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1999 National Cleaning Survey

A new national survey from The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) has revealed that cleaning is a major source of friction in relationships. In fact, almost half of all couples fight about cleaning, with arguments ranging from who should do the cleaning to how frequently the cleaning should be done.

Humorist and relationship expert Sandra Beckwith believes that recognizing that men and women look at housework differently can help bring couples closer to a cleaning compromise. She offers some practical tips for achieving housework harmony -- and SDA provides important cleaning tips to getting the job done.

The secret to a good relationship... keep it clean
1999 Survey Reveals Men and Women View Cleaning Differently...And That's Causing Strife in Relationships.

1999 SDA National Cleaning Survey
Key Findings

Clean Up Your Relationship
Cleaning tips from SDA

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THE SECRET TO A GOOD RELATIONSHIP . . . KEEP IT CLEAN
SDA Survey Reveals Men and Women View Cleaning Differently . . .
And That’s Causing Strife in Relationships

New York, NY, February 1, 1999 - Want to rekindle the romance in your marriage this Valentine’s Day? Forgo the chocolates and the roses and give something that will really be appreciated - a little help around the house. A new survey released today by The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) reveals that cleaning is a major source of friction between couples and it shouldn’t just be swept under the rug.

According to the SDA’s National Cleaning Survey of married and living as married men and women, almost half of all couples fight about cleaning. The arguments range from who should do the cleaning (27%) to how frequently the cleaning should be done (24%). Still other couples (20%) disagree about the quality of the cleaning.

“The key to a happy and harmonious relationship is compromise, compromise, compromise,” says Sandra Beckwith, author of “Why Can’t A Man Be More Like A Woman” and creator of the Do(o)little Report, which takes a lighthearted look at male behavior. “Whether it’s grocery shopping or cleaning the home, couples need to agree on their roles and responsibilities.”

And, judging from the SDA survey, there’s a long way to go to equality. Women report they do 79% of the housework, compared to 35% for the men. Remarkably, one-quarter of the men surveyed said they can’t handle a single cleaning task from cleaning the bathroom to doing the laundry better than their partner.

“Men and women just don’t notice dirt the same way,” explained Beckwith. “Women more often understand the value of thorough cleaning to get rid of dirt and germs, while men see no problem in cutting corners to achieve the appearance of clean.”

The SDA survey found that the most common cleaning complaints among couples with complaints include vacuuming and dusting around items instead of moving them (41%); not cleaning up after using the kitchen (39%) or bathroom (38%); and leaving streaks on windows and mirrors (24%). When half-hearted cleaning doesn’t get to the true grit and grime, the result can be wheezing, sneezing, unidentifiable odors and worse - none of which contribute to a warm and cozy relationship.

According to Beckwith, recognizing that men and women look at housework differently can help bring couples closer to a cleaning compromise. For instance, “men need to add the word volunteer to their vocabulary and women need to lower their expectations just a little,” says Beckwith. “Even if it’s not the way a woman might do it, she needs to realize that at least the job is getting done. You can always work together on perfecting it later.”

Beckwith thinks letting a man do the chores he excels at could also encourage greater housework equality. The SDA survey found that nearly one-quarter of men say that they’re better at vacuuming than their mates, and almost one in five men claim they wash dishes better. Conversely, when women were asked what tasks they do better than the men in their lives, nearly four times as many women than men said they excel at laundry.

Fortunately, the longer couples stay together, the wiser they become about trusting their partner’s cleaning competency. Couples over the age of 55 are likely to rate their own skills on par with their mates’ and are least likely to fight about cleaning. Young newlyweds 18-24, however, are most likely to have such arguments (34% vs. 59%).

In addition, household arguments arise when the pitter-patter of little feet is included in the mix, presumably because of added cleaning tasks. Fifty-five percent of couples with children in the household argue over cleaning, compared to only 38% of households without children.

Beckwith advises to work out cleaning differences:

COMMUNICATE - Communication is essential in any relationship. Coming together to discuss problems is particularly useful when it is constructive. Don’t tell your partner “I hate it when you….” Instead be positive, for example, “It would really help if you could move the kitchen table and vacuum up the dust and food crumbs.” Clear the air, literally and figuratively.

DEMONSTRATE - Don’t assume your partner knows what good cleaning is. Point out that the green stuff growing in the shower is not part of a botany experiment, but mildew that may actually be contributing to his allergies. Then show how using a product designed to remove mildew will get rid of it.

COMPLIMENT - Be supportive of his cleaning efforts and you may see some more help. Suggest, for example, that cleaning the kitchen counter after doing the dishes is an easy way to complete the great job he’s done.

REWARD - Give a reason to clean. Allow your partner a night out with friends or suggest dinner and a movie together if there are no tee-shirts to wash or sheets to change when Saturday night comes. That way, you both win - and the housework gets done.

The 1999 SDA National Cleaning Survey, which included telephone interviews with a national sample of approximately 573 adult Americans, 18 years and older, was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation International.


CLEANING FOR HARMONY
1999 SDA National Cleaning Survey

Key Findings

A new survey conducted by The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) and Opinion Research Corporation found some messy truths behind the doors of America’s married and living as married couples.

Specifically, the survey revealed that:

Almost half (46%) of all couples who make a home together argue about cleaning. - The arguments run the gamut from who should do the cleaning (27%), to how often the cleaning should be done (24%) to the best way to clean (17%).

Women claim they do 79% of the cleaning in their household. - Men admit they only do 35%.

Couples with children fight more about cleaning. - 55% of couples with children in the household argue over cleaning as compared to 38% of households that have no children.

Cleaning Pet Peeves

  • Of the nearly two-thirds who see their partners’ cleaning skills as less than perfect:
  • 51% say their partner’s biggest cleaning weakness is that they don’t clean often enough.
  • 41% complain that their spouse or significant other vacuums and dusts around items instead of moving them.
  • 39% of respondents are annoyed by their mate’s failure to clean up after using the kitchen. Almost half of the women have this complaint as compared to 24% of men.
  • 38% mentioned bathroom cleanup or the lack there of as a source of contention. Again, half of the women mentioned this as opposed to only 16% of men.

Cleanliness Rating

  • Using a 1 to 5 scale where 5 is “extremely well” and 1 is “extremely poor,” 55% of men give their mate the highest rating available, a 5 out of 5.
  • Women score the men in their lives a 3.
  • The average score men give to themselves is 3.7, while women rate themselves a 4.1.

Gender-izing Cleaning Tasks?

  • Four times as many women as men say they do the laundry better than their partner.
  • Women also believe that the bathroom and the kitchen are better cleaned when they do it as opposed to their mate.
  • 22% of males say the one job they do better is vacuuming, and 14% of men as opposed to 9% of women believe they do a better job washing dishes.
  • 25% of the men said that they could not top their mate in any cleaning task.
     

With Age Comes Wisdom

  • Those in the over 55 age group are most likely to give equal weight to his or her own skills and to his or her mate’s skills.
  • Those 55 years and older are less likely to have arguments about cleaning than those 18 to 24 (59% vs. 34%).

The 1999 SDA National Cleaning Survey, which included interviews with a national sample of 573 adult Americans, married or living as married, 18 years and older, was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation International.


Clean Up Your Relationship

Cleaning Tips

Cleaning the house is no couple’s favorite activity, but it doesn’t have to be a major source of conflict in relationships, says The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA). A new survey by SDA and Opinion Research Corporation found that differences between men and women in their cleaning habits and skills causes almost half of all couples to argue about housework.

To help couples maintain harmony and keep their homes clean, the SDA offers the following cleaning tips:

KITCHEN

  • To help keep insects away, clean up food spills and crumbs, wash dishes as soon as possible and empty the trash daily.
  • For cleaning small areas like countertops, try sprays or gels. For larger areas like floors or walls, powders or liquids mixed in a pail of water are more efficient.
  • Use a cutting board for preparing meats and poultry, then clean and disinfect the board after each use with an EPA-registered product to prevent the spread of foodborne bacteria.
  • Abrasive cleansers provide extra cleaning power for hard-to-remove soils like food particles and grease residue in sinks. Use a non-abrasive cleansers on easily scratched surfaces such as fiberglass.

BATHROOM

  • Wipe down shower walls after taking a shower, and keep shower doors and curtains open after use to allow them to air-dry and prevent mildew growth.
  • Loosely hang towels and bathmats to air dry after each use, and launder them at least once a week.
  • Use a disinfectant or disinfectant (antibacterial) cleaner on tubs and showers to prevent mold and mildew from growing.

LIVING ROOM/DINING ROOM

  • Vacuum carpeted areas at least once a week and more often if you have a pet or during allergy season.
  • Use a glass cleaner to prevent streaks on glass surfaces.
  • Use a soft cloth sprayed with a dusting product to keep dust under control and remove grime that can damage furniture finishes.
  • Use mats or small area rugs in front of all entryways to protect flooring, collect dirt, dust, pollen and other allergens brought in from the outside and launder them weekly.

BEDROOM

  • Avoid sharing your bedroom with a furry or feathered pet that leaves animal dander behind.
  • Launder bedding frequently to remove dust mite allergens and keep linens fresh.
  • Keep dust collectors like knick knacks in drawers or closed cabinets.