Starting a House Cleaning Service

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A house cleaning service is a very simple business to start up. You don’t need a big investment or any specialized education or an enormous inventory.  To succeed, you do need to know how to clean a house, and you should have some specific qualities, outlined in my post Do You Have What It Takes To Successfully Operate Your Own House Cleaning Service?

Despite being quite simple to get up and running, a cleaning service does require that you consider a number of factors. Planning these out in advance is advisable so that once you’re ready to go, the process of launching your business will be simple and straightforward.

These factors include the following:

  • How will you advertise your business?
  • In what geographic area are you willing to work?
  • How far are you willing to travel?
  • What will you charge?
  • Will you charge by the hour or by the job?
  • Will you use the clients’ supplies or provide your own?
  • How many hours per week and per day are you willing to work?
  • What days of the week are you available to work?
  • What tasks will you perform as part of your typical cleaning regimen?
  • Are there any limitations to what you’re willing to do?
  • What are your business policies?
  • How will you keep track of client information such as names, addresses, security codes?
  • How will you keep track of your schedule?
  • How will you record your income and expenses?
  • Will you be bonded/insured?
  • Do you know some people who you can use as references?

How Will You Advertise?

Advertising is the means through which you will get clients when you’re starting out. Some ideas for connecting with potential customers include:

  • Telling friends and family that you’re starting a business.
  • Getting business cards printed up to hand out to people and leave in strategic spots.
  • Printing up flyers to post on bulletin boards.
  • Setting up a website.
  • Using local online classified ads or yellow page ads.
  • Networking on social media.
  • Placing an ad in a local newspaper or free paper.

Where Will You Work?

Figure out where, geographically, you will work. How far do you want to travel? Clearly communicating your territory when you advertise saves both you and potential clients time and trouble.

What Will You Charge?

The next thing to think about is your fee structure. Will you work by the job or by the hour? What will you charge? Do some research about the fees other cleaning services in your area charge.

When you’re starting out, the simpler approach is charging by the hour. Giving flat rate estimates requires some know-how about the time it will take for you to perform a job, which might be tricky when you don’t have a firm handle on timing. Plus, a lot of people will already have an idea what they want to spend, so charging by the hour makes it easy for them to decide if you’re offering a better deal than someone else.

Will You Provide Supplies?

Another factor to think about is whether you will provide cleaning supplies or use the clients’. Using the clients’ supplies is easier because you don’t have to carry a bunch of stuff around with you, lugging it in and out of your vehicle and people’s houses. Cleaning requires, at a minimum, a vacuum cleaner, mop, bucket, toilet brush, cleaning cloths, glass cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, bathroom cleaner, and specialty cleaners. Some clients like to have certain products used on their surfaces, as well.

I’ve always felt that it’s better to use each individual client’s vacuum cleaner, mop, cloths, etc. because this eliminates the potential of dragging germs, odors, and dirt from one person’s home to the next.

How Many Hours Per Day and Week Will You Work?

The next consideration is figuring out how many hours you want to work. Do you want to work the same number of hours each day or will it vary? Figuring this out ahead of time makes it easier to schedule jobs when the time comes.

What Days Will You Work?

Also decide what days you want to work and at what times. For example, Monday to Friday 9 to 4, or just mornings, or extending into evenings, or including weekends. Many people like to have their houses cleaned between 9:00 and 4:00 on weekdays. However, if you would prefer to work early mornings, evenings, or weekends, you’ll probably find some folks looking for someone to work during those hours.

What Tasks Will You Perform?

Clearly defining what specific tasks will be part of your cleaning routine is important. You will want to be on the same page with clients from day one.

To help you figure out what to include in your typical cleaning routine, I’ve compiled a  sample list of the chores a house cleaner might perform when doing a cleaning job for a client.

Tasks that are done in all rooms:

  • Working from high to low, eliminate cobwebs or dust along the edge where the walls and ceilings meet, on the ceiling itself, and in corners.
  • Dust ceiling fan blades, light fixtures, and anything else up high.
  • Dust the top edges of curtains and valances or other window treatments, window blinds, window sills, window grates, shutters inside windows.
  • Dust the edges of picture frames and wall-hangings.
  • Dust ridges on multi-panel doors, louvered doors, tops of door frames and doors, chair rails, air-vent covers.
  • Dust free-standing floor lamps, lampshades, finials, light bulbs, floor lamp bases.
  • Dust baseboards, baseboard heaters.
  • Spot clean fingerprints and other marks on walls, switch plates, doors and door frames.
  • Clean doorknobs, handrails, banisters.
  • Clean exterior glass doors and spot-clean insides of windows if necessary.

Tasks in the living room, family room, foyer, den, dining room, bedrooms, similar rooms:

  • Dust tables, shelves, stands, curios, dressers, chests, and other similar furniture, as well as the stuff on top, such as bric-a-brac, electronics, books, clocks, lamps, pictures.
  • Dust the sides, legs, and feet of furniture. Eliminate any cobwebs along bottom edges.
  • Spot clean glass doors on things like china cabinets.
  • Spot clean mirrors.
  • Dust (or vacuum with a dusting brush) fireplace hearths.
  • Wipe down or dust leather furniture.
  • Vacuum upholstered furniture as needed.
  • Clean the floors: vacuum, sweep or dust mop bare floors & damp mop as needed.

Cleaning interior stairways:

  • Vacuum or sweep stairs.
  • Dust around spindles, the spindles themselves if necessary, and any moldings.
  • Wash stairs and risers.

Kitchen cleaning tasks:

  • Dust ceilings, blinds, furniture, baseboards, the top of the refrigerator, and the tops of cupboards if they don’t meet the ceiling.
  • Wipe down table and chairs or stools.
  • Clean appliance fronts: microwave, dishwasher, refrigerator, trash compacter, stove, oven(s).
  • Clean inset water or ice dispenser in the refrigerator door.
  • Clean inside the microwave.
  • Clean cook top.
  • Clean top of range hood.
  • Wipe off the countertops and backsplashes.
  • Wash the outsides of appliances on the counters.
  • De-crumb the toaster or toaster oven.
  • Spot clean cupboard doors and drawer fronts.
  • Clean garbage container outside and/or inside.
  • Clean the sink
  • Sweep/vacuum/mop the floor.

Laundry room tasks:

  • Dust from the ceiling down, as in all rooms.
  • Dust all flat surfaces, ridges on cupboard doors.
  • Spot clean the outsides of washer, dryer, any other appliances, clean dispensers for laundry soap, fabric softener, clean door gaskets.
  • Vacuum the dryer lint trap.
  • Spot clean cupboard doors and wipe off any countertops.
  • Clean utility sink.
  • Clean floor.


  • Dust furniture, edges of towel racks, the lip along the top of partially tiled walls, the ridges around the top of shower walls, the top edge of shower curtains or shower doors, blinds and window grates, knick-knack shelves, and the edge along the top side of medicine cabinets or other cupboards.
  • Dust the covers on any ceiling vents.
  • Dust light fixtures.
  • If walls are tiled, clean with a damp cloth and buff dry, or spot clean.
  • Clean sink and vanity.
  • Spot clean cupboard doors.
  • Clean mirrors.
  • Clean tub/shower.
  • Clean the toilet inside and out.
  • Sweep/vacuum/mop the floor.

Also consider if you’ll do things like picking up clutter, washing windows, doing laundry, making beds, changing linens, picking up cleaning supplies for clients, taking broken vacuum cleaners to the repair shop, or running other errands. People might also ask you to water plants, let their dog outside or take him for a walk, and even watch their children “just for ten minutes while I run to the store”.

If there are any tasks that you flat out don’t want to do, make a note of these as well. For example, if you don’t want to clean windows or do any jobs that call for working outside, like sweeping off a porch.

What Are Your Policies?

The more clearly your policies are spelled out, the less room there will be for confusion later on. It can be helpful to write up a list of policies to hand to potential clients to make clear what you will and will not do.

How Will You Keep Track of Client Information?

You’ll need a system for keeping track of clients’ names, addresses, phone numbers, entry codes, and keys. Your system should safeguard clients’ personal information in the event that keys or your phone or address book are lost or stolen.

How Will You Keep Track of Your Schedule?

Plan a system for setting up and keeping track of your schedule. You might use your phone, or a spreadsheet, or a pocket organizer. If you have very many clients, you might find that it’s easier to use a calendar or table to help visualize what time slots are open on your schedule.

How Will You Keep Track of Income and Expenses?

Keeping track of income and expenses will also be part of your business record keeping. Your system can be as simple or complicated as you would like it to be. One easy option would be to keep a notebook with weekly totals written in as you go along. Or you could use a spreadsheet or ledger paper.

Will You Buy Insurance?

Another consideration when you set up your business will be whether you want to be bonded and insured. Bonding is a form of insurance that covers losses to customers if something gets broken while you’re cleaning their home. Liability insurance protects you in case someone sues you. You can also buy insurance to cover on-the-job injuries.

Do You Have References?

Finally, make a list of people who would be willing to vouch for your excellent work ethic, honesty, and integrity. New clients might ask for references, so having a list on hand will be helpful.
People you might ask could be prior supervisors, teachers, coaches, or friends. Make sure it’s ok with the people you’ve selected and let them know you’ll be giving out their information so they’re not surprised if someone calls.

Launching a business, even one as simple as a cleaning service, involves many details. Giving some thought to these details ahead of time means that when your business gets going you’ll be free to spend your time and energy doing the important work that brings in income: booking jobs and cleaning houses!

For more tips about starting or running a house cleaning service, check out my book How To Become a Cleaning Pro: The Ultimate Guide to Starting and Operating Your Own House Cleaning Service, available on Amazon.


Do You Have What It Takes To Successfully Operate Your Own House Cleaning Service?

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Starting a house cleaning service is pretty simple. You don’t need fancy office space or a huge bankroll or any special licenses. But cleaning houses for a living isn’t for just anyone. You need to have some specific qualifications and qualities as well as the drive to succeed and a willingness to work.

I’ve been a house cleaner for many years, and I’ve seen a lot of people jump into professional house cleaning without really understanding what the job entails. I’ve also heard from my customers about other house cleaners who didn’t know how to clean, didn’t have good customer service skills, or who just didn’t like to clean.

So if you’re toying with the idea of starting your own house cleaning service, I recommend that you spend a little time doing a self-assessment to determine if you really have what it takes to succeed. Based on my experience in the field, I offer the following tips to assist you in this endeavor.

Do You Know How to Clean a House? Are You Interested in Cleaning?

The first thing you should ask yourself is whether you really know how to clean a house. As long as you have basic house cleaning skills, you can improve upon them as you go. However, if you’re a terrible housekeeper and/or you hate cleaning, there’s no cure for that. A successful house cleaner doesn’t mind cleaning, is interested in learning more about cleaning, and is proficient at cleaning on a basic level at the very least.

Do You Have an Eye for Detail?

House cleaning is a lot more involved than just sweeping floors and cleaning toilets. A good house cleaner knows what a cobweb is and understands that dust settles on the top of the refrigerator even though you can’t see it. A good house cleaner pays attention to little details like dust on lamp finials and fingerprints on switch plates.

Cleaning a house means scrubbing dirty showers into submission and taking the time to buff ceramic floors to a brilliant shine. Cleaning professionally involves paying attention to hundreds of little specifics and making quick decisions about what details are important today and which will wait until next time. A good house cleaner makes sure freshly-cleaned areas look and smell freshly cleaned.

If you understand cleaning basics, have an eye for detail, and are willing to learn, that’s enough to get you going. Your skills will improve over time. Mine did.

Do You Have Good Communication Skills?

When I started out I had a good idea how to clean a house, so I thought I was some kind of expert. I wasn’t. Fortunately, I had good listening skills and was receptive and responsive to the instructions given to me by my new clients. I soon figured out that cleaning for other people is not the same as cleaning your own house.

Everybody has their own idea about what constitutes a clean house. Cleaning for other people requires that you ask questions and pay attention to the feedback you receive from clients. Your success as a professional house cleaner will require good communication skills so you are able to extract specific information from folks regarding their expectations of you and then find out how they think you’re doing as you go along.

You’ll also need to be thick skinned if the feedback you receive isn’t always positive, and you’ll have to be flexible in response to people’s expectations. When a client lets you know she wasn’t happy with something, you can’t take it personally because it’s the client’s satisfaction that defines a job well done.

When you’re starting out as a cleaning pro, there’s bound to be a learning curve. It’s important to maintain a good attitude and act professionally as you become familiar with the job. The only way you can figure out what the clients want is if they tell you.

Cleaning for other people tends to be very subjective. What I think is clean and what you think is clean might be different. And what the client thinks is clean is all that really matters.

Each cleaning job is different; some clients are fussier than others, all have differing expectations, and the makeup of homes one to the next varies.

Are You in Good Physical Condition?

Some homes are much more difficult to clean than others. House cleaning in general requires the stamina to stand and move for long stretches of time. Some houses have lots of stairs. Some homes have lots of low-placed objects that require bending or squatting to reach. Cleaning for a living is a physically demanding job.

A strong back and general good physical condition are non-negotiable unless you want to be in constant pain. The movements a house cleaner performs again and again all day long use muscles in the neck and the entire back, plus arms, wrists, and legs. You’ll also need to have feet strong enough to carry you through the days. If you’re starting out with any type of severe back, knee, hip, or foot injuries, your house cleaning career won’t last long.

Do You Have Business Sense and Organizational Skills?

Other key elements to successfully running a cleaning service include having at least a bit of business sense and good organizational skills. To operate a business you must be able to keep track of income and expenses and deal with customers in a professional manner.

Organizational skills are important, because you will have to be able to keep track of where you’re supposed to be each day and you’ll need a system to keep records of clients’ names, addresses, phone numbers, security information, door keys, and special instructions for each job.

Do You Have Reliable Transportation?

Reliable transportation is another essential element to operating a cleaning service. Clients will expect you to consistently arrive at the agreed-upon time. It’s up to you to make sure that’s possible. You will not be successful if you’re unable to guarantee that you will show up on time consistently.

Do You Have Integrity and a Strong Work Ethic?

Finally, integrity and a strong work ethic are absolutely necessary for you to succeed as a self-employed house cleaner. You’ve got to have the drive and determination to show up every day and do the work that you promised to do to the best of your ability. You may often work unsupervised, which means you’ll have to be self-motivated.

Successful house cleaners aren’t lazy. They don’t cancel jobs simply because they don’t feel like working that day. A strong work ethic means having the self-discipline and maturity to police yourself into showing up every day, on time, leaving personal problems at the door.

Integrity is necessary because people trust house cleaners to enter their personal space, handle their possessions, and become part of their private lives. House cleaners are privy to clients’ secrets. We see things no one else outside the family sees. House cleaners have to be honest and must be able to treat clients respectfully, which includes respecting their right to privacy.

From reading this post, you should now have a good idea of whether you have what it takes to successfully operate a house cleaning business.

In summary:

~Do you know how to clean a house?

~Do you have an eye for detail?

~Are you interested in cleaning and willing to continually work to improve your cleaning skills?

~Do you have good listening and communication skills?

~Are you in physically good shape?

~Do you have business sense and organizational skills?

~Do you have a means of reliable transportation?

~Do you possess integrity and a strong work ethic?

Cleaning houses every day is hard work, but it is also very rewarding. It’s a good way to make a decent living, and clients are grateful for a job well done. The “well done” part of that statement is the most important part. Clients aren’t interested in paying top dollar for bad or unreliable service.

If you possess the qualities outlined above and are willing to work hard and act like a mature professional, congratulations! You have what it takes to successfully operate your own house cleaning service!

For more tips about starting or running a house cleaning service, check out my book How To Become a Cleaning Pro: The Ultimate Guide to Starting and Operating Your Own House Cleaning Service, available on Amazon.