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia, the 155 lives on board didn't expect their airplane would soon become a lifeboat

Use the same principles that pilots and surgeons use to mitigate risk, in your cleaning business

Have you ever seen the commercial?  The one that starts with, "This is what it [completing a task] looks like...and this is what it feels like..." and then continues to show clip after clip of extremely satisfying actions.

  • Twisting an Oreo in half and all the cream staying on one side
  • Balling up a piece of paper and shooting it into a wastebasket from your office desk
  • Plugging in your iPhone, at 1%, right before it dies

Aside from being visually gratifying, checklists play a much larger role in our lives than you think.

Why Your Cleaning Company Needs a Checklist

When flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia airport, the 155 lives on board didn't expect their airplane would soon become a lifeboat.

Shortly after takeoff, less than 100 seconds, a large flock of Canadian Geese struck the plane and destroyed both engines. The flight had less than 3 minutes before impact.

In a moment of panic and sheer adrenaline, the pilot reverted to his training and reached for the onboard emergency checklist.

Using their shared experience and following the clearly written items on the checklist, Captain Sully and Co-pilot Jeff Skiles were able to safely land the plane in the Hudson River and save all passengers.

Proving that the power of a checklist is baffling.

Central line infections in intensive care units are extremely deadly. Almost 1 in every 4 I.C.U. (intensive care unit) patients whose line becomes infected don't survive.

In an effort to prevent these infections, Peter Provonost from John Hopkins Hospital created a simple checklist for doctors and nurses to use when administering a line to a patient.

The immediate results were unbelievable - in 15 months only two line infections were reported.

Whether you're using a checklist to track what items you need to clean in a home or you're landing a plane without power you will have a much higher success rate than those who depend on their own memory.

Faulty memory and distraction are a particular danger in what engineers call all-or-none processes: whether running to the store to buy ingredients for a cake, preparing an airplane for takeoff, or evaluating a sick person in the hospital, if you miss just one key thing, you might as well not have made the effort at all. Atul Gawande | The Checklist Manifesto

The Anatomy of a Great Cleaning Checklist

Obviously, cleaning someone's home or office is not a life or death situation. However, having a practical, visual cleaning checklist will benefit your cleaning company in so many ways:

  • Align expectations with your customers. No more, "What's included in my cleaning?"
  • Ensure you and your teams remember to clean commonly missed areas
  • Communicate the differences between your services. "How is a Standard Cleaning different from a Deep Cleaning?"
  • Clearly define items that are not included and not going to be cleaned

To create your cleaning checklist, which will accomplish all of the above, you need to know the differences between a good checklist and a bad checklist.

Good Cleaning Checklists

Good checklists are precise and do not try to spell out every single task. Merit Maids offers an excellent example for customers with a clearly defined checklist of what is included and not included in each cleaning using an easy-to-read graphic on their site.

You want your customers to know things like; whether you're going to wet-wipe baseboards or dry dust them. You want your cleaners to remember that a deep cleaning includes detailing the inside of the appliance. A good checklist ensures no items are left to question.

Here are some other great examples of checklists from across the industry:

Bad Cleaning Checklists

On the other hand, bad checklists are too vague or too detailed.

A vague checklist will say something like, "clean the bedrooms" or "extra attention to shower and bathrooms." These cleaning tasks can easily be misinterpreted. You customers will likely think, "What does 'extra attention' mean?" This allows your customers to define what the cleaning should look like and leaves your cleaners confused.

Being too detailed will have a negative effect as well. Something like, "To clean the counters you should take a dry rag, spray the rag, don't spray the counter, and wipe the counter in a circular motion until all grease and crumbs are removed." Other than insulting everyone's intelligence who may read this, it will create clutter within your checklist. Keep it simple.

Checklists seem to provide protection against failures. They remind us of the minimum necessary steps and make them explicit. They not only offer the possibility of verification but also instill a kind of discipline of higher performance. Atul Gawande | The Checklist Manifesto

Create Your Own Simple Cleaning Checklist

One of the main problems in the cleaning industry is that there's no clear definition of what "clean" means. Your teenager's definition of a "clean" room probably doesn't look anything like an I.C.U nurse's "clean" operating room.

Solve this problem with a checklist to clearly define your company's interpretation of "clean."

  1. Use our Cleaning Checklist Template as a guide to input your company's cleaning tasks
  2. Add items that are missing or subtract the ones you don't typically include
  3. Add a Tab for every service you offer (i.e. Move-out cleaning)
  4. Create a simple graphic for your new checklist and add it to your website
  5. Share your cleaning checklist with all your team members
  6. Send your updated checklist to your customers before their cleaning(s)

If those steps are too overwhelming, then you should take a peek at our checklist feature...

How Our NEW Checklist Feature Saves You Time

At Cleanetto, we understand the value of a good checklist. That's why we've developed a brand new Checklist feature, within our booking software, to help cleaning business owners run more efficiently.

Our Checklist feature includes:

Preloaded Standard Cleaning and Deep Cleaning checklists so you don't have to start from scratch
A simple way to customize tasks with each checklist - add, subtract, and group any task with ease
Ability to virtually send customers their checklist before their cleaning and follow their cleaning in real-time, even if they're not home
Higher cleaner performance with the ability to add photos to any checklist task so your cleaners  have a visual standard to view
Automated reminders for cleaning teams when tasks are not completed - no more "go-backs"

With our checklist feature, you can focus on growing your business instead of managing it. Don't reinvent the wheel, try Cleanetto for free for 7 days and use our checklist feature to save your company money on "go-backs," shorten your cleaner training time, and skip the "cleaner miss X" argument.

Captain Sully didn't need to make a life-altering decision as his plane lost altitude and I.C.U. patients now have a higher mortality rate. All because of a simple checklist.

Now your cleaners and customers can enjoy the benefits of a clear checklist too.

Nathan Lowe

👋 I'm Nathan - the director of content for Cleanetto. After learning how to automate two cleaning businesses I want to teach you how to do the same without losing your hair.

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