Cleaner (Domestic and Commercial)

The Job and What's Involved

Cleaners work in a variety of settings, but there are two main differences that define the role. Some cleaners work in people's homes and are often referred to as domestic cleaners, while others work in commercial settings and may be referred to as commercial or industrial cleaners.

Domestic cleaners working in people's homes may be responsible for:

  • Cleaning the floors and vacuuming the carpets.
  • Cleaning and dusting the furniture.
  • Thoroughly cleaning individual rooms, such as kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Polishing silver or other valuable items.
  • Washing and ironing the employer's clothes.

They are likely to use a variety of equipment such as vacuum cleaners, brushes, washing machines and dishwashers.

Commercial cleaners may work in a variety of settings including offices, schools, hospitals, kitchens, factories, shops and clubs or forms of transport, such as aeroplanes and trains.

Commercial cleaners are responsible for creating and maintaining a safe, clean and hygienic environment for the people that use the space or building. They must ensure that the work is carried out to the highest standards and cleaners in hospitals, laboratories and food preparation areas must be particularly aware of the speed at which viruses can spread if they are not dealt with properly.

Commercial cleaners' daily activities are likely to include:

  • Placing warning signs to alert people to potential hazards, such as wet floors.
  • Emptying waste bins, bagging up rubbish and making sure it is disposed of properly.
  • Making sure the correct chemicals are used for each job.
  • Thoroughly cleaning specific areas, such as offices, toilets, changing rooms and kitchens.
  • Removing graffiti and chewing gum.
  • Working as a team to cover large areas.
  • Ensuring products and equipment are stored correctly and safely.
  • Monitoring levels of cleaning products and re-ordering when necessary.
  • Completing timesheets.

They are likely to use similar equipment to domestic cleaners, but it may be on a more industrial scale and include extra items, such as electric floor polishers and steam cleaners.

Domestic cleaners who work in large houses may be employed on a full-time basis, working between 35 and 40 hours each week. Others may undertake several part-time jobs in order to accumulate sufficient hours to be able to generate a full-time wage. Some domestic cleaners are paid directly by their employers, while others are employed and paid by an agency. Employment opportunities exist throughout the UK for both independent and agency employed domestic cleaners.

Commercial cleaners may work a standard number of hours each week, particularly if they work for an agency or run their own business. However, part-time work is very common. Commercial cleaners often work early in the morning, in the evening, at night or at the weekend, when buildings are generally quiet or empty. There is, however, a trend to create full-time opportunities to work during regular office hours. Shift work and part-time opportunities are widely available.

The work carried out by domestic and commercial cleaners can be physically demanding.

Some employers provide a uniform. Cleaners working with hazardous chemicals are provided with protective clothing, which may include facemasks, overalls and heavy-duty boots.

The starting salary for a full-time cleaner may be around £11,000 a year. More experienced cleaners or supervisors may earn around £15,000. Some highly experienced cleaners or specialized cleaners may earn £20,000 a year.

Many cleaners are paid an hourly rate, which may be negotiated with the employer. In areas where there is a shortage of reliable cleaning staff, they can earn over £10 an hour.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 450,000 people employed in the cleaning sector.

Opportunities exist across the UK, although a greater number of jobs exist in towns and cities. Staff turnover can be high and as a result there is a constant supply of new vacancies being advertised.

Vacancies are advertised in local newspapers, Connexions centres and Jobcentre Plus offices. Domestic cleaners often find work through word of mouth.

Education and Training

Cleaners do not need formal qualifications to start work, although numerical skills are helpful for measuring cleaning fluids and a reasonable level of literacy is necessary for understanding written instructions.

Apprenticeships in cleaning and support services may be available.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

A good character reference would be useful.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most commercial employers provide basic training covering the use of cleaning equipment, the cleaning standards that are expected and the importance of health and safety when handling cleaning products. Trainees may work with more experienced colleagues until they are familiar with the role.

Domestic cleaners are less likely to be offered formal training, unless they are employed by an agency.

There has been an overall move within the cleaning industry towards raising standards through increased employee training.

Employees may be encouraged to work towards the following qualifications:

  • QCF Levels 1 Certificate in cleaning and support services skills.
  • QCF Level 2 Diploma in cleaning and support services skills.
  • QCF Level 2 Certificate in cleaning principles.
  • VQ Level 2 in local environmental services.
  • The British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) Cleaning Operators Proficiency Certificate.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Domestic and commercial cleaners need to be:

  • Reliable, responsible and honest.
  • Fit and healthy.
  • Able to work unsupervised or as part of a team.
  • Able to follow verbal and written instructions.
  • Able to work quickly and efficiently.
  • Able to work to consistently high standards.
  • Able to comply with health and safety regulations.

Your Long Term Prospects

The City & Guilds (C&G) Level 3 Diploma in cleaning services supervision may provide opportunities for promotion. Industrial cleaners working with small employers may have to consider moving to larger companies in order to increase their chances of promotion.

Experienced cleaners may become self-employed and set up their own business. Alternatively, they may move into another related field of work, such as caretaking, building maintenance or assistant facilities management roles.

Get Further Information

British Cleaning Council Ltd,
478-480 Salisbury House,
London Wall, London EC2M 5QQ
Tel: 0207 920 9640

The British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc),
9 Premier Court, Boarden Close, Moulton Park, Northampton NN3 6LF
Tel: 01604 678710

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