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How to clean house in the NL; OR: Why I will never be Dutch enough

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Anyone who has ever traveled through the NL will notice that that Dutch are a bit obsessed with order and cleanliness. And I use the word “obsessed” lightly. They are crazy meticulous. Total perfectionists. Dutch houses are CLEAN, yo, because Dutch huisvrouwen attack their cleaning duties with military precision. 

After living all those years in the NL, even I, the vrouw who will never be huiselijk enough, have a few tricks up my rubber glove that I’m happy to share. So here you go, the methods to their madness:

  1. Adopt a new vocabulary. Forgive me for just a sec while I give a teeny Dutch lesson. The Dutch wordlekker means “yummy.” Food is of course lekker, but also weather, people, temperature, as well as anything that has to do with cleaning. Stick this adjective in front of any of the following: scrubbing, polishing, wiping, sudsing, shiny, clean, fresh... (I could go on and on) and say it with a big smile.Lekker soppie, alles lekker schoon!

  2. Cultivate the patience of a saint. Washing machines in the NL are half the size and take twice as long. If you, like me, tend to forget about laundry until someone screams that they’re out of clean socks, washing everything in that mountain-of-a-pile will take a week and a half, which means at some point your dirty laundry will have lapped you, and you will be forced to lie to your son that those underwear really are clean, I swear.

  3. Windows are streak-free and spotless. And I’m not talking about a squirt of Windex and a wipedown. (And whatever you do, do NOT tell your Dutch mother-in-law that this is your method of choice. She will tell everyone she knows and laugh at you for MONTHS. Not that this ever happened to me.) No, for a serious window washing, you will need a bucket filled with warm water and a dash of vinegar, a sponge, squeegee and chamois cloth. A real huisvrouw is able to squeegee the water off without using the chamois, but I never quite got the hang of it (mostly because I never quite washed my own windows). And don’t despair when it begins to storm and blow sand all over your newly washed windows, because you will be back out there with your bucket and squeegee same time next week. 

  4. Beds are gross. How else am I to explain this national propensity for taking the entire thing, comforter and all, outside to air it out? Even in the dead of winter, when it’s 100 below outside, the windows in the bedroom are open wide and the comforter is hanging over the windowsill. And as if that’s not enough, every few months, the mattresses are lugged outside and beaten. I was always under the impression that this was to get rid of the fleas, but then someone told me it was for dust, mites and body dandruff. Eew, okay, beds really are gross.

  5. Iron your laundry. Okay, so I know lots of people iron their laundry, but t-shirts? And kitchen towels? Even underwear? I mean, is that truly necessary? I myself prefer my HankyPankies to be a little wrinkled, mostly so I don’t have to iron them.

  6. Sweep your stoop. Whenever the wind blows sand and dirt around. As soon as a leaf falls onto it. The second your neighbor drops a cigarette butt on it. The sidewalk in front of your house must be immaculate. Because, you know, it’s OUTSIDE and all. 

  7. F@ck the environment. Use bleach. Ammonia. That bubbly stuff that eats the mold off the grout in the shower. Pretty much any of the bottles you can find in the store with a little skull and crossbones on it. And then wash it down the drain, flush it down the toilet, forget about all the little herring dying in the North Sea because of it. Because who cares about stupid fish when your house smells like a hospital and shines brighter than your newly polished silver? Nobody, that’s who.

  8. Don’t be fooled; people are watching. Cleaning in the NL is a contest. You need to be the first to hang the clean laundry on the line, throw the comforter over the sill, sweep every molecule of sand from the sidewalk. The other huisvrouwen are watching, ladies, and they are talking about you if you do it wrong.

OR, you can be like me, and pay someone to do it. 

Best money I spend all week. 

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k.swaak New member
Member since 20 May 2009
Noordwijk aan Zee, Netherlands
9 Comments
AmeriDutchClogBlog
AmeriDutchClogBlog
3 years ago

I have wondered if I am up to snuff when it comes to a Dutch homes cleanliness standards. I keep a normal clean home by any standard and as long as my dh is happy that is all that matters to me . My biggest peeve is Dutch washing machines and dryers ! I takes 3 hours to complete one load(small)one at that from start to finish...includes dry time .Love you article !

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Rosemary Dodd
Rosemary Dodd
3 years ago

Thanks so much for this article you made me feel sane again ....I thought I was going crazy thinking my bf`s washing machine took so much longer than mine in the U.K. My Dutch BF is so anti-bleach, I can`t find an alternative ...if anyone knows of one please let me know ...I resorted to hiding it & denieing any knowledge of using it!

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AmeriDutchClogBlog
AmeriDutchClogBlog
3 years ago

I laughed out loud at Rosemarys comment on the bleach because I had the same situation with my dh.We came to a compromise...I use it and deny it.

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judyallard
judyallard
4 years ago

Well written, but sad to say NOT all Dutch are meticulous! Most of my neighbours are very clean, but so am I, have Mysophobia! My Dutch family, nonetheless, couldn\'t care a damn! They always complain that our house is too clean! I wouldn\'t say that they are dirty, but rather clumsy! My Mum-In-Law has the cat litter-box in the kitchen, very close to the stove & food (we all know how small the average Dutch flat or house (for 2 people)is. This makes me want to vomit every time we are invited for a meal, cuz most times, the litter-box is quite full!!! I would not elaborate further on the ghastly smell! So much for \'meticulous\'. The Cleaner cleans every Friday, so beware if you go around on any other day....it has a terrible smell!! I can go on with more examples, but I\'d rather not! I know exactly how to clean everything in my home & my husband is more than pleased @ what a clean wife he has, but for years I have been told how I should clean my home in NL! Even the Dutch compliment me constantly on how clean & tidy everything is in our home! So....thanx K Swaak, it was very entertaining & informative, but don\'t be fooled by the Dutch...we are all cleanliness fanatics....kind regards...Judy.

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Primadonna
Primadonna
4 years ago

Nice and funny written. Much of it is true but believe me: not everybody is the same as you think!!! That gives hope, don't you think?

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Guest
Guest
4 years ago

I agree with u 100% I spend 3 months in holland and I was frustrated about the washing machine, fridge everything so small I cried to go back states. I could find American pancake and syrup big box neither USA ketchup. Omg my next visits I will take everything with me.

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Karenzm
Karenzm
5 years ago

Brilliant!!!

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Meisje
Meisje
5 years ago

Haha nice one.and I do agree on the part about wearing footwear into the house.I bought a pair of soft slip on 'shoes' to wear indoors which made my Dutch BF laughed out loud,when I first went to NL for a few months. He didn't realised then that I am a clean freak who wont let my feet touch the floor that has been walked on with shoes from outside.No matter how many times i sweep the floor. Also he did find it amusing that my family who are in Norway,reminded him to bring a pair of bedroom slippers on his visit.Lol.

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