Why aren’t consumer products easier to clean?


A few days ago, I felt a sudden and compelling urge to clean my coffeemaker. Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit. Motivations aside, I did take out all the removable parts and give them a good wash and rinse. Maybe I’ve repressed the memories of the last time I cleaned the thing, but I was shocked at how many places that coffee grounds can build up inside the device. Plus, the four or so different parts that you can take out have lots of sharp edges, making the process even dicier.

I would love to make a video of the cleaning process and send it to the designers who created the coffeemaker. Why? I doubt many design teams think about the ongoing care that a product requires, such as what the owner will have to do during cleaning or other maintenance. As a result, this aspect of the user experience never comes into play when crafting requirements for future product designs.

The problem isn’t limited to coffeemakers, of course. Think about how many channels and gaps and crevices a typical car interior has, or the difficulty of cleaning the keyboard on a laptop computer. Even products that are made to be cleaned all the time, like electric toothbrushes, seem to have been created without any regard for the cleaning process.

Granted, I doubt there’s a direct profit incentive to make things that are simple to clean. But all else equal, I bet consumers would vote with their wallets if they had the chance to buy a product that was easier to clean and take care of than the alternatives.