All buildings require cleaning. It is integral for the protection and cleanliness of the structure and the health and safety of the occupants and visitors within them. Building cleanliness is based on the cleaning program for the building, including all provisions required to perform the cleaning procedures outlined in it, which include cleaning supplies, chemicals, materials, tools, and equipment.

Supplies—items that have a one-time use and then discarded, including paper products, liners, soap, etc.
Chemicals—formulations used to enhance cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting, and maintenance.
Materials—items that may be cleaned and reused multiple times and then discarded.
Tools—hand-held implements or devices that are to be reused and will remain part of the cleaning inventory.
Equipment—powered machinery.

Traditionally the custodial/janitorial closet is the area where these provisions are stored. The storage areas are generally small (hence the name “closet”), essentially with enough room for a deep sink or floor sink, a few shelves for supplies and materials, and enough storage for minimal tools and equipment. In many smaller buildings, the custodial/janitorial closet may actually be a converted clothes closet and, in severe cases, just space under a kitchen sink in a break room.

In larger buildings with multiple floors, there may be a small custodian/janitorial closet on each floor between the primary restrooms. There may also be an actual custodial/janitorial closet located on one floor for the entire building. The challenge for the cleaning service providers is that custodial/janitorial closets are often insufficient in quantity or inadequate in space. There is an apparent need for more knowledge and better planning, as well as thoughtful design and industry standards for custodial/janitorial closets (cleaning provision areas).

Although many buildings are equipped with adequate cleaning provision areas, either by design or modification, there are many more that are not. The purpose of this article is to identify some key factors to consider for cleaning provision areas when planning, designing, building, or remodeling.

Cleaning provision areas

Cleaning provision areas are often architecturally established based on the size and occupancy of the building. Square footage and tenancy only produce bulk numbers that may be misleading. For instance, open space is much different than compartmentalized space. Private commercial office space differs entirely from public education or health space. Each environment generates different types of soil and dirt, both externally and internally. All these variables influence the supplies, chemicals, materials, tools, and equipment needed to support the cleaning program, and by extension, the requirements for the cleaning provision area.

In all buildings, cleaning personnel perform a variety of tasks, which may require a wide assortment of provisions. To complete their jobs effectively and efficiently, they must have all the necessary items to perform the individual tasks in the cleaning program readily available and, when possible, conveniently located in the building. These provisions should be in areas that best suit the operational needs as well as the storage needs of the cleaning person(s).

Traditional custodial/janitorial closets in existing buildings may not have been designed to handle modern equipment and products used in the cleaning industry today. Manufacturers are continually developing new products that improve performance (effectiveness and efficiency) and are environmentally friendly, while reducing employee fatigue and improving safety. A variety of sizes of automatic scrubbing machines, portable extraction equipment, cylindrical brush machines, and vacuum cleaners have been redesigned to meet the cleanliness levels required in the interior environment. Microfiber mopping systems, pressurized surface cleaning systems, and robotics, unheard of just a few years ago, are now baseline components in building cleaning programs. As these innovations are adapted and integrated into the cleaning program, consideration must focus on how and where to monitor, manage, and store them.

However, buildings may have one or more custodial/janitorial closets containing cleaning provisions. There are essentially three types to be considered: Dry, wet, and office areas.

Dry cleaning provision areas: These are static areas with minimal activity and are more representative of true storage areas. These areas are usually used for stockpiling supply products such as paper towels, toilet paper, liners, and additional products that may be resupplied in smaller storage areas. They can also be dynamic areas when used for recharging areas for large equipment.
Wet cleaning provision areas: These are dynamic areas used for more than just storage of cleaning provisions. These areas may contain a deep sink or floor sink with spigots and/or proportioning systems for drawing water and mixing solutions. They may also be used to store janitorial carts/buckets, mop buckets and presses/wringers, microfiber systems, and other tools used routinely to perform cleaning tasks. Additionally, these areas may be used for monitoring, managing, and storing cleaning equipment.
Office cleaning provision areas: An office area may be required to monitor and maintain the cleaning program and schedule, as well as manage administration duties for the cleaning staff. Large buildings, complexes, and campuses generally have sizable cleaning staffs to clean and maintain them.

General requirements

Individual cleaning provision areas should be centrally located and easily accessed from a primary hallway. Regardless of the size of the building, all cleaning provision areas should be square or rectangular in shape to ensure equipment can be turned, prepared for service, cleaned, or stored easily within it.

Cleaning provision areas must provide for wet activity, dry activity, or administrative activity (when applicable). In large buildings, complexes, or campuses, wet and dry activity areas may be required independently or are combined. Additionally, an administrative activity space may be necessary for managing the cleaning program. When planning cleaning provision areas for new buildings, additions, or renovations, all cleaning program considerations should be entered into the analysis to determine the actual requirements.

Preferred location and area requirements

All cleaning provision areas should be centrally located in the vicinity where the cleaning tasks will be performed. In smaller buildings with multi-purpose (wet and/or dry) activity areas or larger buildings, complexes, or campuses, the space should be sufficient for the current provisions that each is intended to support.

Consideration should be given to additional capacity created for the potential expansion of the building or cleanable area. Cleaning provision areas should have a ventilation system to evacuate moisture or odors associated with cleaning equipment and chemicals.

Size requirements

Modern cleaning technologies (riding equipment, robotics, automatic scrubbing machines, etc.) should be considered in buildings to avoid being confronted with an inadequate cleaning provision area when such equipment is purchased.

All equipment will require cleaning, recharging, maintenance, and storage; therefore, considerable thought should be put into the current equipment being used and future equipment and technology that may be acquired. In addition to the size of the equipment, one must consider the quantity of equipment needed. A common-size cleaning provision area is approximately 15 feet wide by 20 feet in length, which may or may not be adequate.

Doorway and doors

The entrance into the cleaning provision areas should be wide enough to allow sufficient access to equipment and the cleaning provisions. Although commercial building codes dictate that door sizes range from 34 to 48 inches in width, standard commercial doors for cleaning provision areas should be a minimum width of 36 inches. Other environments, such as transportation, education, and health care, which use sizeable equipment for cleaning and maintenance may require wider openings.

All doors should open outwards and be equipped with built-in doorstops or devices for holding the door open. Cleaning provision area doors should have screens, slats, or louvers in them to help vent the space. The purpose is to allow airflow for ventilation systems or to facilitate the drying of tools and equipment, preventing odors and mildew.

Serious consideration should be given to doorway thresholds. For example, it needs to contain liquid spills in the cleaning provision area and prevent them from entering the hallway, while not interfering with the movement of equipment.

Walls and ceilings

Walls and ceilings should be of appropriate height so that a person can stand and freely use tools and equipment and not hit the ceiling. In addition, there should be wall space for hangers and storage (brooms, ladders, etc.).

Often, safety posters or regulations may require posting in the work area. These and other materials should be posted in unobstructed spaces. The walls also should be a surface that can be easily cleaned and disinfected.


Lighting should be bright enough to see everything in the cleaning provision location clearly. An automatic light or motion detector switch should be installed when possible. Overhead light fixtures should be high enough to avoid being struck by objects such as mop handles. When light fixtures are low with exposed bulbs, a cage or light protector should be installed for safety.


Each cleaning provision area should have a minimum of one standard electrical outlet box containing two or four female outlet connectors. Wet provision areas should be equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) regulating every outlet.

The electrical outlets are commonly used to recharge battery-powered tools and equipment or to clean the equipment and the room. Additional outlets may be required in larger cleaning provision areas. Ensure outlets are placed in accordance with all local, state, and federal electrical codes.

Shelving requirements

Each cleaning provision area will have various needs for shelf space. The shelving system used should have the flexibility to adjust the height of each shelf independently. In some situations, it may be desirable to have a portable shelving system that can be shifted and modified to meet the cleaning needs of the building.

Floor surface

The floor selection is contingent on the use of the cleaning provision area. The floor surface for the cleaning provision areas (wet or dry) should be sealed concrete, ceramic tile, quarry tile, or resilient flooring. If the cleaning provision area is an administrative cleaning office or a dry activity or storage room, then it may contain carpet as the flooring material, particularly if it is a temporary use area.

Specific requirements

These general requirements describe some basic standards that apply to all cleaning provision areas; however, there are specific necessities for each type of area. These prerequisites will be contingent on the activity that takes place in the cleaning provision area. In addition to these common essentials, there may be more particular requirements that are related to the unique environment of the building. The following are the specific requirements recommended for each type of cleaning provision area.

Wet provision areas
Wet provision areas are dynamic areas in which cleaning chemicals can be stored. Activities in these areas include preparation for cleaning services, as well as the cleaning of the tools and equipment after services take place. To perform these activities, wet provision areas should have hot and cold running water (with adequate water pressure) and a free-flowing drain. These cleaning provision areas should be centrally located in their service area to reduce the need for transporting equipment, tools, or solutions long distances. This will reduce transit time and the potential for possible spills or accidents.

The number of wet provision areas per floor may vary. There should be a minimum of one wet provision area per floor. Building floor areas over 20,000 gross square feet should have multiple wet provision areas. When multiple wet provision areas are located on the same floor, the floor area should be divided into equal segments. Each closet should be centrally located in its service area.

Every wet provision area should have a service sink. The size and location of the sink should support the cleaning of tools, including the mop buckets and draining equipment tanks. The edge of the sink is recommended to be approximately six inches above the finished floor. The walls near the sink area should be protected from splashes. This can be accomplished with ceramic tile, paint, a protective coating, or laminated composite material to function as a splash guard.

The sink area should have sufficient space to include a wall-mounted hanger rack over the service sink, with a minimum of four hangers to accommodate wet mops and tools. Additionally, adequate wall space for a chemical dispensing system should be over or near the service sink or water source.

It is recommended that one wall of the wet service area should be equipped with a shelving structure from floor to ceiling. Shelves should have a minimum depth to accommodate the standard size of a 12 x 1 quart case, which is 14.5 inches by 11 inches (11 inches high). It should also have a maximum width that does not interfere with the movement of equipment in the room. The shelving system should not be located behind the door.

Access doorways to the wet provision areas should be wide enough for all tools and equipment to fit through. The minimum door width for each wet provision area should be 36 inches wide or broader if more width is needed. All wet provision area doors should swing outward and be equipped with built-in doorstops or devices for holding the door open. Doorway thresholds should be made of water-resistant material and be of sufficient height to protect against water or solutions from seeping into the hallway.

Dry provision areas
Dry provision areas may be static areas (used for storage only) or dynamic areas (used for storage and other activities), and each plays a key role. Although single-level buildings may only have a single wet/dry provision area, multi-level buildings and campuses should have multiple wet and dry areas. In larger buildings, there may be a need to store additional supplies (e.g., paper towels, toilet paper, hand soap, etc.), which may require more storage space beyond the capacity of a typical wet or dry provision area.

Custodial office
Each building may need to have a custodial office. The custodial office should be located adjacent to a wet or dry provision area. This may need separation by a wall and a door. This would allow each space to serve independent purposes, as a separate provision area and an independent custodial office.

The custodial office should include either a built-in desk or sufficient room for a standard desk and a filing cabinet. It should also include sturdy shelving and sufficient room for staff lockers. Do not locate the shelves or lockers where they will conflict with the door(s).

The custodial office should include electrical outlets for computers and electronic equipment in approved locations. The design should consist of wall connections for computers, internet access, and phone service.

Cleaning provision areas summary

The intent of this document is to further define custodial closets as cleaning provision areas because it more closely describes their functions. This document identifies three primary areas (i.e., dry provision areas, wet provision areas, and custodial office areas). It also prescribes the preferred location and area requirements for each. This includes the recommended sizes, doorways, walls, ceilings, shelving, lighting, electrical, and flooring material requirements.

The intent is to bring awareness to building design as it relates to new facilities under construction or buildings being remodeled. In some cases, it all starts with the architectural drawings. The goal is to impact new building design, which affects the entire cleaning industry by highlighting the need for more effective and efficient cleaning provision areas and the activities they support. 

For more from Mark Bullen on custodial closet customization, tune into this recent Straight Talk! interview.

The post The Custodial Closet appeared first on ISSA.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *