Starting a Cleaning Business, Good or Bad Idea?

First of all let me thank the forum for your helpful advice in my door to door sales thread, i have decided to put that idea aside and try something else (though i may try it out again once i have some money to invest)

I’m looking into the idea of starting a residental cleaning business, with plans to expand to janitorial services if things go well. it’s one of the few startups i can afford, with my $1,500 I could probably staff one or 2 maids. The problem i’m seeing is that there is a lot of competition out there, i looked up 17 cleaning services in the yellowpages and 123 floor and upholstery services on! (and that was within a 15 mile radius, with 25 miles there was 870!)

Another concern is that some of these other cleaners have “Cleaning and Restoration Certification” which i’m sure costs a lot of time and money to get.

My plan is to hire to hire a couple maids to clean for me while i focus on finding new customers, but i don’t know if i’ll be able to get any business. With all this competition and their higher credentials would there be a place for me in the market? Perhaps I could beat them on price? FYI my target income is $2,000 a month (i would even consider $1,000 to be successful)


I know a few people in the cleaning & janitorial business. They do the work themselves because hiring employees takes too much overhead (insurance, taxes, etc).

You’ll use up most of your $1500 just buying cleaning supplies - decent vacuum, mops, brooms, buckets, cleaning solutions, floor waxer, shampooer. contains some interesting info on the cleaning business. From the above website: “Your start-up costs can be as low as $5,000, or even less. It is even possible to start on a part-time basis working from home with just a vehicle and a minimal amount of equipment, assuming that you will do all the cleaning and marketing yourself.”

Also remember this: You’ll be having your employees in other peoples homes, so some of the things I mentioned in the door-to-door thread are even more appropriate here:

  1. Safety (of the employees from the clients and vice-versa)
  2. Insurance
  3. Bonding (some places require that cleaners that visit a place to be bonded)
  4. Background Checks (also required in some places- you wouldn’t want to hire a known thief or rapist to work in some grandmas home)

Also other expense you might need to consider aside from others have stated and costs associated with 2,3,&4 above: Uniforms. This gives a standardized and professional look.

If your starting on such a small scale, have you considered just advertising your business and outsourcing all of the work to independent cleaners? Theres many people out there looking for this type of work, all you have to do is focus on building up a good brand image and securing customers. You’ll need contracts to make sure the people you outsource to don’t steal your customers.

My dad has run his own part time janitorial service for about 8 years or so. We did the work as a family. He sent out letters to businesses soliciting clients and was able to always keep at least two or three on hand. You can do relatively well with it if you’re willing to work hard and $1000 a month is very easy to achieve if you’re doing only 2-3 hours a night every other night. (Most businesses want you to clean after hours so as not to disturb employees while they work.)

I wouldn’t even try to hire anyone when you first start up. Just do it yourself and if you are trustworthy and do a good job it will grow to the point that you can…

Our cleaning lady works hard but makes about $300 a day doing residential homes only. She has a waiting list. All of the cleaning people we have had over the years have had waiting lists, so the demand is there.

The real money is in commercial work. I have a friend that used to own a commercial cleaning business. The equipment can be expensive though. He owned those huge waxing machines. Some of them are so big you actually drive them, kind of like a Zamboni!

I guess it depends where you live. Around here, there is virtually no demand for residential cleaners. It’s primarily commercial work.

You should come up with an idea which differs you from other services. There’s no point of putting up a company that has similar services to 100 other rivals - you must have something no one else has. Or if you don’t then your prices have to be so low that you are able to steal the customers with low prices.

Think carefully befor entering that business if you want to actually live more than 6 months.


Even if you have just family members doingthe work you still need insurance and bonding. Anyone can still make a claim against you.

My dad was insured and bonded for a couple of years but found that it really made no difference. In 8 years he’s only had 1 incident where there was a problem and it was because one of the women that worked in the office just didn’t like us and decided to make a big deal out of nothing. (A personal item on the edge of her desk got knocked off and broken when we were dusting and we told her we’d gladly replace it, but she didn’t cooperate and ended up getting us fired. Which was no big deal, we had other jobs lined up…) So just keep those types of things in mind, too.

It does make a differance if you get sued though.

And many corporate clients (and the smart private ones) will not hire you if you are not insured or bonded. I certainly would not.

Like Brian, I wouldn’t hire anyone who wasn’t licensed and bonded.

What exactly is bonding? What does it cover that insurance doesn’t? Deductibles?

Bonding guarantees that a client will be paid if a loss or theft occurs.