skip to Main Content

Porter, Janitor, Custodian – Oh My!


Janitorial and custodial services are often used interchangeably, but are they truly the same? The answer is no. Here is a brief overview of each role and why it’s important to understand the distinction.


The word custody oddly enough can mean imprisonment but can also mean to be in protective care, and it’s second meaning applies to custodians in facility services maintenance or building maintenance industry. A custodian is generally in charge of taking care of the building in which they work. Depending on the size of the building and the nature of its use, the scope of the custodian can be quite diverse. Tasks range from doing handyman repairs, tracking scheduled maintenance on equipment to giving the building a fresh coat of paint. Hiring for these positions can be tough, because you’re looking for a jack-of-all trades – someone who is competent in doing many different things. Personality wise, you will want someone that’s not only able to juggle multiple tasks and work independently, but also to be able to liaise with people across all levels of the organization. Skillful custodians are a rare find because their trades are in high demand and unless the size of your building warrants it you might be better off outsourcing this service.


A janitor in contrast to a custodian is usually solely focused on cleaning the building. Janitorial cleaners can be part of a team while custodians may not. Cleaning and upkeep are the focus, and their tasks usually include removing trash. Many times the janitorial crew comes in after hours as to not disrupt the office workers when they mop or empty trash cans. Depending on the scope of the cleaning, they can be a large team or simply working by themselves. Overall they’re only in the building for a couple of hours and at times can cover multiple buildings or clients during a shift. The skillset of janitors makes it an easier role to fill. However, because there is not direct oversight – after all, most janitors have left for the day when you begin your work day – it requires a different management skillset than a custodian. Janitors also tend to have a second cleaning job and the turnover of staff can be high due to odd working hours.


Porters are a bit different than a custodian or a janitor. A porter is someone who spends part of – or all of – their day assisting with the operations of a building. Their day usually includes maintaining the cleanliness of restrooms, staff kitchen and the breakroom, to making coffee, checking-in visitors to running small errands. In short, a day porter can perform cleaning tasks but assist with other housekeeping activities. A day porter can do wonders if you have a building with a lot of foot traffic and you need someone to keep the place presentable in between nightly cleaning. Intraday disinfection of high touch point areas to minimize the risk of COVID-19 is a perfect task that can be made part of the day porter’s repertoire.

Finding the Right Mix Between Custodial and Janitorial Services

When you are looking to satisfy your building maintenance needs, your first step is understanding the differences between a janitor, a custodian and a porter. The second step is to figure out which role fits best best with each of your business needs. The third step is to figure out whether you aim to have one person satisfy the needs you have identified or whether it’s best to have multiple specialists to cover your needs. Lastly, and most importantly, are you intending to manage this yourself or are you better off hiring a competent facilities services management company to handle this for you.

Don’t stress! When you’re recruiting for the position or trying to find the right facilities services management company that specializes in these services, System4 can help! System4 is a national facilities services management company with over 65 locations nationwide specializing in commercial cleaning, disinfection services and repair and maintenance services. System4 is your one-point-of-contact for all of your services needs! Our vast network of experienced, vetted service providers is well prepared to meet your building’s unique needs.

Contact System4 Facilities Services Management today to learn more about our services and ServiceSync, a cloud-base work order management software that is provided to all clients for scheduled service requests and preventative maintenance needs – at no additional cost!

Back To Top