How to start a carpet cleaning business (7 Easy Steps)

If you’re wondering how to start a carpet cleaning business, you’re onto something beautiful. The demand for both residential and commercial carpet cleaning services is at an all-time high. In fact, the $5 billion US carpet cleaning industry is expected to grow at a healthy CAGR of 6.2 percent through to the close of 2022.

In almost every respect, how to start a carpet cleaning business is the same as getting any other type of business off the ground. You’ll need to draft an actionable business plan, get your new company registered, and secure financing, among other basic steps.

But getting started with your carpet cleaning venture won’t be an easy walk in the park. You must also take care of other industry-specific measures. For instance, you must get trained and certified; invest in the right set of carpet cleaning equipment, and purchase insurance protection for your business against liabilities specific to the niche.

How to start a carpet cleaning business
How to start a carpet cleaning business

Clearly, there’s a lot that goes into creating a successful carpet cleaning business. And, lucky for you, we’ve packed everything that you need to know into this comprehensive step-by-step guide. Let’s dive right in.

How to start a carpet cleaning business

Step-1: Draft a business plan

It all starts with drafting your business strategy. This is a vital document that serves as an actionable blueprint or roadmap for your business. It details both your short-term and long-term business goals and objectives, as well as how you plan to achieve them.

You don’t have to wreck your nerves on it. A good business plan for your carpet cleaning venture can be as broad or detailed, informal or formal, as you want. After all, this is your business living document — something that you’ll come back to repeatedly for inspiration.

A business plan will not only help you gather your thoughts and set financial goals but can also play a crucial role in securing the financing you need to launch your business on the right foot. It also acts as a jumping-off point where you’ll make nitty-gritty decisions, such as:

[1] Who are your target clients?

This is HUGE. Who are your target customers?

When it comes to the carpet cleaning industry, your choice of clients often boils down to either residential or commercial. Whereas you could get your feet wet in both markets, you’d be better off focusing on one as a startup. There are, of course, some pros and cons to each choice:

  • Commercial: Institutions, commercial buildings, businesses, and companies rely on commercial cleaners to regularly clean their rugs and carpets. You’ll be dealing with lots of carpeting space, so the job calls for more advanced equipment, a bigger budget, and a larger team.
  • Residential: Jobs are infrequent and the square-footage of carpeting is smaller in the residential market. You can clean carpets on or off-site, requiring a small team or even one person. It’s an ideal market for those starting out solo.

Whether you’re in Boise, Idaho, Denver, CO, or Chicago, IL, your choice will affect many aspects of your carpet cleaning business. These include your insurance needs, size of the crew, equipment, and budget.

[2] What’s your recruitment strategy?

Most residential carpet cleaners start with a single employee: the owner. Others prefer to hire a small crew right off the bat, choosing to add more as the company grows.

On the other hand, the vast majority of commercial cleaning companies hire a larger team, which can also expand with time. In either case, you’ll want to address your hiring plans right from the outset. And this is where your business plan comes into play.

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[3] What’s your budget?

It’s crucial to get a handle on your budget during the business planning phase, and with good reason. You’ll be able to figure out how much extra funding you’ll need on top of the cash at hand. Also make plans for both upfront and ongoing expenses, such as:

  • Business license fees
  • Equipment and maintenance costs
  • Wages
  • Certification and training costs
  • Fueling costs

The list goes on and on. If financial planning isn’t your strong suit, you can hire a CPA or use a simple budgeting tool.

[4] What’s the location of your business?

Where you choose to base your business will make a huge difference in terms of costs and convenience. If you focus on the residential space, you might want to operate your carpet cleaning business out of your truck or home to save money.

If you’re running a large commercial carpet cleaning company, you may want to establish a physical location. You can even set up multiple locations for different cleaning teams. For example, if you cater to the whole of Florida, you can have locations in Clearwater, Daytona Beach, Sarasota, Fort Myers, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville.

[5] Do you want to go solo or opt for the franchise route?

Decisions, decisions. You can go solo if you want to create an independent carpet cleaning service from scratch. However, you can skip all the hoops and join a carpet cleaning franchise like Zerorez, MilliCare, Oxi Fresh, Chem-Dry, or Stanley Steemer.

How to start a carpet cleaning business
How to start a carpet cleaning business

Step-2: Obtain relevant certifications and training

Before you get the word out about your business, you must make sure that your crew is well-trained and certified to offer carpet cleaning services. Here are some training and certification options for aspiring carpet cleaners in the US:

Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC)

This is the gold standard when it comes to carpet cleaning certification in the US and beyond. They offer a variety of courses that help you get certified as a Rug Cleaning Technician, Commercial Carpet Maintenance Technician, Carpet Cleaning Technician, and other related specialties. You can opt for an online certification or complete an in-person IICRC course.

Carpet Cleaning Training Program

This is a 4-hour, self-paced basic skills training that builds up to an IICRC certification. You can offer the download version to your entire crew.

TMF Academy

Another popular choice, the TMF Academy offers a wide range of online training courses geared towards upcoming carpet cleaners.

Supplier training

Some carpet cleaning equipment vendors, like Rotovac and Jon-Don, have training programs and educational materials for would-be and existing carpet cleaners and owners.

No matter your choice, it pays to ensure that your whole crew is adequately trained and fully certified. Hands-on experience is also indispensable. You can shadow a well-established crew so you can learn on the job.

Step-3: Get your business licensed and registered

It’s time to make your carpet cleaning business official by registering it with your state. If you’re putting together a one-person carpet cleaning business, you may not be required to register with your state, as it’s a sole proprietorship.

It’s advisable, however, that you register as a Limited Liability Company (aka an LLC). This way, you can shield your personal assets from any liability that your business may run into. Other benefits include pass-through taxation and increased credibility.

You must also obtain the relevant business permits and licenses. You’ll want to check with your town, city, or county clerk’s office for license and permit requirements. Similarly, check with state offices for requirements for permits and licenses in your particular state.

For instance, if you’re based in California, you must obtain the following permits and licenses:

  • A state employers registration form
  • A business license
  • A California EPA ID number
  • A wastewater discharge permit
  • A fire code permit, and
  • A hazardous materials disclosure

On top of that, you may be asked to purchase a bond, open a business bank a/c, and file for an EIN for taxation purposes.

How to own a carpet cleaning business
Staff cleaning carpet with a vacuum cleaner.

Also, read How to start a lawn care business

Step-4: Safeguard your business with the right insurance

As part of the essential paperwork, you must take out the right insurance to protect your business against potential liability and risk claims. Although there are numerous insurance options, three are indispensable for your carpet cleaning business: general liability coverage, worker’s compensation, and commercial auto insurance.

[i] Commercial auto insurance

If you’re legally required to take a commercial auto insurance policy if you plan to purchase or lease a van/truck for your carpet cleaning biz. This policy usually protects the driver, your vehicle, and 3rd parties. They provide the following types of coverage:

  • Collision coverage
  • Personal injury coverage
  • Medical bills
  • Property damage liability
  • Coverage for comprehensive physical damage
  • Uninsured third parties and motorist coverage

The minimum liability limit varies from state to state. In Texas, for example, the law mandates that all commercial auto insurance policies boast a minimum coverage of $30,000 per individual and $25,000, and $60,000 per accident for property damage and bodily injury respectively.

[ii] Workers’ compensation

This type of insurance policy is legally required in all states in the US, save for Texas. It protects your company and employees in case of work-related risks and liabilities. The coverage may include:

  • Unemployment/ lost wages
  • Funeral costs
  • State disability coverage
  • Rehab costs
  • Ongoing treatment expenses
  • Medical payments

[iii] General liability insurance

Though most states don’t require carpet cleaning businesses to carry general liability coverage, it’s now more important than ever before. It protects against most third-party liabilities like bodily injury, property damage, and personal/advertising injury.

Having general liability coverage is your best shot at hedging against a plethora of potential claims that could run your business aground.

Also read, How to Start a Woodworking Business

Step-5: Get the right equipment and tools

Here’s where you’ll need to get your ducks in a row. When it comes to how to start a carpet cleaning business, the equipment and tools you’ll need should be at the forefront.

You can kick off your venture with the basics, such as detergents, solvents, steam carpet cleaners, and an industrial vacuum. These will get you going as you look to expand your service portfolio and clientele list.

Once you get a good feel for the business, you can perk up your toolkit. You might want to stock up on:

  • Stain and pet odor removers
  • Rinsers
  • Deodorizers
  • Carpet rakes
  • Spotters and stain removers
  • Stair carpet cleaning equipment
  • Upholstery wands

It’s worth exchanging notes with well-established professional carpet cleaners in your area or network. Aside from run-of-the-mill equipment and cleaning agents, you might end up needing the following:

  • A vehicle: You’ll need a truck or van to get your equipment around. This is especially true for residential carpet cleaners. It should be roomy enough for all the tools of the job.
  • Core equipment and supplies: This is really the meat of the business. The most important piece of equipment you’ll have to invest in is the carpet cleaning unit. For small residential jobs, a mobile extractor may do the trick, but a vehicle-mounted unit is the industry gold standard.

Step-6: Secure funds for your carpet cleaning business

It’s no big secret that it costs money – sometimes, big money — to get your carpet cleaning business off the ground. It takes money to get yourself trained and certified; obtain business permits and licenses; get your business insured, and round up your toolset, equipment, and supplies.

  • Personal loans: As a new business, you probably don’t have the track record for banks and lenders to fund your venture. Thankfully, you can borrow from friends/family or take out a personal loan. Alternatively, you can draw from your savings account.
  • Small Business Administration loans: SBA loans are an ideal choice for small carpet cleaning businesses in the US. You must meet certain criteria, though.
  • Business credit cards: You can simply apply for a business credit line to take care of petty, day-to-day expenses.
  • HELOC credit: Also called Home Equity loan, this type of financing involves borrowing against the equity in your home or other real estate investments. It’s a revolving fund, which can be expanded as you establish credibility.
  • Equipment financing: This type of business financing will help cover the most expensive and important tools and equipment like the carpet cleaning unit.

You can also try your luck with traditional bank loans, crowdfunding platforms, and the government’s small business lending fund.

Step-7: Market, market, market

With your business up and running, it’s about time to get the word out there. To get the conversation going, start by offering discounted services to your local businesses, neighbors, friends, relatives, and so on.

Be sure to build rapport with hardware store owners, interior designers, landscapers, real estate agents, landlords, and other people involved in the industry. Spread your flyers, mailers, posters, brochures, and other marketing materials.

When all’s said and done, you must go digital – build a professional website, create social media pages, use email to market, and don’t forget local search optimization (SEO).

How to start a carpet cleaning business with no money
How to start a carpet cleaning business with no money

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How to start a carpet cleaning business: the wrap-up

It can be difficult to build your carpet cleaning business from the ground up. By heeding to these seven simple steps, you can power through the whole process without much hassle. Remember to create a solid foundation for your business and take advantage of digital marketing avenues to boost your client base and maximize profitability.