I have noticed that the new custodian in our workplace often mops our floors with dirty water. The water in the mop bucket is usually dark and it sometimes smells bad. I have never seen him stop mopping to go and get new water in his portable mop bucket.

He is real nice guy with a good sense of humor and he often has me and my coworkers laughing with jokes or humorous stories about things and people. I would like to stay on his good side and not get him in trouble with his manager. Yet, I also am disgusted by having to walk across a dirty, unsanitary floor that is likely covered with germs and who knows what else.

I am conflicted with whether I should confront him directly to try to convince him to change the mop water more often, or if it would be better to do something like writing an anonymous letter and leaving it on the desk of his manager and let him address it.

How should I let the custodian know that he needs to stop mopping our floors with dirty water?

  • 6
    In our old building the custodians would, for want of a proper mop sink/custodial closet, dump the water from mopping the bathrooms into the breakroom kitchen sink so, you know, it could be worse.
    – vir
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 19:03
  • 3
    Unless you're doing his job, or have ever done his job, then you have no idea what is actually happening. Is he really mopping with dirty water or is that the waste that he's mopping up after applying clean water or cleaning solution? My recommendation would be for you to "keep your eyes on your own paper", meaning you should mind your own business and make sure that you're doing your own job correctly.
    – joeqwerty
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 19:32
  • 1
    @DarkCygnus May I suggest making an answer as a frame challenge to the assumption that the custodian isn't doing their job correctly? Commented May 26, 2023 at 20:50
  • @AndrewRay I was hesitant because it was indirectly covered by other answers, but given that you ask and have an upvote... let's a-go!
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 2:28
  • @AndrewRay done (pruning my comments here as to avoid answering in comments).
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 2:39

4 Answers 4


I'd pass this observation to whoever has responsiblity for him in your company -- his manager if it's in house, the folks who contract out building services if it's hired -- minus your personal reactions, in as non-judgemental a form as you can manage, and let them decide whether they want to talk to him about what he's doing and how. They may, upon consideration, decide that he's doing it correctly; in that case all you can do is live with it. Or it may get altered in the direction you wish.

Remember that this is a semi-public, non-food-preparing space. It simply isn't going to be cleaned to the same standards you might hold your home to. But it sounds like it can be made better.

Beyond that: It isn't your job, it isn't your responsibility, mention it and let it go.

  • 3
    "It isn't your job, it isn't your responsibility, mention it and let it go." - ... and focus on your job instead. I would also add that OP should verify that they are not misunderstanding the situation before bringing this up (as I mentioned in comments, that water is the water squeezed out of the mop, not the liquid used to disinfect the floors).
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 17:26
  • Very true, @DarkCygnus.
    – keshlam
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 20:21
  • By the way, I agree with others that the querant is probably misreading the situation. But I trust that is so, management will come to the same conclusion and ignore the report. It won't be the first time someone has made an unreasonable request, I'm sure, and it will probably get a standard answer equivalent to "we'll look into it, now go away and stop wasting our time."
    – keshlam
    Commented May 31, 2023 at 13:43

Yet, I also am disgusted by having to walk across a dirty, unsanitary floor that is likely covered with germs and who knows what else.

Frankly, the floor is already covered in germs without someone scrubbing the floor with new towels every time. Are you sure you aren't expecting gold plated treatment?

Have you ever used a mop and bucket in a commercial facility? Mops pretty much always smell rancid because they stay wet and bucket water does not take much to be dark. Plus solid residues picked up by the mop settle in the bucket and won't dump out with the water. The buckets needs to be turned on its side or upside down and actively sprayed to get those out. Those residues also quickly make the water dark again. I doubt the janitor is paid enough or given enough time to do that.

So to get what you seem to want, the janitor needs to pressure washer the bucket and launder the mop each time. Or run around with a pair of buckets. One for clean water and one for waste water. You could argue he could do that in theory but, in all honesty, it's probably not worth the effort. See below.

When I need to mop the floor at the machine shop the water is opaque after about 5 squeezes. If you're in an office building it would probably be more but still amount to changing the water every ten minutes.

I've mopped a lot of oil and if you've never mopped, you may be expecting too much. But you would be surprised how much oil on the ground you can mop up with a bucket of water with degreaser in it. Forget how bad the water looks, that oil does not look or feel like it ends up up back on the ground as long as their is enough degreaser and water in the bucket to sufficiently dilute the oil every time you dunk the mop and squeeze it dry.

Remember, you're cleaning a public floor. Not dishes or inside your home. Set your expectations. Mopping in commercial buildings is not meant to get the floor clean. They're meant to stop the floor from getting too dirty. I'm a bit surprised they mop so often to be honest. Usually only sweeping is really required. Mopping is for mud, snow, grease, and grime.

  • I don’t think it’s asking too much for a custodian to refill the water in his mop bucket after every X number of square feet of flooring that he mops. Water is not that expensive and it takes what, about three minutes to dump out and refill a typical size mop bucket? I think a lot of custodians just want to mop a floor as fast as possible so they can go on to other tasks.
    – user57467
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 2:47
  • 5
    @user57467 Try it yourself a few times and I guarantee you will change your mind. I know I did and I only take care of a 20ft x 20ft space. For myself. That I work in. Not for other people. Remember that water that disgusts you so much just from looking at it in the bucket? That's 3 minutes of getting up close and personal with it many times throughout the day with a rather insignificant change in the results. I'm not saying it's impossible for the water to be too dirty, but that level is probably more than you think if you haven't mopped before.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 3:00
  • 2
    @user57467 It's probably also more difficult to gauge how dirty is too dirty for water full of dirt. It's a lot easier for oil since you can feel it on the ground before you can see it. But let me tell you, it's surprisingly high. It can be an opaque gray or brown milk and still work.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented May 27, 2023 at 3:01
  • 1
    @user57467 maybe 3 minutes to change the water, but if you want the mop properly clean add another 5-10 (assuming there are good facilities for mop cleaning). But you're right, many people just want to mop asap and get on with their tasks. The best cleaners double mop, the second mop with a clean mop and water.
    – Kilisi
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 2:00

You have 4 options.

  1. Tell the guy.

  2. Tell HR or whoever is in charge of him.

  3. Mop your area yourself.

  4. Take the mop bucket, empty it and fill it with clean water for him.

I've done 1, 3 & 4 at various times because like you I'm not interested in getting the guy in trouble, but I am interested in a clean and healthy work area. My current position, I sweep and mop my office and workshop myself whenever I feel it needs it, which takes me a few minutes.

If they don't appeal to you, then go with number 2 or don't complain about it.

  • 5. Ask him if he can give you top tier service and then give him cash. Legality depending on jurisdiction and circumstances, of course. In some situations this may be a bribe or facilitation payment, or just a tip.
    – David S
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 20:05

This answer is a frame-challenge.

How should I let the custodian know that he needs to stop mopping our floors with dirty water?

First of all, with all due respect, mind your own business. Unless it's your job to manage counselors, then you should not be worried about this, nor have to "bring this up" to anybody.

Then, I doubt (and hope) that you don't watch what this person is doing during all of your work hours, so you don't know what he does when you are not looking. Chances are this person goes somewhere to empty the dirty water and refill it or do whatever their job entails doing.

Now, I happen to know a bit about mopping and am a keen observer, so here goes the core of my answer:

Make sure you are not misunderstanding the situation before taking any actions... That dirty water is what's squeezed out of the mop (so the mop is cleaner and can proceed mopping), not what they use to clean the floor...

If you see carefully, that dirty water is the water that is squeezed out of the mop, but (in all the places I've seen) they actually mop the floor with disinfectant or another chemical (not the reused, dirty water). Sometimes they carry a spray with them with such liquid which is the thing they actually pour on the floor (I usually see purple liquids, those have lavender odor, or the yellow/green one that smells like citric fruits, or I've even seen people mop floors with chlorine water).

When mopping, you apply chemical and/or cleaner water, mop the floor, and now and then you have to squeeze it (the mop) with that mop-cleaning-device...

Then you mention in comments:

[...] the water is not dark due to having a dark-colored chemical in it, but rather it is dark because of what the mop has picked up. The water is not giving off a chemical smell, but rather a rancid smell which is usually indicative of very dirty water

Precisely my point. That water is the residue of what is squeezed of the mop.

Now, if the custodian is not using any cleaning liquid/ detergent whatever you call it, and is actually just "cleaning" the floor with (reused) water, then that is indeed something to address with their manager.

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