How to Start a Cleaning Business: The Complete Guide

Updated: November 12, 2022  

With people leading busy lives with chaotic schedules, there’s never been a better time to start a cleaning business. Find out how you can take advantage of this opportunity and keep reading!

You’ll find many people who would be willing to pay you to keep their place spic and span. The cleaning industry is among the most profitable businesses of the modern age as there is a high demand for cleaning services amongst customers.

Cleaning businesses are potentially lucrative, and you can start with low startup and operating costs. In this article, we’ll provide you with all the necessary information you need to start your own cleaning business.

Here are steps to start your own cleaning business from scratch. 

1. Define Your Target Market

Identifying a specific niche or target market for your business requires you to decide if you want to serve commercial businesses or residential owners. A commercial cleaning business will need more capital since it involves large spaces. 

A residential cleaning business involves offering services at private residences, including small offices. This requires less resources and capital. However, their frequency of cleaning is generally low. 

If you choose to go with residential services, you could offer:

  • Home maintenance services like vacuuming, dusting, window washing, and floor mopping.
  • Move-in or move-out facilities like cleaning walls and appliances.
  • Deep cleaning services detailing surfaces like cupboards, fans, and pantries. It is also known as spring cleaning.
  • Green or eco-friendly cleaning services or services to private homes, single-family homes, families with young children, or homes with people with allergies.

Some commercial cleaning services include:

  • General office cleaning jobs and janitorial services like window washing, floor waxing, removing trash, bathroom sanitization, and carpet cleaning.
  • Construction clean-up services.
  • Disaster and risky waste cleanup jobs, usually in the medical fields, natural disaster site areas, or crime scenes.

If you want to start a business with next to no experience, start with residential homes as they have a demand for cleaning services, especially house cleaning & maid services.

Create a one-page business plan to outline the business goals, target audience, business structure, strategies, and financial forecasts.

2. Determine Your Location

Choose a good location to target potential clients. Pick a customer base or client base that is not already oversaturated with these businesses.

If your budget is tight, set up an office in your residence. Not only does this require less space, budget, and special equipment, but your staff would also be on call.

However, if you plan to target commercial areas, owning an office looks more professional and helps your promotion and marketing tactics for a better client experience.

You can also contact your local Chamber of Commerce and other online business directories for the best locations for your business.

3. Set Your Service Charges

Your target market will help you decide your service charges and pricing model.

Factor in the investment for buying supplies, vehicle wraps, maintenance costs, usual operating costs, overhead rate, production rate, payroll, and hiring costs along with insurance and taxes in your one-page business plan.

You can get an idea of the pricing structure from your competitors’ websites. Prices from suppliers of these services are usually reliable. Don’t forget to set aside a budget for taxes.

You can charge hourly rates and add additional services and special services such as dishwashing, appliance maintenance, and other household chores in your one-page business plan to increase your profit factor.

You can also set a flat rate per session either by the hour or per square foot.

4. Choose a Brand Name

The name of your business plays an important role in establishing a brand. Your brand name should:

  • Describe your company accurately
  • Be easy to spell, remember and pronounce
  • Be unique and not in use already
  • Be simple and preferably not have more than 3 words
  • Sound professional
  • If you have the extra budget you can add in a logo

5. Registering Your Business

Now that your business name, service list, and pricing structure and pricing model are in place, the next step is registering your business with upfront investment so that you can run it legally.

It’s important to have your insurance and business license in place as soon as possible.

Depending on the type of business, the legalities and proceedings differ. In the U.S., cleaning business owners can register as a sole proprietorship if they need complete control over their business.

This requires little paperwork. You can also register as a partnership if you’re going into business with two or more people. 

In some cases, cleaning business owners may need to take care of a few other regulations and training. Training for professional cleaning is usually required for the cleaning team in niche cleaning services like steam cleaning. 

6. Purchasing Supplies

Starting a residential cleaning business requires relatively fewer funds compared to a commercial one. However, you will have to make some initial purchases based on the types of cleaning you aim to provide.

Though some people might have their own cleaning supplies and other basic supplies available, that won’t always be the case. Therefore, it’s best to arm yourself with the necessary equipment and cleaning products.

Here’s a list of the cleaning equipment you will need to start a business for cleaning solutions:

  • Broom, buckets, and dustpan
  • Rags, solutions, scrubbers, and sponges
  • Vacuum cleaner, window cleaner, carpet cleaners, and mops
  • Reusable or disposable towels and protective gloves

Research how to prevent cross-contamination between houses. You can use disposable supplies or follow rigorous sanitation practices. You can buy various supplies from Sam’s Club or wholesale vendors.

A company vehicle is also essential as you need to reach the client’s place on time. If various types of equipment are too expensive, consider renting.

7. Do the Cleaning Yourself in the Beginning

When you think of starting in the services industry, it may be tempting to hire staff. However, avoid the initial cost of labor and keep your budget low by doing the job yourself.

It’ll also allow you to ease into the business and learn the ropes to successfully run it in the future. You can ask your friends and family if you can clean their houses and reduce the initial pressure of finding corporate clients or commercial clients.

By working on your own initially, you can provide individual attention to your patrons and also work out any kinks in your business model. Once your business gains traction and income, you can hire staff and further improve the client experience.

8. Collect Reviews

After a few gigs, you can ask for reviews from your current clients, as positive reviews can work wonders in attracting potential customers.

You can ask them to provide customer reviews on online forums, Google, Yelp, and LinkedIn, or you can create a customized website for your business and display the testimonials there. Remember, however, that reviews on Google can attract more visibility to your business.

9. Marketing Your Business

Marketing your business is essential in building your client list and securing more high-paying patrons. Luckily, there are several cost-effective, lucrative ways of promoting your business. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Social Media Marketing

You can create an Instagram account, Facebook page, or YouTube channel to jumpstart your campaign and increase your business’s online presence and social media presence.

You can promote your business for free on your social media platforms, gain followers, and spread the word about your business.

Business Website

Though social media platforms are a great way of marketing, it also helps to have an official business website. You can post reviews and testimonials of previous happy patrons, on your website, and attract potential clients. 

Make a Company Email Account

For better communication, it’s good to create a business email account to make you look and sound more professional. You can also send out announcements and promotions through email lists.

Discounts and Referrals 

For a startup, discounts and referrals are some of the best ways to grab attention and increase the visibility of your business.

You can reach out to friends and family for referrals and offer discounted rates for new patrons along with bonuses for each referral.

Launch a Google My Business page and offer incentives if your happy customers write their reviews there.


This is one of the most effective and affordable ways of forming meaningful connections while increasing your company’s visibility. Keep your business cards handy in case you spot a prospective client to add to your client list!

Set Yourself Apart

One of the best ways to attract new patrons is to set yourself apart from your competitors. Create a unique selling proposition. It could be in the way you choose your cleaning professionals, your attitude, choice of equipment, or your marketing strategy.

10. Insurance

Getting an insurance plan for your business that covers general liabilities will help your financial security. This is an essential step to protect yourself from unforeseen circumstances and stay ahead of the curve.

Different types of insurance are available for different types of businesses, and having the right type of insurance is vital to establish your business’s credibility. Let’s take a look at them.

Liability Insurance

Liability insurance coverage will protect your company from a third party’s legal liability claim of injury or property damage by providing financial aid till the policy limit.

Workers Compensation Insurance

This will help cover medical charges and a part of lost salaries to an employee who is injured on the job.

Business Vehicle Insurance

This insurance policy provides coverage for your company’s vehicles when your business is held liable by a third party. It pays for costs related to bodily injury or property damage up to your policy’s limits. It may also cover your vehicle repair expense.

What Will You Do at a Cleaning Business?

Regardless of the area, some industry-standard steps need to be followed during this process. They are known as the 7-step cleaning process. Let’s take a look at these steps.

  1. Trash disposal: Empty garbage bags and liners, thoroughly clean the insides, and sanitize them. Replace the bin liner.
  2. High dust: High dust all things above shoulder level either in clockwise or anticlockwise motion. You can use extensions for hard-to-reach areas.
  3. Damp wipe: Use a neutral disinfectant to wipe all surfaces except for glass. Wipe all high-touch areas like doorknobs, light switches, and phones.
  4. Stock supplies: Restock the supplies like soaps, power towels, and toilet tissues.
  5. Dust mop: Dust mop beneath all furniture and behind doors. Move items wherever necessary.
  6. Inspection: Inspect if the area has been cleaned and report anything that’s broken or damaged. 
  7. Damp-mop: Mop around the edges and in the corners then toward the middle using an eight-figure pattern using a neutral disinfectant. 

How to Charge For House Cleaning

Learning how much to charge for house cleaning services is important before you start a residential cleaning business. Your charges should match the industry standards.

You can decide this by figuring out your hourly rates. Time yourself or your employees while you work, and find out how long it takes to clean each area of a home.

Alternatively, contact the cleaning companies in your area for bi-weekly or monthly house cleaning estimates. Divide the total cost by the time it takes to clean to calculate their hourly rate.

For instance, if the cost is $200 and it takes 4 hours, then the hourly rate would be $50 per hour. Then take the average of all the house cleaning & maid services quotes that you got to arrive at your hourly rate.

Multiply your hourly rate by the time it takes for you or your employees to clean homes to determine how much to charge.

Your final charge is your hourly rate multiplied by the time it takes to clean. For instance, if your hourly rate is $50 and it takes 4 hours to clean a house, then your quote would be $200 ($50 per hour x 4 hours).

How to Charge For Commercial Cleaning

Rates for commercial cleaning jobs are a little bit different compared to residential house cleaning. Along with the hourly rate, you’ll have to factor in production rates. That is, how many square feet of the area can you clean in an hour. You can also accept credit card payments.

Here are the four steps you can follow:

1. Assess the job particulars.

Consider all the previously listed aspects such as the size of the building, job type, and job location. You can visit the job site, or contact the client on the phone to get all these details.

2. Calculate labor costs.

Follow these three steps to calculate your labor cost:

  • Find out the number of hours worked.
  • Multiply the number of employees doing a particular job by the number of hours it takes to complete the job. For example, if 4 employees can complete a job in 60 hours, then your labor hours are 240 (60*4).
  • Calculate hourly labor rate. Your hourly labor cost is the total hourly charges and additional charges like taxes and other employee-related expenses. You can add around 20% for these additional charges to your industry standard employee salary. For example, if your employees’ salary is $20, then your hourly rate is 24($20*1.2). Multiply labor cost with labor hours. Now the total labor cost for the job is $5,760 (240*24).

3. Include insurance, overhead rates, and equipment.

These expenses include travel, rent, internet, insurance, marketing costs, and any software prices. Though exact charges may vary from other commercial cleaning bids, you can add around 20-25% to the earlier total.

For example, the example in the last bullet above would raise the total cost of the job to $6,912 ($5,760*1.2).

4. Add your markup.

Markup is the amount you add to the total cost to garner a profit factor. For example, a 30% markup will provide you with the final charges, which is $8,986 ($6,912*1.3). This means profit margins of 23%.

Should You Buy a Cleaning Franchise?

The high appeal of commercial cleaning franchises is due to their low start-up costs. Most new entrepreneurs prefer to buy into a franchise as a good franchisor can provide industry and business training. It also offers social security.

However, there are some negatives involved too. Not all franchises are low-cost. Some franchises can require up to $200,000 of initial investment, often requiring advanced equipment, vehicle(s), and a particular location. 

Just like any other business, there is always going to be an upfront investment and other ongoing costs involved. You can’t always have total control of your business as there are several rules and agreements to follow.

You’ll mostly be responsible for conducting all the marketing required, and this may turn out to be a hassle. In terms of location, there may not be complete freedom as franchises can dictate the number of businesses that can be set up in a specific location.

Is Starting A Cleaning Business Worth It?

This billion-dollar cleaning services industry is growing exponentially. Unless robots take over cleaning jobs, the need for janitorial service providers is only going to increase in the future. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of starting a cleaning business.


  • A cleaning business requires very minimal start-up costs, overhead expenses, and monthly expenses. You can start one with a few hundred dollars.
  • Low variable and usual operating costs means there’s no need for heavy equipment.
  • You can start a business quickly in a matter of days.
  • There are opportunities to work from home as there’s no need to rent an office to get started.
  • You can carry out most of the tasks yourself, and everything is in your control.
  • Working hours are flexible, and you can work according to your needs.
  • Extensive experience is not required as long as you understand your prospective clients’ needs.
  • It’s easy to make money quickly.
  • Online marketing is relatively cheap.
  • It’s easy to build a regular income stream with unlimited income potential.
  • It is a recession-proof business that can survive economic slumps.


  • There is high competition due to the low startup cost, especially for carpet cleaners.
  • It demands tough physical work, which can sometimes take a huge toll.
  • It’s a stressful business to manage as there are several variables that you need to consider.

How Do I Get a License for a Cleaning Business?

You might need two types of licenses to start a cleaning or a janitorial business: a vendor’s license and a doing business as (DBA) license. A business license is necessary to legally provide your business.

Here’s what each type of license means:

Vendor’s License

This license lets you collect sales tax on the cleaning supply purchases, which some states have mandated. It is generally the same as a basic business license.

DBA License

A DBA license is needed if your business operates under a name other than its legal name. This protects consumers from unethical business practices and prevents other businesses from using your company name.

It’s illegal to run a cleaning business without a proper license, and the repercussions can include jail time, fines, and rejection of a future license. You will also need a license to show your business income reporting for proper tax documentation.

Depending on your location, you may be redirected to your city licensing board or county clerk. The right agency or a legal entity will explain what’s needed to get your cleaning company or janitorial license. 

There is a renewal fee to keep your cleaning business license valid for office cleaning and residential cleaning services.

We hope that “How To Start A Cleaning Business: The Complete Guide” helps you start a successful cleaning business plan.

We are in an era where people find it hard to make time for chores like cleaning. In this fast-paced world filled with hectic schedules, there is a reliable, ongoing demand for cleaning services.

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