A janitor or custodian (called caretaker in British English but also janitor in Scottish English, see American and British English differences) is a professional who takes care of buildings, such as hospitals and schools. Janitors are responsible primarily for cleaning, and often (though not always) some maintenance and security. Similar but more managerial duties (and usually not including cleaning, for example) are performed by a superintendent, often called building superintendent.


Occupational tasks

Typical janitor duties often consist of the following tasks:

  • Cleaning and restocking bathrooms
    • Sinks
    • Toilets
    • Urinals
    • Cleaning floors (sweeping, mopping)
    • Clearing garbage bins
    • restocking toilet paper and/or paper towel dispensers
    • Cleaning mirrors

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. 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.
  • Many organizations which predominantly employ higher paid workers feel uncomfortable dealing with labour relations with low paid employees; by outsourcing, these labour 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.
  • 17% to 22% of the employed illegal immigrant population in the United States work in the cleaning industry[1]. In addition to this population offering an abundant source of inexpensive labor, janitorial duties are mostly undertaken at night, making it an appealing option for undocumented workers seeking clandestine employment.

See also

Popular culture

  • Roger Wilco


External links

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