Cleaning people’s houses involves a lot more than a bucket of water, Naperville biz owner says

Business: Crystal Klear Cleaning

Address: 101 N. Washington St., Naperville

Phone/website: 847-722-9659,

Owner: Kimberly Montesinos, 60, of Lombard

Years in business: 19

What do you do? “We specialize in residential cleaning. Ninety-five percent of our business is cleaning homes,” Montesinos said.

What’s the background? “It will be 20 years in January. We moved to Naperville in February. We were in Lisle for five years. … I need a space where I can train, certify people, have meetings. I don’t want to do that at home. … When I bought the business, it was in Franklin Park.”

Why did you buy this business? “My son was hit by a car when he was 2. … He has conquered all the hurdles. … He graduated college last year, which they said he’d never do. He’s fine. … During that time, I was working for a pathologist. My job wasn’t flexible. A friend of mine owned this cleaning business. … She knew I was struggling. She said, ‘Why don’t you buy my business?’ I didn’t know anything about cleaning. I said, ‘No.’ … Six months later, she came back and said, ‘God keeps bringing me to you.’ That line got me because I had been praying for something to have more freedom with my kids. My son was 7, my daughter was 4. … So, I bought it.”

Kimberly Montesinos, who has owned Naperville-based Crystal Klear Cleaning for nearly 20 years, says she's proud of the employees who work with her.

Was it difficult? “I had to learn a lot about chemicals. The Ph balance of each chemical can affect the materials. … There’s so much that goes into cleaning a house. It’s not just taking a bucket of water to someone’s house. Especially in a place like Naperville, where we have a lot of high-end homes.”

More than a bucket of water? “You need to know your materials. The granite, quartz and stone in bathrooms. You see orange in bathrooms, that’s the beginning of mold on stone. … What’s the difference between treating a real wood surface and a non-wood surface?”

What else have you learned? “People relate clean to smell. … Shoe covers are not the best thing while cleaning a house because you can slip.”

Any cleaning suggestions? “I like Lysol because it actually kills and disinfects. It’s a higher-end product. I want to use something that’s going to kill germs. With COVID-19, we don’t want to take the chance. … We incorporate disinfecting and cleaning together so the homes are taken care of.”

How did the virus impact your business? “I lost 80% of my residential (customers). People were afraid to have anyone come into their house. How I made it through, I network with about 10 Realtors. When they close or sell (we clean the house). The real estate industry was booming.

“We had to restructure how we clean. You have to wash down the surface, dry the surface, disinfect the surface, then wipe down and dry it again. … We were deemed an essential business. … COVID taught me that the two biggest things that transfer bacteria home-to-home are the toilet brush and vacuum cleaner. We use those that are in each house.”

Did the 80% return? “Some did come back, but most of the people we acquired (since 2020) were new.”

What should we look for in a cleaning service? “A lot of people don’t understand that being licensed, bonded and insured is important because if something goes wrong in the house, they’re covered. … If you’re not supplying the products, ask what products they are using. Ask if they have a cleaning system. What do they use to disinfect (their) house?”

What are the challenges? “Finding people who have the passion for the service industry has become more challenging after COVID-19. That’s the hardest part. … You have to trust me that I’m going to deliver. I want that to extend. Sometimes, that’s hard to find but I do have a really nice staff (of eight) right now.”

What’s the price? “On the first clean, between $60 and $75 an hour. Prices vary (with each house).”

What about competition? “I collaborate with them. There are a lot of houses in Naperville.”

What do you like about this business? “I love building relationships.”

What’s your favorite story? “We work with Cleaning for a Reason, a nonprofit organization. It’s for people who have cancer in the family. We provide complimentary cleanings. … One woman had Lou Gehrig’s disease. … Her soul, her spirt never dwindled. She was such an inspiration.”

What’s your advice for someone starting a business? “You need a mentor or business coach. When you start a business, you don’t always have business sense. … Networking is another because that’s how you grow your business.”

If you know of a business you’d like to see to profiled in Down to Business, contact Steve Metsch at [email protected].

Steve Metsch is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

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