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Britain's dirtiest jobs

Rachel Burge for

If you think your job stinks, spare a thought for the toilet cleaners, sewer workers, pest control experts, refuse collectors and specialist clean-up teams who face grime on a grand scale. It's dirty work, but someone's got to do it...

1. Cleaning the toilets at Glastonbury

Cleaning public toilets is not pleasant at the best of times but emptying the loos at Glastonbury has to be one of the dirtiest - and smelliest - jobs going.

With around 150,000 people attending the five-day festival (many of them consuming vast quantities of cider and burgers), the site's 3,000 toilets see plenty of action.

Tasked with keeping them clean are 22 cleaning crews who work 14 hours a day, sucking up the contents of the toilets with tractor-pulled vacuum tankers, which then take everything to a huge lagoon at the edge of the site.

Once emptied, a different team then has the unenviable task of cleaning out each cubicle (including any little accidents) with a mop and bucket.

2. Flushing out blockages in the sewer

Britain's sewage workers have to deal with unpleasant sights and smells on a daily basis - none more so than the 'flushers', who are tasked with clearing blockages in the system.

Years of 'sewer abuse', when anything other than water, human waste and toilet paper is put down drains, resulted in a massive build up of putrid fat under London's Leicester Square - and in 2010 the flushers were sent in to perform a huge clear up operation.

Equipped with full breathing apparatus, shovels and jets, it took them weeks to dig out an estimated 1,000 tonnes of putrid fat - enough to fill nine double-decker buses.

That may have been a particularly big job but there's plenty more like them. Each year, Thames Water clears around 55,000 sewer blockages across London and the Thames Valley.

3. The rat catchers

There are around 81 million brown rats in the UK, many of them carrying fleas and ticks - not to mention nasties such as salmonella, Weil's disease, E.coli and tuberculosis.

While most of us would recoil at the sight of a single rat, pest control experts can be faced with hundreds of them in a single infestation.

Measuring around 50 cm (20 in) from nose to tail, rats consume 10 per cent of their body weight each night, and leave around 40 droppings every 24 hours - which soon adds up when hundreds are present.

For the pest control experts, that can mean having to enter an enclosed area piled high with foul ammonia-like smelling dung, as well as coming face to face with the creatures.

4. Refuse collector

Today's refuse collectors may be issued with gloves, but it's still dirty work - especially for those who have to manually sort through recycling boxes.

While some householders are considerate enough to recycle properly, others are known to throw anything in the boxes, including broken glass and soiled nappies.

And while most people put their rubbish in bin bags, there are plenty of people who don't bother using them - which means maggots, flies and rats are a common problem.

Added to that, councils cutting back on weekly bin collections and introducing food recycling has led to a rise in rat infestation, according to a 2012 survey by insurance company LV.

Two thirds of pest control operators have seen the numbers of vermin call-outs jump sharply in the last year, they claim, with up to 200 rats found in a single property in one case.

5. Extreme home cleaning

If you've ever watched a television show about hoarders, you may have marvelled at the amount of rubbish and filth a house can contain - and wondered what it might take to clean.

Extreme cleaning companies, such as Manchester-based 2G Cleaning Service, have tackled some of the country's filthiest homes and have seen - and cleaned - just about everything.

Wearing hazmat suits with breathing apparatus, their cleaners have tackled drug dens, undiscovered deaths and suicides, and cleaned up their fair share of 'dirty protests'.

The companies regularly deal with end-of-tenancy clean-ups - which can involve the removal of human and animal faeces along with decaying food and piles of junk food containers - before they can begin a deep clean and disinfectant to make the property habitable again.

Image: © airArt -

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