Females Are Queens of Clean, But Men Are Sharing Some of the Load

Females Are Queens of Clean, But Men Are Sharing Some of the Load

No matter where you live or who you are, dirt and grime are inescapable facts of life. As such, we all need to clean—and we spend a significant amount of time keeping our homes and clothes clean and fresh. In a Nielsen online survey about home-cleaning and laundry habits, nearly one-third of global respondents (31%) say they clean every day, and the same percentage (31%) say they do laundry daily.

“While cleaning is a common (and essential) practice everywhere around the globe, a one-size-fits-all strategy to get the job done doesn’t work globally,” said Sarah Peters, Nielsen Global Business Partner. “Home-care habits and preferences vary widely around the world. Taking an ‘under-the-covers’ look at today’s in-home practices, coupled with an understanding of the larger forces influencing the home-care industry, provides insight about the products consumers want and need—now and in the future.”

The Nielsen Global Home-Care Survey polled more than 30,000 online respondents in 61 countries to understand cleaning and laundry behaviors and sentiments around the world. We examine who’s cleaning, the tools they’re using and the benefits they’re looking for in home-care products. We also explore the underlying macroeconomic forces affecting the home-care industry, and we offer insights into how to adapt to the changing environment by aligning offerings to consumer needs and desires.


When it comes to home care, who does the majority of the cleaning? Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s predominantly still women. Around the world, 44% of respondents say the female head of household does the majority of cleaning, with the highest percentages in Europe and Africa/Middle East (49% each).

But even if they aren’t leading the charge, men are sharing some of the load. Globally, 28% say housecleaning is a shared responsibility between the two heads of the household, and 17% of respondents say men do the majority of cleaning. In North America, men are contributing to the cleaning duties at the highest response levels: Nearly one-third of respondents (32%) say the male head of household does the majority of the cleaning, nearly double the global average.

Responsibility for product purchasing largely mirrors who is doing the cleaning—with even greater female influence. More than half of global respondents (51%) say the female head of household buys the majority of cleaning products. Nearly one-quarter (23%) say it’s a shared responsibility, and slightly fewer (21%) say the male head of household is responsible for the majority of purchasing. Just as North America has the highest percentage of men who are primarily responsible for cleaning, the region also has the highest percentage of respondents who say men purchase cleaning products. One-third of North American respondents (33%) say the male head of household is primarily responsible for buying these items, 12 percentage points above the global average.

“The perception that home care is only women’s work is inaccurate,” said Peters. “The female head of household remains a key stakeholder in the cleaning process in many homes, but as more men play an active role in housework, marketing strategies need to reflect a more balanced approach—from product innovations to marketing messages. This will require a deeper understanding of how each gender approaches the task of cleaning and where gaps in current offerings may exist.”

As males continue to take a more active role in housework, they present a strong growth opportunity. Perhaps products with masculine fragrances or rugged packaging designs are opportunities worth considering, but unlocking the segment’s true potential will come from an in-depth understanding of how these users’ needs aren’t being met. In addition, marketers need to understand what motivates brand choice. Brands with higher equity tend to get considered more often, and typically represent a greater share of consumers’ purchase requirement. For both men and women, brand choice is emotional and rational. To win consumers’ hearts and minds, marketers need to capture attention and engage consumers to drive them to take action.

Other findings from the global Home Care report include:

  • Seventy-seven percent of global respondents say they purchased household cleaning products from a large retail chain in the past 12 months, compared with 23% who said they purchased from an online retailer.
  • Cleaning tools of the trade are as diverse as the regions themselves.
  • Efficacy is a must-have attribute for cleaners, with 61% of global respondents saying that performance is very important when selecting a household-cleaning product, but new-product development strategies also must differentiate through secondary attributes that appeal to salient trends like natural, ecofriendly offerings and single-dosage packaging.
  • Two-thirds of global respondents (67%) say they do laundry at least twice per week.
  • Forty percent of respondents in Asia-Pacific say they seek laundry detergents that don’t contain harsh chemicals, compared with 35% globally.
  • Value is being redefined in the laundry-care market. Lowest price is not always most important, as products with high-efficiency benefits are popular.

For more detail and insight, download Nielsen’s Global Home-Care Report. If you would like more detailed country-level data from this survey, it is available for sale in the Nielsen Store.

About the Nielsen Global Survey

The Nielsen Global Home-Care Survey was conducted Aug. 10-Sept. 4, 2015, and polled more than 30,000 online consumers in 61 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East/Africa and North America. The sample includes Internet users who agreed to participate in this survey and has quotas based on age and sex for each country. It is weighted to be representative of Internet consumers by country. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. However, a probability sample of equivalent size would have a margin of error of ±0.6% at the global level. This Nielsen survey is based only on the behavior of respondents with online access. Internet penetration rates vary by country. Nielsen uses a minimum reporting standard of 60% Internet penetration or an online population of 10 million for survey inclusion.