There is shaving foam everywhere as I frantically remove it, hoping my husband won’t come home and realize what I was doing with his fancy toiletries. After 10 sticky minutes of scraping and wiping, I finally do buffing, buffing, and buffing…and the bathroom mirror is still malfunctioning. It didn’t look like this on TikTok.
Singing shaving foam to make the mirror shine (and keep it from fogging!) is one of about a billion tips enthusiastically shared in the corner of the video-sharing app known as “CleanTok”. Except that they aren’t called “tips”, they are “hackers” – and nearly all of them promise to be the “best hack ever” or life-changing at the very least.
As someone who still calls hackers “tips” and hasn’t completely given up on Facebook, I’ve completely accepted my status as being too old for TikTok. But tempted with the promise of effortless stain removal and cleaning, I decided to put on rubber gloves and enter the world of #cleantok for just one week — after all, a hashtag that has racked up 50 billion views couldn’t be wrong, could it?
Things started off promising enough. A post by @charlascleaninghacks (50.9K Followers, 634.4K Likes) Viewed over 12M times tells me all I need is a dishwasher tablet, a cloth lid and a pot lid to clean my upholstery. I’m still not sure why the pot lid was needed (the wailing “Where are the instructions” was to become a recurring theme for my CleanTok experience) but it worked! With fairly minimal effort, the arms of my sofa are noticeably less dirty – woe!
Using fabric softener to clean my wet white doors has proven similarly successful – a hack recommended only by Ms. Hinch (aka Sophie Hinchliffe), the dean of ‘cleanfluencers’, who is more active on Instagram than Twitter with 4.6 million followers, Bucket – Upload Partnerships Profitable paid and bestselling book.
It soon becomes clear that CleanTok has several sections. There are the throwaway cleaners, whose videos often include throwing a can of Ajax and half a bottle of Toilet Duck into the bathroom. This “deep clean” content sometimes gets praise for its soothing ASMR (Sensory Independent Meridian Response) credentials – the idea being that watching someone clean their tiles with a bucket of flash is weird and fun. But they also drew criticism, with toxicologists warning that “product overload” can pose health risks when used in small, unventilated areas and that mixing untested formulations of chemicals is a dangerous attempt.
Then there are the “household” cleaners, lovers of living lightly, and enthusiasts of just about any household dilemma that can be solved with lemon, baking soda, and white wine vinegar.
And finally, the Wonder Products Brigade – the clean proprietary owners who carry many branded cleaners close to their hearts…often include products from their own collection (with a link to shopping in bio).
Pink Stuff was one such great product that kept showing up in my For You TikTok feed (the algorithm quickly identified me as a #cleantok fisionado). In a 40-second video, viewed 21.2 million times, @homewithemmaxx (57.8K followers, 1 million likes) was oven writhing after a quick rub with The Pink Stuff.
I followed suit and it worked…but after about 20 minutes of scrubbing and some serious elbow grease.
Ditto the tip (sorry, hack) to remove the permanent marker from the crib frame. Thanks @Kimber.key (36.1K followers, 1.3M likes) but it took 25 sprays of sunscreen and I can still see quite a bit of outline.
With quick adjustments, time-lapses, and a lively soundtrack, you often calm down to thinking that a CleanTok hack will make your home clean, but that’s simply not the case. In their workplace (which isn’t always a given), I’ve found that many hacks require a lot more time and energy than content creators might think.
Shaving foam was a messy case at this point. According to Lynsey_queenofclean (70.6K followers, 258.9K fans) shaving foam can do many things: remove carpet stains, shine stainless steel, clean bathroom mirrors, the list goes on. I didn’t try the first two but the mirror was practical in time and stayed firmly laid out. There is no fog, but it all means I can see the lines as soon as I step out of the shower.
Inspired by relentlessly passionate content creators, I swirled my range hood fans and wiped down the fake greens with WD40 (shiny but smelly). We soaked the griddle overnight in ketchup (it didn’t work), then in cola (it didn’t work). I cleaned the drains with baking soda and vinegar (effective), put cotton balls soaked in essential oil in the boxes (scented) and put the shower head in a freezer bag filled with baking soda and dish salt (hard but worth it). I wiped my window sills with @purdyandfigg’s (120.2k followers, 1m fans) combination of water, white wine vinegar, olive oil, and citrus oil which makes my surfaces dust repellent.
One of the most popular cleaners is @creative_explained (5 million followers, 69.8 million likes), and based on his very interesting recommendation, I cleaned my microwave with great success using a bowl of vinegar and lemon. Despite hearing its high-powered plug in frequently, it left me wanting to stick my head in there as well.
Interestingly, Ireland does not do much in dealing with clean influencers. We have some hilarious anti-CleanTok content and I found myself weeping with laughter at @alimccool (35.1k followers, 1.2m likes) staring at my tablet toilet titled “Honestly it didn’t make a difference in my life”.
There is a fine line between CleanTok and Organization Hacks, and only when I got into the latter did I really fall into the rabbit hole. Inspired by Irish influencer @mrs.houseproud (111K followers on Instagram) I used an accordion coat rack to organize my pot lids; With encouragement from @staceysolomon (1.6 million followers, 4.7 million likes) I made shelves and a small clothesline for my fragile packages, out of tension rods and curtain hooks. Hypnotized by a slew of “refrigerator restocking” and “cabinet hacking” videos, I went into town on my fridge and squeezed in, bought several storage containers and even a small set of steps for my condiment to stand on.
By the end of my week at #Cleantok, I had spent nearly €100 on equipment and cleaners that I had never missed in my life. My cabinets looked great, my doors were air-fabric, the furnishings were better than they had looked in years, and my shiny fake plants smelled mysteriously like pottery.
But it is a strange world. Endless exaggeration is exhausting and frustrating at times. I’ve seen many posts seriously describing “setting a timer” for cleaning as “the best advice ever!” And instead of making me want to do it, I just wondered: What’s going on in your life when it’s as good as it is?
Focusing on the importance of cleaning and organizing sat uncomfortably with me. The constant insistence on “Do this once a month,” “Do this every three days,” “Don’t forget…” felt like setting unrealistic and unattainable standards. And I worry that, with the encouragement of prominent devotees like Khloe Kardashian, the compulsive organization is being reprimanded, and sold as ambitious to people who have neither the time nor the money to organize every item in their pantry into identical hand-marked mason jars.
There has been a significant increase in the pursuit of perfection in recent years, as people strive for perfection driven by fear of failure, need for control and anxiety. It doesn’t take much of a leap to wonder if exposure to a consistent online diet of glossy homes, where each KitKat has its own part of the tray, can have a negative impact on the mental health of some.
Yes, it’s great to have somewhere to go to see if you can get red wine off the rug, freshen up the sofa or remove the felt-tip pen, but at the end of the day, your home will be home to the living in, not a social media group.
#advice #clean #slates #weekand #stressful