Frederica Palmer | Contributing Writer | Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Realities Of Being A Uni Campus Cleaner

The Realities Of Being A Uni Campus Cleaner

The Debrief: When you’re a cleaner it’s kind of a given that you’re going to see some pretty foul sights – including (but not restricted to) a girl passed out in her own puke.

My flatmate’s first night at university ended with her being woken up at 6am by the campus cleaners after she passed out in the union bogs wearing nothing more than her underwear and a blanket of vomit. As she stumbled back home to halls, the poor women who found her were left to deal with the mess she had charmingly left behind. 

When we were at university none of us really gave a second thought to the unfortunate souls hired to clean up after us - and normally the state of our halls were so bad even Kim and Aggy would have walked away. But is being a campus cleaner as bad as we imagine? And are there any perks to the job? 

We decided to find out about the realities of being a campus cleaner by speaking to 22-year-old Lillie Swift, who spent two summers as a member of the Brighton campus cleaning crew (represent). 

1. You will (literally) sign your life away

Cleaning seems like a relatively straightforward and hazard free job, right? Well, that shows what we know. 'We had to undertake extensive training on our first day and at the end we had to sign a contract basically saying we were signing our lives away!' Lillie explains. 

'It was because we had to use this product called sumo-grill extra, it’s a really strong oven cleaner and when we used it we had to wear gloves that went up to our arms and full tabards and goggles and facemasks! There were all sorts of horror stories about people who had got it on their arm and had it burn right through their skin.'

2. But you’ll leave with a whole new (and free) wardrobe

Lillie ended the summer with essentially a whole new wardrobe after nabbing all of the clothes people had left behind. 'The official rule was you weren’t allowed to take anything, but we ran an underground finders-keepers policy. Whenever you got the key to a new flat everyone would run and steal whatever they could find,' she says. 'During my first year working, one guy managed to swipe a PS3 and an apple mac laptop!' 

3. And maybe even a boyfriend

Of all the places to find love you wouldn’t expect it to be when you’re on your hands and knees scrubbing a shitty toilet – but cupid works in mysterious ways: 'Two of the cleaners I worked with got together on a drunken night out and started having sex in the campus beds before cleaning them. They’re still together now!' Must be true love, hey?   

4. You will lose all faith in human beings 

When you’re a cleaner it’s kind of a given that you’re going to see some pretty foul sights – such as a girl passed out in her own puke. Turns out us humans can get a whole lot nastier than that. 

'The first bedroom I ever cleaned was literally covered in a layer of thick ginger hair - it wouldn’t even go up the hoover. Jizzy tissues and used condoms under the beds were a common occurrence as well,' says Lillie. Things get worse though, guys. 'The worst room I ever cleaned was probably one that had bogies and blood all up the walls! There was also a crusted brown layer of vomit in the bathroom sink.' Lovely. 

5. But nothing will ever be as bad as the communal kitchen 

'Nearly all of the kitchens had maggots in because people just left their bins out and we wouldn’t get to them for a good two weeks,' explains Lillie. 'The fridge was the worst thing to clean though! People would leave food in there and then it would stink when we turned it off to clean!  The bottom layer would be like a seeping pool of bin juice and floating bacon.'

6. Napping on the job was a frequent occurrence 

None of us like working with a hangover – but imagine having to clean up a strangers sick whilst trying to hold back your own. 'We actually used to take it in shifts to have naps if we’d all been out the night before. If you were lucky the flat you were assigned would actually be fairly clean so you could take a four hour nap and just tell your boss it was an absolute dump,' Lillie reveals.

7. Cleaner-Crew wars are a thing

'Your mum’s so ugly even cillit wouldn’t bang her!’ - No I’m totally joking, that’s not actually what the cleaning wars were like. 'The full-time cleaners hated us, we had a bit of beef with them,' Lillie confesses. 'I think they thought they should get first dibs on anything left behind! I remember they reported us for slacking off once and we had the super nanny of the cleaning world come in and observe us for a day – that was horrible!'

8. But they can be fun

'We used to play pranks on each other - the worst would be using the toilet just after someone had properly cleaned it. You’d either get told off for not doing a proper job or get on your knees and literally clean that person’s shit,' says Lillie.

Sure, being a campus cleaner certainly isn’t the most glamourous of jobs going – but walking away with a free apple mac computer sure as hell beats the occasional free pint you’ll get from working behind the union bar. 

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Tags: University