Keeping a home clean and in good working order isn’t always an easy feat! We asked five home service companies about everything from handy DIY tips for around the house, house cleaning to the best approach to hiring.
How to…interview a potential helper
(with help from Jobsearch)
#1 Ask her what her strengths and weaknesses are. This is a good way to find out about her special talents and whether she might be a good fit for your household.
#2 Check her nationality and find out about the culture of the country she comes from; along with her personality, this can be a good foundation for your working relationship.
#3 Check that the helper is comfortable with the priorities you have created for the position and that she is qualified and experienced to perform the tasks.
#4 From your conversations, gauge her proficiency in English and her communication style.
A word from a customer
“Jobsearch Manpower Services currently handles the renewals and paperwork for my domestic helper Melba, who helps with the cooking and cleaning in our home. I’m fortunate to have employed her for the last eight years. She has a big heart and a sparkling personality. The staff at Jobsearch are trustworthy and efficient, and everything is done by the book in a helpful, friendly way.”
– The Scholtz Family, South African
How to…maintain a good relationship with your helper
(with help from A-Team Amahs & Cleaners)
#1 Allow your new helper some time to adapt and to adjust to your expectations. Sure, she may be experienced, but every home and every employer’s expectations are different.
#2 Misunderstandings happen largely due to miscommunication, so speak or write using simple and basic English.
#3 Prevent any false accusations or misunderstandings by keeping cash and valuables locked up. Show respect for your helper and do not assume that misplaced belongings have been stolen.
#4 Praise your helper when she has done her duties well – it will make her day to know that her work is appreciated.
#5 Always be prompt in paying your helper’s salary. Avoid changing or cancelling plans too often or at the last minute, as this will affect the income that supports her family back home.
A word from a customer
“I found A-Team Amahs & Cleaners on the internet and they were fast to respond to my request for a domestic helper. I’ve been using their services for a year. Devi, my helper, is very reliable and trustworthy. She helps me with general cleaning, laundry and ironing two days a week. She always communicates any possible changes in timing well in advance.”
– Helga Moelschl, Austrian
How to…care for air-conditioning
(with help from Absolute Services)
How often should I have my air-conditioner serviced?
It should be serviced and inspected at least once a year, although tenancy agreements have mandatory requirements that servicing be conducted quarterly. Regular servicing ensures it operates at maximum efficiency. Ideally, you should change your filter at least once a month, and you can easily do this yourself.
Are air-con maintenance plans on a contract, or on a one-off basis?
Maintenance plans are usually structured on a yearly contract basis. One-off servicing costs more. Benefits include pre-empting breakdowns that could be costly to put right, optimising the performance of the units and prolonging their life.
Are gas top-ups included in the maintenance fee?
No, gas top-ups are not included in the fee. Take note that gas top-ups are only necessary if the air-conditioner shows signs of leakage.
A word from a customer
“I’ve used Absolute’s air-con services for over a year, and they always clean the surrounding floor after servicing. Also, when I was having a hard time looking for a replacement for my helper who’d returned home, I called Absolute and engaged their house cleaning service – their cleaners, particularly Apple, are efficient and organised.”
– Brianna Leigh, Filipino
How to…remove stains like a pro
(with help from Comfy Homes)
What are your tips for removing stains from fabric?
Soak the item in cool water with half a teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent and one tablespoon of vinegar for 30 minutes, and then rinse. If the stain doesn’t lift, pre-treat the area with a prewash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent or a paste of powdered detergent and water. Then rinse with warm water. For oil-based stains, make a paste of talcum powder and apply it to the area, then wash as per the instructions.
What’s the best way to spot-clean a carpet or similar floor covering?
Add a quarter of a cup of white vinegar and a tablespoon of dish soap to water in a spray bottle. Spray the stained area liberally and let it soak for five to 10 minutes. Blot with a dry towel until the stain is removed.
How can I clean leather at home?
First, use a soft cloth (micro-fibre is ideal) to dust the surface. Then lather the leather with moisturising soap on a damp cloth. Follow up with a conditioning product for genuine leather.
A word from a customer
“We used to employ a full-time live-in helper when we moved to Singapore, but she returned home recently. So, we’ve been using Comfy Homes’ weekly cleaning services for about three months. The staff are experienced, flexible and professional. Our cleaning lady, Ah Kuan, is extremely efficient and fantastic at keeping the house squeaky-clean. Part-time help is a good option for families who value their privacy.”
– Agnes Evaristo, Filipino
How to…store and pack items
(with help from Packeverything)
How should I self-pack fragile items when moving?
We often use old towels, blankets, newspapers and even paper towels to wrap our belongings and fragile items. These are not the best options as they are dirty, not durable and cannot be secured with tape. Invest in high-quality packing products such as double-walled carton boxes, packaging peanuts, wrapping paper, corrugated board pads and foam fillers. Use cartons that allow room for fillers such as crumpled wrapping paper which helps to absorb shock and provide extra cushioning.
Wrap each item individually and place the heaviest items at the bottom. Layer each item with bubble wrap and label them “Fragile” to alert movers. For oddly-shaped items, be aware of handles and protruding pieces that could break easily.
What’s the best way to transport heavy items?
Pack heavy objects in the smallest packaging possible to eliminate extra weight and keep the item in place during the move. Tape the top and bottom of the box securely to prevent the item from falling out. Spread out your heavy items and do not place them all in one box as this will make it even more difficult to lift and carry. Also, be sure to label the boxes so special care can be taken.
How can I prevent mould or insects when storing old toys or books?
Use brand new cartons rather than used ones which are more prone to mould. To prevent musty odours, add silica gel packets into the cartons. Keep your boxes away from direct light and dust regularly.
How to… look after plants
(with help from … Expat Living!)
Which plants grow well indoors in Singapore?
Three popular indoor plants are the money plant, the peace lily and the aloe vera. Money plants and peace lilies don’t require direct sunlight, and they can help to purify the air; aloe vera, meanwhile, is a handy home treatment for dry skin or a burn.
Any tips on dengue prevention at home?
Keep all empty flower pots or pails turned over or covered to prevent stagnant water from accumulating, and regularly check flower-pot saucers for excess water. If you’re in a landed property, make sure you keep up with fumigation (“fogging”) services according to NEA guidelines.
What are some of the herbs that can be grown easily at home?
Basil, mint and oregano all grow well in home gardens or pots – just be sure that they get enough sunlight and water, and use well-draining soil. These are three great herbs for the kitchen!
Get more tips and insider information about living in Singapore.