Building cleaning workers-which includes janitors, executive housekeepers, and maids and housekeeping  cleaners-keep office buildings, hospitals, stores, apartment houses, hotels, and other types of buildings clean  and in good condition.

Average growth is  expected among both janitors and cleaners and institutional cleaning supervisors, many of whom work in the  services to buildings industry. 

Additional Information | Earnings | Employment | Job Outlook | Nature of the Work | Related Occupations | Significant Points | Training & Advancement | Working Conditions

Significant Points

* Limited training requirements and numerous part-time and temporary jobs should 
contribute to the need to replace workers who leave this very large occupation each year.

* Businesses providing janitorial and cleaning services on a contract basis are expected to be one of the fastest growing employers of these workers.

Back to top

Nature of the Work

Building cleaning workers-which includes janitors, executive housekeepers, and maids and housekeeping cleaners-keep office buildings, hospitals, stores, apartment houses, hotels, and other types of buildings clean and in good condition. Some only do cleaning, while others have a wide range of duties. Janitors and cleaners perform a variety of heavy cleaning duties, such as cleaning floors, shampooing rugs, washing walls and glass, and removing rubbish. They may fix leaky faucets, empty trashcans, do painting and carpentry, replenish bathroom supplies, mow lawns, and see that heating and air-conditioning equipment works properly. On a typical day, janitors may wet- or dry-mop floors, clean bathrooms, vacuum carpets, dust furniture, make minor repairs, and exterminate insects and rodents. They also notify management of the need for repairs and clean snow or debris from sidewalks in front of buildings. Maids and housekeeping cleaners perform any combination of light cleaning duties to maintain private households or commercial establishments, such as hotels, restaurants, and hospitals, in a clean and orderly manner. In hotels, aside from cleaning and maintaining the premises, they 
may deliver ironing boards, cribs, and rollaway beds to guests' rooms. In hospitals, they also may wash bed frames, brush mattresses, make beds, and disinfect and sterilize equipment and supplies using germicides and sterilizing equipment. 

Janitors, maids, and cleaners use various equipment, tools, and cleaning materials. For one job, they may need a mop and bucket; for another, an electric polishing machine and a special cleaning solution. Improved building materials, chemical cleaners, and power equipment have made many tasks easier and less time-consuming, but cleaning workers must learn proper use of equipment and cleaners to avoid harming floors, fixtures, and themselves.

Cleaning supervisors coordinate, schedule, and supervise the activities of janitors and cleaners. They assign tasks and inspect building areas to see that work has been done properly, issue supplies and equipment, inventory stocks to ensure an adequate amount of supplies are present, screen and hire job applicants, and recommend promotions, transfers, or dismissals. They also train new and experienced employees. Supervisors may prepare reports concerning room occupancy, hours worked, and department expenses. Some also perform cleaning 

Cleaners and servants in private households dust and polish furniture; sweep, mop, and wax floors; vacuum; and clean ovens, refrigerators, and bathrooms. They also may wash dishes, polish silver, and change and make beds. Some wash, fold, and iron clothes; a few wash windows. General house workers also may take clothes and laundry to the cleaners, buy groceries, and do many other errands. 

Back to top

Working Conditions

Because most office buildings are cleaned while they are empty, many cleaning workers work evening hours. Some, however, such as school and hospital custodians, work in the daytime. When there is a need for 24-hour maintenance, janitors may be assigned to shifts. Most full-time building cleaners work about 40 hours a week. Part-time cleaners usually work in the evenings and on weekends.

Building cleaning workers in large office and residential buildings often work in teams. These teams consist of workers who specialize in vacuuming, trash pickup, and restroom cleaning, among other things. Supervisors conduct inspections to ensure the building is cleaned properly and the team is functioning efficiently. Building cleaning workers usually work inside heated, well-lighted buildings. However, they sometimes work outdoors sweeping walkways, mowing lawns, or shoveling snow. Working with machines can be noisy, and some tasks, such as cleaning bathrooms and trash rooms, can be dirty and unpleasant. Janitors may suffer 
cuts, bruises, and burns from machines, hand tools, and chemicals. They spend most of their time on their feet, sometimes lifting or pushing heavy furniture or equipment. Many tasks, such as dusting or sweeping, require constant bending, stooping, and stretching. As a result, janitors also may suffer back injuries and sprains.

Back to top


Building cleaning workers held nearly 4.2 million jobs in 2000. Less than 5 percent were self-employed. Janitors and cleaners work in nearly every type of establishment and held about 2.3 million jobs. They accounted for about 56 percent of all building cleaning workers. About 28 percent worked for firms supplying building maintenance services on a contract basis; 20 percent in educational institutions; and 3 percent in hotels. Other employers included hospitals, restaurants, religious institutions, manufacturing firms, government agencies, and operators of apartment buildings, office buildings, and other types of real estate.

First-line supervisors of housekeeping and janitorial workers held about 219,000 jobs. About 16 percent were employed in hotels; 22 percent in firms supplying building maintenance services on a contract basis; 5 percent in hospitals; and 6 percent in nursing and personal care facilities. Other employers included educational institutions, residential care establishments, and amusement and recreation facilities.

Maids and housekeepers held about 1.6 million jobs. About 25 percent were employed in hotels and other lodging places; 8 percent in hospitals; and 6 percent in nursing and personal care facilities. Other employers included religious organizations and residential care facilities.

Although cleaning jobs can be found in all cities and towns, most are located in highly populated areas where there are many office buildings, schools, apartment houses, and hospitals.

Back to top

Training and Advancement

No special education is required for most janitorial or cleaning jobs, but beginners should know simple arithmetic and be able to follow instructions. High school shop courses are helpful for jobs involving repair work.

Most building cleaners learn their skills on the job. Usually, beginners work with an experienced cleaner, doing routine cleaning. As they gain more experience, they are assigned more complicated tasks. In some cities, programs run by unions, government agencies, or employers teach janitorial skills. Students learn how to clean buildings thoroughly and efficiently, how to select and safely use various cleansing agents, and how to operate and maintain machines, such as wet and dry vacuums, buffers, and polishers. Students learn to plan their work, to follow safety and health regulations, to interact positively with people in the buildings they 
clean, and to work without supervision. Instruction in minor electrical, plumbing, and other repairs also may be given. Those who come in contact with the public should have good communication skills. Employers usually look for dependable, hard-working individuals who are in good health, follow directions well, and get along with other people.

Building cleaners usually find work by answering newspaper advertisements, applying directly to organizations where they would like to work, contacting local labor unions, or contacting State employment service offices.

Advancement opportunities for workers usually are limited in organizations where they are the only maintenance worker. Where there is a large maintenance staff, however, cleaning workers can be promoted to supervisor and to area supervisor or manager. A high school diploma improves the chances for advancement. Some janitors set up their own maintenance business.
Supervisors usually move up through the ranks. In many establishments, they are required to take some in-service training to improve their housekeeping techniques and procedures, and to enhance their supervisory skills. 

A small number of cleaning supervisors and managers are members of the International Executive Housekeepers Association (IEHA). IEHA offers two kinds of certification programs to cleaning supervisors and managers-Certified Executive Housekeeper (CEH) and Registered Executive Housekeeper (REH). The CEH designation is offered to those with a high school education, while the REH designation is offered to those who have a 4-year college degree. Both designations are earned by attending courses and passing exams, and must be renewed every 2 years to ensure that workers keep abreast of new cleaning methods. Those with the REH 
designation usually oversee the cleaning services of hotels, hospitals, casinos, and other large institutions that rely on well-trained experts for their cleaning needs.

Back to top

Job Outlook

Overall employment of building cleaning workers is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2010, though job growth will vary depending on where they work. Average growth is expected among both janitors and cleaners and institutional cleaning supervisors, many of whom work in the services to buildings industry. On the other hand, employment of maids and housekeeping cleaners, which includes those in private households, is expected to grow more slowly than the average. In addition to job openings due to growth, numerous openings should result from the need to replace those who leave this very large occupation each year. Limited formal education and training requirements, low pay, and numerous part-time and temporary jobs should contribute to these replacement needs.

To clean the increasing number of office complexes, apartment houses, schools, factories, hospitals, and other buildings, more workers will be assigned to teams with more efficient cleaning equipment and supplies. As many firms reduce costs by hiring independent contractors, businesses providing janitorial and cleaning services on a contract basis are expected to be one of the faster growing employers of these workers.

Back to top


Median annual earnings of janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners, were $17,180 in 2000. The middle 50 percent earned between $14,030 and $22,340. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $12,280, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $29,190. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners, in 2000 are shown below:

Local government $22,900
Real estate operators and lessors 22,110
Elementary and secondary schools 21,100
Colleges and universities 20,320
Services to buildings 15,370

Median annual earnings of maids and housekeepers were $15,410 in 2000. The middle 50 percent earned between $13,230 and $18,030. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $11,910, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $22,200. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of maids and housekeepers in 2000 are shown below:

Hospitals $16,820
Real estate agents and managers 16,500
Nursing and personal care facilites 15,460
Services to buildings 15,150
Hotels and motels 14,760

Median annual earnings of first-line supervisors/managers of housekeeping and janitorial workers were $25,760 in 2000. The middle 50 percent earned between $19,920 and $33,740. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $16,220, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $42,850. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of first-line supervisors/managers of housekeeping and janitorial workers in 2000 are shown below:

Elementary and secondary schools $29,540
Hospitals 27,010
Nursing and personal care facilities 25,290
Services to buildings 23,000
Hotels and motels 21,820

Back to top

Related Occupations

Workers who specialize in one of the many job functions of janitors and cleaners include pest control workers; industrial machinery installation, repair, and maintenance workers; and grounds maintenance workers. 

Back to top

Additional Information

Information about janitorial jobs may be obtained from State employment service offices.

For information on certification in executive housekeeping, contact:

* International Executive Housekeepers Association, Inc., 1001 Eastwind Dr., Suite 301, Westerville, OH 43081-3361. Internet:

Back to top