Homes closed for months during the summer holidays tend to require more effort to clean. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The summer holidays are almost over and many expats begin flying back to the country, not looking forward to the cleaning that awaits them at home.

Even when they think they have gone through every point on their checklist before closing their homes for the summer, it’s not unusual to be welcomed with a nasty surprise.

There is no running away from the dust and sand that accumulates in your absence, experts have said and, in almost all cases, the house will require a day or two of cleaning to get it back to its normal condition.

Manar Al Kassar, founder and managing director of Helpling Middle East (Helpling.ae), a leading online platform for home services, said that after homes have been shut for a while, dust and sand will always be found and will require extra effort and care by cleaners to vacuum and clean the shelves as it can cause many allergies.

“Even when homes are left closed, this is one of the things that are inevitable. Also, balconies and windows often need to be cleaned. Another thing people forget but is very important is to do the laundry as soon as you can. It’s the same principle as why you must do the laundry before you go: the longer clothes stay dirty, the more resistant odours will develop.”

After holidays, bookings and cleaning hours increase, with many even booking cleaning services online before they get back, he said.

“Usually our customers book about one-two more hours [equals to an increase of 25-50 per cent] than usual for their first cleaning after their holidays. Early bookings are also made while they are on holiday to make sure they come back to a fresh home after a relaxing holiday.”

Often missing out on small important things before travelling has meant returning to unpleasant surprises for some families, like forgetting to lock the pet door in a villa or a leaving a window slightly open amid a sandstorm, he said.

“A family who forgot to lock the pet door in their villa when they left came back from their vacation to quite an unpleasant surprise — a stray cat found her way into the villa and peed all over place. So the cleaners needed to spent some extra hours finding the “pee-spots” and cleaning them up. In a couple of situations, customers often left a window open and found their place fully covered with sand dust due to a sand storm.”

Nida Danish, owner of Whizz Maids Cleaning Services, said many families request more services, like cleaning the inside of cabinets, the balcony, washrooms and the kitchen area.

“Homes closed for months during the summer holidays tend to require more effort to clean. We experience a 40 per cent rise in requests. Some even require booking the cleaners twice to settle everything at home. More cleaning time is needed to be spent in the washrooms, kitchen and balconies.”

Laundry work and cleaning the interior of windows has been one of the top requests after expats are back from their annual leave.

“Dust accumulates, and as the windows are exposed, any dirty spot can be seen. So, customers take a chance to ask for a cleaning once they are back. Also, the demand for cleaning fridges also rises a bit, and it’s because people often forget to throw away leftovers, so they are forgotten in the fridge and eventually end up rotting, smelling and messing the fridge,” said Al Kassar.

The worst habits spotted were leaving dirty dishes in the sink or forgetting to dispose of the trash. The first impact is the awful smell, that will take time to go away and, in some cases, pests.

Both experts recommended doing the laundry before going on vacation. “The odours can be more resistant with time and humans sweat and skin cells are just the perfect organic material that bacteria needs to thrive,” said Al Kassar.

What residents say

Ulya Ivanova, from Russia, living in a two-storey house, said as soon as she steps foot in the house, she ensures the windows are open for fresh air circulation before beginning the vacuuming and dusting.

“The amount of sand found at this point is unbelievable, even though I make sure all the windows are shut and doors closed. Dusting the surfaces on book shelves, tables and living room surfaces is needed. It’s hard to breathe with so much dust in the house.”

She said before organising the house and unpacking luggage, cleaning the house is a priority. The fridge is always emptied and cleaned before travelling and the electricity turned off, so that’s not something I worry about when I am back.”

Ivanova said the process can take up to six hours, including washing the laundry.

Amnah Shawqi, an Egyptian living in a one-bedroom apartment, said her trips are usually three-weeks long and once she’s back her nose gets clogged with the accumulated dust.

“I like to clean the house three days before travelling and when I come back I still find loads of dust covering every surface. However, because I cleaned and organised everything before leaving, the house does not require more hours to clean when I’m back. I like to keep the fridge running when I travel but I dispose of things that can perish, so I don’t have to worry about that.”

When she’s back from her holiday, she said she likes to request for a cleaner as soon as she can to help her with the mess.

Amnah advised other holidaymakers to settle their bills because she once came back to a stinking fridge after the electricity went out. “The food rotted and became mouldy that day. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.”


Tips and advice before leaving

Cover furniture

Close windows properly to prevent your apartment from overheating and also to keep the sand out.

The slight opening under the front door can be covered to stop sand from coming into the house

Lock the pet door to avoid stray pets coming in when you are away

Throw the trash away and wash the dishes to avoid pests

Don’t leave behind dirty laundry

Make sure the AC is on low, setting it to turn on once per day for a short amount of time.

After coming back

Make sure the house is completely dusted and vacuumed to avoid allergies from accumulated dust and sand. Dusting surfaces is also needed.

Do laundry as soon as you can to avoid odours.

Clean the fridge immediately if you have leftover food which has rotted inside. Mould spores from affected food can build up undetected in your fridge and affect fresh food.