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What Does a Janitor Do and Why Are They Important?

A top-down view shows a man wearing a white shirt, yellow gloves and blue overalls as he uses a large dust broom on a grey floor. The broom leaves a path of clean floor as he pulls it towards himself.

The commercial construction industry is expanding. When these new buildings are filled with people and equipment, the spaces will need to be maintained to ensure a comfortable working environment. These buildings are going to need janitors. 

If you currently work in an office complex, hospital or other large building, you've likely noticed a custodial staff member doing their job. Janitors and custodians fulfill the vital role of creating a pristine working environment. 

To get a better idea of the skills and experiences needed to succeed as a janitor, we spoke with Practice Lead Julio Lopez who has over 10 years of experience in helping people find work as custodians. 



Janitor Duties and Responsibilities

You often notice janitors carrying cleaning products and equipment. Their duties encompass the maintenance of cleanliness throughout the entire premise. This includes shared spaces, bathrooms, classrooms, office areas, and various other designated zones. They must manage surface cleaning, addressing spills and waste disposal and vacuuming. Some janitors are responsible for the removal of snow and leaves from the building's entrances, ensuring safe access. 

Janitors often work during non-business hours. This can mean they are responsible for securing or locking up the premises when their shift is complete. 

Lopez lists the following as other common duties for janitors:

  1. Keeping Spaces Clean

    This includes general cleaning and sweeping of footpaths and hallways, but also tending to spills and other accidents when they happen. It can also mean using chemicals to clean multiple types of surfaces. 
  2. Operate Cleaning Equipment

    Janitors are often responsible for operating equipment such as floor scrubbers, vacuums and mops. 
  3. Locking Up the Building

    Janitors might come into work after business hours, so they can clean the building without interrupting employees. In this case, they’ll need to make sure the building is locked up and secure when they leave. 
  4. Waste Management

    Nearly every type of business or organization produces trash. Janitors are   responsible for collecting and disposing of it. They may separate recycling from trash, and make sure that special waste (chemical, medical, biohazard) is disposed of properly. “They will work with hazardous waste departments/ waste management companies, sanitation departments and at times assist incoming vendors with any type of janitorial needs,” says Lopez. 
  5. Maintain Inventory

    Janitors are often the keepers of cleaning supplies and chemicals since they are the primary users. They’ll often be the ones responsible for the janitorial supplies being stocked which requires keeping an inventory and working with vendors to arrange deliveries. 
  6. Floor Care

    Besides sweeping and mopping, janitors may be responsible for maintaining special floor surfaces. This could include oiling wooden floors, shampooing carpets, and waxing. 

While these are the basic duties, Lopez states that he’s seen some changes in what employers are looking for.

“The trend for janitors has seen a bit of change due to the pandemic (COVID-19). This caused employers to add additional sanitization protocols to their job descriptions to ensure common areas are consistently sanitized. With that said, there are many employers seeking janitorial staff from GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) or cleanroom environments due to their robust cleaning procedures,” says Lopez.

Why Janitors are Important

Janitors are important in maintaining a clean and organized work environment. Consider attempting to work at a cluttered desk. Finding essential documents or focusing on tasks becomes a daunting challenge. Now, expand this scenario to an entire building or workspace like a corporate complex or university. It becomes clear that janitors help maintain acceptable working conditions. Janitors serve as a linchpin in ensuring the operational efficiency and productivity of a wide range of industries. 

A pristine and well-maintained environment facilitated by janitors has benefits. It cultivates a sense of order which promotes an atmosphere of professionalism. A clean jobsite enables employees to locate essential resources, documents, and tools. This allows for a more efficient workflow and minimizes disruptions. It also plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the health and well-being of all occupants. By sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces, janitors help mitigate the spread of germs and illnesses. Which can help ensure a safer environment for employees, clients, and visitors alike.

Moreover, janitors contribute to the reputation and image of an organization. A well-maintained facility projects an impression of competence and commitment to excellence. This can influence the perception of clients, stakeholders, and prospective employees. Which can bolster business prospects and foster a positive work culture.

Janitors play an indispensable role in creating an optimal work environment. They can create settings that enable employees to perform at their best.

Lopez predicts that the role janitors and custodians play will only become more important in the future. 

“The demand for janitorial staff has been going up due to the pandemic (COVID-19) and an employers’ priority to keep their work environment safe from a sanitation background. I foresee this being the norm for years to come. In various markets we are seeing a high demand for janitors with low application rates which is causing clients to reevaluate the skills needed for these roles, allowing for more entry-level candidates than they have allowed previously,” says Lopez. 

What Skills Does a Janitor Need?

It takes a mix of hard and soft skills to become a skilled janitor. The job is more than just cleaning. It involves a mix of customer service and planning skills to get the job done.

“A lot of janitorial staff will be working at end client sites where they will be interacting with employees daily. Professionalism is a big part of most job descriptions. And while janitorial jobs can be simple in nature, a lot of clients have in-depth standard operating procedures that must be met for every task daily. Individuals with the ability to be structured and follow written instructions will succeed more often,” says Lopez.

The basic skills that janitors utilize are:

  1. Communication

    Janitors are often the first person to notice if something needs cleaning, replacing or repairing. This includes broken lighting or windows. Custodians need to be able to communicate these needs to the right person or team.
  2. Organization Skills

    Janitors maintain an inventory of tools and equipment to do their jobs. They need to stay organized to make sure the inventory is adequately stocked. Since janitors may work in teams, they must collaborate with each other to make sure each area is cleaned.
  3. Safety Guidelines

    Some janitors may work with hazardous chemicals, cleaning agents, or machinery. This includes floor waxers or power washers. They need to know how to safety use these according to their respective guidelines.

How Much Does a Janitor Make?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, janitors make a median salary of $29,790 per year. There is no formal training or education required. New employees may receive on-the-job training.

How to Become a Janitor

Formal training or specific educational requirements are not mandatory to become a janitor. However, certain prerequisites and physical capabilities are often expected. Prospective candidates should be of legal working age. They should be able to lift and maneuver heavy objects. It is also worth noting that on-the-job training may be provided. This training may encompass instructions on the usage of chemical agents, specialized equipment. It may also familiarize janitors with the specific cleaning protocols tailored to the designated workspace.

Are you interested in becoming a janitor or custodian? We recommend engaging with organizations that have open positions. Pay special attention to opportunities that align with your interests. Get started by checking out our job board to explore janitor job openings near you