How to Start a Carpet Cleaning Business

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Quick Reference

Unlike many businesses which have a storefront, carpet cleaning businesses are mobile which may provide a lower cost to start and greater time flexibility. Rather than worrying about keeping a store staffed, you’ll be on the road meeting with clients and cleaning homes, offices, and more. If you’ve ever wanted a business that you could start with a small investment and have attention to detail, you may be able to “clean up” with a carpet cleaning business. 

Business Overview

Carpet cleaning businesses offer residential services, commercial services, or both. Services include the deep-cleaning of carpets, rugs, and upholstery. Some companies offer additional specialized services such as rug dyeing, carpet restoration, and more. These businesses bring in professional-grade equipment that your typical homeowner or business owner doesn’t have access to, allowing them to do a more thorough cleaning to remove stains and dirt that common retail carpet cleaning products can’t remove. 

Because carpet cleaning isn’t a service that clients need daily or even monthly, these businesses need to build up a significant client list in order to stay busy. A business can be as small as one person with a single cleaning van, or as large as to have a whole fleet of vehicles staffed by employees. 

Industry summary

The carpet cleaning industry is predicted to bring in $5.4 billion in 2019, according to IBIS World. From 2015 through 2019, the industry saw increased demand for carpet cleaning, due to the increasing number of households that formed during that period and an increased disposable income rate. During that same time period, the number of vacant offices decreased, which resulted in an increased need for commercial cleaning services. In 2019, 34,852 carpet cleaning businesses were in operation, employing 69,840 staff. 

Industry trends

Demand for carpet cleaning services correlates with consumers’ disposable income and the number of occupied office buildings. For commercial cleaners, office buildings account for nearly a third of their total cleaning contracts, so an economy that negatively affects businesses can have a significant impact on carpet cleaning businesses. While no companies hold major shares of the market, franchise cleaning companies bring in 10 percent of the industry’s total revenue. These commercial franchises have just a 2 percent annual employee turnover rate. 

Most carpet cleaning clients are return clients who will request services again and again, which allows carpet cleaning businesses to build up a large, loyal clientele. However, cleaning companies lose up to 55 percent of their customers, on average, because of poor service quality or poor performance on the job. Carpet cleaners who offer quality services, show up on time, and perform well should be able to establish plenty of repeat clients for a steady income. 

Who is the target market for your carpet cleaning business?

The target market for a carpet cleaning business can differ according to the business’ specialization. Commercial carpet cleaners specialize in offices, museums, stores, and other professional spaces, and a commercial cleaner may not do any residential work at all. Alternatively, some businesses specialize in residential carpet cleaning and may not do any commercial work. 

A carpet cleaning business’ target market could be homeowners, renters, landlords, commercial property owners, business owners, and more. 

Skills, experience, and education useful in running a carpet cleaning business

Starting a carpet cleaning business doesn’t require a business degree, but business owners can benefit from having certain skills and experiences. 

Mechanical knowledge. Carpet cleaning equipment sees heavy use and requires regular maintenance. The more that a business owner can do when it comes to servicing and repairing equipment, the less downtime a business will see. Being able to diagnose and repair a mechanical problem on your own can also save on expensive repair costs. 

Physical strength. Transporting and using carpet cleaning equipment is physically demanding and requires someone who is strong enough to transport equipment several times a day. 

Experience in the cleaning industry. An understanding of the different chemicals and techniques used in the carpet cleaning industry will ensure any business owner understands how to address different stains on different materials for the best results. 

Attention to detail. Cleaning carpets is all about details. To do a good job, a business owner needs to pay attention to details in the clients’ rooms to ensure that the job is done fully and well. 

Management skills. When carpet cleaning businesses grow large enough to hire employees, management skills and experience are valuable when training and overseeing employees.  A key skill as the team grows and the owner isn’t directly overseeing jobs is ensuring employees use their time efficiently in order to stay profitable. 

Customer service experience. From answering calls to addressing customer questions and concerns, previous customer service experience will put a carpet cleaning business owner ahead of the game. Because many carpet cleaning clients are returning clients, providing a positive experience to customers with every cleaning is important to a business’ profits. 

Marketing skills. Marketing a carpet cleaning business requires some talent, and a business owner can save money on marketing if they are able to do some or all of the marketing themselves. 

Costs to Start a Carpet Cleaning Business

While a carpet cleaning business doesn’t require a traditional storefront, the business has to be mobile, which can add on costs in other ways.

The startup costs will vary according to the type and amount of equipment needed and whether or not you can find a deal on a used van that’s already outfitted. Purchasing used or refurbished equipment can also help to keep costs down.  The cost to start a carpet cleaning business can range from $500 to $85,000. 

Common startup costs for a carpet cleaning business include: 

  • A van to transport equipment
  • Professional carpet cleaning equipment
  • Cleaning products and solvents

How much can you potentially make owning a carpet cleaning business?

A carpet cleaning business’ income varies depending on the business’ age, location, clientele, and the business size. It is possible to make $50,000 to $75,000 with a carpet cleaning business, though some businesses make much higher amounts each year. Some carpet cleaning franchises, such as Chem-Dry, report that their franchisees earn as much as $94,000 each year. 

Steps to Starting a Carpet Cleaning Business

Step 1. Write your Business plan

After coming up with an idea, the next step in starting any business should be to write a business plan.  Not only will a bank require you to have one, but multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business.

How to write a business plan
Free sample business plans

Step 2. Form a Business Entity

A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and LLC.  Each type of entity has its own pros and cons such as liability exposure, costs and administrative requirements. 

Related: Comparison of Business Entities

Step 3. Select your Location

While most carpet cleaning businesses don’t need an expensive storefront, the business will need to operate out of somewhere.  Many smaller operations operate out of their home, so be sure to check zoning and covenants in case you have a neighbor that doesn’t approve.

Related: Choosing a business location

Step 4. Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

Like any business, a carpet cleaning business owner will likely need to obtain a variety of business licenses and permits in order to operate.  Some local governments also require that carpet cleaners hold specific cleaning business licenses due to wastewater disposal, however that is not common. 

Related: Common business licenses, permits and registrations by state

Step 5. Find Financing

Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a carpet cleaning business is another.  Fortunately, the cost to start a new carpet cleaning business is relatively low, however funding to start a business can be difficult.  Banks are typically going to want the borrower to have good credit and be able invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs. 

Related: Finding the money to start a business  

Step 6. Get your Marketing Plan in Place

Marketing expenses for carpet cleaning businesses can vary depending on the method and whether the marketing is kept in-house or if you hire a professional marketer. A quality website with before and after photos of a business’ work can be a powerful marketing tool and doesn’t require too much money to establish. Word-of-mouth marketing is key, but takes awhile to build.  Other marketing methods include social media, targeted direct mail, and print advertising. 

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

 Step 7. Get Insured

A carpet cleaning business will require several different insurance policies in order to be fully covered. 

  • Commercial liability insurance covers expenses if a client is ever injured or if the business ever damages a client’s property. 
  • Commercial property insurance can help to cover the cost of lost or damaged business equipment in case it’s damaged by a fire, flood, or other event. 
  • Workers comp insurance is required if a business hires employees. It helps to cover expenses like lost wages or medical bills in case an employee is injured while working. 
  • Automobile insurance is needed in order to cover the van and its drivers.  If you plan to use a personal vehicle, be sure to review your current policy to ensure it allows for commercial activity.

Policy costs will differ according to factors like a business’ location, the value of the equipment to be insured, and the number of employees on staff. To get a more accurate idea of potential insurance costs, request quotes from multiple insurance companies. Compare the policies and consider factors like deductibles and coverage limits to find the policy that’s best for a business. 

Step 8. Hiring Employees

Depending on the size of a carpet cleaning business, multiple employees may be needed. 

According to PayScale, carpet cleaners make an average of $13.20 per hour, or $35,370 per year. In addition to budgeting for employee salaries, don’t forget other employee-related expenses like health insurance contributions, unemployment contributions, paid time off, and workers comp expenses. 

There are a number of steps that a required for hiring an employee.

Related: Hiring your first employee

Things to consider before starting a carpet cleaning business

A carpet cleaning business doesn’t need a traditional storefront, but it still requires significant startup costs in equipment. Because carpet cleaning is technical and you’ll be working with chemicals, it is best if you can work as an apprentice with another carpet cleaner before going out on your own.  This way, you can be sure this is the right opportunity for you and so that you can learn how to keep yourself safe, learn how to apply the best techniques for different carpets and situations, and how to get the best results from your work. If you can’t find an apprenticeship opportunity, you will need to invest in some training to learn how to use the equipment and the cleaning chemicals. 

Especially as many consumers have moved away from carpeting in their home to hardwoods and laminates, some carpet cleaning have expanded their offerings to cleaning services such as hard surface floor cleaning, window cleaning, exterior washing and air duct cleaning in order to increase sales. 

You will also need to decide whether you should start a business from scratch or buy into an existing business as a franchisee. There are pros and cons to each option. When buying a franchise, you may face higher startup costs than you would when starting your own business, but you also have the advantage of operating under the name of an established business with an existing reputation. 

In starting your own business you’ll have more control over every aspect of the business. It may take time to build your reputation, but with a dedication to great customer service, you can build a base of returning customers and enjoy a profitable business. 


Low Moisture Carpet Cleaners Association
International Cleaning and Restoration Association
National Carpet Cleaners Association


Additionally, Amazon has several good books for starting a laundromat such as:
Six Figure Carpet Cleaning: Start and Run a Successful Carpet Cleaning Business