A Cleaner-Smelling House Makes for Better Manners

According to a recent study, being in a clean-smelling environment can put everyone on their best behavior.

It’s never a bad thing to have a clean home or office. But according to a recent study from Brigham Young University, keeping your environment sparkly clean isn’t just good for hygienic reasons—it can also help everyone around you stay on their best behavior.

In the study, participants were divided into two groups. One group entered a room that had been recently sprayed with Windex, while the other group was welcomed into an unscented room. Then, the two groups engaged in several experiments.

In the first experiment, each participant was given twelve dollars, and was told that the money had come from a partner in the other room, who had entrusted him to divide the cash equally. It was up to him to decide how much of the money to give back. The subjects in the unscented room were quite selfish, for the most part: they only returned an average of $2.81. Meanwhile, the participants in the super-clean room were far more conscientious: almost everyone divided the money equally, with an average of $5.33 being returned.

The second experiment tested whether people in clean surroundings were more charitable in nature. Testers asked the subjects whether they would be interested in or volunteering with a Habitat for Humanity project. In the unscented room, only six percent of participants were willing to make a donation to the cause, and on a scale of 7, their average interest in volunteering was ranked at 3.29. Once again, the Windex seemed to inspire generosity in the other subjects: 22 percent of participants in the clean room were eager to volunteer, and their average interest in volunteering was higher than the norm, at 4.21.

The study’s lead author, Professor Katie Liljenquist, doesn’t have any firm hypotheses as to why people are suddenly on their best behavior when they’re in a cleaner smelling room, but she believes the results could be applied in all sorts of everyday situations.

“Companies often employ heavy-handed interventions to regulate conduct, but they can be costly or oppressive,” she told ScienceDaily. “This is a very simple, unobtrusive way to promote ethical behavior.”

And of course, there’s nothing like a hefty dose of Windex spritzed around the house to keep the kids in line. “Could be that getting our kids to clean up their rooms might help them clean up their acts, too.” (If not, well, at least the house is looking good!)