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Move in/out on a new opportunity

September 19, 2010
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Move in/out (MIO) cleaning, also known as turnovers, is an easy way to get started in the cleaning business and can be a successful add-on to your current menu of services.

With MIO cleaning, you are either cleaning a building after a tenant moves out or before a tenant moves in. Your clients will be residential and/or commercial property managers, with the occasional individual client.

You can simply approach them to try your services — people and businesses are always moving around.

The two areas you can focus on are residential and commercial.

Residential MIO cleaning is by far the more common, but can also be the dirtiest. The majority of the residential business is from apartment rental units.

The work can be obtained through property management companies or individuals. If you live in a college town or near a major university with off-campus housing, there is no shortage of work.

Moving up
You are bound to end up doing commercial MIO if you have been in the cleaning business for any amount of time, as your current customers will move at some time or another.

Small- to medium-sized contractors seem to dominate the MIO arena and it’s a nice way to fill out a cleaning route if you need to give your cleaners more hours.

Commercial MIO cleaning can vary from small and simple 2,000-square-foot storefront buildings to 25,000 square feet and up, with a variety of floor surfaces to clean.

Regardless of whether the buildings are residential or commercial, here are some tips to help you establish an efficient and thorough cleaning procedure, sure to make you and your clients happy.

Seven steps for successful move in/out cleaning services:

1. Check utilities: Nothing is more frustrating than showing up to a job site, unloading, doing the job for awhile, and then finding out that the water is turned off or that there is no air conditioning.

You can’t clean dirty areas without water, and you need electricity to vacuum. Unless you are willing to haul around a generator or purchase a battery powered vacuum, check out the situation before getting to the job site. It will save you time and effort.

Also, if it’s the middle of summer and you work and live in a hot area — such as Tucson, AZ — tell clients that you can only clean the building if it has properly working air conditioning. It’s not only a health issue, but it’s also unfair to your workers. And, chemicals may not work properly if a building is too hot.

2. Trash: Remove all trash that is too big for a vacuum to pick up. This step is important in preparing for vacuuming so that you can do the task efficiently, without having to stop to pick up and remove large objects.

3. Vacuum: This is one of the most important steps that can make you stand out from your competition.

Backpack vacuums and the proper attachments are very beneficial.

Instead of wiping out cabinets and drawers, vacuum them out. It’s a lot easier to vacuum out a dirty refrigerator than trying to wipe it out.

We vacuum from high to low; light fixtures and globes, walls, window tracks, blinds, medicine cabinets, along the baseboards, and more.

We also vacuum now to prevent any debris on the floor from getting ground-in.

4. Pre-spray: Once the loose soil is removed, you can start attacking the residual grime.

This step is most important with residential MIOs as kitchens and bathrooms can be the most challenging. Make your job easier by giving the chemicals time to dwell.

Also, this is where it’s important that you have air conditioning or air circulation. If it’s too hot in the building, your chemicals will dry too fast. Adequate air movement is also important, to avoid breathing in chemicals.

Instead of using pumice in a toilet, we suck the water out with a wet vacuum, dry the bowl well, then swab 23 percent Hydrochloric acid and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Don’t forget gloves and eye protection.

5. Agitate: Otherwise known as scrubbing and scraping. Loosen up the old buildup using scrub pads, brushes, and scrapers. It’s important not to damage surfaces with this step so here is a brief list of what to use:

  • White pad — White pads are the least abrasive. Use them for delicate surfaces such as glass, chrome, undamaged stainless steel, and plastic.
  • Green pad — This is the most common pad seen and used. Use this pad for the inside/outside of greasy cabinets, toilets, and for scrubbing shower walls.
  • Brown pad — This is the most abrasive pad. It is open-weaved for very greasy surfaces such as the inside of oven tops, sides of greasy refrigerators, and heavy soil buildup.

Rinse or wipe: It is much easier to spray rinse the inside of a dirty refrigerator than to try to wipe it out. Wiping just smears the debris around.

Use a pump-up sprayer filled with clean water or a neutral rinse chemical.

You can also use a battery-operated sprayer to eliminate constantly having to pump it up.

For surfaces harmed by water or around electrical outlets, use knitted microfiber cloths exclusively for wiping. Microfiber lasts; I’ve been using the same cloths for about four years.

Wet/dry vacuum: As you’re rinsing surfaces, you can simultaneously pick up the dirty solution with your wet vacuum.

It’s the same principal as an autoscrubber or the no-touch cleaning equipment that is becoming more and more popular.

In addition to using wet vacs for cleaning refrigerators and toilets, they can also be used on floors to remove the sticky residue cleaning chemicals can leave behind.

Finally, we find it necessary sometimes to do a quick dry vacuum of the carpet with an upright vacuum to remove our footprints.

Make connections
Once you become established with a property manager you can hopefully skip the estimate process and just bill for your time.

Going out to do an estimate of every building can be very time consuming. Establish trust and perform your best work.

The apartment rental market is typically the lowest paying, but a ballpark figure is about $25 a man hour for a crew leader and $20 an hour for an assistant.

Commercial and owner occupied can fetch slightly higher pricing.

It is possible to get a higher hourly rate if you are more efficient with your time and have the proper equipment and procedures.

Some contractors are charging a flat fee based on square footage. I prefer to charge an hourly rate as there are too many variables involved in this type of cleaning.

It is important to invest the time and energy into commercial cleaning equipment designed to save your labor costs. Most equipment can also be used in your other cleaning services.

Hopefully these seven steps to successful move in/out cleaning can save you time, streamline your work procedure, and help your contracting business grow.


Mike Perkins is the owner of CleanRight Building Maintenance in Tucson, AZ, and holds a degree in Environmental Science with a focus on Industrial Hygiene from the University of Arizona. He is also an instructor for Training Services Association and teaches custodial workshops to Native Americans while focusing on safety and ergonomics.
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