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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 Black or 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.[4]

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

Office cleaning often takes place after hours or later in the evening or even overnight.


Cleaning is one of the most commonly outsourced services.[5] 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[6] (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,[7] janitorial work is mostly undertaken at night, making it an appealing option for janitorial companies to employ undocumented workers[8][9] seeking clandestine employment. Many such immigrants have even started their own janitorial companies using fictitious business licenses[10] and false identication[11] [12] information.
In The Netherlands, the number of cleaning companies grew from 5,000 in 2003 to 8,000 in 2008.[13]

In popular culture[edit]

The idea of the janitor, often as a figure of ridicule or pity, has become a negatively stereotypical Black[14][15] or blue collar character in popular culture denoting ignorance, laziness, failure, exploitation[16] or even perversion[17][18] and have featured widely in film, television and pornography.[19] Not all the janitors listed below, however, share all of these traits.

  • Beauregard and George the Janitor are members of The Muppets. Both characters work as janitors.
  • Gattaca stars a janitor (Ethan Hawke) who hides his genetic makeup so that he can apply to become an astronaut.
  • William J. Crawford - Medal of Honor recipient and a former janitor at the United States Air Force Academy
  • Roger Wilco is a fictional janitor and the protagonist of the Space Quest series, introduced in Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter in 1986; he was on the 2004 list of "top ten working class heroes"[20]
  • Janitor (Scrubs) is a fictional character, played by actor Neil Flynn in the American comedy-drama Scrubs who works as a janitor at Sacred Heart.
  • Joe Dirt[21] is a 2001 American adventure comedy film about a "white trash" young man working as a custodian, Joe Dirt, who at first seems to be a "loser", a failure, an antihero.
  • Flags of Our Fathers (film)[21] shows one of the famous Iwo Jima flag raisers who spends the rest of his life as a janitor.
  • Satan's Cheerleaders [22] has Billy, a high school's disturbed janitor.
  • Hong Kong Phooey is a mild-mannered police station janitor in an animated series.
  • Groundskeeper Willie is a recurring character on the animated comedy series The Simpsons who works as a groundskeeper.
  • The Janny Song by Billy Connolly
  • Brian Banner is a fictional villain from the Marvel Comics Universe first appearing in print in early 1982. Brian Banner is the abusive father of Bruce Banner, the Incredible Hulk, and his mistreatment of his own wife and son is a major contributing cause of Bruce's mental illness linked to his Hulk condition.
  • Booster Gold is a fictional character, a DC Comics superhero and a member of the Justice League. The character is initially depicted as a glory-seeking showboat from the future, using knowledge of historical events and futuristic technology to stage high-publicity heroics. Booster develops over the course of his publication history and through personal tragedies to become a true hero weighed down by the reputation he created for himself.
  • Toussaint Dubois (GH Night Shift) was introduced in the July 12, 2007 episode "Frayed Anatomies" of GH Night Shift. He works as a janitor at Port Charles General Hospital. It is revealed that he had previously been a member of a famous band, The Saints.
  • Frazz is a syndicated comic strip by Jef Mallett that, on the surface, is about school custodian Edwin "Frazz" Frazier and the school where he works, but which, according to Mallett, is really about discovery.
  • Forrest Gump (character) is a fictional character. In the second novel of the series, Gump and Co., Gump is working as a janitor in a New Orleans bar.
  • Casey Hughes is a fictional character on the soap opera As the World Turns.
  • George Jefferson is a fictional character played by Sherman Hemsley on the American television sitcoms All in the Family (from 1973 until 1975) and its spin-off The Jeffersons (1975–1985).
  • Charlie Kelly is a fictional character on the sitcom It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
  • Freddy Krueger is the main antagonist of the A Nightmare on Elm Street film series. He appears in Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) as a burnt serial killer who uses a glove armed with razors to kill his victims in their dreams, causing their deaths in the real world as well.
  • Leader (comics) is a fictional character, a supervillain that appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. In 2009, The Leader was ranked as IGN's 63rd Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.
  • Thomas Logan is a fictional character in the Marvel Comics universe - the biological father of Wolverine of the X-Men. He works as a groundskeeper.
  • Philip Martin (Neighbours) is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, played by Ian Rawlings. Originally played by Christopher Milne during the character's first appearance in 1985, Rawlings took over the role when the character returned to the show in 1992 and remained until 1999.
  • The Miniature Killer is a fictional character on the CBS crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, portrayed by Jessica Collins.
  • Marty Murray (Brookside) is a character from Channel 4 soap Brookside played by Neil Caple from 2000 until 2003.
  • Night Raven is a fictional superhero appearing primarily in Marvel UK Comics, a division of Marvel Comics. He first appeared in Hulk Comic #1 (March 7, 1979).
  • OMAC is a superhero comic book created in 1974 by Jack Kirby and published by DC Comics. The character was created towards the end of Kirby's contract with the publisher.
  • Parasite (comics) is the name of several fictional characters that appear in Superman comic book stories published by DC Comics. A supervillain, Parasite has the ability to temporarily absorb the energy, knowledge and super-powers of another being by touch, making him a formidable foe for the Man of Steel.
  • Kenneth Parcell is a fictional character on the NBC comedy television series, 30 Rock, portrayed by Jack McBrayer. He works in a menial job.
  • Carl Reed is a fictional janitor in the 1985 American coming of age comedy-drama film The Breakfast Club, which was written and directed by John Hughes. Reed is played by actor John Kapelos.
  • Skeets (DC Comics) is a fictional artificial intelligence robot from the future in the DC Comics Universe. Usually seen as a companion to Booster Gold, he co-stars in the limited series 52 and the subsequent Booster Gold vol. 2.
  • Mr. Svenson is a fictional character who works as a custodian at Archie Comics' Riverdale High School.
  • WALL-E (character) is a fictional robot who has developed sentience, is the only robot of his kind shown to be still functioning on Earth. He works diligently to fulfill his directive to clean up the garbage on Earth.
  • Scruffy is an apathetic and perverse janitor on the animated series Futurama, voiced by Billy West.
  • Stanley Spadowski is a dim-witted but excitable janitor in the 1989 comedy film UHF, portrayed by Michael Richards.
  • The Janitor's Boy is a children's book by Andrew Clements about a young boy whose father is a janitor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 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. ^ http://www.bls.gov/ooh/building-and-grounds-cleaning/janitors-and-building-cleaners.htm
  5. ^ Template:Url=https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=x8 C9NJHtYMC&pg=PA141&lpg=PA141&dq
  6. ^ Weltin, Dan (2010-05-21). "Immigration Reform: There's Always An Excuse". Cleanlink.com. Retrieved 2011-11-13. 
  7. ^ Mollenkamp, Becky (2011-04-11). "Illegal Subcontracting Bad Apples: Illegal subcontracting's continuing impact on the BSC industry". Cleanlink.com. Retrieved 2011-04-11. 
  8. ^ Ridgely, Lisa (2010-03-01). "Overdue Diligence: How BSCs can avoid hiring undocumented workers". Cleanlink.com. Retrieved 2010-04-01. 
  9. ^ Miriam, Jordan (2011-08-15). "Immigration Audits Drive Illegal Workers Underground: ABM Caught for Employing illegal immigrants". online.wsj.com. Retrieved 2011-08-15. 
  10. ^ Mortensen, Ronald (June 2009). "Backgrounder: Illegal, but Not Undocumented Identity Theft, Document Fraud, and Illegal Employment" (PDF). cis.org. Retrieved June 2009. 
  11. ^ Mims, Brian (12/05/2006). "5 Illegal Immigrants Charged in Fake ID Scheme". wral.com. Retrieved 12/05/2006.  Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)
  12. ^ Yost, Denise (2011-07-15). "Illegal Immigrant Arrested For Allegedly Making Fake IDs". nbc4i.com. Retrieved 2011-07-15. 
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ Fifty Contemporary Filmmakers. Yvonne Tasker. Routledge, 8 Mar 2002
  15. ^ 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
  16. ^ Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films. Donald Bogle. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2001
  17. ^ Sociology. Richard T. Schaefer, Robert P. Lamm. McGraw-Hill, 1992
  18. ^ The Psychology Of Stereotyping. David J. Schneider. Guilford Press, 7 Apr 2005
  19. ^ Rebel Without a Cause: Approaches to a Maverick Masterwork. John David Slocum. SUNY Press, 29 Oct 2005
  20. ^ Retro Gamer, page 35.
  21. ^ a b Blue-Collar Pop Culture: From NASCAR to Jersey Shore. M. Keith Booker. ABC-CLIO, 31 Mar 2012
  22. ^ Satanism Today: An Encyclopedia of Religion, Folklore, and Popular Culture. James R. Lewis, ABC-CLIO, 2001

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of janitor at Wiktionary