A charwoman, in British English, is a cleaning lady. Typically, a charwoman has an established weekly schedule, coming in on a particular day to clean and do light housekeeping and then leaving again. In many cases, she is given a key to make it easy for her to get in and out. A charwoman may also be referred to as a charlady. For anyone who has read British novels from the mid-20th century, this word is undoubtedly familiar, and while it is not as widely used today, charwomen certainly still exist.
The word “char” in “charwoman” comes from Middle English, and it means “chore,” so a charwoman is literally a chore-woman. The tasks performed by a charwoman vary, depending on the agreement which she reaches with her employer. As is the case when hiring any sort of cleaning person, it is a good idea to talk with a charwoman about expectations to ensure that she performs as expected. Some charwomen will specifically refuse to do certain tasks, and knowing about this ahead of time can be very useful.
Charwomen can clean structures of any size, from apartments to businesses, and they may work for companies which offer maid services, or on their own. The advantage of hiring a charwoman from a company is that cleaning services are usually guaranteed, even if your charwoman is sick, because someone can fill in. Cleaning companies are also bonded and insured, in case anything is damaged or stolen. However, a charwoman who works independently may be able to offer lower rates.
There are a number of ways to find a charwoman. Companies are typically listed in public directories, and you can also find independent charwomen through phone books and online directories. Some people like to take out advertisements to look for cleaning help, while others rely on word of mouth. If you live in apartment building, you may want to ask neighboring tenants if they use a cleaning service, as the service may be able to offer a deal on cleaning, since your apartment will be conveniently located.
In addition to regular weekly wages, many charwomen also receive tips, especially when they perform extra tasks as a favor or courtesy. It is also traditional to tip regular staff on the holidays, as a way of thanking the staff for their services. Instead of a tip at the holidays, it is also appropriate to offer a small gift.