SPECIAL ISSUE: SPRING HOME & GARDEN GUIDE : Firms Will Do Your Dirty Work for You

Susan Christian is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

So you let housekeeping slide a bit after the holidays.

The relatives have gone, so you haven’t had to worry about impressing your in-laws. The last bash you threw was on New Year’s Eve, and since then you haven’t been able to generate the energy to host so much as a bridge game. The rain made window washing and carpet cleaning a moot point. The dim days cast a camouflaging shadow on the dusty bookshelves.

But suddenly the sun is shining and the dirt is showing--and you’re in the mood to emerge from hibernation.

Suddenly, it’s spring.


“Spring is more like the beginning of a new year than is the actual New Year,” said Costa Mesa psychologist Carol Grams, a professor at Orange Coast College. “It brings a feeling of rebirth. People want to put the winter months behind them and move on. The brighter sunlight and longer days revitalize them. They experience an urge to get their lives in order, starting with their homes.”

In other words, spring cleaning is more than just an old wives’ tale--it is a constant in the cycle of nature.

But what happens if you work 40 hours a week and spend your “free” time chauffeuring the kids to Little League and piano lessons? What if you can scarcely find time for your bimonthly vacuuming, much less scouring every nook and cranny of the house?

Or what happens if, as much as you like the idea of a spotless abode, you hate the idea of spending even one precious weekend with mops and ammonia?


You pay someone else to do the dirty work--that’s what. And lucky for you, Orange County abounds in every type of cleaning service you might need.

Yes, said Diane Balagna, owner of the Molly Maid franchise in Huntington Beach, business picks up in mid-March. “January and February are always slow months; then all at once everybody decides they want a clean house,” she said.

Balagna offers a special spring-cleaning package for $100 to $120--about twice her usual fee. “It’s a more in-depth job that includes cleaning the baseboards, window sills, walls, stove and vacuuming the furniture,” she explained.

Deluxe Cleaning Services in Orange provides such ultra-thorough once-overs exclusively. “We don’t just vacuum and dust,” said owner John Hoopaugh. “We’re a service that people use only once or twice a year.”

For $250 to $450, depending on the size of the house, Hoopaugh sends in a crew that will spend about 7 hours scrubbing down everything that doesn’t move: floors, carpets, walls, upholstery, the inside of the stove, windows.

Laurie Solovieff, manager of Tustin-based USA Cleaning Systems, has observed customer habits for the past 9 years. “The minute we get warm weather, people start calling,” she said. “The house has been closed up since the holidays, and they’re ready to open the windows and let the sun shine in.”

Regular clients, Solovieff added, request extra services during springtime. “They want their walls washed, their closets cleared out, their cabinets rearranged.” Her fees run $50 for the first 3 hours, $16 an hour thereafter.

The demand for window cleaners also skyrockets come spring. “When the rainy season hits, everybody puts window cleaning on hold,” said Scott Stinett, owner of Balboa’s Original Washing Service. “There’s always a slump in January and February; we just figure it into our annual budget. Then things pick up in April, and we stay busy through the holidays.


“In Newport Beach, the view is what makes the houses so beautiful,” Stinett pointed out. “The windows are one of the most important features of the houses.”

Often, homeowners attempt to wash their own windows but become discouraged, Stinett said. “They only get as far as the kitchen window. There’s an art to cleaning windows so that they don’t streak, and it’s a lot of work for the lay person.”

“Newspapers and Windex won’t do the trick,” concurred Alan Fulco, manager of My Window Man in Irvine. “Besides, getting up on a ladder to clean a 2-story plate window can be risky for someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

Fulco said that hosing down the screens is a crucial step in the process. “If you don’t get the dirt off the screens, the first rain will splash mud all over your clean windows,” he cautioned.

Mike Jetmore of Clean Business in Orange said that inexperienced window washers make three common mistakes: “Too much soap, too little soap and an old squeegee blade.”

Professional window washers use a mild detergent, squeegees (with ever-fresh blades) and linens to produce streak-free windows. Average cost is about $2 to $4 per window, with a $30 to $40 minimum.

What good are clean windows if the blinds are coated in grime? Sparkleblinds to the rescue.

Michael Bostock, owner of the Tustin-based service, boasted that his highly specialized business brought in $1.2 million last year. He founded his company at the same time that the mini-blind craze hit 8 years ago.


“We pick up the blinds in the morning and return them that afternoon,” Bostock said. “We put them through a machine that is like a mini-car wash, which cleans them through a heat and chemical process.”

Bostock’s employees attend his “University of Blinds” to learn the nuances of what he describes as “a very technical art.”

“They have to know about the different brands of mini-blinds and the different finishes used on the blinds,” he said. Just any old household cleaning product, Bostock cautioned, can remove paint from the blinds. He charges $10.50 per blind.

Steve and Greg Dale, owners of Two Twins from Texas (they really are), clean blinds on-site at a cost of $9 each with a mobile “mini-car wash.” The problem with amateurs attempting to manage the chore themselves, Steve Dale said, is that they just don’t have what it takes.

“They don’t have access to high-pressure, deionized water that will leave the slats spot-free,” the Anaheim Hills businessman said.

Carpets and upholstery go hand-in-hand in the pristine world of cleaning services. And spring is the season to spiff up both.

“A few weeks before Easter, business starts booming,” said Romayne Rozunko, owner of Steam Master Carpet & Upholstery Cleaners in Costa Mesa. “But in Southern California, people clean their carpets all the time--even when it’s raining, would you believe? There’s a lot of pride in ownership here.”

Steam Master charges 18 to 26 cents a square foot, depending on the type of carpet, with a $75 minimum. The cost of having a 6-foot sofa cleaned is about $120.

While Steam Master--true to its name--steams out soil with hot water and detergents, Chem-Dry “dry cleans” carpets and upholstery. “We use a chemical-based solution that emulsifies dirt on contact,” said Tony Wightman, owner of the Chem-Dry outlet in San Juan Capistrano.

The Chem-Dry method costs about $80 for three standard (15-by-15-foot) rooms and $60 for a 6-foot sofa. OK, with a little help from your checkbook, the carpets have bounced back to life and the kitchen floor shimmers beneath a new coat of wax. But how about that big grease spot in the garage?

Jon Graves of Jon’s Garage Detailing in Tustin will erase those unsightly oil stains from your garage and driveway for about $100.

“I use a high-pressure cleaning machine with super-hot water--300 degrees,” Graves said. “It takes off oil, dirt, gum, paint and the green stuff growing on your patio tiles.”

Yes, indeed, there’s a specialist for everything. If you don’t believe it, just let your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages.