Compulsive Cleaning: Signs, Reasons, Types and Treatment

Compulsive Cleaning: Signs, Reasons, Types and Treatment

While spring may bring with it the urge to clean up and organize our living spaces, for some of us, the need to keep our homes clean can take on a compulsive nature. Compulsive cleaning is an anxiety disorder that can significantly interfere with daily life and cause people to become overwhelmed by a sense of dread if their home or environment isn’t spotless. In this article, we will dive into what compulsive cleaning is, what causes it, and how it can be managed to help people gain back control over their lives.

What is Compulsive Cleaning?

We all like to keep our homes clean and tidy, but for some people, this is more than just a preference – it’s a compulsion. Compulsive cleaning is characterized by an overwhelming need to clean one’s home, even when there is no dirt or mess to be found. This can be a debilitating condition that interferes with everyday life, and it can be tough to break the cycle.

OCD Cleaning is also a type of compulsive cleaning, where sufferers will clean or organize in a very specific way for long periods. The need to constantly check, re-check and re-organize can make it almost impossible for people with OCD Cleaning to function normally in their day-to-day lives.

These compulsions can have a significant impact on mental health, as people with compulsive cleaning may feel that they are unable to function normally and may even become socially isolated due to their condition.

Different Types of Compulsive Cleaning

There are different types of compulsive cleaning, each with its own set of symptoms and behaviors.

  • The most common type of compulsive cleaning is OCD-related cleaning. People with OCD tend to have very specific rituals and routines that they feel the need to stick to avoid making things worse. For example, they may spend hours cleaning their house every day, or they may only be able to use certain cleaners or cleaning supplies.
  • Another type of compulsive cleaning is related to anxiety. Anxious people may clean to relieve their anxiety or because they are worried about germs and contamination. This can lead to excessive hand-washing, disinfecting, and scrubbing.
  • Compulsive skin-picking is another type of compulsive cleaning that is often related to anxiety. People who pick their skin may do so because they are trying to remove dirt or makeup that they believe is trapped in their pores. They may also pick at scabs or blemishes in an attempt to make them go away. This can lead to significant damage to the skin and scarring.
  • Finally, there is hoarding, which is a type of compulsive collecting that can also involve compulsively cleaning. People who hoard often hold onto things because they believe they will be helpful someday or because they are of sentimental value. This can lead to houses being filled with clutter, which can make it difficult to move around or even clean properly.

Signs of Compulsive Cleaning

There are some signs of compulsive cleaning that you can look out for if you think someone you know may be suffering from it.

Some of these signs are:

A need to clean all the time, even when there is no dirt or mess

One of the most common signs of compulsive cleaning is a need to clean all the time, even when there’s no dirt or mess. This could be because they feel a sense of dread if their home isn’t spotless.

Spending an excessive amount of money on cleaning supplies

People with compulsive cleaning may find themselves spending an excessive amount of money on cleaning supplies and equipment.

Becoming anxious or angry when someone else tries to clean

Compulsive cleaners may become anxious or even angry if someone else tries to clean their home. They may feel like they are the only ones who can do it properly, so they don’t want anyone else to touch their things.

Having difficulty concentrating, sleeping, or making decisions

The mental strain of compulsive cleaning can have a major impact on mental health. People with this condition often find themselves having difficulty concentrating, sleeping, and making decisions. They may also experience anxiety, fatigue, and depression as a result of their disorder.

Constantly moving objects in their home

Compulsive cleaners tend to constantly move objects around in their home. They may believe that they are “organizing” things, but this can be disruptive and lead to confusion or frustration among family members.

Intensive cleaning sessions that last for hours

Compulsive cleaners may find themselves spending entire days or even weeks on a single cleaning session. This can be exhausting, and it may leave them feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

Using harsh chemicals to clean surfaces

People with compulsive cleaning may use harsh chemicals to clean surfaces in their homes. This can be harmful to their health as well as the environment, so it’s important to be aware of this behavior.

The constant need to check surfaces for dirt, dust, or germs

Compulsive cleaners may constantly be checking surfaces for dirt, dust, and germs. They may also wipe down objects or furniture multiple times a day to “clean” them.

If you think someone you know is suffering from compulsive cleaning, they must seek professional help.

Reasons For Compulsive Cleaning

There are many reasons why someone may start compulsively cleaning. For some people, it may be due to a traumatic event or experience that has left them feeling unclean or unsafe.

Some of the other reasons for compulsive cleaning include:

A need to control their environment

Compulsive cleaners may have a strong desire to control their environment, believing that if everything is neat and orderly, then they can feel safe and secure.

A fear of germs or dirt

Some people with compulsive cleaning are driven by a fear of germs or dirt. They may believe that if they don’t clean obsessively, they will get sick or make others around them ill.

An unrealistic idea of “cleanliness”

Compulsive cleaners often have an unrealistic idea of “cleanliness” which can lead to over-cleaning or excessive organizing. This can be disruptive and time-consuming, leaving little time for other activities.

A need to feel productive

Compulsive cleaners may also feel the need to constantly stay busy, believing that if they’re not cleaning or organizing something, then they’re not being productive.

The desire to please others

In some cases, people with compulsive cleaning may be driven by a desire to please others. They may believe that if their home is spotless and orderly, it will reflect positively on them and make them appear “put together”.

Impacts of Compulsive Cleaning

Compulsive cleaning can have several impacts on an individual, both negative and positive.

Negative Impacts

On the negative side, compulsive cleaning can be extremely time-consuming and take away important activities such as work or spending time with family and friends. It can also lead to feelings of anxiety or guilt if an individual is not able to clean up to their standards. In severe cases, compulsive cleaning can even interfere with basic self-care such as eating and sleeping.

Some other negative impacts of compulsive cleaning include:

Financial strain

Compulsive cleaners may find themselves spending excessive amounts of money on cleaning products and supplies, leading to financial strain.

Poor coping skills

Compulsive cleaners may rely too heavily on their cleaning habit as a way to cope with stress or anxiety, which can prevent them from learning healthy coping techniques.

Relationship issues

Compulsive cleaning can cause conflicts in relationships due to the disruption it causes and its tendency to take precedence over other activities.

Positive Impacts

On the positive side, however, compulsive cleaning can provide a sense of order and control in an individual’s life. It can be very satisfying to see a space clean and free of clutter. For some people, compulsively cleaning may even help reduce anxiety or stress levels. While there are potential downsides to compulsively cleaning, it is ultimately up to the individual to decide whether the positives outweigh the negatives.

Other positive impacts of compulsive cleaning include:

Enhanced self-esteem

Cleaning and organizing can provide a sense of accomplishment which can boost an individual’s self-esteem.

Reduced anxiety or stress levels

Compulsive cleaners may find that the act of cleaning helps to reduce their anxiety or stress levels. This can be especially beneficial in high-stress situations.

A sense of control

The ability to organize and clean space may give compulsive cleaners a sense of control over their environment, allowing them to feel more secure and safe.

Overall, compulsive cleaning is an issue that should not be taken lightly and should be addressed with the help of a mental health professional if necessary. With proper treatment, individuals can learn to manage their urge to clean and lead healthier, more balanced lives.

How To Overcome Compulsive Cleaning?

Overcoming compulsive cleaning can be a difficult process, but it is possible. The following tips may help you or someone else struggling with compulsive cleaning:

  • Acknowledge the problem and seek professional help – Compulsive cleaning is a real condition that requires professional assistance. Consider reaching out to your doctor or a mental health provider for advice on how to cope with it.
  • Understand what compulsive cleaning is. Compulsive cleaning is characterized by an excessive need to clean one’s environment, often to the point of interfering with daily activities. People who suffer from compulsive cleaning often feel like they can’t leave their homes unless it’s perfectly clean.
  • Figure out what’s triggering your compulsions. For some people, compulsive cleaning may be by anxiety or OCD. If you can identify what’s triggering your compulsions, you can start to work on addressing those underlying issues.
  • Create a plan to address your compulsions. Once you know what’s triggering your compulsions, you can start to create a plan to address them. This may involve exposure therapy, which gradually exposes you to the things that trigger your compulsions in a controlled setting so that you can learn to cope with them.
  • Seek professional help if needed. If your compulsions are severely impacting your life, it may be necessary to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in OCD or anxiety disorders.


If you have a compulsive cleaning disorder, know that you are not alone, and there is help available if you need it. Treatment options can include medication to manage the symptoms as well as therapy to help with underlying triggers or issues. With the right support and treatment plan in place, individuals suffering from compulsive cleaning disorder can learn how to manage their compulsions and live healthier lives.

For more information and guidance, please contact MantraCare. OCD is a mental health disorder characterized by obsessions and compulsions. If you have any queries regarding Online OCD Counseling experienced therapists at MantraCare can help: Book a trial OCD therapy session

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