Broom, sponge and towel

Housekeeping is the act of cleaning the rooms and furnishings of a home. It is one of the many chores included in the term housework. Housecleaning includes activities such as disposing of rubbish, cleaning dirty surfaces, dusting and vacuuming. It may also involve some outdoor chores, such as removing leaves from rain gutters, washing windows and sweeping doormats. The term is often used also figuratively in politics and business, for the removal of unwanted personnel, methods or policies in an effort at reform or improvement.[1]

Housecleaning is done to make the home look better and be safer and easier to live in. Without housecleaning limescale can build up on taps, mold grows in wet areas, bacterial action make the garbage disposal and toilet smell and cobwebs accumulate.[2] Tools used in housecleaning include vacuum cleaners, brooms, mops and sponges, together with cleaning products such as detergents, disinfectants and bleach.


Removal of litter

Trash can and recycle bin.

Disposal of rubbish is an important aspect of house cleaning. Plastic bags are designed and manufactured specifically for the collection of litter. Many are sized to fit common waste baskets and trash cans. Paper bags are made to carry aluminum cans, glass jars and other things although most people use plastic bins for glass since it could break and tear through the bag. Recycling is possible with some kinds of litter.[3]


Some dusting tools.

Over time dust accumulates on household surfaces. As well as making the surfaces dirty, when dust is disturbed it can become suspended in the air, causing sneezing and breathing trouble. It can also transfer from furniture to clothing, making it unclean. Various tools have been invented for dust removal; Feather and lamb’s wool dusters, cotton and polyester dust cloths, furniture spray [1], disposable paper "dust cloths", dust mops for smooth floors and vacuum cleaners. Vacuum cleaners often have a variety of tools to enable them to remove not just from carpets and rugs, but from hard surfaces and upholstery.[4]

Removal of dirt

Sponge and cloth.

Examples of dirt or "soil" are detritus and common spills and stains that exists in the home. Equipment used with a cleaner might be a bucket and sponge. A modern tool is the spray bottle, but the scientific principle is the same.

Household chemicals


Various household cleaning products have been developed to facilitate the removal of dust and dirt, for surface maintenance, and for disinfection.[5] Products are available in powder, liquid or spray form. The basic ingredients determine the type of cleaning tasks for which they are suitable. Some are packaged as general purpose cleaning materials whilst others are targeted at specific cleaning tasks such as drain clearing, oven cleaning, lime scale removal and polishing furniture. Household cleaning products provide aesthetic and hygiene benefits but are also associated with health risks for the users, and building occupants.[6] The US Department of Health and Human Services offers the public access to the Household Products Database. This database provides consumer information for over 4,000 products based on information provided by the manufacturer through the material safety data sheet.

Surfactants lower the surface tension of water, making it able to flow into smaller tiny cracks and crevices in soils making removal easier. Alkaline chemicals break down known soils such as grease and mud. Acids break down soils such as lime scale, soap scum, and stains of mustard, coffee, tea, and alcoholic beverages. Some solvent-based products are flammable and some can dissolve paint and varnish. Disinfectants stop smell and stains caused by bacteria.

When multiple chemicals are applied to the same surface without full removal of the earlier substance, the chemicals may interact. This interaction may result in a reduction of the efficiency of the chemicals applied (such as a change in pH value caused by mixing alkalis and acids) and in cases may even emit toxic fumes. An example of this is the mixing of ammonia-based cleaners (or acid-based cleaners) and bleach.[7] This causes the production of chloramines that volatilize (become gaseous) causing acute inflammation of the lungs (toxic pneumonitis), long-term respiratory damage, and potential death.[8]

Residue from cleaning products and cleaning activity (dusting, vacuuming, sweeping) have been shown to impact indoor air quality (IAQ) by redistributing particulate matter (dust, dirt, human skin cells, organic matter, animal dander, particles from combustion, fibers from insulation, pollen, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that gaseous or liquid particles become adsorbed to. The particulate matter and chemical residual will of be highest concentrations right after cleaning but will decrease over time depending upon levels of contaminants, air exchange rate, and other sources of chemical residual.[7] Of most concern are the family of chemicals called VOCs such as formaldehyde, toluene, and limonene.[9]

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released from many household cleaning products such as disinfectants, polishes, floor waxes, air-freshening sprays, all purpose cleaning sprays, and glass cleaner. These products have been shown to emit irritating vapors.[5][10][11] VOCs are of most concern due to their tendency to evaporate and be inhaled into the lungs or adsorbed to existing dust, which can also be inhaled.[5] It has been found that aerosolized (spray) cleaning products are important risk factors and may aggravate symptoms of adult asthma,[11] respiratory irritation,[5] childhood asthma, wheeze, bronchitis, and allergy.[10]

Other modes of exposure to potentially harmful household cleaning chemicals include absorption through the skin (dermis), accidental ingestion, and accidental splashing into the eyes. Products for the application and safe use of the chemicals are also available, such as nylon scrub sponge and rubber gloves. [12] It is up to the consumer to keep themselves safe while using these chemicals. Reading and comprehending the labels is important.

There is a growing consumer and governmental interest in natural cleaning products and green cleaning methods. The use of nontoxic household chemicals is growing as consumers become more informed of the health effects of many household chemicals, and municipalities are having to deal with the expensive disposal of household hazardous waste (HHW).[13][14]


Brooms remove debris from floors and dustpans carry dust and debris swept into them, buckets hold cleaning and rinsing solutions, vacuum cleaners and carpet sweepers remove surface dust and debris, chamois leather and squeegees are used for window-cleaning, and mops are used for washing floors.[15]


A home's yard and exterior are sometimes subject to cleaning. Exterior cleaning also occurs for safety, upkeep and usefulness. It includes removal of paper litter and grass growing in sidewalk cracks. Rain gutters, doormats, pools and the screens and glass of windows are also cleanable. Yard junk-removal might occur and porch clutter removal. The paint of door frames might be washed or an old piñata thrown away.[16]

See also


  1. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language Retrieved 2011-01-23
  2. ^ Woodburn, Kim & MacKenzie, Aggie. How Clean is Your House? 2003. Michael Joseph, Great Britain. 2004. Dutton, New York, USA.
  3. ^ Dellutri, Laura. 2005. Speed Cleaning 101. Meredith Books, Des Moines, Iowa.
  4. ^ Kennedy, Rose. 2006. 10-Minute Housekeeping. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press.
  5. ^ a b c d Wolkoff P, Schneider T, Kildeso J, Degerth R, Jaroszewski, and Schunk H. Science of the Total Environment, 215, (1998) pg. 135–156
  6. ^ Kwon KD, Jo WK, Lim JH, and Jcong WS. Environ Sci Pollut Res 15, (2008) pg. 521–526
  7. ^ a b Nazaroff, WW., Weschler, CJ., Atmospheric Environment. 38 (2004) pg. 2841–2865
  8. ^ Reisz, GR., Gammon, RS. Toxic Pneumonitis from mixing household chemicals. CHEST 89 (1986) pg. 49–52
  9. ^ Burton, A. Environmental Health Perspectives – Indoor Air Quality. Vol. 115 #7 (2007) pg. 350
  10. ^ a b Raizenne M., Dales R., Burnett, R., Canadian Jour of Public Health. Air Pollution Exposures and Children's Health. Vol. 89, Suppl. 1 May–June 1998. pg. S43–48
  11. ^ a b Zock, JP., Plana, E.,Jarvis D. et al. Am J Resipir Crit Care Medicine. Vol. 176. (2007) pg. 735–741
  12. ^ Bredenberg, Jeff et al. 1998. Clean it Fast, Clean it right. Emmaus, PA, USA:Rodale. ISBN 0-87596-509-1.
  13. ^ Adams, D., Werner, CM., Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy. Changing Homeowners' Behaviors Involving Toxic Household Chemicals: A psychological, multilevel approach. (2001) pg. 1–32
  14. ^ Slack, RJ.,Gronow, JR.,Voulvoulis N. Science of the Total Environment. 337 (2005) 119–137
  15. ^ Bredenberg, Jeff et al. 1998. Clean It Fast, Clean It Right. Emmaus, PA: Rodale
  16. ^ Smallin, Donna. 2006. Cleaning Plain and Simple. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing. Mike


  • Bredenberg, Jeff. 1998. Clean it Fast Clean it Right. Rodale Inc, Emmaus, PA, USA

External links


Wikibooks has The Housework Manual as well as books on these subjects:

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • housekeeping — house‧keep‧ing [ˈhaʊsˌkiːpɪŋ] noun [uncountable] 1. the work and organization of the things that need to be done in a house or hotel, such as cleaning and cooking: • Guests must vacate their rooms by 11 a.m. so that the housekeeping staff can… …   Financial and business terms

  • Housekeeping — House keep ing, n. 1. The state of occupying a dwelling house as a householder. [1913 Webster] 2. Care of domestic concerns; management of a house and home affairs. [1913 Webster] 3. Hospitality; a liberal and hospitable table; a supply of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Housekeeping — House keep ing, a. Domestic; used in a family; as, housekeeping commodities. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • housekeeping — index domestic (household), household (domestic) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • housekeeping — 1540s, from HOUSE (Cf. house) (n.) + prp. of KEEP (Cf. keep) …   Etymology dictionary

  • housekeeping — [hous′kēp′iŋ] n. 1. the work of a housekeeper 2. internal management of affairs, as of a business …   English World dictionary

  • housekeeping — [[t]ha͟ʊskiːpɪŋ[/t]] 1) N UNCOUNT Housekeeping is the work and organization involved in running a home, including the shopping and cleaning. I thought that cooking and housekeeping were unimportant, easy tasks. 2) N UNCOUNT Housekeeping is the… …   English dictionary

  • Housekeeping — El término Housekeeping puede referise a varias cosas: El Housekeeping es el nombre del sistema de y programa utilizando en la nasa para controlar las naves. Administración del conocido juego Habbo Hotel. Housekeeping es el título de la segunda… …   Wikipedia Español

  • housekeeping — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ good ▪ The company has made considerable savings through good housekeeping, such as avoiding wastage. ▪ bad, poor ▪ My financial problems were made worse by my bad housekeeping …   Collocations dictionary

  • housekeeping — n. 1) to do housekeeping 2) light housekeeping * * * [ haʊsˌkiːpɪŋ] light housekeeping to do housekeeping …   Combinatory dictionary

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