Dirty carpets on Tiktok: high-pressure cleaning as kartharsis

Dirty carpets on Tiktok: high-pressure cleaning as kartharsis

Internet videos of carpet cleaning can make you happier than high culture. There is magic at play and a happy ending.

A blue carpet with a dark spot is treated with a brush

Internet videos of carpet cleaning can make you happier than high culture Photo: Klevtsov Maksim/imago

When I lived in Munich, there was a cinema called Neues Gabriel in the Bahnhofsviertel. On the way there was a carpet workshop with a flat-screen TV in the window that was on 24 hours a day. He showed the same program over and over again: dirty carpets that were first shampooed, then high-pressure cleaned and finally – my favorite part – treated with a broom-like scraper that squeezed the dirty water out of the fibers.

What can I say, this video reliably triggered more in me than many a must-see hype film in the Neuer Gabriel. The spectacle in the display window fascinated me so much that I couldn’t ignore it. And when I stepped out of the New Gabriel, I was no longer thinking about the film, but about my carpets and that scrap thing. Swuuusch did that, swuuuuscchhhhhh, the dirty water flowed out of the picture, the carpet was a bit cleaner and life was beautiful. Also: 1a camera work, unassuming actors (feet in rubber boots), stable dramaturgy. The New Gabriel has now closed, the carpet shows are still going on.

At some point I left Munich behind, but the carpets caught up with me again. When I created a Tiktok account in a weak minute and trained the app’s algorithm to my preferences. Something like that is quick, a few hearts here and there, Tiktok already knows what you are longing for. And suddenly, right in front of my face: a bird’s-eye view of a carpet, absurdly dirty, on it a man in rubber overalls with a high-pressure cleaner and a suds mixture in a watering can. In fast-forward, he scrubs the carpet over and over with soapy water and my beloved broom-scraper bit, making circular motions with a lawnmower-like electronic device that’s wonderfully effective at stirring up the dirt. After each new pass, the original pattern becomes a bit more visible; it’s not particularly pretty, but whatever. Finally, he pulls the carpet off with the vacuum cleaner. Complete.

My top 3 rugs on Tiktok are “from a coal cellar” (Who puts a rug in the coal cellar?), “occupied by worms” (Please what!?!), “found under a tree” (He probably settled there to die. Leave him alone).

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The comments are consistently euphoric: “Wow, thanks, I wasn’t ready for that!” Writes Christina. The close-up of the foam at minute two almost took her breath away, “the drying at the end: heavenly!” A user named Roach can no longer fall asleep without cleaning the carpet, for Rina the videos help with panic attacks. Others are quite charmed by the ASMR effect, this tingling sensation in the head and neck, which can be triggered, among other things, by gentle acoustic stimuli. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for me, but I still feel understood. I feel seen.

But where does this enthusiasm come from? What is clear is that the carpet videos in the diffuse Internet category “oddly satisfying”, i.e. “strangely satisfying”, fall. This includes all sorts of harmless to disturbing things: bars of soap that are milled into thin slices; hydraulic presses that crush everyday objects; dough pressed into small sausages by garlic presses; and of course the Satisfaction Godfather, popping pimples. It is often about repetitive patterns, the creation of an order or the visual conveyance of haptics. And I get stuck with all of this regularly, but the only thing that really makes me happy is the carpets.

For one thing, that’s probably due to the magic of the makeover: a neglected item revisited. A story of rescue, a sustainability fairy tale so to speak! Whereby there are so many washing cycles that pouring petrol over them and setting them on fire would be the more ecological option in most cases.

On the other hand, cleaning has something generally healing about it. While you’re lying there in your own apartment, which could be wiped down with water, at least somewhere in the world a carpet is being lovingly high-pressure cleaned. Tiktok user Devon writes: “I wish I could clean my life like this guy cleans the carpet.” Maybe it is.

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