TikTok’s Oddly Satisfying Pool-Cleansing Movies
Some TikTok creators have become successful on the video platform by dancing, singing, or doing everyday chores.
Miles Laflin has amassed 11 million followers from cleaning pools.
Better known by his nickname @ thep00lguy, Mr. Laflin, a UK swimming pool engineer, posts short videos on his channel that guide viewers through the often arduous process of cleaning his clients’ dirty pools with the most dramatic green to clean transformations with over 100 million hits.
Mr. Laflin, who has been cleaning pools for more than 11 years, is one of the newest members of a group of online creators subsumed under the umbrella of “Cleanfluencers” – cleaning influencers – whose clips of monotonous tasks, including blowing the dirt off, originate decades-old carpets and pressure-washable sidewalks, have found a surprisingly large audience.
While there are undoubtedly viewers looking for practical cleaning tips, some researchers believe that the root of the popularity of such videos lies deeper in human nature.
Stephanie Alice Baker, a lecturer in sociology at the City, University of London, said cleaning videos had a shock factor between the beginning and the end result, an established trick of the trade that helped make them compelling.
“The fitness industry has long known that one of the most successful ways to build an audience is through a before and after post,” said Dr. Baker.
She also said a big part of the appeal of the videos was the way they make viewers feel.
“Many people report a feeling of satisfaction when they watch a dirty pool turn into something beautiful and clean,” said Dr. Baker. “These videos represent a sense of accomplishment, order, and mastery that can be both calming and engaging for viewers.”
The phenomenon of strangely satisfying content is by no means new. The r / oddlysatisfying subreddit, founded eight years ago, has more than six million followers and accounts on YouTube have built a similarly large audience.
But TikTok’s focus on short videos that deliver a clean high in seconds has taken the video genre to a new level. Videos marked with #oddlysatisfying on the platform have generated more than 45 billion views (which far exceeds the latest TikTok trends such as #bamarush or #frozenhoney).
Craig Richard, a professor of biopharmaceutical science at Shenandoah University in Virginia, believes that the appeal of cleaning videos lies in human evolution. For our ancestors, a person who worked with their hands would most likely be teaching a skill, said Dr. Richard. That lesson filtered down through the generations so that even today, watching videos of people at work unconsciously clicks on that part of our brain, he said, keeping us tied up.
“We’re hardwired to stare at hands that are showing you something or explaining something because we’re hardwired that this could somehow help us somehow survive,” said Dr. Richard.
In this way, he said, the videos of Mr. Laflin and other cleanfluencers are the modern day equivalent of Bob Ross on the long-running PBS series “The Joy of Painting”; People instinctively get drawn in even when they have no intention of painting or cleaning a pool themselves.
The expert action and soft sounds of pool cleaning videos are also similar to those in videos that create an autonomous sensory meridian response commonly known as ASMR, said Dr. Richard, who runs a website dedicated to this topic.
ASMR describes the pleasant, tingling sensation in the brain that some people experience when they are engaged in certain activities, such as exercising. For example, hearing someone whisper or crumple paper or plastic packaging.
To see why some people find pool videos satisfying, Dr. Richard conducted a 2018 study he was working on that found that ASMR videos shed light on the parts of the brain that contain dopamine and oxytocin, hormones associated with feeling focused, relaxed, and calm.
Whatever the explanation for this, Mr. Laflin, the pool cleaner, is impressed with how many people find his job a pleasure.
“I didn’t expect people to enjoy it as much as you do,” he said. “If I had known, I would have started filming years ago.”