USING THE TERMS MAID AND CLEANING LADY: WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Terms such as: Cleaning Lady and maid are common when some householders talk about the people that do cleaning work. Over the 35 years that I have been in the home cleaning industry, I have heard companies and field workers referred to by a variety of names.

Adding to the confusion, are companies that claim to provide  maid services.

Now why would anyone even be concerned about some of these terms?  In the case of  Cleaning Ladies– this is just not appropriate in today’s world as there are many men also choosing to train for this type of work!

The term  maid shows a lack of understanding of the meaning of this word.  This is an old English word that goes way back to the middle ages. A maid, or housemaid or maidservant, is a female person employed in domestic service. Although now usually found only in the most wealthy of households, in the Victorian era domestic service was the second largest category of employment in England and Wales, after agricultural work.

TV series, such as “UpStairs, DownStairs” and, more recently “Downton Abby”, give a good insight into what this job entailed, which far surpassed modern domestic cleaning chores.

The term maid, as applied to residential cleaning services (to the best of my knowledge) appeared in the US, in the late 1970’s, when a company in Atlanta Georgia, created a company called Mini Maids. This, co-incidentally, was at about the same time my late wife, Lillian, and I created an Ottawa company, originally called Windsor Home Care.   The term maid became popular in the US, but much less so in other parts of the world.

At Windsor, we soon realized that home cleaners required training in very specific skill sets. As the amount of our training, along with wages and benefits increased, in order to attract and hold valuable employees, we began to use the term Residential Cleaning Technician.

In November of 2013, we gave a keynote presentation at a convention organized by a worldwide group representing our industry, called the Association of Residential Cleaning Services International (ARCSI). Our talk was about how we have achieved such a very high level of retention of our Residential Cleaning Technicians.  When we spoke about our passion to attract quality employees to our company and to hold on to them, we mentioned that recognizing this as a skilled trade and treating our staff as such has gone a long way to ensuring retention.

Many in the audience were intrigued by our use of the term Residential Cleaning Technician.  Lately, we have noticed more of our association members starting to use this term. Let’s try to put terms like maid and cleaning lady to rest.

Patrick J. Irwin

President & Founder

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