All told, it’s inoffensive and unflashy, which is part of the appeal. Cleanfluencers wear the kind of clothing you’d expect anyone to dress in to do chores, making it easier for viewers to see themselves in the footage. And unlike the makeup and clothing-haul videos other influencers post, cleanfluencers recommend cleaning products that are cheap, so most people can afford them. Comments on cleanfluencer posts are friendly, complimentary, and apolitical. And, of course, each cleaning video has a happy ending: a home that’s spick and span.
Read: Leaving it to the professionals
Influencers of many genres have built followings by letting the internet into their lives and seeing them do the innocuous. Yet these cleaning videos have a much more profound significance for many people, such as Hendy. “When I was in such a bad place and I was so depressed, I found it hard to have the motivation to get up and do anything,” she explained. “But watching someone else cleaning—it’s an achievable thing.”
Social media are often the highlight reels of people’s lives, Hendy said, and her Instagram feed made her feel worse after the miscarriage. Scrolling through her feed as she sat at home in Hertfordshire, north of London, she’d see pregnancy announcements, pictures from Friday nights out in the city, dispatches from fancy trips to Dubai—things Hendy aspired to but couldn’t do at the time. But in the cleanfluencer community, she found a place where people took refuge from the chaos of the world in the simple and universal act of doing chores. Hendy became excited to try new cleaning products. She began recording short videos of herself scrubbing around the house for her own new Instagram account, @MissHendyHome. Within weeks, she had hundreds of followers, and now she has thousands. With this supportive community—and taking a cue from cleanfluencers such as @Mancleany and @cleaning_my_anxiety_away, who talk about their anxiety—Hendy also feels comfortable discussing her own mental health on her account, and why she turned to cleaning as a relief from stress.
“You can’t control everything in your life,” Hendy said. “You might have a very stressful job, but you can make your bed. You can at least be on top of that aspect of your life and sort of feel like you have your shit together.”
Kiera Inzana, a 20-year-old in York, Pennsylvania, told me that if she has trouble falling asleep, the time-lapse cleaning videos on YouTube help relax her. “With anxiety comes fear of what’s next and of lack of control in life,” she said. “Watching people clean their rooms and controlling their personal space makes my head stop rushing around for a bit.” A 19-year-old in South Carolina named Karen Mims says she’s watched these videos for a few years and feels better about herself when she sees that other people have messier rooms than she does. Lexi Jones, a 25-year-old in Pittsburgh, says she “gets extreme satisfaction out of cleaning my own house,” and she finds it soothing to watch someone else’s clutter disappear little by little in a time-lapse. “I think there’s a lot of aspects to our daily life that seem chaotic, so watching something in a state of order is relaxing,” says Sahar Shahidi, a 24-year-old fan of cleaning videos who lives in Ottawa, Canada.