Student cleaning service ‘Clean ‘Em’ aims to provide affordable rates, transparency while empowering cleaners

Jackson Barton

After a pregame in his apartment, finance senior Juan C Merlo’s place was trashed, but the most affordable cleaning service he and his roommate could find was between $110 and $115.

“We thought that was ridiculous, so we started investigating why they charge so much, and it’s because they don’t know how long it’s going to take them the first time to go clean your apartment,” Merlo said. 

Merlo and his roommate, finance senior Alan Aziz, founded Clean ‘Em, a home cleaning service. The company launched its new online booking platform in early October. Merlo said his business uses independent contractors instead of employees, similar to Uber. The cost of cleaning a one bedroom, one bathroom home through their business is $44.

“What’s interesting about (the house cleaning) industry is that it’s so far behind on these little things,” Merlo said. “We’re taking ten steps forward and putting it up to date with how the market is.”

Aziz, chief operating officer at Clean ‘Em, said the independent contractor model gives more personal responsibility and empowerment to the cleaners.

“You’re empowering the cleaners because they have the power to purchase the cleaning supplies. They can provide their own transportation,” Aziz said. “They have freedom because they can choose the hours they want.” 

Clean ‘Em cleaner Nohemi Rojas said she previously worked at a hotel as a housekeeper, where the work was hard because her employer gave her little time to clean each room. She said the increased pay helps fund her own cleaning supplies and is the best part about working for Clean ‘Em.

“The work gives me more freedom because I can make my own schedule, (and) I can do other work,” Rojas said in Spanish.

Other home cleaning businesses, such as Tidy and Handy, also use independent contract work. But Merlo said Clean ‘Em distinguishes itself by paying its contractors $18 per hour, giving clients and cleaners direct contact and offering more affordable rates. 

The company’s new online booking platfrom was programmed and designed by computer science junior Daneil Munoz.

Munoz, who is from Mexico, said his parents never attended college and gave up on their passions to work instead.

“(My dad) had to leave his dreams so I can accomplish mine,” Munoz said. “I have to make it somewhere, somehow.”

Munoz said he had done feelance work for companies like Snapchat in the past but never expected a permanent position. After he made some initial designs for their website, Aziz and Merlo offered him the position of chief technology officer at Clean ‘Em.

“I took (the offer) as a compliment,” Munoz said. “Not many companies go out of their way to do that.”

Merlo said Clean ‘Em generated more than $1,000 dollars in the first two weeks of its new online booking site. Despite the success, Merlo keeps his confidence in check.

“Being CEO is a big title,” Merlo said. “I still try to think about it like, ‘We’re not making millions yet, we’re not making 100,000 yet and we still have a lot of work to do. It means a lot to me that we can get it off the ground, but just standing up isn’t the same as jumping over a bridge. Right now we’re taking baby steps.”