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The development and history of building cleaning

How it all started

With the urbanization 50,000 years ago, man began to clean his home (cave) environment. In caves there were collection points for rubbish, mostly bones of killed animals.

The first cleaners

Even the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians kept “cleaning staff” so as not to have to clean their houses/villas themselves. In later times, it was then called service personnel, which still exist today.

The professional beginning


The Belgian chemist and entrepreneur Ernest Solvay creates the basis for cost-effective glass production with his development of the so-called Solvay process (also known as ammonia-soda- process).


The first glass cleaning company on the floor of today’s Federal Republic of Germany is founded by the Frenchman Marius Moussy with the name “French Cleaning Institute” in Berlin. From this point on, the glass cleaning industry grew steadily and by the end of the 19th century, other fields of activity such as facade cleaning, wood floor and parquet cleaning, maintenance cleaning, transport cleaning, guard and closing services as well as pavement and street cleaning were added.


The former acquirer of Marius Moussy, Robert Staehr became self-employed with the cleaning institute Steahr and Co., which quickly developed into the first large company with branches in London, Vienna, Wroclaw and New York. At weddings before the outbreak of World War I, about 1,500 employees worked for Robert Steahr.

Development during World War I


During the First World War, almost all male workers in the cleaning industry were drafted into the army or obliged to work in companies of important armaments. It is replaced by the women who work as company managers and glass cleaners.

From the foundation to the recognition of the building cleaner trade


In Hanover, the first inn for the glass cleaning industry was founded.


The Reich Association of Glass and Building Cleaners is founded, whose first chairman Clemens Kleine is elected. A year earlier, the latter published the first specialist book for the trade of the building cleaner.


With the takeover of power by the National Socialists, the craft sector is reorganized by the introduction of compulsory inns. All craftsmen are obliged to join an inn.


The government publishes a list of the trades to which this provision applies. The building cleaners are also listed here and are thus recognized as a full craftsmanship for the first time. The board of directors of the inn, which are connected to the same, must consist in the majority of members of the NSDAP. The Reich Association, the glass and building cleaner inn, was dissolved after the Reich-wide recognition as a craft. With the recognition of the profession of building cleaner as a craftsman, building cleaners and masters are trained.

Development during World War II


Almost all men have to do their military service either on the weapon or in the companies of the armaments industry. As during the First World War, women are increasingly being admitted to cleaning, but are not allowed to clean on public roads. The air war leads to the destruction of numerous buildings. Many companies cease their activities as a matter of this.

Development after the Second World War

After the Second World War, Germany splits into the Western and Eastern Zones. After the founding of the GDR and the Federal Republic of Germany, the development of the building cleaner also proceeded differently.

Development since reunification


With the reunification of East and West Germany on October 3rd, the first inns in the new Federal States are founded.


On 1 September, the old Vocational Training Ordinance of 1973 is replaced. The training period is extended again to 3 years.


In January, the building cleaner trade is introduced as the 33rd craft in the new “Plant B1” of the unlicensed crafts of the new Crafts Ordinance. This eliminates the master’s duty. The direct result is an increase in the number of holdings within four years from just under 6,900 (2003) to just over 28,000 (2007). This corresponds to a quadrupling of the number of companies, while the number of cleaners actually decreases slightly during this time.


On 9 March, the German Bundestag decides that the building cleaner industry will be included in the provisions of the Workers’ Act. This means that around 848,000 industrial workers are entitled to a minimum wage.

November 2017

On November 10, 2017, the two collective bargaining parties Industrial Union Bauen-Agrar-Environment (IG BAU) and the Federal Association of Building Cleaners (BIV) agreed that for the first time wages in East and West will be fully aligned on 01.12.2020.