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"Everyone likes it clean"

Having a clean house is important

However, an international comparison of cleaning habits shows surprising differences

The world has one thing in common as far as cleaning is concerned: a clean home is important or very important to almost everyone. This shows that household cleaning, whether regularly or irregularly, is simply part of life. But what precisely is behind all this? Who spends the most time cleaning and what aids are used most frequently for cleaning? Kärcher, as a specialist in cleaning equipment, wanted to find out more and conducted a representative survey together with market researchers from Research Now. More than 6,000 participants from Brazil, China, Germany, France, Poland and the USA were surveyed with regard to their personal cleaning behavior. It emerged that there were some similarities, but also differences and peculiarities typical for the country.

Cleanliness is particularly important to Brazilians, Poles are more generous

Around 90% of those surveyed worldwide said that a clean home was important or very important. In Brazil, 97% of those surveyed said that cleanliness was important; in Poland, this was 87%. The other countries surveyed lie between these figures. By comparison, the Germans, who are regarded worldwide as being particularly clean, are somewhere at the bottom of the scale with 89%. When asked how much time they spent cleaning weekly, on average German households replied 3 hours and 17 minutes. Accordingly, the Germans come close to the other countries surveyed (3 hours 20 minutes). In Brazil, an average of 4 hours 5 minutes are spent cleaning, just under 10% of those surveyed said that they spent more than 10 hours cleaning.

Interview: Where is it the cleanest?

We discussed the partly astounding results and differences with Gerhard Reifmesser, Head of Kärcher Market Research.

Mr Reifmesser, would you say that those who spend more time cleaning have a cleaner home?

That would be too simplistic. The amount of time spent cleaning depends on the devices used. Using electrical devices can save time. A typical peculiarity of the cleaning culture in Brazil is, among other things, that cleaning takes place manually using large amounts of water. Houses typically have stone floors and the kitchen often opens to one side on to a type of terrace, the so-called Lavanderia. This allows the kitchen floor to be washed and cleaned. Noticeable are also the powerful and fragranced detergents – a fresh scent signals cleanliness.

Are you aware of the global cleaning cultures and their differences based on your own experience?

Yes, we market researchers conduct virtually all of our studies locally, speak to people, look at their homes and how they clean. I spend about a quarter of my working time conducting such studies in the global markets for our products.

In your opinion, which country is the cleanest?

Japan. In this respect, the Japanese have a different mentality. Cleaning is a part of character building. School children and students learn to clean their school themselves. An adult who keeps their surroundings clean is regarded as a person who is at peace with themselves. The community also plays a special role. On Sundays, one can see many volunteers cleaning public facilities and collecting refuse. There is nothing like it elsewhere.

In addition to cultural differences, are there also fundamental similarities in cleaning habits?

To put it simply: everyone likes it clean. However, the perception of cleanliness is individually and culturally influenced. In the UK, Russia or the USA, the cleaning behaviour of a typical Japanese household is perceived as greatly exaggerated.

And how clean are the Germans?

If one considers the average time spent cleaning in a German household, we are somewhere in the bottom third. That Germany is very clean and tidy, is more of a cliché than reality. Think about spring cleaning: it was once a common ritual that has virtually disappeared. However, as I already mentioned, it depends on the cleaning devices used. German households are above average when it comes to using electrical household appliances.

Gerhard Reifmesser im Dialog

And the Japanese who are known to love technology?

This is where a further Japanese peculiarity comes into play: the cramped living conditions. Even in the Chinese market that we surveyed, more living space is available on average. Japanese dwellings are small, often narrow and distributed over several floors. In Japan, battery-powered devices are preferred. Due to a lack of storage space, these are usually stored where they are visible. This places different demands on the product design. Kärcher has therefore already developed several products that were specifically adapted to suit Japanese habits.

How much time do you personally spend cleaning your home per week?

I think this is somewhere within the German average. However, my wife says that she occasionally has to carry on cleaning when I have finished. Incidentally, this too is a global phenomenon: men are sharing the housework to an increasing extent, but women still feel as if they are mainly responsible for this task.


Summary: typical cultural differences with regard to cleaning

The current and several previous studies into cleaning behaviour allow us to paint a picture of eight countries in America, Asia and Europe. The differences are often not significant, but mostly culturally typical.

A clean home is very important. Argentinian households spend a lot of time cleaning. Just under 60% of Argentinians spend more than three hours a week cleaning. 10% of households spend 10 or more hours cleaning. The use of electric powered equipment is below average; the use of detergents is particularly high.

The Brazilian cleaning culture is very similar to that of Argentinians. Cleanliness plays an important role, the time spent cleaning is correspondingly high. In Brazil, family and relatives play a significant role; one cleans frequently before guests arrive. Only about half of Brazilians use vacuum cleaners or steam cleaners.

Even though a clean home is very important to more than 90% of those asked – they spend the least time cleaning at about 2.5 hours per week. In more than half of households, two or more family members share the cleaning. More time is spent cleaning the kitchen, among other things, because gas stoves are the norm in China and oil is often used for cooking.

The reputation of Germans being whiter than white is really not justified. In a global comparison, the time spent cleaning per week is average, the importance of cleanliness is generally high, however it is below the average of the other countries surveyed. A third of those surveyed said they did not always clean thoroughly. However, Germans clean efficiently as households have more electric powered cleaning equipment than average.

Only 35% of the French do not like cleaning; the others like cleaning. About two-thirds also clean when no dirt is visible. The distribution of roles is traditional in France: women feel responsible for cleanliness in the home.

Even though Japanese households are known to be particularly clean, 80% of those surveyed said that cleaning was important, but also tedious. Japanese households use detergents least of all. Since the Japanese live in very cramped conditions according to an international comparison, only 13% of them need more than three hours a week for cleaning.

In Poland, things look different: the younger generation clean longer than the older generation. The distribution of roles between men and women is still traditional: 80% of women said that they were mainly or solely responsible for cleaning the home. With men, it was only 43%.

On average, Americans consider cleanliness to be more important than those surveyed in Europe. The time spent cleaning per week corresponded exactly to the average of all those surveyed. Americans spend more time cleaning their homes before relatives or friends visit. About two-thirds of households use electric powered cleaning equipment such as vacuum cleaners or steam cleaners.