The Top 10 Things Your Janitor Wishes You Knew

 

Top Ten Thing Your Janitor Wishes You KnewIn the jobs thread, Claire thought that, because I’m a janitor, I might have some sage advice to give folks. Now, my job is a bit atypical, since I work at a university, but I’ll try to make all of these apply more-or-less universally.

  1. Make sure your toilet flushes completely. I wanted to say “flush the [redacted] toilet,” but that’s not really enough. There are several reasons why a toilet might not get flushed, intentionally or otherwise, but the end result is gross regardless.Sometimes the automatic flusher doesn’t do its job. In that case, there’s almost always a button you can press that will take care of it. Sometimes you pull the handle, but it doesn’t fully work; in these cases you can generally futz with it and get it to work. It might require holding the handle until the job is done, or you might need to pull up instead of down.Some folks are raised with the idea of, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow.” That’s all fine and dandy in your house, where it’s just you and maybe a small group, with a toilet with at least a gallon of water. Doesn’t work so well in a building with dozens of folks, nor with urinals. Add several hours of festering, and only the strongest of air fresheners will be able to cover up the smell even slightly.

    Sometimes you think you leave too big of a mess, and are concerned about flooding. Usually this isn’t a problem, as modern commercial toilets are rather powerful for that very reason, even if they don’t use very much water. However, there might still be a problem; most of the time, a toilet won’t overflow on just one flush. Don’t re-flush until the water is back down to its normal level (which might take some time). And if you don’t want to personally tell someone of the problem, at least leave an “out of order” note on the door, and a note to whoever is in charge of that stuff that the toilet is clogged (you don’t have to say it’s you that did it).

  2. If there is something that could be read on or near your desk, it very well might be. Notes, books, emails, memos, documents, whatever — if it’s out, it’s free game. Custodial work can be pretty boring. Even an office memo could stave off the boredom for a time. If there’s anything that you don’t want read, make sure it’s secured.
  3. Bobby pins are Satan’s tools. Anything that has a low surface-area-to-mass ratio is difficult for vacuums to pick up. Also, anything that can get hooked in a carpet will. This makes staples, metal shavings and chips, and small sticks (like pine needles) hard to deal with, and will interrupt your janitor’s vacuuming. However, bobby pins are the worst. They are not only hard to deal with in the first place, but they are also hard to see. However, they are light enough to eventually get sucked up, where they will almost always get stuck in the piping somewhere and clog the vacuum. Smaller sewing needles have a similar problem, though they are meant to be easy to see, unlike most bobby pins.
  4. Put waste in the proper place. Trash goes in trash cans. Recycle stuff goes in the proper recycle can. Feminine hygiene products go in the little bags. Toilet paper goes in the toilet. Not around them. Not behind them. IN them (especially that last one).
  5. Don’t put trash in cans without bags. Trash cans are a pain to clean, and can smell even after. Trash bags, on the other hand, are easy to take care of. Same goes with broken bags, or bags not properly placed.
  6. Secure your valuables. Not just talking about theft, though janitors can come from … less honorable populations. It’s just that janitors can become complacent, as people do. And it’s been my observation that they can be less observant or thoughtful than you might like. In the routine, they might not catch that the important document you need to scan in before tomorrow’s meeting — but you just weren’t able to do today — isn’t just another piece of garbage, especially if it fell off your desk. You don’t want to be this guy.
  7. Report anything unusual. Like I said, custodians can get into a complacent routine. They might not catch something that falls outside that. If you notice something that isn’t right — might be something minor, like your trash not being taken out like it should, or something more major, like a leak or a big clog — you should report it to whoever takes care of that stuff. Makes it much more likely that the problem will be fixed.
  8. If you have a nice chair, it will be sat in. If you have an unusually nice chair, the janitor will probably want to check it out. They might bring their crew to also try it. They might even take a break in that chair.
  9. Be courteous. A worker doesn’t become your servant just because they are picking up your messes. They are free people, and they are free to do things you might not like. And many janitors didn’t get the job by making the best decisions in life. Just sayin’.
  10. Don’t puke in trash cans and not take care of it yourself. It’s just gross. Add in that it will probably be a while before anyone comes to take care of the trash, and it’s even more gross. There are some things that come with the territory of cleaning up people’s messes — but that shouldn’t be one of them.

There are 39 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Mendel Inactive
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    Good stuff.

    I also worked as a janitor for a while in college, and would add another rule: if a bathroom is closed for cleaning, please respect that closure!

    I was required to do a basic cleaning of all bathrooms once during working hours, which meant closing off the ladies’ room; for understandable reasons, I was not allowed to be inside the ladies’ room if anyone was actually using it.

    Every single day, at least one or two people would beg me to let them use the bathroom while I was cleaning it, despite the fact that the cleaning took less than five minutes and the next bathroom was one floor away. Frequently, someone would simply barge past the closure sign and my cleaning cart and walk into a stall, forcing me to leave the bathroom until she was finished, and delaying everything else on my routine that day. (Men weren’t much better, even if there were fewer ethical issues).

    • #1
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Love it.

    Oh, and from an experience I had long ago. You mentioned that not all janitors come from the best backgrounds. One place I worked, the janitor was a former boxing sparring partner. That guy had had a whole lot of blows to the head. He usually wore a painter’s cap, so you couldn’t tell, but he cut his own hair, and didn’t do it so well. Also, and this is the big one: he liked to look at pictures on the desks, especially if they were of pretty, young women. So, you have a picture of your hot wife on your desk? Imagine this guy lusting after her every night as he empties your trash. Have a pretty, young daughter? Imagine the same. Now, that isn’t every janitor, but there certainly are some. You might keep the pictures at home, or put them away at night with the secure documents.

    • #2
  3. blank generation member Inactive
    blank generation member
    @blankgenerationmember

    I have a cousin who was in custodial services.  He said sometimes he would enter a meeting to take out trash and was surprised at the info he would hear, as if he weren’t there.

    • #3
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    blank generation member:I have a cousin who was in custodial services. He said sometimes he would enter a meeting to take out trash and was surprised at the info he would hear, as if he weren’t there.

    That’s always been funny to me. To a lot of people, janitors and servers at restaurants are invisible. I have always tended to work late, putting in a lot of hours, so I always got to know the janitors at various work sites. They can be very interesting people, and not just in the way that old sparring partner was. But in many cases, they are contractors or even subcontractors, not associated with the company one is working for. It’s best to have a bit of situational awareness of who is in the room.

    • #4
  5. user_278007 Inactive
    user_278007
    @RichardFulmer

    One more example of how valuable knowledge is distributed among tens of millions of people working in the free market; making it impossible for the economy to be remote-controlled by bureaucrats sitting in Washington.  [Hey, to a student of economics, everything is connected to economics.]

    • #5
  6. Jason Rudert Member
    Jason Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    My first two jobs were janitorial. Though they were by far not the filthiest work I’ve done.

    The worst janitorial situaton, though, was at a water park where one of the urinals was broken and would not drain. We would tape a sign across it, and people would ‘go’ on the sign. I remember taping the new sign up (one of many) and this yahoo yelling at me, “whaddaya mean ‘out of order!?’ Looks fine to me!!!” Then flushing it and getting “lemonade” all over his feet. “Gaaaah!!!”

    Humanity.

    • #6
  7. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    “Don’t pour mercury into the toilet”

    From my college days when I was on crew cleaning dorms, a floor a day. Some nimrod had poured mercury into a toilet and it just lay there in the trap, too heavy to be moved. Still there for all I know.

    • #7
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    And don’t flush potassium down the toilets, either.

    • #8
  9. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    Arahant:And don’t flush potassium down the toilets, either.

    What happens?

    Should one limit their banana and potato intake, just in case?

    • #9
  10. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    MLH:

    Arahant:And don’t flush potassium down the toilets, either.

    What happens?

    • #10
  11. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    MLH:Should one limit their banana and potato intake, just in case?

    In bananas and potatoes, it is not in pure metallic form.

    • #11
  12. MLH Inactive
    MLH
    @MLH

    Arahant:

    MLH:Should one limit their banana and potato intake, just in case?

    In bananas and potatoes, it is not in pure metallic form.

    Really. Couldn’t you just play along?

    • #12
  13. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    MLH:

    Arahant:

    MLH:Should one limit their banana and potato intake, just in case?

    In bananas and potatoes, it is not in pure metallic form.

    Really. Couldn’t you just play along?

    You can send the reaction video to all your friends and tell them this is what happens to them when they eat bananas.

    • #13
  14. Jason Rudert Member
    Jason Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    Here.
    Excitement starts at about 1:00

    • #14
  15. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Flushing Potatoes sounds like the name of a rock band. “Hey, man, we’re the Flushing Potatoes.”

    • #15
  16. Jason Rudert Member
    Jason Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    Exploding Bananas open for them on their “Farewell Tour”.
    Get it, FAREWELL!?

    • #16
  17. Jason Rudert Member
    Jason Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    Although their best album will always be Coriolis.

    • #17
  18. Animositas Inactive
    Animositas
    @Animositas

    You don’t want to be this guy.

    Although I’ve heard this story before, and others like it, I think it suggests a potential test to answer the age old question “Is it art?” Basically, if a janitor feels the need to clean up after your ‘artwork’ then perhaps is isn’t art.

    • #18
  19. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    I knew this would be a great post.

    • #19
  20. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Arahant:And don’t flush potassium down the toilets, either.

    Someone did that at my junior high.  They coated it with something water soluble so that it did not react with the water until it was deep in the bowels of the building’s plumbing. I think the perpetrator was trying to get finals canceled.

    Seawriter

    • #20
  21. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    I guess I have a confession to make. To a janitor somewhere, who is probably in heaven, now. You know how in about 1977 there were some girls in the third-grade who figured out that if they wadded up wet toilet paper and threw it at the ceiling of the girls’ bathroom, it would stick? And how we all got kept after class and told that this was seriously inconveniencing the janitor, but none of us admitted to it?

    I was one of them. I’m sorry. And let me just rat out the others, while I’m at it: It was Kirsty, Sally, and Jeannie. And let me be totally clear: It was Kirsty’s idea. I just went along because she did it first. (I mean, not that this at all makes what I did okay. I just include this fact because now that I’m getting this off my chest — 39 years later — I want to be completely honest about the whole story.)

    Dear Janitor, I am truly sorry. What a bunch of miserable brats we were.

    • #21
  22. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Claire:

    Your story reminds me of a story I heard.

    A middle school was having problems with girls putting on lipstick, then kissing the mirrors in the girls’ rest room, leaving a lipstick mark on the glass. Requests, warnings and finally threats of punishment failed to stop the practice.

    Finally the principal herded all the school’s girls into the restroom, and gave a lecture on how hard it was to get the lipstick off the mirror. She closed the talk by requesting the janitor to show the difficulty in removing the lipstick.

    The janitor then took out a scrub brush, dipped it in the toilet bowl, and removed the lipstick.

    The practice stopped immediately after the demonstration.

    Seawriter

    • #22
  23. user_184884 Coolidge
    user_184884
    @BrianWolf

    And now I begin to truly understand how awesome Ricochet truly is.  Thank you so much for a great post!

    • #23
  24. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    Great post. A comment and two questions:

    • The cleaning team needs to own up to #5. Few trash cans get to overflowing in one day (unless you’re in a restaurant or other high-volume area).
    • Do you notice a difference in the relative cleanliness of the men’s and women’s bathrooms?
    • Has your university gone to single sex/all stall bathrooms yet? That had already happened at my old firm’s Copenhagen offices.
    • #24
  25. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Seawriter:

    Arahant:And don’t flush potassium down the toilets, either.

    Someone did that at my junior high. They coated it with something water soluble so that it did not react with the water until it was deep in the bowels of the building’s plumbing. I think the perpetrator was trying to get finals canceled.

    Seawriter

    Oh, you went to school with my high school chemistry teacher?

    (Just kidding. He was older than you, and his story was of “someone’s” doing it at a university. Not him, of course.)

    • #25
  26. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Arahant:

    Seawriter:

    Arahant:And don’t flush potassium down the toilets, either.

    Someone did that at my junior high. They coated it with something water soluble so that it did not react with the water until it was deep in the bowels of the building’s plumbing. I think the perpetrator was trying to get finals canceled.

    Seawriter

    Oh, you went to school with my high school chemistry teacher?

    (Just kidding. He was older than you, and his story was of “someone’s” doing it at a university. Not him, of course.)

    Not me, either. (Honest.) Seriously though, I suspected I knew who did it, but deliberately never inquired (so I could honestly say “I don’t know” – I am a lousy liar). All I know is it happened after my 8th-grade science teacher talked about sodium and water, and one of the other kids in the class got real interested – then didn’t talk about it again.

    Seawriter

    • #26
  27. user_33712 Member
    user_33712
    @BobCroft

    I happen to own a janitorial firm.  A thought about dealing with the janitor, amid the usual suspicions:

    Some time ago, one of my folks noticed a client setting traps for him: small amounts of pocket change, left in obvious but unlikely places.  As it continued, and the amounts grew, my fellow began, more and more, to feel the insult.  Finally, he noticed the most cash ever – near enough for a late night breakfast sandwich – atop a file cabinet.

    He slid a note under it reading “Not enough – try again.”

    The traps stopped.

    • #27
  28. Jason Rudert Member
    Jason Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    Fricosis Guy:Great post. A comment and two questions:

    • Do you notice a difference in the relative cleanliness of the men’s and women’s bathrooms?

    You didn’t ask me, but…

    The men’s room was always dirtier. But you’d expect that. What surprised me was that women had more trouble “hitting the target” than I ever would have imagined. Hovering maybe explains this? In which case it’s a reprehensible behavior, because it just causes the very sort of grossness you’re trying to avoid.

    • #28
  29. Mendel Inactive
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    Fricosis Guy:

    • Do you notice a difference in the relative cleanliness of the men’s and women’s bathrooms?

    The mens’ bathrooms tend to be dirtier – no surprise there.

    However, some women have a penchant for leaving used hygiene products in inopportune locations, instead of disposing them in the waste receptacles provided. For a male janitor, that is often more revolting than any untidiness the men might leave behind.

    The cleanest bathrooms I ever had were single unisex bathrooms in small office areas. Apparently, the possibility that your colleagues (including those of the other gender) might be able to identify who dirtied the bathroom keeps everyone on their best behavior.

    • #29
  30. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    I tended to find the women’s bathrooms to be cleaner and less messy…at least on the surface.

    Women would hide unsavory things in inappropriate places. Used…products…would be hidden in stalls or thrown into the least appropriate trash can.

    • #30

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.