Spring Cleaning: Why do we do it and how can we do it well?

Feeling the urge to declutter and clean for the warmer months ahead? You’re not alone.

If you were asked to name one home-based activity we all do in the spring, you can be fairly sure cleaning would be one of the top answers.

It’s an age-old tradition passed down through the generations. As the seasons change, we still feel an almost primeval need to start the new season with a cleaner house.

woman holding basket of cleaning equipmentCredit: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

This desire to clean is seen in our purchasing habits, according to Rachel Aldridge, Household Buyer for Waitrose.

The company sees a 20% increase in sales of cleaning products in the New Year, with bleach, anti-bacterial wipes, cream cleaner, drain unblockers and kitchen gloves ranked as the top selling products.


Although the company has also seen an increased interest in products made from natural ingredients and refills, which have become popular as people look to cut down on unnecessary packaging.

Even those of us who consider cleaning a daily task, will be adding extra tasks to our schedule during spring.

Washing machines and dishwashers may be getting a detox and clean around the edges of doors and seals. Wardrobes will be re-organised, and we will be checking the freezer for any goods that have passed the recommended storage dates.

But why do we get this urge to strip back and start again and why does it benefit us?

We historically cleaned in the spring to rid the house of dust, soot and oil that had accumulated from winter fires and kerosene lamps.

The combination of modern heating systems and rising heating bills means that’s less of an issue today, but with more time spent at home during the winter we still feel the need to dust off the cobwebs and start anew.

grey haired woman dustingCredit: Shutterstock/Ground Picture

Religious & cultural traditions

For many, spring cleaning has its roots intertwined with religion and cultural traditions.

In Iran, Nowruz – or Persian New Year – is often cited as the founding influence behind spring cleaning.

Coinciding with the first day of spring, the 13-day long holiday traditionally involves some of the elements we associate with the change of season in the UK, such as cleaning and buying new clothes.

For Christians, Catholics clean the church altar the day before Good Friday and the homes of Greek Orthodox Church members will be cleaned during the week leading up to Lent – with ‘Clean Monday’ a key day in the calendar.

In Jewish custom, March or April is the date of Passover which marks the liberation of Jews from slavery in Egypt. Egyptian slaves were fed unleavened bread, which The Jews adopted as a symbol of their survival.

To mark this moment, the home is cleaned before the start of Passover to remove any yeast bread or chametz from the home as a mark of gratitude towards the hardship their ancestors endured.

Mental well-being benefits

When it comes to the present day, the cathartic benefits of seeing our surroundings clean and ordered is something many of us continue to appreciate, not just for the visual pleasure of seeing a clean and tidy home.

Sophie Scott, a cognitive neuroscientist at University College London, explains how the process goes deeper than just the need for a new start.

Tidying up, whether that’s colour-coordinating a bookshelf or overhauling a wardrobe, also acts as a reward, which increases the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, also known as the brain’s “pleasure chemical” in the brain. The spring clean makes us simply ‘feel good’.

older couple cleaning windowsCredit: Shutterstock/Budimir Jevtic

She warns, however, that while a good clean out can make us happy, it will only improve our mood if we set ourselves manageable goals. Whilst it may be tempting to suddenly decide overnight to do it all the next day, the reality is we don’t need to do this and happiness can be more readily achieved from setting simple, clear tasks.

Cleaning experts we spoke to all agreed that spring cleaning should be seen as more of a project than a task. It’s a group of activities that fall under one umbrella heading, but that can be tackled individually, allowing you to work your way through your home, creating a sense of order and organisation now and in the months ahead.

Most agree that starting at the top of the house and working down is key. Gravity means that dust and dirt will naturally fall downwards, so if you start the opposite way round you will only end up adding dirt back to areas you’ve already cleaned. Many also recommend creating a spring clean checklist that you can refer to each year. But if the urge to clean is with you right now and you simply want to get on with the job, here are a few suggestions to get you started.

hands holding cleaning checklistCredit: Shutterstock/OlgaPS
  1. Attic – Take the opportunity to go into the attic ahead of your clean and write down everything you have stored there. Even if you can’t sort the items out now, knowing exactly what’s there will allow you to tackle it more efficiently in the future. Don’t forget to check the insulation and look for any signs of damp while you get the chance – an irritating thing to find, but better to spot it early.
  2. Bedrooms – Move and clean under the furniture if you can. Empty wardrobes and consider donating or selling any items of clothing you haven’t worn in the last year and put clothes you will ‘one day fit into’ into storage, with a clear date in the future when you’ll try them one last time – this can motivate you to get healthier too. Safely dust and clean ceiling lights, as even if you can’t see the dirt it will be there.
  3. Bathrooms – although this is regularly cleaned, why not take the time to empty toiletry and make-up bags. Do you really need to keep all those small bottles of toiletries collected from your travels? Why not package them up and donate them to a local women’s refuge or food bank?
  4. Linen cupboards – the place we store towels and a multitude of bedding sets. Empty the whole cupboard, clean, and then sort the contents into relevant piles and ask yourself how many of each item you really need. Pet rescue shelters are always in need of clean towels and bedding that may no longer be in good enough condition for use at home but will always be welcomed for animals.
  5. Reception rooms – if you have several in your home, use the Marie Kondo method and place the contents of each room into one central place to declutter. You may find yourself with duplicate books, mementos, soft furnishings, and decorative accessories that you can streamline, both to reduce clutter and make dusting much easier in the future.
  6. Kitchens – probably one of the cleanest rooms of the house already, so take the opportunity to empty cupboards and collate into sub-categories. This will let you see exactly what you own, what you need to keep, and again make it easier to clean in the future. Take the opportunity to descale kettles and run a dishwasher cleaning cycle. Cleaning the inside of your kettle will save energy as it will reduce the amount of time the water takes to boil. Cleaning your dishwasher reduces water usage as you won’t find yourself having to re-rinse items that aren’t quite as clean as they could be. Finally, don’t forget to check the inside of your oven and if it’s much to handle, book a professional clean.
hand in green rubber glove cleaning ovenCredit: Shutterstock/Lurii Stepanov

Don’t forget to spring clean outside

Spring also means more time spent outside, so it’s important to include the exterior of your home on your checklist. Take the time to do a full visual check of your walls, roof, hard landscaped areas and pipes. The winter months may have led to the appearance of cracks, mould and even frost damage to patios and pipes.

older couple cleaning outside of windowsCredit: Shutterstock/Dmytro Zinkevyck
Make your windows the envy of your guests

The experts at home insulation company, Insulation Express suggest this could also potentially save you a substantial amount of money over the coming year. The company recommends concentrating on the following areas:

  1. Clear guttering to ensure moss and plant debris is removed.
  2. Wipe down window and door frames – this will not only prevent discolouration but also allow you to notice any damage hidden by dirt.
  3. Check roof tiles to ensure the winter wind and rain hasn’t dislodged or cracked them. Small leaks can become big problems if not tackled correctly.
  4. Remove moss and weed from patio area and lawns to not only provide a more pleasing outlook but also to avoid any damage from weeds underneath hard paved areas.
  5. Pressure wash the outside of your house (if the finish allows). As well as improving the longevity of your exterior, it will again allow you to properly inspect walls for cracks.
  6. Clean any decking to remove moss and fungus that could potentially cause the wood to rot in the future.

Ready, steady clean

Now you’re feeling inspired to start your spring-cleaning, here are some final key ideas for helping you achieve this huge project in a fun and sustainable way.  You don’t have to do all of them, but if one sparks a nugget of motivation, jump on it and get your spring cleaning underway.

Prepare in advance

Making cleaning feel like less of a chore and more of a well organised and executed project, will always make it seem easier. Check you have the right materials for cleaning and indulge in a little retail therapy if you don’t.

Declutter before you physically clean and allow yourself plenty of time for this key stage. Warn the family in advance when the cleaning is taking place so that you can either give them jobs or make sure they leave you free to finish the job.

Let your cleaning match your conscience

Assess your current cleaning equipment and ask yourself if it does the job well and is it as sustainable as it could be? Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to rely on harsh chemicals for a thorough clean as there are plenty of ways to clean without bleach. Consider what swaps and green upgrades you could make to clean more sustainably without loads of hassle.  

Think longer term

There are lots of actions you can take to make cleaning easier in the future, particularly in the kitchen. For example, simply adding a liner to the bottom of your oven will help you avoid having to clean it as often.

Consider smart appliances for smarter cleaning

Whilst you may already have invested in a robot vacuum or a self-cleaning oven, some suggest we are heading towards a future where all cleaning and domestic chores will be performed by robots.

If you currently have £285,000 to spare, there is already a kitchen robot available that cooks and cleans the area as it performs its tasks. In our futuristic look ahead, we ask experts to predict how the to see if we are heading towards a world where spring cleaning is no longer a human chore.

However, as some of these developments may not be available just yet, we will also be looking at more affordable smart appliances over the coming months that are designed to make cleaning easier in today’s world.

Hire in an expert

If the whole process seems simply too daunting, or you’ve decided to treat yourself to some help this year, The Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers can guide you towards a professional working in your area.

three people cleaningCredit: Shutterstock/Audrey Popov

Or, if during lockdown you became a fan of the Marie Kondo method where we consider what we want to keep, rather than what we need to throw away, then the official website will guide you to a qualified expert in your region.

Sarah Harley

Written by Sarah Harley she/her


Sarah Harley is a Staff Writer for Homes at Saga Exceptional. Since first picking up a paintbrush and experiencing the joy of re-decorating her bedroom in a questionable red, white and grey scheme as a young teenager, Sarah was hooked on the world of interior design. This obsession even led to a real life ‘Grand Designs’ project in 2005 when she donned a pink hard hat and appeared on TV screens, project managing the renovation and extension of a Grade II listed 17th century Folly in South Wales.

Throughout her career, Sarah has gained an array of experience in several different roles, ranging from copywriting, PR, events management and photography to interior design and home staging. With her two passions being the written word and the joys of a beautifully designed home, Sarah’s mission is to open the door on the world of interiors, inviting readers in to help them work their way through the vast choice of products, ideas and trends so that their own homes can reach their full potential.

Away from work, Sarah fills her Pinterest boards with more ideas, dreams of where to travel, takes photographs and loves being by the sea. She has two sons and if she absorbed everything they said would also be a football expert. The fact is she is often more interested in the colour and design of the kit – but don’t tell them that.

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