How to Clean Like a German
Life Abroad

How to Clean a German House

I’ll never forget the time I came home from work to find that my German husband (boyfriend at the time) had deep cleaned my house. He dusted the ceiling fans, cleaned the tops of the kitchen cabinets, polished all of the faucets, and scrubbed my kitchen sink. Okay, sure, he had been home alone for the whole afternoon and got bored, but still.

Until that moment, I thought I was a pretty decent housekeeper. I sure didn’t think so anymore after seeing what my house looked like after just four hours in the hands of a German!

But what I’ve learned is that this heightened level of cleanliness is seen in most German homes. I mean, it’s not just my husband. When I first moved to Germany, I watched this BBC documentary with my husband that followed a British family attempting to be “average Germans.” They set the husband up with a job, and the wife, because they had a couple of kids under three years old, had to be a stay at home mom. (She was annoyingly unhappy about that the whole freaking time.) But because they had to live as the average German family, they were given checklists of all the things they had to do/eat every day. The wife was tasked with four hours of housework each day. She kept expressing her astonishment at how anyone could spend that much time cleaning every day.

Well, they can – easily. I spend three hours cleaning on the days I work from home. And I can absolutely see how people could do even more than that.

German Houses are Less Forgiving than American Houses

I don’t know if it’s the reason WHY Germans seem to clean more often/deeper than Americans do, but after living in Germany for three years, I’ve learned that the houses here are way less forgiving – meaning you really have to clean them differently. The main areas I see this with are dust and water. The heating and cooling systems are completely different between Germany and the US. Since there is no central heating/ac (and as a result, no air filters) and because you have to open the windows daily to air the houses out, dust seems to accumulate at a ridiculous pace. In the States, you can get away with dusting once or twice a week, but not so in Germany. You also have to constantly fight with the high levels of calcium in the tap water. If you don’t routinely clean your sinks, bathtubs, or showers, you will have a build-up of hard water stains that will get worse with each passing day. And the longer you wait to clean them, the harder you will have to work.

So, the key really is to stay ahead of everything.

My Cleaning Routine

First off, I just want to say that even though I try to clean like a German, I don’t do it nearly as well as many German women do. Because I also work, I break my cleaning routine up into parts so that it’s a little more manageable. And some weeks, life just gets in the way, and my routine falls apart. When that happens, I just pick up with the schedule where I can.

Daily Cleaning

So, every weekday, I do the following:

  • dust the furniture
  • dust the doors and door frames
  • dust the windowsills
  • dust the baseboards
  • dust the picture frames
  • dust the kitchen cabinets
  • vacuum the floors
  • vacuum the couch
  • vacuum the kitty beds
  • scoop the litter box
  • wipe down the toilet
  • swish the toilet with a brush and soap
  • knock down any spider webs
  • scrub the kitchen sink with a stainless steel cleaner
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How to Clean Your German House like a German
These are the cleaning products I use the most often. You’ll notice that most of them are anti-Kalk.

It might sound like a lot, but if you do it every day, there’s no chance for the dust or hard water stains to build up. So, it actually goes quick.

Weekly Cleaning

Because I have to be at the university two days during the week, I space my deep cleaning out on the three days I’m home. However, I still have to work when I’m at home, so I do all of the cleaning (daily and weekly) before lunch. That way, I’m totally finished, and after eating lunch, I can work on university stuff.

Each day, I focus on a different part of the house. One day is the bedrooms and hallway, one day is the bathroom, and one day is the kitchen, living room, and dining room.

So, for the bedrooms, in addition to the daily cleaning, I wipe everything down with an all-purpose cleaner (including the light switches and door handles), wash the windowsills with soapy water, use furniture polish on anything wooden, and wash the bedding. I also mop the hallway.

For the bathroom, I scrub the sink and the shower with anti-Kalk cleaners to cut through all of the mineral deposits left by the hard water. If you do this once a week, you can keep that white film under control. I’ve seen other Americans just clean the shower tiles once and then go months without cleaning them again, only to not understand why they have such a heavy build-up that’s so hard to remove. I also wash the litter box and add a fresh bag of litter. Finally, I use my all-purpose cleaner to wipe down the washing machine, dryer, mirrors, and shelves (again, including the light switches and door handles). And I mop the floor.

How to Clean Your German House like a German
Our bathroom is especially tricky since we have a skylight. Because we keep this window cracked at all times, dirt and debris sometimes blow in.

For the kitchen, living room, and dining room, again it’s wiping everything down with the all-purpose cleaner, washing the windowsills with soapy water, mopping the floors, but I also wipe down the inside of the microwave, wash all of the removable parts in the coffee machine, dump the toaster tray, wipe down the outside of the trash cans, and check for expired food to throw away. For the kitty cats, I wash their crunchie (dry food) bowls and placemats.

I also do the laundry once a week. I typically wash and dry everything on my first day of cleaning for the week, and the stuff that has to hang dry gets folded and/or put away the following day.

But this in and of itself is not as deep as a lot of German women go with their cleaning. So, I always add one extra thing. For example, last week, my extra thing for the bedrooms and hallway was wiping down the doors and door frames with soapy water. For the bathroom, it was emptying my makeup trays and throughly cleaning them. For the kitchen, living room, and dining room, I washed the kitchen cabinets with soapy water. This way, I deep clean at least one thing in each part of the house every week, and because I keep up with the daily cleaning, nothing is ever really that hard to clean.

Some other “weekly extras” I do from time to time:

  • take apart and clean the fans
  • wipe down the inside of the refrigerator
  • wash the inside of the trash cans
  • wipe down the soap tray and clean the inside of the washing machine
  • go through the closets and get rid of things that we no longer wear
  • wipe down the walls in the bathroom
  • wash the windows
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Monthly Cleaning

And then there are things that we do bi-weekly or even monthly. My husband vacuums our stairwell every two weeks and washes the marble with soapy water. I wash the blankets in the kitty beds at the beginning of each month.

Seasonal Cleaning

And then, of course, there’s the seasonal cleaning. Twice a year, I wash the curtains and clean the radiators. Every so often, my husband will wash the skylight windows (inside and outside).

Dang, that looks like a lot! But, like I said, the key to keeping a German house clean is staying on top of it all the time. I usually start cleaning at 9am, and I can be finished before noon if I don’t get distracted by other stuff.

Tips for Keeping Your German House Looking Clean

There are some things that you can get in the habit of doing that will help to keep your house cleaner.

  • After using the sink (kitchen or bathroom), wipe it and the faucet with a dry towel. We have two towels by our bathroom sink at all times: one is for us to use, and the other one is for the sink. If you don’t let the water dry on the surfaces, you won’t have a build-up of hard water stains.
  • If you have a stainless steel sink in your kitchen, at the end of every night, scrub it with a stainless steel cleaner. I try to stay in the habit of doing this daily because it really helps to keep it looking nice. After the dishes are done and put away, I scrub it with a cleaner, then wash it with soap, and then wipe everything dry with a towel.
How to Clean Your German House like a German
Before cleaning with a stainless steel cleaner. This is about a week’s worth of hard water stain build-up.
How to Clean Your German House like a German
After one round of cleaning. Because I let it go for so long, I would really need to do a second round of scrubbing to get it all the way clean.

  • You can do the same thing with pots and pans. Anything stainless steel, scrub it with that special cleaner every time you wash it.
  • Whether it’s the kitchen table, dining table, or somewhere in the living room, wipe down any surface where you eat after you eat.
  • Spray the shower/bathtub with an anti-Kalk cleaner after each use. Let it sit for a few minutes and then rinse it off.
  • Vacuum underneath your radiators (if you have the kind that are open at the bottom) every day. If you don’t, they will draw that dirt and dust up into the radiator when you turn them on, and that can make them work less efficiently. If there is a lot of dirt under your radiator, it can even cause black stuff to come out of the top of your radiators, which can stain your walls.
  • Have cleaners on hand for your coffee machine or water cooker. Many German brands will have a warning light to let you know when the mineral deposits inside the machine have built up too much.
How to Clean Your German House like a German
This light means that there is too much build-up in the machine.

Cleaning like a German is no joke. With all of the cleaning I do, our house still isn’t as clean as many other German homes I’ve been in. I’ve accepted that! But if you want to go even further, this article lists out everything that should be cleaned and how often. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 

6 Comments

  • Margarete

    Thank you so much for this post. I have always admired the German level of cleanliness, but never knew what was involved to accomplish this task. I admire your dedication and willingness to go with the cultural norm. I lived overseas for many years, and I learned so much. It is amazing what else is out there in the world. Please continue with posts like this. Most inspiring!!!!

  • ATW

    Oh my goodness, you are very industrious! I spent maybe about 3 hours a week cleaning, but I also want to relax a little in between working full time, traveling, teaching, and studying, so if there’s dust, there’s dust (but much respect to those with a clean house!). I do have to vacuum often though because the cat makes such a mess.

    As far as how much Germans clean, I think it also might be generationally-dependent, too. I met a young German woman who said she cleans maybe 30 minutes a week. My friends who are younger don’t clean super often either.

    • Eifel Mausi

      Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right about there being exceptions. I think it depends on how old they are and whether or not they’re married (or living with their boy/girlfriend).

      I certainly don’t love cleaning! But – and maybe this is silly – I always feel like if a German comes to my house and sees it dirty, they’re going to think it’s an American thing. I always feel like this unofficial ambassador of sorts – not just for cleaning, for literally everything. Maybe at some point that will pass?!?!

  • thatblogwherecheriemovestogermany

    I worked as a registered nurse in the USA. Here in Germany I am the Haus Frau. My American friends are concerned that I will get bored since I am “doing nothing” all day. I have tried to explain that I am definitely keeping busy her ein Germany, and I spend the majority of my day cleaning. Still, my house never looks as good as my MIL’s home…I’m just not that German yet.

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