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What does a Custodian do?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Custodians are people responsible for the maintenance and care of animals, buildings, or people. While the term can be used to identify a wide range of professional duties and positions, it is most often applied to people who provide cleaning and maintenance support for public buildings such as schools, apartment houses, or office buildings. When used in this manner, the function of the custodian is essentially that of a janitor with a few additional responsibilities.

Providing custodial care normally requires a successful candidate to possess a number of different skills. Building custodians often are proficient with handling minor repairs, such as unclogging water pipes, replacing light fixtures and installing carpeting. Along with these types of maintenance jobs, a custodian is also likely to oversee or perform general cleaning in the common areas of the building. With schools and office buildings, the custodian is also likely to perform tasks like cleaning restrooms, washing windows, and keeping heating and cooling systems operational.

Employment as a custodial care employee may not require a high school diploma. For example, custodian jobs at small apartment buildings may be less concerned with formal education and more focused on proficiency with handling plumbing issues and keeping the basic services offered to tenants in good working order. As long as the candidate can demonstrate the ability to handle minor issues and keep tenants happy, the lack of formal training and education may be overlooked altogether.

Other types of custodial careers will require the successful completion of high school and possibly more. With hospitals, schools, and office buildings, training at a technical school in such disciplines as wiring, plumbing and general building maintenance are often very desirable qualities. In addition, a school custodian must usually pass a background check, to make sure there is no criminal activity involving abuse of children.

Along with building maintenance, custodians may also be given responsibility for other tasks. An animal custodial care professional will be charged with the task of making sure animals in a zoo or other facility are taken care of properly. This can include overseeing tasks such as feeding, the maintenance of a favorable environment for each animal and protecting the animal from harm.

Custodians are also sometimes appointed to oversee the care and well-being of other human beings when they are unable to take care of themselves. In this capacity, the custodian will take on the task of arranging and providing ongoing health care, managing the financial affairs of the individual and in general managing any needs of the individual. Custodians of this type may be appointed by a court or hired by a client for a short or long period, based on the circumstances.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including Practical Adult Insights, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By Viranty — On May 04, 2014

@Euroxati - Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. I'll even admit that I've been guilty of doing this. For example, there have been times where I'm at the movie theater, and when the show ends, instead of throwing my popcorn away, I leave it for the janitors to take care of.

On another note, I've seen others do this myself. If someone spills or drops something on the floor, they might be a bit hesitant to pick it up, because it's the janitor's "job". While it may not be one of the best positions, I still feel that it's underappreciated. Sure, it's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

By Euroxati — On May 03, 2014
Does anyone else feel that people often take care of custodians/janitors?
By Chmander — On May 02, 2014

Depending on what kind of position as a custodian you have, it can be really tough work, and you can't be afraid to get dirty. For example, during my years at college, there were several custodians I knew who worked the night shift. Sometimes I would ask them how their job went. They simply responded by telling me that it's a job. Nothing more, nothing less. I guess that's the thing about positions like these. It's not always about what's (un)enjoyable, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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