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This article is about the occupation. For the Scrubs character, see Janitor (Scrubs).

A janitor (American English), janitress (female), custodian "cleaner" or caretaker is a person who cleans and maintains buildings such as hospitals, schools and residential accommodation. Janitors' primary responsibility is as a cleaner. In some cases they will also carry out maintenance and security duties. A similar position, but usually with more managerial duties and not including cleaning, is occupied by building superintendents in the United States. Cleaning is one of the most commonly outsourced services. Janitorial companies have a tendency to employ undocumented workers. The janitor has become a negatively stereotypical blue collar character in popular culture.

Occupational tasks[edit]

Most of the work performed by janitors and building cleaners is indoors, sometimes it can be outdoors. Outdoors work mainly include sweeping walkways, mowing lawns, or shoveling snow. In some facilities or buildings, a separate company may be hired to do outdoor work. Office buildings are usually cleaned while they are empty, so most of the office janitorial workers work during evening. The work can be physically demanding and sometimes dirty and unpleasant.[1] General janitor duties often include the following tasks:

  • Cleaning and restocking bathrooms
    • Sinks
    • Toilets
    • Urinals
    • Floor cleaning, refinishing, and polishing (sweeping, mopping, scrubbing and buffing)
    • Clearing garbage bins
    • Restocking restroom paper products and other supplies such as feminine products and air fresheners
    • Cleaning mirrors
  • Cleaning floors (mopping, sweeping, polishing)
  • Carpet cleaning (dry method, extraction, steam and bonnet)
  • Cleaning (vacuuming) carpeting
  • Cleaning stainless steel and other special surfaces
  • Clearing lunch room/kitchen
  • Cleaning tables in cubicles, meeting rooms, etc...
  • Emptying trash and recycling bin
  • Unlocking and locking buildings at the beginning and end of the day
  • Stripping and waxing floors using Floor buffer
  • Cleaning air-conditioner vents
  • Crime scene cleaning (requires being fully certified and pay scale starts from $300.00 to $700.00+ an hour[2][3])
  • Litter picking
  • Spot cleaning (generally spills - coffee for instance)
  • Sanitization
  • Room setups (college/schools, etc.)
  • Porterage (internal deliveries; movement of equipment or people in hospitals)

Pay scale[edit]

In 2010, the median pay of a janitor working in the US was $10.68 per hour. The yearly salary could grow by 11% according to the statistics of 2010.[1]

2012 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2012, the median annual wage for all workers was $34,750. $22,320 per year or $10.73 per hour.[1]

Office cleaning[edit]

Office cleaning staff perform many of the same duties as janitors. However the tasks are divided among different members. Additional tasks include:

  • watering plants (pruning as well)
  • cleaning sinks, refrigerators, microwaves and toasters in office kitchens; clearing recycling and garbage bins
  • dusting furniture and computer equipment (monitors and desk area, but excluding keyboards) and tables


Cleaning is one of the most commonly outsourced services.[4] Some of the reasons for this include:

  • Basic cleaning tasks are standardised, with little variation among different enterprises.
  • The nature of the job and required standard of performance can be clearly defined and specified in a contract, unlike more technical or professional jobs for which such specification is harder to develop.
  • Some organizations prefer to outsource work unrelated to their core business in order to save additional salaries and benefits required to manage the work.
  • Some organizations may feel uncomfortable dealing with labour relations related to low wage employees; by outsourcing, these labor relations issues are transferred to a contractor whose staff are comfortable and experienced in dealing with these issues, and their approach can benefit from economies of scale.
  • If a janitor is unavailable due to sickness or leave, a contractor which employs many janitors can easily assign a substitute. A small organisation which employs one or a few janitors directly will have much more trouble with this.


Between 17% to 23% of the total undocumented immigrant population living in the United States work in the cleaning industry[5] (and growing at a rate of 1/2% to 1/3% percent per year). In addition to this population offering an abundant source of inexpensive labor,[6] janitorial work is mostly undertaken at night, making it an appealing option for janitorial companies to employ undocumented workers[7][8] seeking clandestine employment. Many such immigrants have even started their own janitorial companies using fictitious business licenses[9] and false identication[10] [11] information.
In The Netherlands, the number of cleaning companies grew from 5,000 in 2003 to 8,000 in 2008.[12]

In popular culture[edit]

The idea of the janitor, often as a figure of ridicule or pity, became a negatively stereotypical black person[13][14] or a blue collar character in popular culture many times denoting ignorance, laziness, failure, exploitation[15] or even perversion[16][17] and have featured widely in film and television.[18] Not all the janitors listed below, however, share these traits. The following are listed in order of first appearance.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c http://www.bls.gov/ooh/building-and-grounds-cleaning/janitors-and-building-cleaners.htm
  2. ^ Crime Scene Cleanup Certification Pays: Deverpost News by Don Morreale, July 6, 2012 [1]
  3. ^ Facts about Crime Scene Cleaners! by Documents & Resources for Small Business Professionals DOCSTOC News Source, Fed 12, 2013 [2]
  4. ^ Template:Url=https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=x8 C9NJHtYMC&pg=PA141&lpg=PA141&dq
  5. ^ Weltin, Dan (2010-05-21). "Immigration Reform: There's Always An Excuse". Cleanlink.com. Retrieved 2011-11-13. 
  6. ^ Mollenkamp, Becky (2011-04-11). "Illegal Subcontracting Bad Apples: Illegal subcontracting's continuing impact on the BSC industry". Cleanlink.com. Retrieved 2011-04-11. 
  7. ^ Ridgely, Lisa (2010-03-01). "Overdue Diligence: How BSCs can avoid hiring undocumented workers". Cleanlink.com. Retrieved 2010-04-01. 
  8. ^ Miriam, Jordan (2011-08-15). "Immigration Audits Drive Illegal Workers Underground: ABM Caught for Employing illegal immigrants". online.wsj.com. Retrieved 2011-08-15. 
  9. ^ Mortensen, Ronald (June 2009). "Backgrounder: Illegal, but Not Undocumented Identity Theft, Document Fraud, and Illegal Employment" (PDF). cis.org. Retrieved June 2009. 
  10. ^ Mims, Brian (12/05/2006). "5 Illegal Immigrants Charged in Fake ID Scheme". wral.com. Retrieved 12/05/2006.  Check date values in: |access-date=, |date= (help)
  11. ^ Yost, Denise (2011-07-15). "Illegal Immigrant Arrested For Allegedly Making Fake IDs". nbc4i.com. Retrieved 2011-07-15. 
  12. ^ Data from the employers' organisation in The Netherlands provided by EU-OSHA's Focal Point Literature review - The occupational safety and health of cleaning workers EU-OSHA - European Agency for Safety and Health at Work
  13. ^ Fifty Contemporary Filmmakers. Yvonne Tasker. Routledge, 8 Mar 2002
  14. ^ Early Black American Playwrights and Dramatic Writers: A Biographical Directory and Catalog of Plays, Films, and Broadcasting Scripts. Bernard L. Peterson. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1990
  15. ^ Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films. Donald Bogle. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2001
  16. ^ Sociology. Richard T. Schaefer, Robert P. Lamm. McGraw-Hill, 1992
  17. ^ The Psychology Of Stereotyping. David J. Schneider. Guilford Press, 7 Apr 2005
  18. ^ Rebel Without a Cause: Approaches to a Maverick Masterwork. John David Slocum. SUNY Press, 29 Oct 2005
  19. ^ Retro Gamer, page 35.
  20. ^ a b Blue-Collar Pop Culture: From NASCAR to Jersey Shore. M. Keith Booker. ABC-CLIO, 31 Mar 2012

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of janitor at Wiktionary