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Hiring a Janitor vs Custodian: Which Do I Need?

Depending on the nature of your business, you may not realize that hiring a janitor vs. custodian means identifying which type of services you require. While both work in the same field, there are distinct differences between janitor and custodian duties. Learn about the responsibilities of each role to determine which one you need to hire and what qualifications to include in your job description. 

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What does a janitor do? 

A janitor is someone who is responsible for cleaning a space at specific times. Janitorial work typically refers to the maintenance and cleaning of a room or building. Usually, this is a commercial space like a school, recreation center, sports complex or shopping mall. Janitorial work frequently operates on a schedule based on the demand for cleaning and off-peak hours when patrons or students aren’t in the building. 

The general duties of a janitor can include anything required to keep the interior of a space in good condition. Some typical janitorial responsibilities are:

  • Mopping

  • Sanitizing bathrooms

  • Emptying trash and recycling bins

  • Cleaning windows 

  • Cleaning mirrors 

  • Sweeping

  • Dusting

  • Tidying up unexpected messes 

Qualifications for janitorial work 

The work of a janitor is technical and requires a specific set of skills and qualifications. While no educational requirements such as a bachelor’s degree are necessary to be successful in this role, applicants with these qualifications are best suited to the position: 

  • High school diploma or equivalent (GED)

  • Knowledge of safety protocols 

  • Willingness to complete safety courses 

  • Ability to lift 50 pounds 

Since they handle cleaning chemicals, janitors usually need to complete training to comply with the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard. Provided applicants are willing to undergo training and understand what this entails, they can acquire this knowledge as part of the employee onboarding process.

Skills that are valuable for a janitor to possess include:

  • Attention to detail

  • Strong work ethic 

  • Friendly and personable 

  • Understanding of basic tools and equipment (for example, an electric floor buffer)

Include an expectation of working hours in your job description for janitorial roles since these requirements vary widely across different facilities. Stating plainly whether you’re seeking someone for weekends, evenings, full-time or night shifts allows you to narrow your applicant pool to candidates willing to work the hours you require. 

What does a custodian do?

The difference between janitor and custodian positions is that a custodian’s job is more consistent and overarching than that of a janitor. While a janitor reports for shift work at a specific time to clean designated areas, a custodian’s job description entails the general upkeep of a property or facility.

While a janitor may be responsible for cleaning the floors of a gymnasium in the evening after a school closes for the day, the custodian is more likely to work during full-time daytime hours ensuring that other aspects of the property are in good working order. The custodian may be in charge of scheduling janitorial shifts to support their own maintenance on the property. 

Tasks that are typically undertaken by a custodian include:

  • Maintaining the building and grounds 

  • Ensuring building repairs are completed in a timely manner to comply with safety standards

  • Maintaining janitorial equipment 

  • Ordering new cleaning supplies 

  • Operating equipment like floor buffers and commercial vacuums 

  • Changing air filters 

  • Cleaning air vents 

While janitors take care of smaller-scale cleanup tasks, custodians oversee the facility as a whole and ensure it continues to run smoothly.

Qualifications for custodial work 

Experience in the field is more useful than formal education for applicants seeking custodial work. However, these are some educational requirements you might want to include in a job description for a custodian:

  • High school diploma or equivalent (GED)

  • Bachelor’s degree in physical science or a related field 

  • Associate’s degree in any field 

Prior experience as a janitor or in a property management role is a valuable addition to a resume. Ask candidates to detail their related experience and explain how it applies to a custodial position in their cover letter or in a portion of the application form. 

Many of the useful skills for custodial work apply to people wanting to be a janitor or a custodian. Consider listing these skills as application requirements for people seeking employment as a custodian at your business: 

  • Big-picture mentality

  • Managerial skills (overseeing maintenance team and janitorial staff)

  • Time management skills

  • Inventory management skills

  • Attention to detail

  • Understanding of public health and safety 

  • Ability to identify safety hazards and violations 

  • Technical skills to perform simple repairs or maintenance tasks 

When to hire a janitor vs. custodian 

Knowing when to hire a janitor or a custodian for your workplace requires understanding the differences between them and how each role supports your business. Although they’re often confused for one another and used interchangeably, the duties and responsibilities of custodians and janitors are quite different. While they vary by workplace, the primary differences between a janitor vs. custodian are:

  • The hours they work per week

  • The scale of the cleaning and maintenance work they perform

  • The knowledge of the building they require

Who to hire based on working hours

The first way to identify whether you need to hire a janitor or a custodian to fill your vacancy is to consider what hours you need this individual to work. If you’re seeking a candidate to work evening or night shifts to clean the interior of a building after students or employees leave, you may want to hire a janitor. If the role you’re looking to fill is a full-time position that requires the person to be on-site while employees are at work so they can respond to maintenance concerns or oversee other maintenance staff, you need a custodian

Who to hire based on the scope of the work 

The type of work you want an applicant to complete also dictates which role you should be advertising in a job posting. For work that focuses on cleaning the interior of a building or a specific space without a need to consider the upkeep of the building as a whole, a janitor can get the job done. If you want someone who ensures the building is maintained, inside and out, plus ensures that the inventory of toilet paper, cleaning supplies and so on is always stocked, this is a larger-scale position suitable for a custodian. 

If you require specialized knowledge, such as landscaping, exterior maintenance, building safety inspections and cleaning equipment maintenance, you need someone with specific skills to fill the role of custodian. A janitorial staff member may be easier to hire because the skills necessary to succeed are more general and require less formal training. 

Salary differences between a janitor and a custodian

According to Indeed salaries, the average pay in the United States is $14.88 per hour for a janitor. However, for a custodian, this increases to an average of $15.49 per hour. If the scope of work is flexible and you’re unsure whether to hire a janitor or a custodian, consider your budget. While a janitor earns less than a custodian, they also perform smaller-scale tasks.

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