The DIY & Chores Searches Made During Lockdown

Graphic showing the number of searches for various DIY and household chores that were made on search engines during COVID lockdown
Author: James Roberts
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The last sixteen months has seen many of us adopt a new way of living that we aren’t used to. The now almost clichéd ‘unprecedented’ situation has meant many of us are spending more time with the people we love, or that we have been alone with only video calls and technology to enable us to chat to those we care about the most.

Alongside this, working from home – welcomed by many – and the furlough policy that has been available due to lower business demand and work has meant many of us have experienced more of the same four walls than we’ve ever had to before.

While this has led to many people realising just how important a comfortable and warm home environment is, it has also meant that family members have had to fill the time with home improvement tasks and household chores. Some of these will be chores that a few of us may not have done in a while, if at all, leading us to our trusted search engine to find out information and advice on just how to complete them. From how to fix our toilets to what settings to put our dishwasher on, there’s bound to have been someone searching for it.

As lockdown measures are gradually being lifted and with a plan for normality to return, we have used Google AdWords to track 47 specific search queries related to home improvement and household chores since 2019. Our research is aimed at showing just how lockdowns have impacted our home habits, and also which have seen the biggest changes as a result of the pandemic.

Which Chores & Home Improvement Tasks Have Changed The Most Between March 2020 and March 2021?

An important place to start is by comparing just how much the lockdown has changed our habits and searches from the start of the pandemic to the same time this year. Like our working habits, it will be interesting to see how many of these drop off or remain over the coming months, as normality starts to return, and many workers start returning to places of work.

March 2020 saw lockdown imposed mid-way through the month, which meant that a large proportion of it was normality as we know it. Many search terms, particularly those that can be done outside, will be affected by other factors such as seasonality and weather as well. Despite this, comparing March 2020 and March 2021 is important because it shows a trend of which terms have grown and sustained up until this Spring. From our findings, the top five growers from the start of the pandemic to March 2021 were:

How to Unblock A Toilet (+124% difference)

Starting with the extremely unglamorous, coming in as number 1 is ‘how to unblock a toilet’ with a 124% growth. No one likes to be the person that blocks a toilet, while family members such as small children can often cause blockages with excessive toilet paper usage. Nevertheless, excess usage can cause these unwanted issues and so it may be a battle to draw the short straw to tackle this grotty toilet task. No doubt a few people did a quick search to check what they may need, other than a plunger, to see if they could save a few quid before consulting a plumber or the water company. The most regularly searched DIY chore normally, it had 12,100 average monthly searches in March and April last year, while it has now grown to a whopping 27,100 average monthly searches.

How To Dress A Bed (+116% increase)

While many of us can strip the bed and put it into the wash, it seems a lot of Brits didn’t really know how to put the duvet covers and sheets back on. Additionally, many people are also trying to live up to the idyllic and often stunning hotel-style bedroom and household features that is a trend. Whether it was knowledge or inspiration, we’re all seeking ideas to help determine how to make our bed stylish, comfortable and even Instagrammable. How to dress a bed saw a 116% increase in searches with 880 last March and 1,900 this time around.

How To Build A Patio (+90% increase)

It wasn’t just basic chores we were trying, but also the more complex ones too, as many of us started tackling larger garden projects. The main one of these was creating a new patio area, as many of us sought to create nice seating, a barbecue area, or even just a bit of garden redesign. Whatever our reasons, UK searches grew from 1,000 in last March to 1,900 this year, a 90% increase.

How To Clean A Bird Bath (89% difference)

Rounding off our top five is ‘How to Clean A Bird Bath’, which has seen a huge increase over the lockdown period. This task of emptying the bowl and replenishing water, as well as scraping away dirt, grime, moss and algae, is nothing more than a simple task to keep our garden birds happy, clean and hydrated. Traditionally one of the lowest searches throughout the year (even if it’s hardly the most glamorous of chores) it has grown from 90 and 170 searches in March and April 2020 respectively, to 170 searches and 210 searches in the same months of 2021.

How To Paint A Fence (+85% increase)

Unsurprisingly, it seems like everyone has been getting busy outdoors with their brushes and paint cans, as Brits have flocked to give their fence a bit of TLC. Only 1,300 of us did a spot of Googling for our fence in March last year but it’s grown this year to 2,400 searches, an 85% increase, as we rush to keep on top of our spaces.

Which DIY Tasks/Chores Saw A Decline During This Period?

Despite a lot more people being at home with more personal time, not all chore-related search terms saw an increase. In fact, some have seen a decline year-on-year as people across the UK have tackled them or know how to do them. The biggest drop was ‘How To Wash Net Curtains’ with a 33% decrease, as many of us have taken the opportunity to clean them earlier or simply know how to do it now.

Close up image of a man fixing a washing machine using pliers, a screwdriver and a wrench

This was followed by ‘how to install a washing machine’, suggesting that many people have either given up and got professional tradies or companies in to help out, or alternatively we have splurged out earlier on in the pandemic, since March to May of 2020 saw this be the highest it has ever been.

Close up image of a man turning on his kettle

Other search terms to decline were ‘how to use a kettle’, ‘how to use a tin opener’ (yes, there are apparently people who don’t know this yet), and numerous terms decreasing 19% ranging from ‘how often to change bedding’ to ‘how to clean windows’.

What Saw The Biggest Surge During The First Lockdown?

Graph showing the increase and decrease in search terms of household chores throughout COVID lockdown

So, what changed with the lockdowns specifically? With March 2020 signalling one of the most significant lifestyle changes it meant that the vast majority of UK residents (barring essential workers) were home-working or on furlough. This meant that many of us found that we had plenty of time on our hands, and it inevitably had a consequence in search traffic as people flocked to look for activities, help, and advice. In fact, of the 47 terms we have tracked, only 12 failed to grow or declined.

Due to this, many of these terms look as if they are down year-on-year in 2021. However, as we have seen in the previous section, many of these are actually up higher than their previous pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, here are the biggest surge terms during lockdown 1:

How To Get Rid of Weeds (+400% increase)

Graph showing and decrease in the search term

Many of us stepped into our gardens and with spring last year providing some gorgeous sunshine and balmy weather, that meant we could get our green fingers out. The main one was tackling our garden pests with ‘how to get rid of weeds’ seeing a 400% increase. In fact, April 2020 saw 2,400 average searches and May saw 2,900, the largest across the period tracked from January 2019 onwards. This was a far cry from the 480 searches in March 2020. Figures subsided after and while they remained higher for a period, these have now dropped to normal levels this year.

How To Paint A Fence (+238% increase) 

Graph showing the increase and decrease in the search term

Painting our fences hasn’t just seen a consistent growth across the past 12 months. It also saw a huge initial surge in April 2020. A whopping 4,400 people searched for how to paint a fence in the first month of lockdown, compared to just 1,300 in March 2020. This was again a high for the term followed up by 3,600 average searches in May 2020.

How To Build A Patio (+ 190% increase)

Graph showing the increases and decreases in the search term

Like our fences, it seems many of us went to the patio tasks last spring. Rising from 1,000 in March to 2,900 in April and May, building a patio saw a 238% increase, before reducing again in following months.

How To Wash A Car (+175% increase)

Graph showing the increase and decrease of the search term

Picture the scene – used takeaway cartons and coffee cups, child toys, clothes and make-up left rolling around our vehicles. Ring any bells? Add to that, we use our cars so much that it gets covered in grime and mud and we don’t have the time to clean our cars, so we take it through the drive-thru petrol station or even to the hand car wash. But, with some of these being closed and more time on our hands, many of us chose to pick up a sponge and bucket for the first time to give our cars a bit of TLC. Hitting 2,400 searches in March 2020, washing our cars spiked to 6,600 searches a month. That’s a whole lot of car washing going on!

How to Paint A Shed / How To Weed A Garden (both +171% increase)

Graph showing the increase and decrease in the search term

Our painting habits didn’t just stop at fences but we went the whole hog and even started painting our sheds. Meanwhile, it wasn’t just eliminating weeds that we were searching for but simply just how to do the weeding. Both of these terms grew from 480 searches to 1,300 searches in April 2020, a 171% increase.

Did We See A Change in the Autumn Lockdown?

After a summer with some restrictions lifted, the country had to go back into lockdown in Autumn with a period of tiered restrictions coming in. With weather turning rather more inclement, seasonality less favourable, and many people tackling a lot of their tasks in the Spring it meant that the pre-Christmas lockdown didn’t see a growth like that earlier in the year. It did, however, herald a period where many interior tasks grew compared to previous months. Only eight terms actually spiked up from October.

How To Wash Net Curtains (51% increase)

Close up image of net curtains

Topping the growth in lockdown two was ‘How to wash net curtains’. It seems like a lot of UK households found the time to take down their nets and give them a refresh.

Despite decreasing from the start of lockdown to March this year overall, as a search term this did see a bit of a surge throughout 2020, peaking at 1,000 in April 2020. From September, it had held steady at around 390 searches a month before upticking to 590 in November 2020 and then decreasing to similar levels or just above normal this year.

How To Clean [a] Bird Bath (40% increase)

Lifestyle image of a bird bath in a back garden

Our bird bath cleaning makes another appearance in lockdown two, despite the fact that it isn’t really an autumnal or winter activity. With only 50 searches on average in October, it grew to 70 searches in November, a 40% increase. It was also up 7 times the amount it had in November 2019.

How To Wash A Car (39% increase)

Close up image of someone washing their car with a sponge and soapy water

Like the first lockdown, we took the opportunity in November to give our cars another clean out and get busy with the soap, polish and buffing. 720 searches took place in October but this rose by 39% to 1,000 searches in November.

How To Clean Bath Mats (24% increase)

Close up image of a bath mat

With a 24% increase, ‘how to clean bath mats’ is a new activity that people across the UK have been searching for. Whether giving them a quick wipe down or trying to put them in the washer (where safe to do so), many of us took the opportunity to ensure our bathrooms were tidy in every possible. This rose to 260 searches from 210 in October.

How To Clean Oven (23% increase)

Close up image of someone wearing a yellow rubber gloves cleaning an oven with a sponge and soapy water

One of the jobs that everyone hates, getting our rubber gloves, scourers and power sprays out – or even our overnight cleaners – many of us took the second lockdown as an opportunity to degrease and clean our ovens. Although it also grew significantly in the first lockdown, it didn’t deter many of us from giving them a scrub out again in Autumn. Searches grew from 6,600 to 8,100, no doubt in preparation for the Christmas turkey.

Did Lockdown Three Cause A Surge Again or Did We See Many Returning to Normal?

Despite some areas of the country having restrictions lifted in December, we returned to a full lockdown in January. This meant another opportunity for more home-based tasks to be completed. However, as many people had already undertaken a lot of activities across 2020, as well as potentially moving back to elements of normality in any ways they could, it would be interesting to see whether any changes occurred like that seen in March 2020. Only one term actually dropped from December (‘how to mop a floor’ saw an 18% decline), while another 11 remained the same. Many of the biggest growers were once again activities that Brits had taken up throughout 2020 with the top five being:

  1. How to Weed A Garden (133% increase)
  2. How Often To Change Bedding (129% increase)
  3. How To Build A Patio (127% increase)
  4. How To Dress a Bed (90% increase)
  5. How To Paint a Fence (89% increase)

How Did Our Searches Change Year on Year in 2020 Versus 2019?

The final area we wanted to compare in our research was how these household chores had changed across the entire of 2020, and the majority of the pandemic and lockdown periods, against the entirety of 2019. This would illustrate which areas had seen the largest growth. Only six terms had declined year-on-year or had remained the same, the highest of which was ‘how to iron’, which dropped 20%. Overall, however, the biggest five terms that grew across the whole year were as follows:

  • How to Paint a Fence (+169% increase)
  • How To Clean Bird Bath (+141% increase)
  • How to Paint a Shed (+103% increase)
  • How to use sewing machine (+95% increase)
  • How to Wash Curtains (+88% increase)

Take a look at how the top 20 changed has changed since January 2019 below:

Graphic showing the number of searches for various DIY and household chores that were made on search engines during COVID lockdown