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Idaho's Museum Of Clean Built as Monument to Way of Life

Jessica Robinson

There's a museum tucked away in a corner of the Northwest dedicated solely to the idea of “clean.”

In fact, it's called the Museum of Clean, housed in an old brick warehouse in Pocatello, Idaho. Turns out it’s a monument to one man's lifelong campaign to improve the world, one scrub brush at a time.

The Museum of Clean at first appears to be an 8,000-square foot sunlit mausoleum of bygone advances in cleaning. Here lies the pump-action vacuum cleaner. On another wall: “Milestones in the History of Washing Machines and Dryers.”

Don Aslett, founder of the Museum of Clean in Pocatello, Idaho.

As I'm looking at a display of century-old carpet sweepers, a trim, elderly man walks up to me and introduces himself as Don. Turns out Don is the Don Aslett, the “King of Clean” and founder of this museum.

“I want people to come here and see a glimpse of clean, and get my enthusiasm,” Aslett said, “and see the stuff we have and how lucky they have it.”

Lucky, indeed. Aslett grabs a vacuum from 1890 to demonstrate.

“And don't think these old vacuums work, because they wouldn't pick up a dead cockroach eyebrow. All they did was build your chest muscles and your arm muscles, is all they really did,” he said.

Don Aslett has expanded a cleaning company he began in college into a janitorial services provider with offices around the country.

If you’ve never heard of Aslett, a huge display in the museum tells of his almost mythic path from humble roots to sanitary stardom. After placing an ad in the local paper in 1953, this southern Idaho farm boy rose to become the so-called “King of Clean,” operating a nationwide janitorial empire and authoring more than 30 books. One of Aslett's most popular is “Clutter's Last Stand.”

“I think junk and clutter, and unclean causes tons of divorce and tons of depression,” Aslett said.

Aslett takes me to a shelf full of odds and ends—a broken guitar, old egg cartons, someone's bag of dryer lint. They're the winners of his junk contests, displayed here now as a cautionary tale for the hoarding-inclined.

Soaps of decades past at the Museum of Clean in Pocatello, Idaho.

“Nothing will change your life faster than when you throw away your junk. You have more time, you have more space, you feel better, you're healthier,” he said.

Aslett has dubbed a section of the museum “Kids’ Clean World.” There are different stations: one where you can squeegee the grime off a window. Another where you get to sweep marbles into a dustpan. Aslett points to a sort of life-size kid-shaped cookie cutter.

It's a full-body child vacuum.

“It vacuums the kids off,” he said. “I don't allow any dirty kids in the museum.”

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.