How to Start a Septic Tank Cleaning Business in 14 Steps (In-Depth Guide)

Updated: April 9, 2024 is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

The septic tank cleaning industry is a hidden gem, with a market size projected to reach $6.1 billion by 2032. As the demand for septic system maintenance continues to grow, savvy entrepreneurs like you are perfectly positioned to capitalize on this often-overlooked but essential service.


Imagine the satisfaction of running your own successful septic tank business, providing a vital service to your community while enjoying the perks of being your boss. With the right knowledge, equipment, and a willingness to roll up your sleeves, you can build a thriving business that’s as recession-proof as it is rewarding.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through how to start a septic business. From understanding the market, acquiring the necessary licenses, purchasing equipment, and marketing your services, we’ve got you covered.

1. Conduct Septic Tank Cleaning Market Research

Before diving headfirst into the routine maintenance of a septic tank cleaning business, conducting thorough market research is crucial to ensure you’re making an informed decision. Market research offers insight into your target market, trends in services, and other details relevant to your business plan.


  • Industry growth is driven by increasing urbanization, stringent government regulations on wastewater treatment, and growing awareness about the importance of proper septic system maintenance.
  • The septic tank cleaning market is segmented based on service type, application, and geography.
  • In terms of service type, the market is divided into pumping, cleaning, and repair & maintenance.
  • The pumping segment is expected to maintain its dominance throughout the forecast period, as regular pumping is essential to prevent septic system failures and extend the system’s lifespan.
  • North America was the highest contributor to the global septic tank cleaning market in 2019, holding over one-third of the total market share.
  • The Asia-Pacific region is expected to witness the highest growth rate during the forecast period, owing to rapid urbanization, increasing disposable income, and growing awareness about the importance of proper sanitation.
  • To capitalize on this market opportunity, it’s essential to understand your target customers and their needs.
  • Your primary customers will be residential and commercial property owners who rely on septic systems for wastewater treatment.

The septic tank cleaning market presents a promising opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to start a recession-resistant business with steady demand. By conducting thorough market research, understanding your target customers, and identifying potential challenges, you can lay the foundation for your own septic tank business.

2. Analyze the Competition

Analyzing your competition is a critical step in starting a successful septic tank pumping business. By understanding your competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, and market positioning, you can identify opportunities to differentiate your business and attract customers.

Start by identifying the septic tank cleaning companies already operating in your target market. You can find this information through online directories, local business associations, and by searching for “septic tank cleaning” or related keywords on search engines like Google.

Once you’ve identified your competitors, visit their websites and social media profiles to gather information about their services, pricing, and marketing strategies. Take note of the types of septic systems they specialize in, any additional services they offer (such as drain cleaning or grease trap pumping), and their service areas.

Next, evaluate your competitors’ online presence and reputation. Check their reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, and Facebook to see what customers are saying about their services. Look for patterns in the reviews, such as common complaints or praise, and consider how you can address these issues in your own business.

If your competitors have brick-and-mortar locations, visit them in person to assess their facilities, equipment, and customer service. Take note of the condition of their vehicles and equipment, as well as the professionalism of their staff.

Consider conducting a SWOT analysis for each of your main competitors. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. By analyzing these factors, you can gain a deeper understanding of your competitors’ market position and identify strategies to differentiate your business.

3. Costs to Start a Septic Tank Cleaning Business

Starting a septic tank cleaning business requires careful planning and budgeting to ensure you have the necessary funds to cover both startup and ongoing costs. Let’s break down the expenses you can expect when launching and running your septic tank cleaning company.

Startup Costs

  • Equipment: You’ll need a reliable vacuum truck, which can cost between $30,000 for a used truck and $150,000 or more for a new one.
  • Vehicle: A used water truck or a truck with a water tank and pump can cost between $15,000 and $40,000.
  • Business registration and licenses: The cost of registering your business and obtaining the necessary licenses and permits varies by state and local requirements. Budget around $500 to $1,500 for these expenses.
  • Insurance: You’ll need various types of insurance, including general liability, workers’ compensation, and commercial auto insurance. Expect to pay between $2,000 and $5,000 annually for adequate coverage.
  • Marketing and advertising: To attract customers, you’ll need to invest in marketing and advertising. Budget between $1,500 and $5,000 for a website, business cards, flyers, and online advertising.
  • Rent and utilities: If you need to rent a space for your business, factor in monthly rent and utility costs. Depending on your location and the space size, this can cost between $1,000 and $3,000 per month.

Ongoing Costs

  • Vehicle maintenance and fuel: Regularly maintaining your vacuum truck and other vehicles is essential to keep your business running smoothly. Budget around $1,000 to $2,000 per month for fuel, maintenance, and repairs.
  • Employee salaries: As your business grows, you may need to hire additional staff. The average salary for a septic tank cleaner is $33,280 per year or approximately $16 per hour.
  • Waste disposal fees: You’ll need to pay fees to dispose of the waste you collect from septic tanks. These fees vary by location and the volume of waste. Budget around $500 to $1,500 per month for disposal costs.
  • Supplies and protective gear: You’ll need to regularly replace supplies such as gloves, masks, and cleaning agents. Set aside $200 to $500 per month for these expenses.
  • Advertising and marketing: Ongoing advertising and marketing efforts are crucial to maintaining a steady flow of customers. Budget between $500 and $1,500 per month for these activities.
  • Insurance and licenses: Don’t forget to factor in the annual costs of renewing your insurance policies and business licenses.
  • Accounting and legal fees: As your business grows, you may need to hire an accountant or legal professional to help manage your finances and ensure compliance with regulations. Budget around $1,000 to $3,000 per year for these services.

In total, expect to invest between $50,000 and $200,000 in startup costs, depending on the size of your operation and whether you purchase new or used equipment. Ongoing costs can range from $5,000 to $15,000 per month, not including employee salaries.

4. Form a Legal Business Entity

When starting a septic tank cleaning business, choosing the right legal structure is crucial to protect your assets, minimize liability, and ensure the smooth operation of your company. Let’s explore the four main types of business entities and their pros and cons for a septic tank cleaning business.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common business structure. As a sole proprietor, you are the sole owner of the business, and there is no legal distinction between you and your company. The main advantage of a sole proprietorship is that it’s easy and inexpensive to set up. The significant drawback is that you are personally liable.


A partnership is similar to a sole proprietorship but involves two or more owners. Partnerships can be either general partnerships, where all partners share equal responsibility and liability, or limited partnerships, where some partners have limited liability and involvement in the business.


A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners, providing the highest level of personal asset protection. Corporations can raise capital by issuing stock and offering various tax benefits. Incorporating a septic tank cleaning business can be more expensive and complex than other business structures.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC combines the personal asset protection of a corporation with the tax benefits and simplicity of a sole proprietorship or partnership. As an LLC owner, you are not personally liable for business debts or legal issues, shielding your assets from potential risks associated with septic tank cleaning work.

5. Register Your Business For Taxes

As a septic tank cleaning business owner, one of the crucial steps in setting up your company is obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

An EIN, also known as a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN), is a unique nine-digit number assigned to your business for tax purposes. It serves as your business’s Social Security number, allowing you to hire employees, open bank accounts, and file tax returns.

Obtaining an EIN is required for most businesses, including septic tank cleaning companies, especially if you plan to hire employees or form a partnership or corporation. An EIN can be used in place of your Social Security number on business documents, reducing the risk of identity theft.

Applying for an EIN is a straightforward process that can be completed online through the IRS website. To get started, visit the IRS EIN application page and click on the “Apply Online Now” button. The application process consists of several steps:

  1. Determine your eligibility: Make sure you have a valid Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), such as a Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), and that your business is located in the United States or U.S. territories.
  2. Provide your business information: Enter your business name, address, and the responsible party’s details (usually the owner or principal officer).
  3. Choose your business structure: Select the appropriate legal structure for your septic tank cleaning business (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, or corporation).
  4. Answer questions about your business: Provide details about your business activities, the reason for applying for an EIN, and the number of employees you expect to hire.
  5. Receive your EIN: After completing the application, you will receive your EIN immediately. Print or save the confirmation notice for your records.

The online EIN application process is free and typically takes less than 15 minutes to complete. Once you have your EIN, you can use it to register your septic tank cleaning business with state and local agencies, open business bank accounts, and file tax returns.

In addition to obtaining an EIN, it’s essential to register your septic tank cleaning business with your state’s tax department for sales tax purposes. Sales tax requirements vary by state, so consult your state’s tax agency website or a local business attorney to ensure compliance.

6. Setup Your Accounting

As a septic tank cleaning business owner, it’s crucial to maintain accurate and organized financial records to ensure the success and longevity of your company. Proper accounting not only helps you make informed business decisions but also keeps you compliant with tax laws and regulations.

Accounting Software

One of the best ways to streamline your accounting process is by using accounting software like QuickBooks. This powerful tool can automate many aspects of your financial management, saving you time and reducing the risk of errors. By integrating your bank accounts and credit cards with Quickbooks, you can easily track income.

Hire an Accountant

An accountant can offer a range of services, including bookkeeping, financial statement preparation, tax planning, and compliance. They can also help you navigate complex tax issues specific to the septic tank cleaning industry, such as depreciation of equipment and vehicle expenses.

Open a Business Bank Account

One of the most important aspects of managing your business finances is keeping your personal and business expenses separate. This not only simplifies your accounting but also helps you avoid potential issues with the IRS. Easily track business-related transactions by opening a dedicated business bank account.

Apply for a Business Credit Card

In addition to a business bank account, consider applying for a business credit card. A business credit card can help you manage cash flow, track expenses, and build your company’s credit history. Unlike personal credit cards, business credit card limits are based on your company’s revenue and creditworthiness rather than your credit score.

7. Obtain Licenses and Permits

Before launching your septic tank cleaning business, it’s essential to obtain the necessary licenses and permits. Find federal license information through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA also offers a local search tool for state and city requirements.

One of the most important licenses for a septic tank cleaning business is a state-issued septic contractor license. This license demonstrates that you have the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to safely and effectively clean and maintain septic systems.

In addition to a septic contractor license, your business may need to obtain a general business license from your local city or county government. This license ensures that your septic tank cleaning company complies with local zoning laws, building codes, and health regulations.

To apply for a general business license, you’ll typically need to provide information about your business, such as your company name, address, and type of services offered, along with paying a fee.

Another important permit for septic tank cleaning businesses is a vehicle permit for your pumping trucks and other commercial vehicles. These permits ensure that your vehicles meet safety standards and comply with weight and size restrictions on public roads.

In some cases, your septic tank cleaning business may also need to obtain permits related to specific job sites or projects. For example, if you’re working on a construction site or in an environmentally sensitive area, you may need to secure permits from local building departments or environmental agencies to ensure compliance.

By taking the time to research and obtain the necessary licenses and permits for your septic tank cleaning business, you’ll demonstrate your commitment to professionalism, safety, and environmental responsibility.

8. Get Business Insurance

As a septic tank cleaning business owner, protecting your company from potential risks and liabilities is crucial for long-term success. One of the most effective ways to safeguard your business is by obtaining the appropriate insurance coverage.

Consider these three scenarios where not having business insurance could jeopardize your septic tank cleaning company:

  • Property damage: While cleaning a septic tank, your equipment malfunctions, causing damage to the customer’s property. Without proper insurance coverage, you would be financially responsible for repairing or replacing the damaged property, which could be a significant expense for your business.
  • Injury to an employee: One of your employees slips and falls while performing a septic tank cleaning job, resulting in a severe injury. If you don’t have workers’ compensation insurance, you may be liable for the employee’s medical expenses and lost wages, which could put a substantial financial strain on your company.
  • Legal claims: A customer alleges that your septic tank cleaning services caused harm to their health or property, leading to a lawsuit against your business. Without liability insurance, you would be responsible for covering legal fees and any potential settlements or judgments, which could financially devastate your company.

To protect your septic tank cleaning business from these and other risks, it’s essential to obtain the right insurance coverage. The process of getting business insurance typically involves the following steps:

  • Assess your risks: Evaluate the specific risks associated with your septic tank cleaning business, such as property damage, injuries, and legal liabilities.
  • Determine the types of coverage you need: Common types of business insurance for septic tank cleaning companies include general liability, workers’ compensation, commercial auto, and property insurance. Consult with an insurance agent or broker who specializes in the septic tank cleaning industry to determine the appropriate coverage for your business.
  • Gather necessary information: To obtain quotes from insurance providers, you’ll need to provide information about your business, such as your company name, address, number of employees, revenue, and details about your septic tank cleaning services and equipment.
  • Shop around for quotes: Contact multiple insurance providers or work with an insurance broker to obtain quotes for the coverage you need. Compare the quotes based on factors such as coverage limits, deductibles, and premiums to find the best value for your business.
  • Purchase and maintain your insurance: Once you’ve selected an insurance provider, complete the necessary paperwork and pay your premiums to secure coverage. Review your policies annually and update your coverage as your business grows or your risks change.

You can also consult with local insurance agents who have experience working with septic tank cleaning businesses or use online insurance marketplaces like CoverWallet or Insureon to compare quotes from multiple providers.

9. Create an Office Space

As a septic tank cleaning business owner, having a dedicated office space can be incredibly beneficial for managing your operations, handling administrative tasks, and meeting with clients or employees. While your primary work takes place at customers’ properties, a well-organized office can serve as a central hub.

Home Office

For many septic tank cleaning businesses, particularly those just starting, a home office can be a cost-effective solution. By dedicating a room or area in your home to your business, you can keep overhead costs low while still maintaining a professional workspace. A home office is ideal for handling administrative tasks.

Coworking Office

If you prefer a separate workspace but aren’t ready to commit to a long-term lease, a coworking office could be a great option. Coworking spaces like WeWork offer flexible membership plans that provide access to professional office amenities, such as high-speed internet, printing services, and meeting rooms.

Retail Office

While less common for septic tank cleaning businesses, retail office space may be appropriate if you plan to offer additional services or products, such as septic system inspections or septic tank maintenance supplies. A retail office can provide a storefront for customers to visit and a space to display products.

10. Source Your Equipment

When starting a septic tank cleaning business, sourcing the right equipment is crucial for providing efficient and high-quality services to your customers. The essential equipment for a septic tank cleaning business includes a vacuum truck, pumps, hoses, safety gear, and cleaning tools.

Buying New

Investing in new equipment ensures that you have reliable, state-of-the-art tools to handle any septic tank cleaning job. Purchasing new equipment also often comes with warranties and support from manufacturers. Try vendors like Plumbers Best Supply to get started.

Buying Used

For entrepreneurs with limited startup capital, purchasing used septic tank cleaning equipment can be a more affordable option. Used equipment can be found through online classifieds like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or eBay, as well as through industry-specific forums or local equipment dealers.


Renting septic tank cleaning equipment can be a smart choice for businesses just starting or those with limited funds. Renting allows you to access the necessary tools without a long-term commitment or substantial upfront costs. Equipment rental companies like United Rentals or Sunbelt Rentals offer vacuum trucks.


Leasing septic tank cleaning equipment offers a middle ground between buying and renting, allowing you to spread the cost of equipment over a longer period while still maintaining ownership at the end of the lease term.

11. Establish Your Brand Assets

Establishing a strong brand is essential for any septic tank cleaning business looking to stand out in a competitive market. A well-defined brand helps customers recognize and remember your business, builds trust and credibility, and ultimately drives growth and success.

Getting a Business Phone Number

A dedicated business phone number is crucial for presenting a professional image and ensuring that customers can easily reach you. Ring Central offers a reliable and feature-rich business phone system that includes virtual phone numbers, call forwarding, and voicemail-to-email functionality.

Creating a Logo and Brand Assets

A well-designed logo is the cornerstone of your brand identity. It should be memorable, visually appealing, and reflective of your septic tank cleaning business’s values and personality. A logo can be a wordmark (text-based), a symbol, or a combination of both. Looka is an AI-powered logo design platform that can help you create a professional logo.

Creating Business Cards and Signage

Business cards are a tangible representation of your brand and a powerful networking tool. They provide a convenient way to share your contact information with potential customers and partners. Vistaprint offers a wide range of customizable business card templates and printing options to suit your needs and budget.

Purchasing a Domain Name

In today’s digital age, having an online presence is essential for any business. The first step in establishing your online brand is securing a domain name that reflects your septic tank cleaning company’s name or services. Namecheap is a reliable and affordable domain registrar.

Building a Website

Creating a Website Yourself: For septic tank cleaning businesses with limited budgets or tech-savvy owners, building a website using a user-friendly website builder like Wix can be a cost-effective solution. Wix offers drag-and-drop functionality, customizable templates, and built-in SEO tools, making it easy to create a professional website.

Hiring Someone to Create Your Website

If you prefer to focus on running your septic tank cleaning business and leave the website creation to the experts, hiring a freelance web designer or developer from a platform like Fiverr can be a smart choice. Fiverr connects you with talented professionals who can create a custom website tailored to your brand and business needs.

12. Join Associations and Groups

Joining associations and groups is a powerful way for septic tank cleaning business owners to network, learn from industry experts, and stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices. By connecting with others in the industry, you can gain valuable insights, share experiences, and potentially even find new business opportunities.

Local Associations

Local associations provide a platform for septic tank cleaning professionals to connect, share knowledge, and advocate for the industry. To find relevant associations in your area, start by searching online for “septic tank cleaning associations”. For example, the Arizona Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (AzOWRA) supports those in Arizona.

Local Meetups

Attending local meetups and trade shows is an excellent way to connect with other septic tank cleaning professionals, suppliers, and potential customers in your area. Meetup is a popular platform for finding and joining local events related to your industry. Simply search for “septic tank cleaning” or “wastewater” on the Meetup website.

Facebook Groups

Facebook groups offer a convenient way to connect with septic tank cleaning professionals from around the world, as well as to engage with local communities. Try groups like Septic & Sewer Systems Care & Info and Septic system installs and repairs to start.

13. How to Market a Septic Tank Cleaning Business

Marketing is the lifeblood of any business, and a septic tank cleaning company is no exception. To grow your customer base, increase brand awareness, and ultimately drive revenue, you must implement a comprehensive marketing strategy that leverages both digital and traditional tactics.


Personal Networking

When starting a septic tank cleaning business, your most valuable marketing asset is your network. Reach out to friends, family, and professional contacts to let them know about your new venture and ask for their support in spreading the word. As you begin servicing customers, focus on providing exceptional service and building strong relationships.

Digital Marketing

  • Google Ads: Launch targeted pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns on Google to reach potential customers actively searching for septic tank cleaning services in your area. Use relevant keywords and compelling ad copy to attract clicks and drive traffic to your website.
  • Facebook Ads: Create engaging Facebook ads that showcase your expertise, promote special offers, and target homeowners in your service area. Use eye-catching visuals and clear calls to action to encourage users to learn more about your business.
  • Start a YouTube Channel: Develop informative and engaging video content that educates homeowners about septic tank maintenance, common issues, and the importance of regular cleaning. Share these videos on your website and social media channels to establish your authority and attract new customers.
  • Email Marketing: Build an email list of past and potential customers, and send regular newsletters featuring helpful tips, exclusive promotions, and company updates. Use engaging subject lines and personalized content to increase open rates and drive conversions.
  • Local SEO: Optimize your website and online profiles for local search by including relevant keywords, accurate business information, and customer reviews. Claim your Google My Business listing.

Traditional Marketing

  • Direct Mail: Send targeted mailers to homeowners in your service area, promoting your septic tank cleaning services and offering introductory discounts. Response rates for direct mail can be lower than digital marketing.
  • Flyers and Door Hangers: Distribute eye-catching flyers or door hangers in neighborhoods with a high concentration of septic tank users. Include a compelling offer and clear contact information to encourage homeowners to schedule a cleaning service.
  • Billboards: If your budget allows, consider investing in billboard advertising along high-traffic routes in your service area. Use a bold, easy-to-read design and a memorable message to grab the attention of passing drivers and increase brand awareness.
  • Radio Advertising: Partner with local radio stations to run targeted ads during peak commute times or home improvement shows. While radio advertising can be costly, it can be effective for reaching a broad audience and building brand recognition in your community.

While traditional marketing tactics may not always offer the best return on investment, they can still play a role in your overall marketing strategy. The key is to track your results and continually optimize your campaigns based on what works best for your septic tank cleaning business. By combining targeted digital marketing efforts with strategic traditional tactics, you can effectively reach your target audience, generate leads, and grow your business over time.

14. Focus on the Customer

In the septic tank cleaning industry, exceptional customer service is paramount to the success and growth of your business. As a service-based company, your reputation heavily relies on the satisfaction of your customers and their willingness to recommend your business to others.


Providing outstanding customer service starts with being responsive and communicative. When a customer reaches out to schedule a septic tank cleaning, promptly return their call or email and provide them with a clear understanding of your services, pricing, and availability.

By consistently delivering exceptional customer service, you’ll create a loyal customer base that will not only continue to use your services but also actively recommend your septic tank cleaning business to their friends, family, and neighbors.

Prioritizing customer service is essential for the success and growth of your septic tank cleaning company. By providing responsive, knowledgeable, and friendly service, you’ll create a loyal customer base that will enthusiastically recommend your business to others, driving long-term growth and profitability.

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