What Does a Custodian Do?

A supermarket custodian keeps the store clean and in good order.
Custodians provide maintenance support for public buildings.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 April 2014
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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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