How to Start a Power Washing Business

Last Updated on

Quick Reference

If you’re looking for a career that gets you outdoors, keeps you active, and instantly shows the results of your work, then starting a power washing business might be the right option for you. With a power washing business, you’ll clean any number of different surfaces and quickly improve their appearance. This type of business requires only minimal startup costs, and it’s possible to run this business on a part-time basis as you build up your customer roster and lay the foundation of your new career. 

Business Overview

Power washing businesses are mobile businesses that offer cleaning services to commercial and/or residential properties. Power washing is efficient and effective, but it also requires some degree of skill and caution. Power washing uses heated water, while the more common pressure washing relies on cold water. While anyone can rent a basic model pressure or power washer, power washing businesses offer expertise, convenience, and higher quality equipment that can tackle larger jobs. 

Most power washing businesses offer a variety of services, from cleaning driveways and building siding to cleaning boats and automobiles. These businesses travel to their customers, and many customers may become returning customers who schedule appointments multiple times per year. 

Industry Summary

According to IBIS World, the building exterior cleaners industry, which includes power washing, experienced a 2.0% growth from 2015 to 2020. This growth was driven by increased demand for cleaning services from both households and businesses. An increase in per capita disposable income meant that more consumers were able to hire out the cleaning work, rather than attempting to do it themselves. Office vacancies also declined during this period, driving an increase in service demand. 

In 2020, the industry is expected to bring in $10 billion in revenue. The 108,107 businesses in operation employ a total of 160,111 people. The building exterior cleaners industry is predicted to continue to grow as the residential and commercial markets also experience growth and profitability. 

Some power washing businesses also provide window cleaning services.  See the industry overview for window washing businesses

Industry Trends

Many trends continue to shape the power washing industry. Jobber Academy notes that it’s important for power washing businesses to invest in technology and equipment that increases their efficiency and their ability to do top-quality work. Software and training tools can help businesses to attract, hire, and train talented employees. Specialty equipment, like water fed poles, allows a business to tackle difficult jobs while saving time. Automation tools, like QuickBooks Online, help business owners to better operate their businesses while also saving time. 

Social media has also become important for power washing businesses. Posting footage of actual jobs can give businesses credibility while showing potential customers the quality work that the business does. Drone footage and video footage can make a business’ social media pages more engaging, and it can help to position the business owner as an authority in the industry. 

Businesses also need to fully embrace online marketing, since more customers are turning to online searches and reviews when identifying and booking service professionals. Google’s local service ads can be a valuable marketing option, and businesses need to make it easy for potential customers to contact them through their Google business pages. 

Just like in many other industries, the customer service experience has become increasingly important and valued in the power washing industry. Business owners should focus on providing the best customer service experience possible from the initial inquiry to following up after the appointment. Promptly returning phone calls, giving scheduling flexibility, arriving at appointments on time, offering automated recurring scheduling, and taking credit card payments or online payments can all help a business’ customer service to stand out from others.

Target Market

Power washing businesses may market to a variety of property owners or property managers. Many power washers market to business owners, while others may also market to homeowners and boat and vehicle owners, too. 

Skills, experience, and education useful in running a power washing business

Starting a power washing business doesn’t require a business degree, but certain skills and experiences are valuable in both starting and running this type of business.

Power washing experience. Experience in using power washing equipment is important and will help a business owner perform quality work.

Attention to detail. From choosing the right power settings to ensuring that every job is done well and completely, a business owner will use attention to detail daily.  

Customer service skills. Business owners will interact with customers daily. Strong customer service skills like promptly returning phone calls and addressing customer concerns can help a business to build up a roster of returning customers. 

Knowledge of chemical use and safety. Cleaning chemicals require proper handling, storage, and usage to be safe. Experience in using these chemicals is beneficial, but be prepared to take a training course and earn a certification to handle particularly harsh chemicals.

Organizational skills. A business owner also needs to be well-organized in order to track appointments, show up on time, ensure that invoices go out, and more. 

Management experience. When it’s time for a business to hire employees, previous hiring, training, and management experience will be valuable. 

Costs to Start a Power Washing Business

One of the great benefits of starting a power washing business is that you won’t need significant startup costs to get up and running. It’s possible to start a smaller power washing business with basic equipment for as little as $10,000. Lease and rent-to-own options mean that you can access even more equipment, as needed, with little money down. If you already have a vehicle that you can use for your business, you’ll also save on startup costs. 

Common startup costs for a power washing business:

  • Power washing equipment
  • Truck or van
  • Cleaning chemicals
  • Uniforms
  • Computer and printer

Steps to Starting a Power Washing Business

Step 1. Write your Business Plan

After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your business should be to write a clothing line business plan.  Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan, 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

It’s possible to run a single-vehicle business out of your home, but once you expand that business to a multi-vehicle operation, it may be necessary to rent a garage or storage building with a parking lot. If the business is run from out of the home, be sure to check for any zoning restrictions.

Related: Choosing a business location

Step 4. Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

A power washing business will need to obtain certain business licenses and permits, including permits and certifications for the cleaning chemicals used. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located.

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 power washing business is another.  In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need 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 is essential in both launching the business and in continuously bringing in new customers to expand the business and boost profits. Marketing activities can include social media marketing, direct mail, online advertising, and even approaching business owners with an in-person introduction. Establishing a referral program can also help to bring in new customers. The costs of these activities will vary depending on the type and volume of activity being performed. Business owners who can do some or all of their own marketing can save money over hiring a professional service. 

Related: Low-cost ideas to market a new business

Step 7. Get Insurance

A power washing business will need several different insurance policies for full coverage: 

  • General liability insurance protects the business in case clients or their property are ever injured or damaged as the result of the business’ work. This type of policy can help to cover expenses like medical bills, repair costs, and legal fees. 
  • Commercial property insurance helps to protect the business if its equipment is ever damaged or destroyed in an event like a fire. 
  • Commercial auto insurance helps to cover expenses that can result if a business vehicle is ever involved in an accident. 
  • Worker’s compensation insurance helps to cover expenses like lost wages and medical bills that may occur if an employee is ever hurt while on the job. 

Insurance policy cost will vary depending on factors like the value of the business’ equipment and the value of its vehicles. To get an accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, look beyond just how the premiums stack up and be sure to consider all of the factors like differences in coverage limits, exclusions, and deductibles. 

Step 8. Hiring Employees

While it’s possible for a business owner to perform all of the power washing work in a business’ initial stages, bringing on additional staff will allow that business to expand and accommodate growing demand. ZipRecruiter states that pressure washers make an average of $28,384 per year, though salaries do range from $19,000 to $35,500.

In addition to budgeting for employee salaries, a budget will also need to include the additional expenses that come with hiring staff, like paid time off, health insurance contributions, and worker’s comp insurance. 

Related: Hiring your first employee

Amazon has several good books for starting a power washing business such as:

How much can you potentially make owning a power washing business?

Many factors will affect a power washing business’ income, including the business’ location, profit margins, and any type of special services offered. Businesses that focus solely on commercial work will earn more money per job, but there’s plenty of opportunity for profit in residential work, too. 

According to Power Wash Guide, power washers can earn between $40 and $60 per hour; businesses that offer environmental services can charge $80 and up per hour. Power washing houses can average between $220 and $380, while driveways average $130 to $220. If a business has minimal expenses and is able to book a full schedule, that business owner can make a healthy annual income. 

Things to consider before starting a power washing business

It’s possible to damage items with a power washer, so invest some time into educating yourself about the equipment and learning how to use it correctly on a variety of surfaces. Ideally, try to get some experience working with someone who’s talented in power washing. If you can work for someone else’s business, you can get a sense of what running your own business will be like, and can learn valuable information about safety, power washing techniques, and what equipment you’d like to buy. 

When it comes to purchasing equipment, avoid buying the more basic, cheaper equipment. These power washers are unlikely to hold up to the intense use they’ll see in a business setting, and you’ll find yourself replacing them quickly. Instead, try to save up for higher quality equipment, or look for used, quality equipment that’s been well-maintained. Having this higher quality equipment can even help with bookings, since you’ll offer better results than customers could get if they went out and rented a basic power washer, themselves. 

Power Washers of North America
Pressure Washers of America
United Association of Mobile Contract Cleaners