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Signora Clean

E' primavera! Devi pulire la tua casa.

As the grass becomes greener and the trees and flowers start to bud there's a “feeling” in the air that it's time for some spring cleaning. Even though spring is the usual period set apart for house-cleaning, keeping our space neat and orderly is much easier when it becomes part of a lifestyle routine.

According to the cleaning mavens at Proctor and Gamble, Italian women spend 21 hours a week on household chores as opposed to Americans who spend just 4. Italian women supposedly wash their kitchen and bathroom floors at least 4 times a week. American women just once. Unilever even made their cleaning products 50% bigger because Italians clean so frequently. Consumer polls found that Italian women like their house really clean reporting comments that “Everything has to absolutely shine.”

Only about 30% of Italian households have dishwashers because many Italian women don’t trust machines to get dishes as clean as they can get them by hand. Some of our Italian relatives don’t have dishwashers, believing that hand-washing may be better. Perhaps even calming and therapeutic.

Italians still hang their laundry out to dry (electricity can be costly) and often iron certain things they wash, even socks and sheets. They don’t understand our obsession with plug in “air fresheners” and don’t believe that food odors are offensive. They open their windows to let the fresh air in even if they live in the cities.

Italians also spend time sweeping the sidewalks and streets in front of their entry ways and like to use traditional cleaning supplies. In Italy the Swiffer Wet Mop was such a flop that the company took it off the market. Time-saving and easy are a tentative part of the vocabulary of Italian women when it comes to cleaning their homes. Over the years consumer-product companies have realized that what sells products elsewhere — labor-saving convenience — is not as big a selling point in Italy. Italian women want products that are tough cleaners and need to be convinced that they will be effective.

Washing-machine manufacturers have a hard time persuading the Italians to entrust their clothes to their machines. Italians worry that the machines will ruin the fabric so models with slow spin cycles, as low as 400 spins per minute (compared with 1,200 to 1,600 common in machines in the U.S and elsewhere in Europe) are marketed. The Bosch brand introduced the Maxi 6, a European model with 3 separate cycles for wool, silk and synthetic fabrics. The machine even has a special gentle cycle for jeans because Italians consider them delicate and worry that they will lose their color or shape in a regular cycle.

Even today, as younger women increasingly work outside the home, they still spend nearly as much time as their mothers did on housework. Cleaning agencies are held to a high standard and closely followed to ensure they do a good enough job.

According to Federica Rossi Gasparrini, chair of Federcasalinghe ( Italian Housewives’ Association) “No (Italian) woman will forgo a clean house, even if she works. It’s part of love for the family.”

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