Kim Woodburn has spent almost 20 years in the public eye — but it’s something she isn’t taking for granted, as she tells Stephanie Bell
She is the original ‘queen of clean’, the glamorous lady with the fur-lined pink rubber gloves who made a celebrity career out of being a cleaner.
Now aged 80 and still determined that we all keep our homes sparkling, TV star Kim Woodburn has teamed up with retail chain Poundland to launch an affordable range of household cleaning products.
And while most of them will cost just £1, Kim insists that as well as affordability, quality was a priority in the development of her own branded range.
She told Weekend: “I was a long time doing them. I had the idea last September and they weren’t in the shops until May.
“You see, the formulas being used and whether they worked were very important to me. I didn’t want to bring out something that didn’t work, and I totally wanted them to be a good price as today, so many people are going through a terrible time financially.
“I have always had massive pride. It’s been with me forever and it is so important to me, especially when you are well known.
“I couldn’t stand anyone coming up to me and saying, ‘That cleaner is rubbish’, I would feel terrible. I wouldn’t put anything out there I couldn’t stand over.
“After all I am the cleaning queen, so I better act like a queen!”
The humour that made her first TV series in 2003 such a big hit still comes naturally.
She very quickly became TV gold when she was plucked out of nowhere at the age of 60 to star in her first reality show, How Clean is Your House?
Before that, she has been cleaning houses, mostly for the very wealthy, for 40 years.
Her sassy, no-nonsense approach to the filth that she and co-star Aggie MacKenzie unearthed in homes endeared her, not just to an ever-growing audience, but also TV producers.
This has ensured a long celebrity career which has now spanned 20 years.
It has also made her very wealthy, and she has gone from cleaning mansions to living in one with her husband Peter.
Talking to Weekend from her home in Cheshire, she explains how she got her big break in TV and shares some of her top cleaning tips.
Recalling her early career, she says: “When I was 17, I was on my own and I had to find a job and somewhere to live.
“In those days you could get a job as a cleaner and live in either a hotel or in a big house. I had two choices really, it was need in those days.
“The money wasn’t there, but living in was a bonus and that’s the reason why I stayed at it and have always loved cleaning.
“I also did a few different jobs and worked in Liverpool in social services for five years and also as a beauty advisor before coming back to cleaning again.
“At the time of the first TV show, I was living in a big mansion in Kent as the cleaner for a family who lived in Dubai and just spent a few weeks of the year in England.
“It was in January 2003 when I got a phone call one day from the lady who ran the domestic agency.
“She explained she had a TV company that was looking for a really good cleaner with quite a funny temperament for a new series and she thought of me.
“They had pictures of all these filthy houses and the idea of filming cleaners going in.
“You had to have a sense of humour, or you would never do it.”
Kim, who was a contestant on I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! in 2009, knew immediately that humour was important and she turned on her now famous wit at the audition and landed the job.
With her employers in Dubai, she had the time to film her first series — which was an instant hit — and left Kim laughing all the way to the bank.
She recalls: “At the audition, I told them that the dust on the table would bring a tear to a glass eye and asked about the pebble dashing in the bathroom because people couldn’t aim straight. They were roaring with laughter.
“Two weeks later I got a call to say, ‘They love you’ and I was offered the job.
“I was earning £12,000 a year at the time as a cleaner.
“I was told there would be eight episodes to film and I would get £2,000 an episode with filming done in three days. I remember when they told me I said, ‘I beg your pardon?’
“I really had hit the money. The show defied all expectations and was an overnight hit.”
Kim had a strategy from day one. Going into filthy houses dressed in high heels and pearls created a contrast that wasn’t lost on the viewers.
But it was her personality that ensured the show would go on for another six years.
She says: “I was 61 at the time and I remember thinking, ‘Oh my god, Kim, how do you want to play this?’
“I thought I can’t go into houses and say, ‘You dirty thing, you’ or people would tell me to get out, so I decided to camp it up and laugh my way through it.
“I loved the fun of it and I was in the money and my life changed so much. After the first series they gave me £4,000 a show and it just went up and up until we filmed our last show in 2009.
“At first, I didn’t have an agent. I didn’t know I needed one and then an accountant I knew put me in touch with one who was really well known and after that it was like manna from heaven.
“Suddenly I was being booked for all these talk shows at £5,000 a time and I did become terribly wealthy.”
Still in good health, she has her own mansion in the countryside and her own cleaner who keeps the top floor pristine while Kim cleans the rest herself.
Her TV outbursts may be as legendary as her cleaning tips, but Kim makes no excuses for them.
She says: “I’m ever so grateful for what I have achieved and I’ve been so lucky. I know self-praise is no recommendation, but I am a nice lady.
“Some celebrities are lovely, but most of them are not and that’s the truth. Some of them are full of themselves and I can’t stand it so when they start on me, I won’t take it.”
Kim was the first to make cleaning cool and many of the hacks that have become common in our homes originated with her.
After all her years working as a cleaner, she has it down to a fine art.
She advises: “Always clean as you go and throw as you go, that is the answer.
“As I walk around my house, if I see a mark on the wall I will wash it, don’t let it build up. Doing little and often stops you having to do a big clean up.
“If you have a meal, clear the table and don’t leave it until the morning.
“If there is a mark on a light switch, grab some tissue from the bathroom and quickly clean it off. I have a bubble bath every night and when I get out, I use the towel I dried myself with and rub it as hard as I can round the bath for about 10 seconds and any marks are gone.”
Kim’s new range of cleaning products have been designed by her with hot pink packaging “to stand out on the shelf”.
Most bottles are 750ml and include window and glass cleaner, mould and mildew, bathroom cleaner, an air freshener, anti-viral toilet gel as well as pink rubber gloves, a feather duster and a brush and pan set. All are available now at Poundland.
She adds: “I am so proud of the price and being able to sell the products for £1. They are good quality and people really do seem to like them and I am utterly delighted.”