How to start a commercial cleaning business

A commercial cleaning business is one where you’ll focus on non-domestic properties – for example, offices and schools rather than homes.  Wondering whether starting a commercial cleaning business could be a quicker way to bigger profits than starting a home cleaning business? Or perhaps you’re in an area where commercial property offers the biggest opportunity for cleaning? If you’ve read our 8 simple steps how to start a cleaning business, then take a look at how a commercial cleaning business compares to the other options.

Costs of starting a commercial cleaning business

Commercial contract cleaning will involve much higher start-up costs than for a domestic offering as you will need to have your own equipment, several staff members (the average rate of pay in the sector is around £7.50 per hour) and a vehicle to get your team and/or equipment to the clients’ locations. Most importantly, you’ll need a much bigger marketing budget. You’ll also need insurance, both as an employer and for your equipment, and this can significantly add to your overheads. It’s not uncommon for accidents and falls to occur and when you’re dealing with hazardous chemicals you need to be covered for all possibilities.

Equipment for starting a commercial cleaning business

Some basic equipment you’ll need to set up a commercial cleaning business include:

  • Equipment trolleys: £250-400 each
  • Vacuum cleaner – £100 upwards
  • Sweeping machine – £200-2,000
  • Van – £3,000 upwards

Commercial cleaning business planning and marketing

Once you know what the costs are, think about what you can charge. Find out what the offices and businesses in your chosen area are being charged. You may find out, in the course of your research, that the area you want to set up in is a saturated market and therefore you’ll need to look at other locations. Likewise if bigger, more established companies can undercut you in price you may find it difficult to survive.

Paul Gabriel set up his own cleaning company, T.E.C. Services Ltd, in 1994. After six months of ringing round to find potential clients, Paul gained a core of specialist clients, primarily data centres, before moving into office work. Now the business employs 42 cleaners, and Paul takes a small wage from the business.

Paul says he is still reluctant to branch into domestic work: “The problem with domestic contracts is that they’re very infrequent, and it’s difficult to find reliable staff.” Indeed he says that, where cleaning staff are concerned, “it’s always problematic. Staff issues are the biggest headaches, particularly around the summer – clients aren’t interested in whether a cleaner’s on holiday or not.”

However Paul says that payment for commercial cleaning is less of a problem. “We’ve only had our fingers burnt a couple of times with payment, and it can be quite time-consuming. I’ve got another director who deals with bills and payments, which reduces the potential hassle.”


Action point:
See if you can get a Start Up Loan to help you start a business idea
(external site, opens in new tab)

Working hours is an issue you’ll have to consider very carefully if you want to run a commercial cleaning business. It’s unlikely that an employer will want his staff disturbed by the sound of a vacuum cleaner during office hours, so a willingness to work outside of the 9-5 routine is a must.

Commercial cleaning regulations and rules

Employers’ liability insurance is a legal requirement if you take on staff and, if you’re taking on a commercial cleaning contract, you will also need to consider the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, otherwise known as TUPE.

These regulations stipulate that, when you take on a cleaning contract with an office or other business premises, you are obliged to take on the cleaning staff already working there. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills website offers comprehensive information on TUPE legislation, as does the CSSA website. Cleaning involves handling potentially harmful chemicals, so you will also need to comply with acts such as the Chemicals Regulations 2002, Dangerous Substances and Preparations (Safety) Regulations, Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations and the Health and Safety at Work Act.

You do not need a licence to start a cleaning business. However, staff with Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks may prove a valuable asset when reassuring potential clients of your company’s reliability. If you are cleaning buildings such as schools and hospitals you are also likely to have this information requested by clients.

As with domestic cleaning, starting a franchise could be a good way to get started. Take a look at our profile of one of the biggest office and commercial cleaning franchises (whose average branch turnover is over £700,000.