Cleaners are often asked to complete tasks outside the realm of the current contract. When asked about specialty cleaning tasks, it’s important to develop cleaning times and price the task accordingly. I was recently asked how to develop cleaning times standards for air vents and appropriate costs. Here are my suggestions.

Once you have "cleaned" the 20 sample vents, you should have the customer inspect them before proceeding. If they are satisfied with the results, then you can develop a price with a clear understanding of what you will (and will not) be doing for the quoted price. If they do not accept the cleaning results, then go back to square one. So far we have timed 10 outlet vents and 10 intake vents with an average of 1.75 minutes (105 seconds) for the intake vents and 2.5 minutes (150 seconds) for the outlet vents. Now that you have a time standard that includes vacuuming and then dry wiping the vents, you can inventory all the vents throughout the various buildings by type. Let’s assume your total count is 500 intake vents and 2,000 outlet vents scattered over 6 buildings within a four block radius that necessitates driving to at least three of them.

Once you have calculated the total minutes (or seconds) and converted to total labor hours, you also need to determine any travel time that should be added. This should be your total direct labor hours (not counting any supervision/quality control which is indirect labor). This direct labor number can be multiplied by your burdened labor rate (wages, benefits, overhead, insurance, etc.) with a reasonable profit added.

Please note these times are for example purposes only and not necessarily a true time standard. We are simply reviewing the process.

Your comments and questions are important. I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, keep it clean...

Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678-314-2171 or