Why Am I So Deeply Obsessed With Watching People Clean?

cleaning videos cleaning videos

My house looks like a land mine just went off, but I finally got all three of my kids to sleep and that’s a victory. So what if the carpet is littered with the confetti of another day in toddler anarchy? I’m going to grab some Me Time if it’s the last thing I do before I pass out. But if you imagine me with a face mask, a glass of wine and a great book, you’d be mistaken. I’m over here elbow deep in a bag of chips while scrolling through TikTok videos of influencers scrubbing dirty sinks and making stains on the wall disappear. Not ashamed.

As I sit here and type these words, my bath towels are on hour number three of an eight-hour soak in a briny-smelling mix of laundry chemicals in my bathtub. Why? Because I keep seeing videos telling me that if I strip my towels, they will be fluffy and bright — like new, even. So far, they still look like scratchy old bath towels that have a permanent tinge of grey to them. The water is brown, and my bathroom smells like a high school chemistry lab. But if TikTok swears by it, then I’ll try it out. You see, I am hopelessly addicted to that weird genre of social media called ‘Clean With Me.’

My husband thinks my hobby is ridiculous, but he accepts it — maybe since it could (theoretically, eventually) lead to our home becoming an organized beacon of cleanliness. Thing is, I’ll binge endless YouTube and TikTok videos about how to detail the blinds or fold underwear into tiny triangles, but somehow none of it seems to make the piles of papers and kid crap disappear from my own kitchen counters.

The “how-to” aspect of these videos has some appeal, but the real reason why I love them is that they bring me a sublime sense of calm. Recently, I was lucky enough to watch a pressure washer clean a decade of algae off a tiled pool. I’ve also gotten to observe professional house painters freehanding immaculate lines around the tight corners of crown molding. And OMG, don’t even get me started on the heavenly ASMR sounds of listening to a scouring pad hit the rust on an ancient cast iron pan. It’s like free therapy.

As is the case with many parents, the level of stress that I endure on an average day often leaves me feeling like I’ve just white-knuckled my way through terrorist negotiations, and by the time my house is finally quiet, I need soothing silence. I don’t want anyone talking to me or asking me for anything. I certainly don’t want to be touched. These Clean with Me Videos are a balm for my overworked brain. I’m soothed by watching someone effortlessly clean up a massive disaster and restore order to their space. Sure, sometimes I get inspired to do a project I see, but my fascination is less about the practical, and more about seeing that something so messy and dirty can be cleaned up quickly and easily. Dealt with. I love that sense of possibility. The world is a mess and my house is a mess. I often wish I could just power-wash my life, and the thought that maybe I actually could is what actually allows me to de-stress enough to fall asleep at night.

For some moms, peace looks like a solo drive to Starbucks every morning. For others, it’s chilling in front of Netflix at the end of the day. We all have the thing that calms us down and makes the world feel less overwhelming. Me, all I want is to watch cleaning videos, and I know I’m not alone. And right now, while my kitchen floor is currently coated in a layer of markers and glitter glue sticks, in the back of my head, I’m thinking about how rad it would be to watch an industrial vacuum suck it all up in two seconds flat.

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Sarah Cottrell is a Maine-based freelance journalist and lifestyle writer. Her work has been featured on VICE Tonic, New York Magazine, Washington Post, and has been included in seven anthologies including the New York Times bestselling series, I Still Just Want to Pee Alone. sarahcottrellfreelance.com.