New study reveals power of cleaning

Posted by Charlotte Salter, on April 19, 2017.

Offers new appreciation of an often underestimated activity

Today, cleaning is about far more than simply getting rid of dirt in our homes. A new in-depth study on the psychology of home care explains what cleaning really means to people.

Cleaning removes dirt and dust from surfaces, but it also restores order within our own four walls. Beyond the seemingly necessary evil of getting our homes back in shape,  psychological motives also play a major role, according to the study published by the German Cosmetic, Toiletry, Perfumery and Detergent Association (IKW) and carried out by Rheingold salon. The study on psychology in home care “The New Power of Cleaning” highlights the current importance of cleaning, hoovering and tidying, and it identifies five different cleaning personalities.

“We are witnessing the new power of cleaning”

Jens Lönneker, head of project and managing director of Rheingold salon, states: “Achieving cleanliness is today more important than it has been for a long while. Cleaning helps people to cope better with daily life and to counteract a feeling of powerlessness and excessive stress. We are witnessing the new power of cleaning.”

At the present time, many people feel that their everyday routine makes overly strong demands on them. The world around them appears to be uncertain and complex. The multitude of development options in both the private and professional sphere exert further pressure on people who fear that they might be missing out on something or might make the wrong decisions.

This increases the longing for a “safe harbour”: 80% of respondents state that their home has become ever more important for them over the past years. Retreating within their own four walls also upgrades the activity of cleaning, cleaning and tidying creates a familiar environment for people – an environment that they are missing outside their homes. 55% of respondents describe how a clean and neat living space gives them the feeling of having a better grasp on daily life. So, cleaning has clearly gained in significance, with a perfectly new appreciation.

What were things like in the past?

In the post-war years it was taken for granted that homes conveyed an impression of excellent cleanliness and neatness. The following decades brought some laxness in the handling of dirt and mess and cleaning turned into a minor matter

And what about today?

Now, cleaning should require as little time and space as possible. But the underlying motives have changed: Cleaning is not only an effective means for keeping our homes in shape, it also makes a valuable contribution to stabilising our own psyche. So, it is not surprising that this activity is perceived differently than it was in the past. 49% of respondents agree with the statement: “I create order and I clean; this makes me the dominant person in our household.” – i.e. those who clean gain in importance and “power”.

Which cleaning personality are you?

Irrespective of the individual attitude and approach towards the topic of cleaning, the study results identify five different cleaning types who handle this power in very different ways.

Perfectionists love absolute cleanness and neatness. All dirt needs to be removed immediately after it forms. Persons of this type try to control themselves and their lives through particularly perfect cleaning. 35% of respondents are perfectionists.

Concealers prefer order in places that are visible for all. Obvious mess and dirt must be removed, but the cleaning effort should be kept as low as possible. With their cleaning behaviour the concealers show that they have control over their lives. 24% of study participants are concealers.

Rulers think that nobody cleans better than they themselves, also where cleaning is delegated to others. They only accept their own views on cleanness. 17% of respondents resemble the cleaning type of the ruler.

Hedonists are very relaxed about the topic of cleaning and make their highly individual decisions on what is clean. This is also reflected by the fact that people of this cleaning type tend to develop their very own order systems. 15% of study participants are hedonists.

Controller cleaning types could also be called the secret rulers. They, too, believe that they are the only ones who know how to clean properly. But unlike the rulers, controllers present themselves to the outside world as servants who do all of the cleaning work. However, they reserve for themselves the control over cleaning and cleanliness. 10% of the respondent men and women are controller types.

Comparison of results

Today’s results are also interesting when looking back at the study on cleaning that IKW carried out back in 1996. For example, the number of those who agree with the statement

“It is important to me that everything is always spick and span” has risen clearly. By contrast, the number of those who accept the statement “Housework is a necessary evil. One should get over and done with it as quickly as possible” has gone up only slightly. 

Bernd Glassl, head of the IKW home care section, compares the results from 1996 and today: “We wanted to know what has changed over the past 20 years in attitudes towards cleaning and home care. It is remarkable that cleaning no longer solely serves its very purpose, namely, getting things clean. Beyond that, cleaning also gives security to many people and makes it easier for them to manage everyday life.”

About the new study 

“The New Power of Cleaning” was published by the German Cosmetic, Toiletry, Perfumery and Detergent Association (IKW) and carried out by Rheingold salon.

Qualitative questions were put in group discussions and individual in-depth interviews to 36 people in Cologne, Stuttgart and Rostock; the respondents were between 25 and 55 years of age. Representative quantitative questioning in an online panel comprised ca. 1,000 persons aged 18 and over.

More information about “The New Power of Cleaning – IKW Study on the Psychology of Home Care” is available at

Contact the UKCPI on or call 07843 199397.