How to Start a Cleaning Business
This business operates through individual cleaning service contracts between the company and an individual or business. Customers can be either residential, commercial, or both. A cleaning service exists to help ease the burden of cleaning and maintainenance for a client, whether it is an office, industrial building, or a home.
You may also be interested in additional low cost business ideas.
Learn how to start your own Cleaning Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
Ready to form your LLC? Check out the Top LLC Formation Services.
Start a cleaning business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Cleaning Business
- Form your Cleaning Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Cleaning Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Cleaning Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Cleaning Business
- Get Cleaning Business Insurance
- Define your Cleaning Business Brand
- Create your Cleaning Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
We have put together this simple guide to starting your cleaning business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What will you name your business?
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Cleaning Business Name Generator
If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
What are the costs involved in opening a cleaning business?
A cleaning business can be started on a “shoestring” budget with basic and general cleaning supplies available at any grocery or hardware supply store. Some basic supplies you’ll need include: garbage can liners, spray bottles, trash bags, buckets, feather dusters and dusting rags, mops, toilet brushes, paper towels, squeegees, general or all-purpose cleaners, toilet-specific cleaners, floor cleaners (including supplies for cleaning wood flooring), and liability insurance.
Aim for between $500,000 to $1,000,000 in liability insurance. Larger amounts will be necessary for corporate clients.
In total, your startup costs should not exceed $1,000 for a basic cleaning business.
If you are starting a larger operation, your costs could include professional service vehicles and a cleaning crew. A fleet of vehicles could cost between $10,000 and $30,000, depending on the vehicles you use and whether you buy new or used.
Read our cleaning business purchasing guide to learn about the materials and equipment you'll need to start a cleaning business, how much to budget, and where to make purchases.
What are the ongoing expenses for a cleaning business?
Ongoing expenses include costs for cleaning supplies, insurance, and vehicle maintenance. These costs vary entirely based on the size of your business and types of contracts you secure every month.
A small company may only spend $500 to $1,000 in cleaning supplies. However, large commercial operations spend tens of thousands of dollars on equipment and supplies. Larger commercial cleaning companies also may need to spend more on maintenance of commercial cleaning equipment.
Floor polishers, for example, will need to be maintained. For a small residential cleaner, this is not a concern because it’s not typically a piece of equipment used in a home. However, in a large commercial office building, it’s a practical necessity.
Insurance is another major cost, especially for large commercial cleaning operations.
Who is the target market?
Ideal customers are long-term corporate or multi-year clients willing to sign service contracts.
How does a cleaning business make money?
Cleaning businesses make money by charging clients for various cleaning services. These charges can be on a per hour, per square foot, or per contract basis.
How much can you charge customers?
There are several ways to charge for services. Some companies charge between $25 and $35 per hour for cleaning. Others charge per square foot. Typical rates for square foot are between $100 and $120 per 1,000 square feet. Some companies, however, charge more, up to $150 per 1,000 square feet. A per contract flat fee can also be negotiated if the client has an unusual building or home or needs custom pricing for volume business.
For deep cleaning, businesses typically charge more.
For example, a company could charge $75 to deep clean a kitchen, but only $30 for a bedroom, since a kitchen tends to be dirtier than a bedroom. Windows tend to be expensive, at $5 per window and $3 per screen. Polishing and carpet cleaning ranges from an average of $0.25 to $0.50 per square foot.
How much profit can a cleaning business make?
Profit margins vary based on the scale of the operation and the contract. They can be as little as 4% or as much as 48%. Larger businesses tend to have smaller margins, but higher revenue and total profits (by dollars). Smaller cleaning companies may have a higher margin, but lower total revenue.
A small cleaning operation can make between $50,000 and $100,000 per year. A large commercial cleaning company can make between $1 million and $10 million per year or more.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Making your company more profitable is difficult. This is because cleaning services are all relatively the same. However, you can try differentiating yourself by offering services your competitors aren’t. For example, if your local market doesn’t offer pet waste removal, you might add that as a complimentary service.
Another way to stand out in your marketplace is by developing a company culture that differs from other cleaning companies. Most cleaning businesses operate what could arguably be called a “boring” business. The culture is fairly “quiet.” You could offer a sharp contrast to the industry norm by using more audacious advertising.
You could also offer educational material. For example, offer potential clients booklets and brochures about what really lurks deep inside the fibers of their carpets or in the corners along the baseboards. Highlight statistics and research on indoor air pollution and how it makes people sick. Position yourself as a leader in your industry instead of “just another cleaning company.”
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your cleaning business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN through the IRS website. If you would like to learn more about EINs, read our article, What is an EIN?
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a cleaning business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
In businesses where services are provided on an extended basis, a services contract is often put in place outlining terms and conditions of service. You may wish to require clients to sign a services agreement before starting. This agreement clarifies client expectations and minimizes the risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, and service level expectations.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your cleaning business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on-call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
FInd out what types of insurance your Cleaning Business needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Cleaning Business.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a cleaning business
Getting new clients beyond the first year requires more advanced marketing. Business networking events are also a great way to meet potential clients. Hand out flyers to local businesses or in residential neighborhoods (check local laws first). If you’re experienced with direct mail, contact a list broker and buy a list of names of people who have already purchased cleaning services in the past. Then, mail those prospects, pitching them your services.
How to keep customers coming back
Your company’s services should differ from other cleaning services in the area or you should focus on a particular demographic or market. For example, specializing in cleaning certain types of buildings or offering specific services may give you a competitive edge.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.
Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
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Welcome to the Startup Savant podcast, where we interview real startup founders at every stage of the entrepreneurial journey, from launch to scale.
Is this Business Right For You?
This is an ideal business for an individual with an eye for detail and a strong work ethic. Cleaners also should be comfortable performing manual labor for many hours, since this is a job that requires you be on your feet all day. Entrepreneurs who start this kind of business also tend to work long hours and interact with a lot of different personality types.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a cleaning business?
Day-to-day activities of a cleaning business include vacuuming, mopping, dusting and sweeping, window cleaning, and general cleaning of rooms and possibly exterior surfaces of some buildings. Business owners also have to maintain customer accounts and invoices.
Larger companies spend a significant amount of time maintaining and signing customer accounts. Smaller cleaning companies typically maintain a small client load due to the nature of running a small business. On average, a small cleaning business can maintain between 20 and 70 clients.
A large company can maintain over 100 clients.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful cleaning business?
No special skills are required, but experience in cleaning helps. Most entrepreneurs to start this type of business have a passion for cleanliness and doing manual labor. Some businesses may benefit from special commercial cleaning certifications, which allow them to prove their efficacy to larger corporate clients.
What is the growth potential for a cleaning business?
The smallest cleaning businesses are run as one-person shops. Larger operations employ staff or hire subcontractors. Some businesses franchise their model and collect franchise fees. Larger operations also tend to put more money into vehicles (fleet) and advertising, focusing on strong branding and name recognition.
Not sure if a cleaning business is right for you? Try our free Business Idea Generator and find your perfect idea.
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For fun informative videos about starting a business visit the TRUiC YouTube Channel or subscribe to view later.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a cleaning business?
The easiest way to get started in this business is to ask friends and family if you can clean their homes. Simple cleaning contracts will solidify your reputation in this industry and help you get referral business, which will help fuel your first year of growth.
How and when to build a team
Building a team is never necessary for this business. However, if you want to expand, start hiring independent contractors or employees to help you clean as soon as your service contracts are too much for you to handle on your own.
Read our cleaning business hiring guide to learn about the different roles a cleaning business typically fills, how much to budget for employee salaries, and how to build your team exactly how you want it.
- Cleaning business Franchise
- Franchise for Cleaning businesses
- Additional Cleaning business franchise
Real World Examples
- Successful cleaning Service - individual made first 1 million in 6 years of his business being open.