How to Clean Like a Man

Tom McNulty, the author of "Clean Like a Man," shares the joy of living the spotless life
By Susan Tasaki, November 2008, Updated February 2015

“Carry your supplies with you; say no to knickknacks; and for food spills, nothing beats a hungry dog.” Author Tom McNulty cuts to the chase in his recently released, no-nonsense book, Clean Like a Man. His experience in creating advertising and motivational campaigns for high-profile companies comes through in this readable and entertaining “how-to” look at the world of domestic hygiene. Tom, who lives in Minneapolis with his wife and his dog Coco, recently took time to be interviewed by Bark.

Bark: Your book is so inspiring that after reading it, we turned two mattresses and vacuumed about a pound of dog hair from under our refrigerator. What provoked you to write it?

Tom McNulty: Men are trained to change tires, not sheets. Housecleaning intimidates us because it’s an unknown; either we don’t know where to start or we clean with the wrong tools and chimp-like methods. There was no basic-training manual on housekeeping for guys, just cleaning books that went off on tangents like feng shui, silverware polishing, and flower-arranging. CLAM tells males what they need to know—no more and no less—spelling out the fundamentals in guy-friendly language, with lots of time-saving tips.

B: One of the things we particularly liked about the book is that you include pet-specific cleaning problems and solutions, and you’re pretty matter-of-fact about them. Does this come from long experience in living with dogs?


Sign up and get the answers to your questions.

Email Address:

TM: I’ve loved and lived with dogs for many years. They’re biological creatures—they shed, go to the bathroom, and get sick. Unfortunately, they sometimes do this stuff indoors. So knowing how to get fur off a white sofa or treat a urine stain in the carpet come with the territory of living with a canine. I’ve done it all, because, hey … what are friends for?

B: We understand that your dog Coco has an “irrational fear of vacuum cleaners.” How do the two of you deal with that?

TM: Coco copes, mostly by just “leaving the area.” My theory is that vacuum motors create a sound that only canines can hear, similar to a “silent” dog whistle. She’s also afraid of cameras, lighters, and loud noises. I think this goes back to her puppy days. I got her when she was four months old, and who knows what she went through. She was from a bad neighborhood—I’m sure she was in a gang, the kind that doesn’t let Poodles join.

B: Since dogs—in theory, at least—spend most of their time closer to the floor and fixtures than we do, we’re always on the lookout for less-toxic cleaning products. You mention a couple in the book (white vinegar and baking soda); could you recommend others?

TM: I recently received an e-mail claiming that certain cleaning solutions with formulas similar to antifreeze can be harmful to dogs, but I’ve never heard anything else about it. It may be an urban legend; they’d probably have to drink them to do any damage to themselves. But if the label says a product can be harmful to you, you know it can hurt your dog, too. Use common sense. If you’re really serious about this, there’s a product line called Method that claims to be less toxic and more environmentally friendly, both of which are great!

We loved your evolutionary evaluation of the vacuum cleaner, ranking it with the wheel and the printing press. Is one type (upright, canister, or one of the more exotic models) better than another for those pesky dog-hair problems? How about other hair-removal strategies?

TM: For dog hair on carpets, it’s a toss-up: both uprights and canisters will do the job. On stairs and upholstery, the canister’s “power nozzle”—the extendable hose with the twirling brush on the end—is better because it’s lighter, and a hand-held vacuum like the Dirt Devil works well too. To get dog hair off furniture and stairway carpeting, I’ve also used a terrycloth towel to rub it all to one spot, and then I just pick up the resulting furball.

B: Since we seem to be focusing on dog hair, may we enquire about Coco’s? Long? Short? Double-coated?

TM: Coco has mid-length fur and tends to shed, especially in warm weather. Brushing her frequently helps prevent major vacuuming.

B: Do you find that living with a dog gives you more opportunities to practice your cleaning techniques? If so, are there any stories you’d like to share?

TM: I’ll try to be tasteful. Several months ago, I think Coco either had a major case of dog-flu or ate several pounds of laxatives. It required me to call in professional carpet cleaners, and even they failed to remove the stains. The best general advice is to get to any stain on carpeting as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the tougher it’ll be to remove.

B: Finally, how did you get started on this road to pragmatic tidiness?

TM: When I was 10, my mother required me to make my bed every morning. That triggered my MacGyver gene—the trait that drives guys to built better mousetraps, or, in my case, find ways to clean the house faster. Shortcuts rule. Tips and tricks rock. Thanks, Mom!

Article first appeared in The Bark, Issue 28: Fall 2004

Photograph courtesy of Tom McNulty.

Susan Tasaki is a The Bark contributing editor.