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Dads Win Admiration from Kids  for their Ability to Avoid Housework

Cleaning expertise has traditionally passed from mother to child, but a 2000 survey by the American Cleaning Institute (formerly The Soap and Detergent Association) shows that dads are sharing some pointers as well. Unfortunately, the domestic expertise that dad is admired for most by his children is his ability to avoid housework, according to 63 percent of the survey respondents.

"Kids learn by example, and if Dad vanishes when it's time to clean, the child may think that it's O.K. to do the same," says Kate Kelly, parenting expert and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Teenager. "Given the time pressures on today's families, Dad has to help set the right example and take more responsibility for household chores."

Many dads already pitch in with the cleaning. The survey found that 20 percent of dads are admired for their versatility with the vacuum, 16 percent for their motivation to mop, 11 percent for their love of laundry and 10 percent for their determination to dust. Though these are low numbers, dads would probably contend that they are doing their part. According to the survey, males are more likely than females to claim everybody helps with the housework (41% vs. 27%).

To be fair, mom may unintentionally contribute to dad's housework vanishing act, by not providing what he needs in order to lend a hand. "Empowering dads with some basic cleaning know-how is an important first step," says Kelly. "After all, we don't expect moms to naturally know how to change the oil in the car."

It's equally important for moms to realize that dads probably won't clean the same way they do. Says Kelly, "Moms need to ask themselves if they would rather have a husband who cleans only on Leap Year but does it perfectly, or one who helps out regularly, but sometimes cuts corners."

To help dads realize their cleaning potential, the ACI has created Cleaning Basics guideline that emphasizes prevention, tackling the most important jobs first and reading product labels for smart cleaning. Tips include:

Practice Prevention
  • Minimize clutter. Having lots of stuff around makes cleaning harder and gives places for dust and allergens to collect.
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water often - to help stay healthy and keep dirt and germs off household surfaces.
  • Keep bathroom and kitchen surfaces as dry and clean as possible to help control the growth of moisture-loving mold/mildew and bacteria.
Give priority to the Important Jobs
  • Clean and disinfect cutting boards and kitchen countertops before and after preparing food to help reduce the threat of foodborne illness.
  • Launder sheets once a week in warm or hot water to remove dust mite allergens and keep linens fresh.
  • Disinfect bathroom surfaces to kill germs as well as mold and mildew.
Always Keep in Mind
  • Read cleaning product labels and follow directions to get the best results.
  • Never mix cleaning products together.

"Children learn so many important lessons from their fathers," says Kelly. "By pitching in more with the cleaning, dads can show how the household runs more smoothly when everyone steps up to the plate."

The ACI National Cleaning Survey 2000, which included telephone interviews with a national sample of approximately 1,003 adults, 18 years and older, was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation International.