How to start a cleaning business

Buffing the floor, cleaning business

One of the easiest ventures to start up is a cleaning business. 

The popular perception is that lots of money can be made for doing very little. Just get a few cleaning ladies in and charge what you can get away with. 

Sadly we’ve seen, in the course of many years running our own cleaning business just how wrong this idea is. It can go so wrong for you, so very quickly. 

This article looks at how to start your own cleaning business, right from th ground floor up, based around our own experience and that of observed experiences. 

You need to know first and foremost the most important factors:

  • Professionalism in appearance and knowledge
  • Tailor the work to the customers’ needs, not yours
  • Know exactly what you are doing and how to do the work
  • Do what you say you are going to do and when you are going to do it
  • Be very particular in the results you will produce

These are difficult points for many people to grasp.

Its dirty work so you will naturally wear old jeans and t-shirts with trainers. You should wear proper industrial shoes and overalls or a tabard or similar.


You may want to start with your own vacuum cleaner and cleaning products which you’ve bought from the supermarket. You should use a professional vacuum cleaner and professional products from janitorial suppliers. This includes items like cloths, mops, buckets and hand buckets.

You might think your house is clean and the work is easy but just try cleaning a complete stranger’s house to their satisfaction

Find out what the customer wants you to do and do it as well as you can so that everything you clean is obviously clean. Once you’ve done the work, set up a proper invoicing system and invoice the customer, so you should have in place a recognisable business model before you start.

If you’re good at the work then you’ll have no problems getting customers in, as you existing customers will recommend you to their contacts and friends. It is that easy.


Cleaning business customers only want their office or house to look much cleaner than before you started, with the minimum amount of disruption and certainly no damage. Since many surfaces are easily damaged you will need insurance. 

You may also need key holder insurance. If you run your business as a limited company then you will automatically need professional Indemnity insurance. 


Let’s look at training and how the work is to be done. The popular perception is that anyone can clean. You might think your house is clean and the work is easy but just try cleaning a complete stranger’s house to their satisfaction. 

If you were trained fully in cleaning procedures then this would not be a problem. People react quite differently when a professional deals with them. So you need to be a professional and that takes training. 

There are some training courses, which we would reserve our professional judgement on. In fact, to be fully trained in cleaning can be quite difficult and demands time and concentration. 

However, real-life cleaners are mostly trained on the job and that includes using machinery such as buffers or scrubber driers. Many problems arise from this, not least damage to surfaces and the operator’s feet.

Cleaners have to use chemicals (detergents) to remove the dirt. Training should show at least how the products have to be used as well as their limitations – acids on some surfaces for example. 

Damage to surfaces is always caused through poor or non-existent knowledge of cleaning products. This always reflects right the way through the cleaning industry as a whole – badly, as seen by the very high insurance premiums we have to pay.

Getting customers isn’t so difficult. Become very good at the work and be professional and referrals from your customers will follow. 

Having a fully liveried van and company logos over your overalls raises awareness of your business as well. 

What are customers’ main gripes? Pick any of the following:

  • Turning up late
  • Bad attitude to the work and no pride in it
  • Taking longer than necessary
  • Not answering the phone or not returning calls
  • Charging for two cleaners but only one turns up
  • Poor or unobserved work, so that the finger-marks you saw two days ago remain. And don’t mention the toilets, please
  • Poor value for money
  • Incompetence
  • Poor appearance and communication, which generates perception that work will be similarly  shoddy. It does matter, in the customer’s mind
  • Damage to surface materials – scratch and scrub marks, damage caused by using something inappropriate for the surface
  • Dirty cleaning equipment

Full-time business

A cleaning business can be a really nice, profitable way of earning a living but it needs full-time attention to get it right. It should never be a part-time business. Give it full-time attention and grow your business slowly but surely, then you will keep your customer base and increase it even in times of recession. 

But before you start a cleaning business, take heed of our comments. Ninety-five percent of cleaning businesses fail in their first year and another 95% of the survivors go under in the second year too, the banks report. But your business won’t fail if you take the time to learn what cleaning is all about before you start.


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