Spring is traditionally the time of year when we shake off the winter blues, roll up our sleeves and give our homes a thorough deep clean. With warmer weather on the way, it’s time to dig out your cleaning kit and tackle the bigger jobs around the home – steam cleaning curtains, carpets and mattresses, deep cleaning the oven and digging out the grime from every nook and cranny.
But just how clean are we as a nation? How many British households really commit to a big spring clean, and do we love it or hate it? We set out to discover the answer to these and other questions in The Thane H2O Great British Spring-Cleaning Survey. And some of the results may surprise you…
Read on as we dish the dirt – the full, unexpurgated story of our nation’s love-hate relationship with spring-cleaning.
How often do British households spring-clean?
The good news is that more than 93% of households in our survey claimed they spring-clean at least once a year, or more often.
Commitment to spring-cleaning was high across all the age groups in our survey, peaking amongst 55–64-year-old respondents, of whom almost 95% deep clean at least once a year. Unsurprisingly, fewer 35-44s, probably the busiest life stage, cleaned more than once a year, although this age group, along with 65+ households, were the most likely to spring clean just once a year.
When we looked at the data by region there were some significant differences, with the East Midlands, the North-west and Greater London emerging as clear winners in the spring cleaning stakes. In all three regions over 94% of respondents claimed to spring-clean at least once a year or more often.
Meanwhile Wales, North-east and Northern Ireland languish at the bottom of the ‘cleanest region’ table, with less than 90% tackling spring-cleaning tasks at least once a year.
How much time is spent on spring-cleaning?
A quarter of those surveyed devoted 2 full days to spring-cleaning (25%) – the most common answer – and over two-thirds spent anything from 2 days to over a week on the project (68.5%).
And almost twice as many 35-44s spent longer than a week on spring-cleaning (14.6%) compared with the average for all age groups (7.5%).
Spring-cleaning – love it or hate it?
We asked all our survey respondents how they felt about spring-cleaning. An astonishing 56% claim to enjoy spring-cleaning, while 44% agreed that ‘it is dreadful’.
But it’s clear that our enjoyment wanes and our dread of the annual task grows as we get older. While 80% of under 35s agreed that they enjoy spring-cleaning, the annual thrill of mopping, steaming and scrubbing fades with age, and less than half (45.7%) of over 65s agreed with the same statement.
So what cleaning jobs do we dread the most?
When we asked about regular cleaning jobs that people dread the most, scrubbing the toilet was a clear winner – or loser – depending on your perspective. More than 42% claimed to find wielding a toilet brush the least enjoyable home cleaning job.
And it seems that men are more squeamish about it than women, with 55% of men rating the task as their least enjoyable, compared with 38% of women. Does this mean housework is finally becoming more democratic?
Perhaps surprisingly, decluttering the wardrobe was the second least enjoyable task, cited by 32%, almost twice as dreaded as disinfecting the bin, in third at 17%.
And while almost all age groups dreaded tackling the toilet most, there were some interesting variations. For 35-44s, decluttering the wardrobe was even less enjoyable (37%) than toilet scrubbing (34%). This was also the age group most concerned about cleaning up after pets, with 12% voting this the least enjoyable job, compared with just 4% of over 65s.
What are considered the germ hotspots in the home?
Toilets, closely followed by toilet brush, featured top again when we asked our respondents what they considered to be the germ hotspots. 91% of respondents cited the toilet as a germ hotspot, and 79% named the toilet brush.
But many other germ hotspots were named in our survey responses, including dish sponges (76%), door handles (74%), chopping boards (73%), light switches (64%) and remote controls (59%). It seems that two years of pandemic has raised awareness of the potential trouble spots, and the importance of sanitising high-touch areas in the home.
As well as the options we gave people in the survey, they came up with a wide range of other areas to tackle in a deep clean, including mobile devices, computer keyboards, mattresses, dishwashers, car interiors and shower cubicles.
As one respondent put it, germ hotspots in the home include “everything that is touched or used several times”.
Another pointed out, “everything can become a germ hotspot if left. I have lots of allergies, so to me every day is like a spring-clean day. I keep on top of it all, so I don’t have a special time of year – I keep it clean throughout the year.”
Our survey left us in no doubt that we are all much more aware of the threat from germs, viruses and bacteria, and the importance of keeping homes clean and sanitised.
Who is the messiest in the household?
Partners get the blame for creating the most mess in British households, but they’re closely followed by our respondents themselves, they confessed. Men were more than twice as likely to nominate themselves as the messiest (47.6%) compared with women (20.3%).
Pets and grown-up children living at home both featured significantly, getting 11.9% and 10.9% of the ‘messiest’ votes respectively, while teenagers, who are frequently portrayed as messy, got relatively few votes (6.7%), suggesting their reputation for untidiness and chaotic bedrooms is undeserved.
Interestingly, grown-up children living at home were almost twice as likely as the average to be nominated the messiest by Greater London respondents (19.7%), which may reflect the much greater incidence of children staying at home longer, due to higher housing costs.
Decluttering hotspots during spring-cleaning
We asked all our survey respondents which areas in their homes got special attention for decluttering and tidying up during their spring-cleaning routine. By far the most frequent mentions were for bedrooms (33%) and kitchen cupboards (32%).
And while both sexes were equally likely to mention bedrooms, bathrooms and fridge/freezers, women were much more likely to cite kitchen cupboards (35.3% vs 22.6%) while men were much more likely to nominate storage rooms (17.4% vs 9.3%) as decluttering hotspots for spring-cleaning.
Spring-cleaning other areas of life
But in British households, spring-cleaning is not restricted to scrubbing, steaming, soaking and sponging. It seems that spring-cleaning extends to decluttering and cutting back in a whole range of areas, from deleting unwanted photos to removing toxic people from our lives.
When we asked our respondents about other areas of life that their spring clear-out extends to, the most popular answer was deleting unwanted apps from their mobile phones. More than half of us (57%) take the opportunity to declutter apps from our smartphones, and that’s consistent across almost all age groups including over 65s.
Decluttering and cleaning the car came second, with 47.6% spring-cleaning their vehicles, especially the under 35s (76.7%). Men were more likely to rank this task (53.2%) than women (47.4%).
And 45.8% use the opportunity to unsubscribe from, or unfollow, brands they no longer appreciate.
Intriguingly, the fourth most popular answer was ‘removing toxic people from your life’! Almost 41% of respondents take the opportunity to declutter their friends and acquaintances, although the proportion declines with age, from 63.3% of under 35s to just 33.3% of 65+ respondents.
Other clean-up projects for spring include organising and decluttering desktops (37.9%) and deleting no longer needed photos (34%).
Amongst the additional answers getting rid of old documents, bills, bank statements and emails often came up, and some noted other areas of the home that get spring-cleaned including garden sheds, caravans and craft rooms. One especially fastidious respondent told us that they “check use by dates in the fridge and cupboards, and minimise the number of cleaning items and toiletries”.
Is it all worth it?
Our survey revealed some remarkable statistics about the nation’s attitudes to cleaning and decluttering. More than 93% of British households invest in a major spring-cleaning exercise at least once a year and commit anything from a few hours to more than a week of scrubbing, steaming, and tidying up.
We clean everything from wardrobes and kitchen cupboards to door handles and extractor fans. And we extend our clean-up mentality into other areas of our lives too, from deleting unwanted apps and photos to removing toxic people.
Yet while over half of us claim to enjoy spring-cleaning, 44% of the folks in our survey claimed that it is ‘dreadful’.
So why do we do it? What drives us to participate in this traditional annual scrub-fest?
One final question we asked might provide a clue.
We asked all the consumers in our survey whether they felt less stressed when their house is clean. The answer was an overwhelming yes, even amongst those who dreaded the task.
90% of respondents claimed they felt more ‘at peace’ when their homes were clean. The answers were consistent across all age groups, rising to 97% amongst the busy 35-44s.
Much has been written about the mental health benefits of cleaning. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the physical activity of cleaning, coupled with the end result helps reduce stress, relieve anxiety and tackle depression.
It’s clear from our survey results that Brits agree.
Survey based on answers from 1,325 respondents carried out between 25th February and 8th March 2022.