A janitor (American English, Scottish 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.
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 when they are vacant, so most of the office janitorial staff work during the evening. The work can be physically demanding and sometimes dirty and unpleasant. General janitor duties often include the following tasks:
- Cleaning and restocking bathrooms
- Cleaning floors (mopping, sweeping, polishing)
- Carpet cleaning (dry method, extraction, steam and bonnet)
- Cleaning carpeting (vacuuming)
- 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)
- Litter picking
- Spot cleaning (generally spills – coffee for instance)
- Room setups (college/schools, etc.)
- Porterage (internal deliveries; movement of equipment or people in hospitals)
- Removing vomit and feces from public areas
- Raising and lowering flags (schools)
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.
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. 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 (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, janitorial work is mostly undertaken at night, making it an appealing option for janitorial companies to employ undocumented workers seeking clandestine employment. Many such immigrants have even started their own janitorial companies using fictitious business licenses and false identification information.
In the Netherlands, the number of cleaning companies grew from 5,000 in 2003 to 8,000 in 2008.