Forget the gadgets, housework today is as tough as it was 60 years ago

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The Independent Online

Housework is as tiring today as it was more than 60 years ago, with people spending just as much energy scrubbing and mopping as they did in 1937.

Housework is as tiring today as it was more than 60 years ago, with people spending just as much energy scrubbing and mopping as they did in 1937.

The domestic workload in most households has not reduced, because labour-saving and time-saving electronic and ergonomic devices were not devised for the most tiring tasks, a study from Cornell University in the Unied States says.

Researchers interviewed nearly 400 people, aged 20 to 70, about household chores and how often they used time-saving devices. Scrubbing and mopping floors were the most exhausting, followed by tidying, vacuuming and the laundry.

They compared the findings with a similar study conducted in 1937 which also named the most tiring tasks as general cleaning, mopping floors and laundry. Ironing and carrying water were in the top five most tiring tasks in 1937 but appeared low in the 1999 survey.

"Although we've made progress in reducing housework in ironing and carrying water, we're not doing much better in these other areas," said Alan Hedge, professor of design and environmental analysis at Cornell and co-author of the study. Women found mopping floors, scrubbing and tidying the most exhausting tasks. Men were more inclined to find doing laundry or washing dishes taxing.

The researchers asked people how often they used 12 labour-saving devices such as knives, vacuum cleaners, peelers and can-openers. Nearly half did not feel the devices were worth the "additional" cost. Items used most often were traditional peelers, 29 per cent, can-openers 27 per cent, and vacuum cleaners, 22 per cent. And 75 per cent vacuum their homes at least once a week, with 25 per cent doing it at least twice a week. More than 50 per cent mopped their floors monthly. People over 60 found vacuuming and mopping most tiring and those in their twenties said laundry and scrubbing took up most of their energy.

Michele Marut, who also worked on the study, said new ergonomic products could reduce the effortin scrubbing and mopping. They also suggest new flooring materials that would be easier to clean and better chemical floor cleaners.

A study by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, London, showed women did most of the housework, on average 35 hours a week. Men did just five.

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