Considering starting a cleaning company? Entering this industry can be surprisingly accessible, with starting costs as low as $500 for a small-scale residential setup and escalating to $50,000+ for a full-fledged commercial operation. But it’s about more than just the art of cleaning — thriving in this space requires top-notch customer service, efficient time management, and, for larger operations, adept staff coordination.

With the cleaning sector boasting profit margins from 20% to 50%, these businesses can be attractive to entrepreneurs. However, the journey to profitability is paved with challenges like navigating stiff competition, meeting ever-evolving health standards, and managing a sometimes transitory and unstable workforce.

Intrigued about unlocking the potential of the cleaning industry? Let’s discuss the details and see if starting a cleaning business is right for you.

Considerations Before Starting a Cleaning Business

Initial InvestmentEstimated startup costs can range from $500 (basic supplies for small-scale residential cleaning) to $50,000+ (commercial cleaning with staff and equipment).
Skills RequiredCleaning techniques, customer service, time management, basic business operations, and staff management (if hiring).
DemandHigh demand in both residential and commercial sectors. Post-pandemic, sanitization services have seen increased demand.
LocationPrimarily client locations. A home office for management or a physical location for equipment storage may be needed.
HoursTypically daytime for residential cleaning, but commercial cleaning might require night or weekend shifts.
Permits and LicensesDepending on local regulations, you may need a business license and/or cleaning and environmental permits.
Profit MarginRanges from 20% to 50%, depending on the scale and services offered.
ChallengesCompetition with large cleaning business chains, keeping up with health standards, managing client expectations, and staff turnover.

Benefits of Opening Your Own Cleaning Business

Janitorial services have a significant domestic market value. Small businesses for cleaning services are local, can’t be outsourced overseas, and are an important customer service that people and businesses want to retain. The startup is fast, and no experience is required. A cleaning business can get off the ground with:

  • Basic cleaning supplies
  • Reliable transportation
  • Willingness to connect with potential clients
  • Simple marketing materials (business cards, website, social media accounts, etc.)

State and local requirements for licensing and liability insurance vary, but cleaning businesses typically operate with relatively low startup costs and overhead. Since cleaning services are often recurring, you can lock in a stable clientele and workload that’s right for you.

How to Start Your Own Cleaning Business Checklist

As you plan and begin your cleaning business, think through how you’d like it to run, what your ambitions are for growth, and how you want the company to fit into the rest of your life. Also understand practical considerations, such as state or local requirements, business insurance, trends, and opportunities in your area.

Get underway on your new cleaning business with the checklist below.

1. Create a business plan

You need a business plan for your cleaning business. That doesn’t mean a complex, thick brick of paper, because a business plan can be as short as a few pages. Writing a business plan helps you think through your venture’s purpose, market, finances, and operations.

Create a business plan where you: 

  • Clarify your company’s idea. Are you a one-person show who wants to stay that way? Do you have visions of multiple locations and employees?
  • Identify what issue or problem your business can solve. Customers pay for you to solve a problem that they either can’t or don’t want to solve themselves.
  • Set SMART objectives. In other words, outline goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. SMART goals help you track business progress, so you can determine whether or not you are meeting your goals for growth, revenue, customer base, operations, personnel, etc.
  • Spot potential problems. Every startup deals with delays, mistakes, and roadblocks. You can’t spot every problem in advance — but you can spot some. Try to anticipate potential problems and how you’ll resolve them before they threaten your operations.
  • Measure progress. Use your time-management skills to determine the metrics you’ll track, how often you’ll review progress, and how you’ll evaluate the state of your business and make changes.

Don’t spend days on this, but do the work. Too many new business owners skip this step, then run into trouble getting funding, miss important setup steps, and fail to understand their customers and competition. Skip the struggle, and arrive with a plan.

2. Choose a business structure

Many entrepreneurs start cleaning companies as either sole proprietors or limited liability companies (LLCs) with operating agreements.

  • Sole proprietorships are the easiest entities to establish.
  • Review potential business taxes and structuring and how they may impact your self-employment income.
  • LLCs can provide liability shields that can help protect your personal assets.
  • One owner or multiple owners? The “sole” in sole proprietorship means the business can have only one owner. If you start an LLC, you can have as many owners as you want.

How do you plan to fund your startup? There are several paths you can take.

You may be able to access additional funding resources from the Small Business Administration (SBA), or you can use personal assets for funding your business. If you form an LLC, you’ll have opportunities for commercial bank loans, venture capital, or other private funding sources.

3. Name your business

Every business needs a name. As a sole proprietor, you can generally do business with your name alone. However, most cleaning businesses will want to come up with a good name that reinforces their brand:

  • Is the name easy to pronounce?
  • Is another business using the name? State governments usually have searchable online databases where you can look up business names.
  • Can you register a website domain name that uses your business name?
  • Register your company name and entity with the relevant state and/or local offices. (For some businesses, this will include registering a trade name, also known as a DBA, or “doing business as” name.)

4. Register your business and open financial accounts

Especially if you form an LLC, you need to keep your personal and business financial accounts separate. At the least, your company needs a business checking account. That way it’s easier to track income and expenses, manage tax requirements, and keep some barrier between your business money and your personal assets.

Know your Employer Identification Number (EIN). For sole proprietorships, this is usually your personal Social Security number. Sole proprietorships and LLCs can also get their own dedicated EIN from the IRS. Depending on your area, you’ll also need to see what licensing, zoning, and insurance requirements your business needs to follow.

5. Determine your business costs

To stay open, your cleaning business has to manage cash flow and expenses. Having a reasonable sense of your operation’s costs will help you price your cleaning services and figure out how to manage cash flow.

For starters, estimate the price to start a small business. What are your fixed costs? Fixed costs may change over time but are stable for set periods, such as an annual lease. They include insurance, utilities, leases, and mortgages.

What are your variable costs? These recurring costs fluctuate and can cover payroll, taxes, supplies, cleaning products, and fuel.

Choose your target market: Residential cleaning will have different costs, requirements, and expectations than commercial cleaning. Specialty niches, such as carpet cleaning or chimney sweeping, will also have their own niche considerations. Other factors may affect the costs you have for servicing your target market, such as a preference for environmentally friendly cleaners or additional sanitation requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also consider:

  • Costs for transportation, supplies, and equipment. Account for how you’ll budget for maintenance, re-supply, replacements, and upgrades.
  • How will you charge clients? Cleaning businesses use a variety of cost structures, including all-inclusive packages, time and materials, and flat fees per service.
  • Finalize costs and pricing. Use your understanding of business costs to set your pricing and make sure it works with what your market accepts.

To give you a general idea of the costs you may face, here are common startup expenses for a low-cost cleaning business:

  • Cleaning business license and permits: $0 to $500 to register as an LLC
  • Insurance: $500 to $3,500 annually, depending on the number of employees

To help you keep costs low, we can form your new LLC for free (+ state fee). Your cleaning equipment and products may range from $300 to $600. High-quality, commercial-quality vacuum cleaners can cost hundreds of dollars, but all-purpose cleaning solutions can be as affordable as a few dollars. Brooms, mops, and other basic dusting supplies can be procured for less than $50.

Don’t neglect advertising and marketing for your cleaning business, and labor costs. Expect to invest at least $200 for print and online marketing, such as printing business cards and setting up a basic website. Typical cleaning job labor costs start at an hourly rate of $12 per employee. Adjust depending on prevailing rates in your area.

How will you fund your cleaning business’s startup costs?

No matter the scale of your business, starting up will cost money. How you fund your cleaning business startup costs is a crucial decision:

  • Government resources: SBA loans can provide attractive repayment periods and low interest rates. However, the approval process can be time-consuming, and programs may require good or excellent credit.
  • Credit cards: Your wallet may already hold a funding source. Credit cards can increase your spending power, but high interest rates will cost you if you don’t pay your balance monthly.
  • Bank loans: Loan costs may be tax deductible, and you maintain control of your operations. Beware that guidelines and credit expectations can be strict, and you’ll need to provide collateral.
  • Friends and family: You may be able to raise a large sum or multiple small sums, plus you have granular control over the terms of the loan. If there’s no contract or if you run into problems with repayment, though, you risk harming your personal relationships.

6. Purchase equipment for your cleaning business

No matter your niche, your company will need cleaning and safety equipment in order for you to get started. What is the minimum equipment needed to start your specific cleaning business? What equipment will be durable, and what consumable supplies will you need? Be ready to replace as needed, so you don’t risk service interruptions.

7. Market your cleaning business

How will people find your business? Incorporating some of the following techniques can help launch your new business.

  • Print materials: Business cards, brochures, and postcards can be effective ways to get your brand in front of potential customers.
  • Establish your brand with a Google Business Profile: You’ll be able to customize your company profile to appeal to people searching for your services.
  • Build professional presences on relevant social networks: At a minimum, consider setting up a Facebook page and LinkedIn profile. This can help prospects connect with your brand.
  • Ask customers to refer you to people they know: Word-of-mouth referrals remain one of the strongest ways to get new customers.
  • Build a search-optimized website: A basic website explains who you are, what you do, and how customers can contact you. Including keywords relevant to your area and the services you provide can help people find you through online searches.

Ideas for Cleaning Businesses

Cleaning businesses can take many forms or specialize in various niches. Here are a few ideas for a cleaning business:

  • Carpet cleaning
  • Janitorial cleaning
  • Commercial cleaning
  • Residential cleaning
  • Pool cleaning
  • Ceiling and wall cleaning
  • Pressure washing
  • Disaster cleaning and restoration
  • Blind cleaning
  • Chimney sweeping
  • Restroom cleaning
  • Post-death and trauma cleaning

Starting a Commercial Cleaning Business

The potentially lucrative realm of commercial cleaning offers an enticing pathway for entrepreneurs to capitalize on the consistent demand for sanitation and cleanliness services, especially in the post-pandemic era. With startup costs varying widely from $1,000 for a smaller operation to upwards of $100,000 for larger endeavors, the financial investment can suit diverse budgets. However, succeeding in this competitive field often requires a blend of precise cleaning techniques, adept staff management, strategic business operations, and impeccable customer service.

The commercial cleaning industry, boasting average profit margins ranging from approximately 10% to 15%, can be a rewarding venture for those ready to sweep through the challenges of maintaining high-quality service and standing out in a crowded market.

Considerations Before Starting a Commercial Cleaning Business

Initial InvestmentEstimated startup costs can range from $1,000 (small operations) to $100,000+ (large operations with staff and equipment).
Skills RequiredCleaning techniques, customer service, time management, business operations, staff management, and sales skills.
DemandHigh demand in commercial sectors, especially post-pandemic with increased focus on sanitation and cleanliness.
LocationHigh demand in commercial sectors, especially post-pandemic with an increased focus on sanitation and cleanliness.
HoursGenerally evenings and weekends to clean offices and commercial spaces after business hours.
Permits and LicensesDepending on your location, you may need a business license and any necessary cleaning or environmental permits.
Profit MarginAverage profit margins range from approximately 10% to 15%, depending on services offered and operational efficiency.
ChallengesCompetition with larger cleaning companies, maintaining high-quality services, and managing a potentially large staff.

Examples of Commercial Cleaning Businesses to Start

Your commercial cleaning business could focus on entire office buildings, small businesses leasing a few rooms, retail spaces, schools, daycares, or nonprofits. There are numerous possibilities. Specializing in a particular type of business or a handful of buildings may help you carve out ownership of that niche because you and your employees will be most knowledgeable about those buildings or that kind of business’s cleaning needs (for example, wiping down kiddo toys in daycares).

You may not be starting as part of a franchise, but it may be worth studying the successful commercial cleaning franchises for practices and policies that could work well for your business.

Start your cleaning business

Now you know the different ways you can structure your cleaning business, how you can specialize, and the types of startup funding and planning you need to do. The market is there to open your company and start cleaning up the profits.

If you want to keep your startup costs low, remember that we can form your new cleaning service LLC for free (+ state fee).

Commercial Cleaning Business FAQs

  • The number of clients and size of space being cleaned impacts how much commercial cleaning businesses make. The average starts at about $70,000/year and can easily increase to over $100,000.

  • The top challenges for janitorial services include marketing, hiring, and competition.

  • There are approximately 1.4 million commercial cleaning establishments, including over 36,000 franchised outlets. About 2.4 million people work in the commercial cleaning industry.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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Written by Team ZenBusiness

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