Career Profiles Database
Cleaners are responsible for cleaning the inside of all types of buildings and transport.
Some cleaners specialise in certain types of cleaning, for example:
- cleaning carpets and upholstery
- stripping and re-sealing hard floor coverings
- cleaning premises where food is prepared
- industrial cleaning of new buildings
- cleaning of passenger vehicles
- high level cleaning using either ladders or mobile access equipment
- cleaning delicate equipment
- clearing up after fires, floods or building work
- trauma and crime scene cleaning.
The methods and equipment they use depend on the cleaning task. They include:
- domestic equipment such as brushes and mops
- pressure washers
- steam and sandblasting equipment
- powered machines for cleaning and polishing large floor areas
- other specialist equipment
- solvents and other chemicals are used.
Cleaners need to know which cleaning chemical to use for each task, and to follow safety procedures, for example when using potentially dangerous solvents to remove graffiti, oils, etc.
Cleaners may have to carry out some simple maintenance of the equipment they use and check the stock levels of cleaning materials.
Hours and Environment
As a cleaners you may have to work when buildings are closed for normal activities, for example, in the evenings, early morning, or at weekends. You could work part-time or on a casual basis. However, the number of full-time jobs is increasing. Full-time cleaners work 35 to 40 hours a week. Overtime may be available.
You may work alone or in a team.
Depending on the job, you might clean the same area every day or go to different sites, especially if you are a specialist cleaner or supervisor who might visit teams of cleaners working on different contracts. In this case you will usually need a driving licence.
Skills and Interests
To be a cleaner you should:
- be able to read job and safety instructions
- have numeracy skills, for measuring out cleaning fluids
- be reasonably physically fit, as the work is very active
- be honest, trustworthy and reliable
- be self-motivated and responsible
- be able to work alone without supervision or as part of a team
- be aware of the importance of following health and safety procedures and regulations.
You do not need any educational qualifications to become a cleaner. Each employer will set their own requirements.
For jobs involving trauma scene cleaning, or contact with hazardous waste such as sharps and syringes, you will need vaccinations against Hepatitis B and C.
You may be able to get into this job through an apprenticeship scheme. Funding for apprenticeships is available for 16-24 year olds and some over-25s. To find out more, visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
Your training may be on or off the job. Most companies have initial training programmes, covering:
- health and safety
- how to use cleaning equipment and materials
- how to identify suitable equipment and materials for different tasks.
You will receive specialist training for some types of cleaning, for example trauma scene cleaning or dealing with hazardous waste.
You may be able to work towards a qualification, such as:
- NVQ/SVQ Level 1 in Cleaning and Support Services
- NVQs/SVQs Level 2 in Cleaning and Support Services with options in Building Interiors; Carpets and Soft Furnishings; Food Premises; Windows: Glass and Façade Surfaces and Passenger Transport
- The British Institute of Cleaning Sciences (BICS) Cleaning Operators' Proficiency Certificate; Food Premises Cleaning Certificate; or Car Valeting Certificate.
If you are in a supervisory position you can work towards the City and Guilds Certificate in Cleaning Services Supervision, or the Level 3 Diploma in Cleaning Services Supervision.
You can keep a record of all of the training and skills you build up throughout your career with the Pathway Card, an electronic CV for cleaners and support staff in the cleaning industry. The Pathway Card has been developed by Asset Skills, the British Institute of Cleaning Sciences (BICS) and the Cleaning and Support Services Association (CSSA) and the British Cleaning Council (BCC). It is useful for showing your abilities when you are changing jobs or looking for career progression. You can find out more from Asset Skills or from the Pathway Card website. See Further Information for contact details.
There is a constant demand for cleaners all over the United Kingdom. Vacancies are advertised in the local press and at jobcentres.
Most cleaners working in premises such office blocks and hospitals, are employed by cleaning contractors, although some organisations prefer to employ their own staff. Some companies specialise in particular types of cleaning, such as house and squat clearance, clearing up after fires, floods or building work, or trauma scene cleaning.
Prospects are good if you want to progress to supervisory and management level. Another option would be to become a specialist in a particular aspect of cleaning, or set up your own cleaning business.
The annual income section is intended as a guideline only.
Part-time cleaners are usually paid by the hour. Some receive the National Minimum rate.
Full-time cleaners could earn between £10,000 and £12,000 a year.
Earnings are higher for supervisors and specialist cleaners.
Rates of pay may be higher in the south and south-east of England.