How to Start a Carpet Cleaning Business

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Carpet cleaning is a $4.1 billion industry with 20,400 companies involved, as of the time of publication. The industry is dominated by small businesses that average five employees each, according research company IBIS World, and 2010 data from Franchise Help. A carpet cleaning business does not require much start-up capital, says the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification, an industry trade association. The association says that the business can be lucrative, despite numerous competitors, when run in a professional manner with proper training and sound marketing.

Pre-Start Checklist

Licensing and permits for operating a carpet cleaning business differ by location. Use the locator tool at the U.S. Small Business Administration “Find Business Licenses and Permits” website to find the requirements for your zip code.

Many commercial general liability insurance policies exclude damage to the property of others that is in the care, custody or control of the policyholder -- but the very nature of the carpet cleaning business is about the care, custody and control of customers' carpets. You will need a carpet cleaning policy that provides professional protection against unwanted mishaps.

You will also need surety bonding if you plan to solicit commercial and government carpet-cleaning contracts. You probably can operate your carpet cleaning business from your residence, depending on local zoning ordinances. If you can't, look into setting up in an industrial park. You don't necessarily need a high-profile, retail-type location.

Franchise vs. Independent

The franchise route may be appropriate if you feel more comfortable with executing an established business concept. The fee for starting a carpet cleaning franchise ranges between $20,000 and $50,000, according to the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification. This fee commonly includes training, marketing and the right to use the franchise’s brand name. It does not include normal start-up costs such as equipment and rental of a facility.

As an independent, you have freedom to run your business carpet cleaner as you please. You can get training and certifications from the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification, which provides carpet cleaning training and certification. Many equipment suppliers also provide training. Before making your decision, investigate franchise opportunities with several carpet cleaning franchises.

Carpet Cleaning Equipment

More than 90 percent of commercial carpet cleaners use the hot water extraction cleaning method, says American Home Town Services Inc., a supplier of carpet cleaning supplies. Portable and truck-mount are the two types of hot water extractor cleaning machines. Portable machines work well in hard-to-reach places and in high-rise buildings. They have comparable cleaning ability to truck-mount machines, but truck-mount machines clean carpets faster. The small water tanks in portables require frequent emptying, which slows down the cleaning process, according to CleanLink, another industry supplier. Portables do not have the maintenance issues of truck-mounts, and portable machines cost in the range of $5,000, while truck-mounts cost in the range of $15,000, without the truck.

3-Prong Marketing

John Braun, an industry marketing consultant and carpet cleaner business owner, says that many successful carpet cleaner businesses employ three marketing tools: referral, neighborhood and Internet marketing. Be proactive in getting referrals by giving gift cards, cash, or even a commission to customers who make referrals that convert into business. Neighborhood marketing is about blanketing targeted neighborhoods with promotional offers, such as a special discount price. Internet marketing can employ a variety of tactics, including your own customer-oriented website containing useful and informative reports and videos, blogs, and carpet cleaning estimating forms.


About the Author

George Boykin started writing in 2009 after retiring from a career in marketing management spanning 35 years, including several years as CMO for two consumer products national advertisers and as VP for an AAAA consumer products advertising agency. Boykin mainly writes about advertising and marketing for SMBs.

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