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Being a cleaner in The Netherlands: coping with the dirty work stigma

Jorcho van Vlijmen (Faculty of Economics and Management, HAN University of Applied Sciences, Nijmegen, The Netherlands)


ISSN: 0263-2772

Article publication date: 15 February 2019

Issue publication date: 8 March 2019



This study aims to explore what it is like to be a cleaner in the Netherlands. Drawing on the dirty work theory, it answers the question of how cleaners in the Netherlands cope with the dirty work stigma.


This study used a qualitative approach: 24 cleaners were interviewed and the researcher participated in a three-month cleaning course. By doing so, an insiders’ perspective was taken. Drawing upon the dirty work theory, a thematic analysis was made.


Cleaners take great pride in their work, but because of their social invisibility, they are not recognized by the people they work for, and they fail in being proud of themselves. This has moral consequences since cleaners start doubting whether they are seen as equal. Eventually, cleaners have an ambivalent relationship with their job.

Practical implications

Given the moral consequences, FM practitioners and researchers should take these findings into account. As FM value is dependent on the quality of the relations between FM and its stakeholders (e.g. cleaners), FM is challenged to think about its responsibilities toward cleaners and other dirty workers in its context.


There is not much research done in cleaning. The research that is done focuses on efficiency and organization of cleaning. Only little research focuses on the cleaner, an insiders’ perspective is scarce.



van Vlijmen, J. (2019), "Being a cleaner in The Netherlands: coping with the dirty work stigma", Facilities, Vol. 37 No. 5/6, pp. 280-291.



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