Maintaining Custodial Closets

Don't neglect the windows into your cleaning operation

Maintaining Custodial Closets

We’ve all heard the cliché, “What you see is what you get.” Whether or not it’s true, there is no arguing that perceptions matter. This goes for the appearance of all parts of your facility, especially your custodial closets.
Your custodial closets are like windows into your cleaning operation. Building owners, occupants, and visitors will use what they see to form opinions about you, your team, and how effectively you are cleaning.

To cite another cliché, “Seeing is believing.” Regardless of what you say, what people see is what they are most likely to believe, and first impressions matter.

What do your closets say?

The following are assumptions that onlookers might make based on the condition of your custodial closets.

  • Clean or dirty. Suppose your custodial closets are dirty and/or have a malodor. How can you expect stakeholders to believe that you are creating a clean, safe, and healthy environment elsewhere? The answer is they won’t. While the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need to clean for health, appearance still matters when convincing people that your facility is clean and safe.
  • Organized or chaotic. Does a peek inside your closets reveal a well-organized cleaning operation thanks to the orderly way the custodial supplies, tools, and equipment are stored and the room’s overall tidiness? Or does it portray a sense of chaos where products can easily be confused and overlooked, leading to safety issues and unnecessary product expenditures?
  • Controlled or lax. Workers in a well-controlled operation inventory and label cleaning products. If no one is tracking product usage or maintenance schedules, what else might be allowed to go unchecked?
  • Attentive or lazy. Nothing showcases a lack of attention to detail—and safety—like product labels with past-due expiration dates.
  • Health conscious or uncaring. The custodial closets of an operation concerned for the health and safety of its cleaning staff, facility occupants, and visitors are filled with green products certified by respected organizations, such as Green Seal, UL ECOLOGO, and/or Safer Choice. Better still, it houses products with dual certification, including those approved by UL GREENGUARD for their minimal impact on indoor air quality. Conversely, closets filled with harsh, often toxic chemicals convey that the health and safety of your workers, building occupants, and visitors are unimportant.
  • Sustainably minded or unconcerned. In addition to the green certifications listed above, an operation concerned about being more sustainable has additional certifications, such as through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) BioPreferred program. The custodial closets display minimal ready-to-use (RTU) and large free-pour, easily spilled and splashed products in a facility where sustainability is a priority. Instead, it features concentrated products diluted with closed-loop dispensers that eliminate the potential for human exposure and indoor air contamination while reducing waste.

Rolling in the pathogens

Unfortunately, the problems of ill-kept custodial closets do not stop at the door. Not only are your custodial closets a window into your cleaning operation, but they also can be a significant source of pathogen transmission.

A lot has been written recently in the various ISSA media vehicles on the number of pathogens found on floors, which often outweigh other heavily used surfaces such as door handles, desks, and even toilet seats and handles. These articles and webinars have addressed how pathogens accumulate and are transmitted from floors to people and high-touch points, as well as into the air.

Suppose the floors of the custodial closets and thereby the wheels of the carts, buckets, and auto scrubbers stored there—as well as the soles of the custodians’ shoes—are dirty and pathogen-loaded. These tools and workers are spreading pathogens throughout the facility with each use and task. They also are picking up additional pathogens from the floors and other surfaces they touch and bringing them back into the custodial closets.

Eliminating this potentially dangerous two-way pathogen transmission is as easy as ensuring your custodial closet floors, equipment, and supplies are regularly cleaned, as well as disinfected in certain settings such as health care facilities.

You can’t expect people to have a favorable impression of your cleaning capabilities for a large facility if they see you and your team can’t keep your custodial closets clean, organized, safe, and healthy

Watch the related StraightTalk! episode “What’s the Condition of YOUR Custodial Closet?” with Mike Sawchuk and ISSA Media Director Jeff Cross.


Posted On October 10, 2022

Mike Sawchuk

Mike Sawchuk of Sawchuk Consulting shows BSCs, in-house facility service providers, manufacturers, and distributors in the professional cleaning industry how to  improve their outcomes with insightful, pragmatic solutions. He can be reached at 905-932-6501, via LinkedIn at, or at

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