Is There a Polite Way to Say “Clean Up After Yourself?”

No one likes to feel rude when talking to another person, but sometimes you have to be if you’re concerned about your own space. I mean, is there even a polite way of saying “clean up after yourself?”

Saying “clean up after yourself” can be seen as blunt and unapproachable. To avoid this, consider rephrasing the demand into a question. For example, “Have you cleaned up your area?” “Is everything all cleaned up?” or “Can we get this cleaned today?”

I suppose there may be some ways to be diplomatic when encouraging personal hygiene. This article will cover a few examples of what to say and how to say it when you need someone to clean up after themselves.

Talking to a Child

If your child (or someone else’s) struggles to clean up after themselves, try rephrasing “clean up after yourself” into a question they can answer yes or no to. Kids work the best when they feel like they have a part in the conversation.

For example, if you need your kiddo to clean up before dinner, phrase the question like this: “Can you clean these toys up before dinner, so we don’t have to worry about them afterward?”

This way, you provide the question, a deadline, and why it would be beneficial. That’s three birds with one stone!

Talking to a Coworker/Peer

We all have that coworker who doesn’t clean their station before leaving for the day. If you’re in a management position (or if the mess affects you), try the child method but with fewer steps. You’ll want to stick with the question format because it sounds less aggressive than an outright order.

Next, you’ll want to use “we” instead of “you.” While this may sound like you’re offering to help clean up someone else’s mess, studies have shown that people are likelier to do what you ask if they believe it benefits the entire group. For example, “Can we clean this office area today?” or “When can we get the dishes done?”

Phrases to Avoid

When being polite and asking someone to clean up after themselves, it’s essential to avoid negative adjectives and disapproving vocal tones. It’s probably a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget when you’re frustrated.

For example, don’t add words like gross, dirty, disgusting, or messy into your phrasing. How would you feel if someone asked, “Can you clean up this mess?” or “Clean up after yourself, this is gross.” Pretty bad, I’m assuming. No one wants to work or be helpful when they’re feeling unappreciated.

When asking, keep your tone light but firm. This will take practice. You want to make the question sound like an offer while simultaneously making it clear that it’s a requirement. Your voice should be calm and confident.


There are plenty of ways to politely say “clean up after yourself” if you turn the statement into a question and change some of the pronouns. Switching “you” to “we” makes people feel supported in solo tasks.