The Queer Eye star is responsible for literally stripping tired homes and turning them into Insta-worthy masterpieces – changing lives and enriching our Netflix queue along the way.
So when we hopped on the phone with Bobby from his Austin Airbnb (where he’s currently filming the Emmy-winning show’s sixth season), we were all ears, ready to soak up his expert tips to fuel our newfound cleaning obsession – from oddly satisfying rituals to the Fab Five member that learned the most from his cleaning wizardry.
Even if you’re not usually the type to deep-clean your housefor therapeutic purposes, the stress and boredom from being stuck inside for about a month may have driven you to that point. Quarantine and Chill is only “chill” for so long, and if you’ve found yourself panic-organising your pantry or rage-cleaning your couch, we don’t blame you. If an hour-long vacuuming sesh is what you need to stay sane right now, do you – but not before reading Bobby Berk’s tips on how to do it like a pro.
We figured there was no better person to kick off our Clean Freak series than the interior design extraordinaire – and he didn’t disappoint with his long list of cleaning hacks and favourite cleaning products.
Glamour: What’s your favourite room to clean?
Bobby Berk: All of them, because I don’t like dirt. But my favourite is probably the kitchen because I love organising. With other rooms, like the living room, it’s really just cleaning – but with the kitchen, you get to put things away and organise shelves while cleaning up the food from last night.
How would you describe your cleaning ritual?
Vacuuming is an everyday ritual for me. I love my little Dyson cordless vacuum. I use it almost every day, especially now, because I’m in Austin with my trainer and his dog, Marco – a long-haired dachshund-corgi mix. His legs are so short, so every time he goes outside he gets dirt on his belly hair, which ends up all over the house. Every morning I love to go around and vacuum up his hair and little dirt specks. If I’m going to dust, I always do that first, because if you vacuum beforehand, everything you dusted falls on the ground and the vacuum was a waste of time. I dust from the top down, which is important to avoid dirtying spots you just cleaned, then vacuum, then mop.
My cleaning uniform is the same as my uniform in life: a black T-shirt and black shorts or sweatpants. I wear pretty much the same thing every day if I don’t leave the house; it’s one less decision to make.
What’s your cleaning playlist?
Lizzo. I turned her on about 10 months ago, and I haven’t changed the playlist since.
What’s one oddly satisfying cleaning technique?
I know I say “vacuuming” a lot, but there’s just something about it. Years ago, when I had retail stores around the U.S., I would go to do store visits, and I’d get to the stores before the store managers would. They would come into the store and find me vacuuming, and for new managers who didn’t know me very well, they’d call a manager at another store and be like, “Oh, my God, I got here and Bobby was cleaning my store. Is that a bad thing? Does he think my store is dirty?” And they’re like, “No, he just oddly likes to vacuum.” Vacuuming is like instant gratification, and kind of zen watching the dirt and filth just go away.
How do you think a clean space impacts one’s mental health?
I think it has a huge effect – not just a clean space, but an organised space. When I walk through a house (and I’m probably a little extreme) and there’s stuff left out on the counter, it instantly gives me anxiety. I drive my husband nuts going behind him putting stuff away, and he’s like, “I wasn’t done with that yet.” I’m like, “Okay, well, you are now.” When there’s chaos around you, it creates chaos in your head. So mental health, cleanliness, and organisation have an especially huge effect on us since we’re all home. Everything having its place really just brings you a sense of calm, and I didn’t realise how much it even affected me until I saw how everything in my current Airbnb has such a perfect, tidy, organised place–it makes my heart sing.
What is the dirtiest room you usually see in people’s homes?
Probably the bathroom. There’ve been nasty ass bathrooms where I’m just like, How?
What’s one life-changing home product you bought in the past year?
Aesthetically, things like brooms and dustpans are not pretty. And if they are, they’re usually ridiculously expensive for something you’re using to clean up dirt. Target has a line called Made by Design of brushes, squeegees, a refillable spray mop, dish and toilet brushes, etcetera – and they’re black, white, and gray, so they look superchic, sleek, and sexy in your house. I’ve always wanted to hide my brooms and dustpans, but now I don’t have to. I can hang them on a cool rack in my room and they actually look really pretty.
If you were a cleaning scent, which one would you be and why?
I love a good lemon verbena. It just smells clean to me, and I think it might be from growing up in the ’80s, like lemon Pledge was the thing that everyone used. You instantly know things have just been cleaned when you smell lemon.
What’s one cleaning product you’ve shamelessly splurged on?
The Molekule air purifiers are amazing. Not only do they clean the air really well, but they’re so beautiful. They’re this stainless-steel cylinder with a nice leather handle, and you can turn them on and off via an app.
What’s one green cleaning swap you’ve made to decrease your environmental impact?
I recently discovered Blueland, which makes these little pellets you can put in a refillable spray bottle. I try to use products sparingly and buy environmentally-friendly ones with minimal packaging. Blueland is basically zero packaging – you just wait until your cleaning products run out and put the new pod in the old bottle. The product comes in a small, paper tablet wrapper that’s recyclable, biodegradable, and home compostable.
Is there a Fab Five member you could teach a thing or two about cleaning?
When we got done filming season 1, Jonathan Van Ness went out of his way to tell me how powerful it was seeing me change those homes every week, and how we organised them to make them work for our Heroes, really changing them emotionally and impacting their lives. He hired a designer to redo his apartment because it made him see how having things in your home that, as Marie Kondo would say, “spark joy” really has an effect on your mental health. I’m very proud to say I taught him something, because he saw that and thought, “Wow, this can affect the way you live every single day, and it can affect the way that you feel when you wake up.”
What is the grossest thing you’ve ever found while redoing someone’s home?
Oh, God. I won’t say which Hero, but there was one house that was so dirty and had such bad air quality that when the cameras weren’t rolling, we had to wear face masks. There were dirty diapers on the floor. There were pet faeces. The mattress underneath the sheets had–and I’m not exaggerating – a layer of, like, crust. Those are things we don’t put on TV. They’re on film, but we’d never put that on the show because it’s so mortifying to our Heroes. They might not have even realised it got so bad because of the mental and emotional state that they were in, and we’re there to build them up, so we’d never show things that could potentially set them back.
We already have Hoarders for that, right?
I actually love watching Hoarders. When we were filming season 5 in Philly, I started rewatching it to mentally prepare myself. None of our Heroes are ever as messy, but I do like watching the show to get some vernacular from the amazing therapists.
What is your number-one tip for making a place squeaky clean before having guests over? (Which, hopefully, we’ll all be doing again soon.)
Always have a good junk drawer you can just throw all the crap from the counter into. And keep little storage containers like baskets that can hold the clutter without you having to super-clean. Getting rid of clutter is a really great way to make your space look clean and fresh.
What’s one cleaning cheat you’d give someone who doesn’t have time to really get in there?
Fluff your sofa. Fluffing your sofa cushions and throw pillows, and folding up a blanket or a throw, will instantly make it look like, “I’m not living on my sofa right now.” Especially right now when we’re all on them so much, the cushions get all scrunched down and it just looks sloppy. Fluffing your cushions instantly makes your living room look like you’ve cleaned the whole thing. Because if your sofa’s nice and fluffy and fresh, it just gives people that mindset like, “Oh, they cleaned.”
More tips from Bobby to keep in your back pocket:
- Wash your glass light fixtures in the dishwasher: It sounds crazy, but many of the glass globes that cover the lightbulbs on your fixtures can be washed in the dishwasher to give them a fresh clean and get rid of dirt, dust, and spots. Set it on a quick cycle and then pull them out to hand-dry them.
- Enlist a fabric shaver to renew your decorative pillows: Using a fabric shaver (intended for sweaters), you can shave off pills and lint from your decorative pillows to give them a brand-new look.
- Mr. Clean Magic Erasers are musts: They aren’t just for walls. I love using them on tile in the bathroom, the bathtub, and the inside of a sink to clean scum and hard-water stains.
- Use a clear shoe organiser on the back of your pantry door: If you have a pantry door or a closet door, throw a clear hanging shoe rack over it, and then you can organise all of your cleaning supplies in it without taking up floor or cabinet space.
- Store your dry goods: I always decant my food items into plastic airtight jars (Oxo and Target have great ones), which free up space in the cabinet, keep dry goods fresh longer, and allow for stacking and better organisation.