Photo Essay: A night in the life of an office cleaner

Jason E Kaplan
Professional cleaner Danica Garcia grew up in Las Vegas where night owls are the norm.

Ever wondered about the people who clean the office after you go home?

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The following photo essay is part of a weekly series, ‘Working the night shift.’ OB photographer Jason E Kaplan follows the people who keep the state’s largest city running through the night.

After you finish your work for the day and shut down your computer, have you ever wondered where the trash goes?  Why is the recycling bin empty the next morning? Do you think of the people who keep your cubical from becoming inundated with trash?  

When the office workers knock off, the office cleaners go to work.  Often alone and in the dark of night, this workforce keeps the carpets clean and the toilets scrubbed.  


Danica Garcia has worked for PDX Cleaning for about a year and a half.  Though she is now a supervisor she still spends between 25 and 30 hours a week cleaning.  I met up with her one night in mid-December to see how she tidies a small office in Northwest Portland.  


Though she spends much of her time emptying wastebaskets and wiping counters, 29-year-old Garcia says she has three bachelor’s degrees in hotel and gaming management.

When I ask Garcia what she likes most about cleaning she immediately says “the people.”  I’m surprised by this answer as I had always thought of cleaning as a solitary occupation.  She explains that they often work in teams and that she really enjoys time with her co-workers.  She also interacts with the other staff due to her supervisory duties.  


Garcia says that she also enjoys her time working alone.  “I can come in, clean, turn music on and turn myself off to the world for a little bit.”  


Garcia says she usually starts her day around 4:30 p.m or 5:00 p.m.  “I’m used to working at night.  I usually worked swing and graveyard in Vegas. I prefer nights to mornings.”  

Knowing this isn’t true for everyone she tells me that a lot of cleaning takes place during the day.  “The owner knows us and puts us where we’ll succeed.  She knows I’m single and a night owl and will do well at night.”


When it’s time to clean the office’s one toilet, Garcia surprises me by reaching into the bowel with her bare hand to scrub.  She explains that gloves just hold the water against your skin and toilet brushes don’t really work.  

“When we interview people we ask them how they feel about reaching into a toilet,” she says.  



It’s a luxury to have things get cleaned at night while you’re at home, but it only happens due to the labor of countless professionals working late into the night.  While one part of the city sleeps, another group gets busy.