Inside the Fascinating World of Instagram’s Cleaning Influencers
Plus, their top tips to get your own house in order.
Published Feb 14, 2019 7:00 AM
I don’t know how it happened, but I recently ended up in a black hole of Instagram stories, watching a woman named Sophie Hinchliffe show me how to properly clean my laundry machine. For the record, I don’t even have a laundry machine. I kept watching, entranced, as she demonstrated combing carpeting with a squeegee, sang the praises of using baking soda in the microwave to soak up smells, and cleaned the bottom of a wok using Fairy spray and mystical pink goo. Set to the hauntingly beautiful melodies of 2009-era David Guetta, her stories were hypnotic.
I’m not the only one who thinks so. Boasting a loyal army of 1.8 million followers known as “Hinchers,” Hinchliffe has parlayed this traction into a contract with UK-based digital talent agency Gleam and an upcoming book which, despite not even having an official cover yet, is already a number one Amazon best seller. Hinchliffe may be the best-known face of a micro trend that’s rapidly catching steam: cleaning influencers. They’re everywhere, and if you’re not already addicted, you might want to hit follow.
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The stats are impressive: With followers in the tens of thousands (or even millions) and incredibly high engagement rates, these influencers have tapped into a previously unexploited realm. Where they differ from other influencer genres is in their relatability—an element that probably accounts for their success. There are no overly filtered, glossy images with captions that consist solely of an emoji or cliche quote.
Instead, their feeds are full of actually useful advice. They provide insight into how to make what is generally perceived as a mundane, often overwhelming chore a little more manageable.
“It’s not like when people watch a video about professional cake decorating, where they’re like, yeah, that’s pretty, but I’ll never be able to do it. With cleaning, there’s always a tangible takeaway for people,” explains Melissa Maker.
Maker is one of the OG cleaning influencers: After quitting her bank job, she started her own cleaning business in 2006. 13 years, one book, and one million YouTube subscribers later, she has amassed a loyal following largely based off her relatability. She makes no secret of the fact that she hated cleaning before she started her business and, even today, she still can’t stand it. “Knowing how to [clean] and being efficient while doing it means that, if I need to clean my house, I can do it quickly, which is what I try to encourage other people who hate cleaning to do as well,” she says.
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Lynsey Crombie, who first made her cleaning debut on British TV show Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners, is another example of this new breed of influencer. With 108k Instagram followers and a book deal, her posts are unfiltered, personal, and refreshingly devoid of the pretension that saturates the Instagram influencer world. Her posts are a candid (the real kind, not the hashtag kind) look at her life through the lens of cleaning. Crombie’s Instagram offers her followers a no-frills mix of service and escape that’s particularly heartwarming.
There’s also something to be said about what this new trend indicates culturally. “Personally, I think we’ve had enough of consumption; we are encouraged to buy all the time, but our homes are getting smaller and we seem to have less time to enjoy these items as we all seem to be working so much,” says Nicola Lewis, an Essex-based cleaning and organizing influencer with 78.8k Instagram followers and a book on the way. “I get to help people who feel overwhelmed with so much clutter consuming their homes. This ultimately benefits their mental well-being, and they don’t have to suffer in silence.”
The popularity of cleaning influencers falls in line with a broader social trend—that of taking quotidian tasks like organization and decluttering and turning them into something bigger. It’s responsible for the fact that we’ve seen people like Marie Kondo effectively canonized and organizations like The Home Edit garner global recognition. Maybe this trend is on the rise due to its practicality—it provides actionable tips while demystifying the traditionally formidable process of getting one’s home in order. Or maybe it’s becoming more popular because of less logical reasons. Seeing how other people clean speaks to one’s inner voyeur, is satisfying, and provides an emotional escape from everyday life; almost like a sort of visual comfort food.
Most likely, the popularity of this new micro trend is due to a blend of the two. When your home serves both a practical and personal purpose, it makes sense that any content speaking to both would be immensely appealing.
“People go online to learn because they genuinely want their home to be a sacred space where they feel wonderful; where they can bring friends and relatives over to enjoy time together and feel proud of their home rather than ashamed,” says Maker. “When you’re watching this content and getting inspiration from it, it means that you can actually start to do that. It’s there to teach people life skills.”
In the spirit of this latest social media trend, we polled the leading cleaning influencers for their top tips, go-to cleaning supplies, and most-requested advice.
Timing Is Everything
In short: Don’t let your cleaning to-do list build up. Crombie swears by her five-minute challenge: “Basically, you set the timer to five minutes and do as much as you can in one room, and then move on to the next room.” Simple and effective.
Lewis takes a similar approach of breaking down her cleaning schedule into increments. “I allocate 30 minutes a day and speed clean my way around the home,” she says. Lewis is also a fan of multitasking, noting that managing your housekeeping can be as simple as using the time when your bath is filling up to clean the toilet, basin, and mirror instead of just waiting.
Switch Up Your Technique
Wiping back and forth or in circular motions only leads to streaks, according to Maker, cleaning in an “S pattern” is the way to go. “Spray your surface, take a cloth, and start in the top corner, and then stretch your way to the opposite corner, swoop down, and double back, essentially creating an ‘S’ or zigzag pattern on the surface,” she says. “It takes all the dirt from the top and moves it down in one clear direction instead of going in circles and redepositing the dirt back on the surface.”
Baking Soda Will Be Your Secret Weapon
The most common cleaning question Crombie gets is about fixing discolored or moldy tile grout. Her fix? “Mix bicarb (baking soda) and white wine vinegar into a thick paste, apply to the area, and leave for 30 minutes.”
You can also use baking soda to clear pipes. Lewis pours two tablespoons of the powder down clogged toilets or kitchen drains, adds half a cup of white vinegar, and lets it sit for 15 minutes before pouring hot water over the solution. “This will clear any debris inside your pipework, and you’ll have a fresh-smelling unblocked drain.”
Keep a Few Essentials On-Hand
A cleaning influencer’s kitchen cabinet looks something like this: white wine vinegar, baking soda, and lemons. “They are perfect to use cleaning around the house, they don’t cost a lot of money, and most importantly, they’re safe for our environment,” explains Lewis.
In addition to those three trusty ingredients, Maker also keeps essential oils and dish soap on-hand, plus a microfiber cloth, which she absolutely swears by.
Think Beyond Intended Purposes
Crombie uses shaving foam as a cheap hack for dealing with carpet stains and baby oil to give stainless steel ranges a quick shine.
Also, she doesn’t toss household goods after she’s finished using them, as they can be repurposed for a plethora of uses. Lewis saves glass candle jars to use as organizational vessels and recycles plastic fruit and vegetable containers as fridge drawer organizers. Crombie recommends saving mascara wands to clean hard-to-reach areas.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
“When we watch TV commercials, those companies are paying for every second of ad space they buy; in 30 seconds they have to communicate to you everything that their cleaning product is able to do, so what they’ll do is show someone spraying it on and immediately wiping it off. That is not reality,” cautions Maker. Avoid frustration by letting your product sit for a few minutes before attacking it with a sponge. “If you give a product time to work, you get to be the laziest cleaner. All I do is learn how to use those products and let them do the heavy lifting for me.”
See more cleaning tricks: 10 Cleaning Hacks We Learned from Professional Housekeepers 11 Ways to Declutter Your Home This Month Laundry Experts Do These 4 Things Before Tossing Their Clothes Into the Wash