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'Our first job was cleaning a six-bed student house...'.

Byline: By Lydia Whitfield South Wales Echo

Many mothers are used to taking over abandoned projects from their children, but for Vanessa Witts, it meant taking on a booming cleaning business, Pink Lady Cleaners.

Vanessa, 37, says: 'I originally started the business for my 17-year-old daughter Chelsea, but she's having a baby now, so lost a bit of interest.

'I saw the potential of taking it on myself and made a complete career change from being a care worker.'

Vanessa lives in Pentwyn, Cardiff, with children Daniel, 19, Chelsea, 17, Mitchell, 16, and Chanelle, five, and since jacking in her job last year, she's taken on contracts to clean apartments and commercial business premises all over the city with her team of young cleaners.

'We got our first cleaning job by advertising on a student website and got a six-bedroom property to do off Albany Road,' says Vanessa, originally from Llanharry.

'The owner then gave us three properties to clean and it's really spiralled from there, which is exciting.'

Vanessa's growing team, who clean several Cardiff Bay apartment complexes, consists of Lee Humphries, Vanessa's daughter Chelsea and her boyfriend Evan Davies.

Chelsea, who is six months' pregnant, hopes to carry on working for her mum for as long as she can and plans to come back to the business when she is a mum.

She even jokes her daughter will probably be born with a duster in hand.

Vanessa says: 'Setting up business didn't cost a lot to start with.

'All we were paying out on was cleaning materials.

'I try not to do the work myself, but then think, if I'm asking my team to do it, I should do some as well.

'I still vacuum on my hands and knees because it's so much more thorough.

'Lee is the most meticulous cleaner around and when the two of us go in somewhere together, we really blitz the place.

'You ought to see all the cleaning stuff I've got in the boot of my MG car!

'Lots of people have been drawn in by the company name really.

'And that's down to Chelsea and her favourite colour.

'When it was going to be Chelsea's business, it had to be Pink Ladies because she's mad about everything pink.

'The gay community have been attracted by the fun name as well.'

As her business expands, Vanessa plans on employing her 19-year-old son Daniel too, to cope with demand.

Pink Lady Cleaning Services has secured offices on Eastpoint Industrial Estate, Wentloog, Rumney, and Vanessa says: 'I'm hoping to change the uniforms shortly from pink to black with a pink logo.

'My son Daniel will feel happier wearing that than pink!

'We have some big contracts in the pipeline and it will be nice if I can keep the family involved.'

Vanessa's work isn't for the faint-hearted and she's unearthed horrors to rival any homes on Life of Grime or How Clean Is Your House?

She says: 'One property we did was in such a state, as we went in, Chelsea was repeating, 'Life of Grime, Life of Grime'. She was actually heaving.

'I had to do the bathroom - she couldn't go in there. It was filthy and I had my hand in the toilet.

'Then there's the opposite, where I shouldn't say it, because I'm doing myself out of a job, but some people don't really need a cleaner but have us in anyway.

'I've heard of some cleaners who go in and just spray polish in the air, to give the impression they've cleaned. But even if it's clean anyway, I'll give it a proper clean again.

'Lee's partner, also Lee, is my PA and is fantastic at bringing in contracts.

'He manages the diary.'

Pink Lady Cleaners prices range from pounds 20 for a two-hour session which usually covers cleaning the kitchen and bathroom and vacuuming and dusting throughout to a two-hour deep clean for around pounds 80.

Vanessa says: 'There's a difference between a dirty house and one that's lived in and a bit messy, if they've been out at work, but there are no excuses for some of them.' 'I'm just as good as, if not better than, a lady cleaner': Clients are often surprised when 22-year-old Lee Humphries turns up at their front door laden with cleaning gear.

Lee jacked in his full-time job as a chef in a Pontypridd nursing home to join Vanessa and he's far from the traditional idea of a cleaning lady.

He says: 'I always introduce myself as Lee from Pink Lady Cleaners and clients are usually quite taken aback and say they expected a lady cleaner.

'It's quite funny but I assure them I'm just as good, if not better than a lady cleaner.

'Clients then become attached to me and my way of cleaning and don't want anyone else.'

Lee has had a passion for cleaning since he was a child and now lives in Cardiff Bay with his partner, also Lee.

He says: 'I've been cleaning since I was tiny and really can't stand a dirty house. I need to be cleaning.

'If there's a stray hair on a surface, or anything out of place, I'm onto it.

'When I was younger I used to promise my mother I'd do all the house work and cleaning if I could stay home from school.

'Now Vanessa and I can be obsessive about it sometimes.'

Pink Lady Cleaning staff prefer blitzing a property initially with a 'deep clean' and then weekly visits after that.

Lee says: 'It's easier to keep on top of it that way.

'When Vanessa gets home, she's a full-time mum as well and is straight back on cleaning her own house.

'We've heard of some people leaving red chalk on the carpet as a tester to check if their cleaner really is cleaning.

'We went to clean one house where they kept a cat litter tray in a kitchen cupboard.

'With lots of the brand new apartments, you just wonder, 'How can somebody treat such a beautiful home like that?' I'd be embarrassed to live somewhere so dirty.

'Saying that, Vanessa and I prefer the dirty ones in a way, because you're able to see the results and contrast after you've blitzed it.' Vanessa's top tips: Treat any stain as soon as possible.

Washing-up liquid and soda water is good for lifting stains.

Freezing chewing gum with an ice cube is the best way to get it off.

Washing-up liquid in water is best for cleaning windows followed by drying with kitchen roll.

Bleach is vital for bathroom cleaning and removes most dirt and mildew.

Put malt vinegar into water to clean the bath or shower. It gets rid of all bacteria, soap scum and body oils.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 23, 2007
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