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How to Start a Carpet Cleaning Business: 15 Steps to Build Your Business

June 2, 2023
Time to Read: 
12 minutes

For decades, carpeting has been a top flooring choice in the United States. From its soft feel to its ability to liven up living spaces, it’s easy to see why many families and offices prefer this flooring option. 

But while carpeting comes with a lot of perks, it has its downsides – one of which is its ability to store a lot of dirt. Without proper cleaning on a regular schedule, allergens, bacteria and even dust mites can infiltrate carpets, creating unsanitary conditions and health challenges.

Professional carpet cleaning businesses keep carpets in top condition by providing regular deep cleaning, protective treatment and restoration services. If you’re interested in helping clients maintain their carpets, starting a carpet cleaning business might be right for you. 

But the process of starting a carpet cleaning business isn’t as simple as grabbing a steamer and letting the jobs roll in. Let’s look at what it takes to get your business up and running. 

Understanding the carpet cleaning business

Before starting a carpet cleaning business, you always want to make sure it’s right for you. Assessing the carpet cleaning industry can help you decide.

Carpet cleaning services

The carpet cleaning industry is filled with businesses offering a variety of cleaning services for residential and commercial clients. Here is a list of common carpet cleaning services:

  • Carpet cleaning
  • Area rug cleaning
  • Upholstery cleaning
  • Car or boat interior cleaning
  • Tile and grout cleaning
  • Hardwood floor cleaning
  • Carpet repair
  • Mattress cleaning
  • Air duct cleaning
  • Pet deodorizing

Methods for cleaning carpet

Carpet cleaning businesses use various cleaning methods depending on the needs and state of the surface. Here are a few common carpet cleaning methods:

Hot water extraction (steam cleaning)

Hot water extraction, also known as steam carpet cleaning, uses high-pressured hot water to agitate carpet fibers and dissolve dirt. When cleaning by hot water extraction, cleaners often use a cleaning agent that sits on the carpet for a short time before rinsing it. 

Encapsulation cleaning

Foam encapsulation involves synthetic detergents that turn into powder once dried. The detergents loosen dirt particles, and then the carpet cleaners vacuum or brush the carpet to finish the process.

Bonnet cleaning

This cleaning method uses a heavy-duty machine with a spinning pad to seep cleaning solution into the carpet fibers and then scrub them to absorb dirt from the surface. While it is not considered a deep cleaning solution, bonnet cleaning is a common cleaning method in high-traffic areas like hotel lobbies. 

Dry carpet cleaning

Also known as compound cleaning, dry carpet cleaning is a newer technology that has gained popularity for its ability to clean without requiring drying time. To dry clean, a cleaning powder or compound is added to the bottom of the carpet using a rotating brush machine. This opens the carpet fiber for a deeper clean.

Carpet shampooing cleaning

Carpet shampooing uses a rolling brush to apply cleaning solution to small sections of carpet at a time. The solution creates a lather that resembles hair shampoo. The solution is applied to a section of carpet using one tank of the cleaning machine, and another tank sucks the dirty moisture back into the machine. Carpet shampooing has lost popularity in recent years due to the excess moisture it leaves behind that can soak into the carpet and create smells and mold.

Carpet cleaning industry facts and figures

According to IBISWorld, as of 2023, there are more than 33,000 establishments that clean carpets, rugs and upholstery for both residential and commercial clients. The carpet cleaning business employs more than 61,000 individuals. 

Revenue in this business has grown at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.9% to $6.6 billion. The market size of the carpet cleaning industry is $7 billion.

Carpet cleaning business earnings

Earnings for carpet cleaning services vary. A business might charge $50 to $100 per room, up to $0.50 per square foot, or up to $150 per hour. If you’re working alone and from your home, you could take home most of the profits. However, if you expand to a commercial building and hire a team, your profit margin shrinks – at the same time, your business expands and you’ll bring in more money. Ultimately, profits earned from carpet cleaning might range from $30,000 annually for about 15 jobs per week to six or seven figures annually with a crew and larger client base.

Pros and cons of operating a carpet cleaning business

Before investing your time and resources, it’s important to examine the pros and cons of operating a carpet cleaning business.

Pros of a carpet cleaning business

  • Quick startup: Starting a carpet cleaning business doesn’t require a lot of time. Once you’ve registered your business and name, secured your tax ID, acquired liability insurance and any permits and purchases equipment and products, you’re set. 
  • Flexible hours: While it’s common to clean carpets during normal business hours, businesses often like cleaners to stop after the end of the business day. This gives you room to choose business hours that suit your schedule.
  • Experience: Operating your business doesn’t require years of training or experience. If you know what you’re doing, you can hit the ground running. However, getting IICRC certified improves your credibility as a business.
  • Quick profits: You can operate your business from your home and serve customers solo, which means fewer labor and overhead costs and faster profits.

Cons of a carpet cleaning business

  • Startup costs: Starting a carpet cleaning service can be a bit pricey when paying initial business costs for equipment, supplies and a vehicle to reach your clients. 
  • Competition: Since carpet cleaning isn’t a new business, you’re contending with a lot of established carpet cleaning businesses.
  • Physically demanding: Operating heavy carpet cleaning machines can be very physically demanding. If you’re not prepared for hard work, you could find carpet cleaning quite overwhelming.

Business outlook for carpet cleaners

IBISWorld projects growth for the carpet cleaning industry thanks to increases in customer disposable income due to higher employment and income levels. With more money to spend, households prefer the benefits of professional carpet cleaning services over less expensive, do-it-yourself carpet cleaning options.

15 steps to start a carpet cleaning business

If you think the carpet cleaning business is right for you, let’s examine what it takes to start your own business. 

1. Market research

Conducting market research is a fantastic way to determine whether carpet cleaning is a viable business. The goal of market research is to gather information about the industry and target customers. There are two simple ways to conduct market research:

  • Primary data: Gathering primary data means you’re collecting data yourself via surveys, interviews, focus groups and other direct sources.
  • Secondary data: Secondary data, also known as desk research, involves gathering data collected by others (ex. industry reports, academic research and government data).

After gathering your research, you’ll look at business trends in the carpet cleaning industry to see how to approach starting your business.

2. Target market

Conducting market research can help you identify your target market. Considering that many households and businesses (particularly apartments, condos, offices and hotels) have carpets that need to be cleaned, your potential client base is vast. 

3. Carpet cleaning business services and methods

Identify the carpet cleaning services you plan to offer. You might want to focus on carpets, area rugs and upholstery or expand into duct and hardwood floor cleaning. Also, pick your preferred carpet cleaning method. Would you like to try steam cleaning or venture into dry cleaning? You’ll need different equipment for different cleaning methods. Serving residential vs. commercial clients will also impact the services and methods you’ll use.

4. Business plan

A business plan identifies and details your objective and key business goals. Details to add to your business plan include:

  • Executive summary: This business overview should include a mission statement and brief details about employees, location, and company’s leadership.
  • Company description: Detailed description of the company, including problems the business solves, competitive advantages and other strengths.
  • Market analysis: Use this section to assess market trends, including demand variations, growth prospects and a SWOT analysis.
  • Organization and management: Share business structure and explain what type of business you will form (LLC, corporation, etc.).
  • Products and services: Outline the services you plan to offer and how they will benefit your customers. 
  • Competitive analysis: Compare your business services with those of your competitors, assess their strengths and weaknesses and showcase the benefits of your services.
  • Plan of operation: Explain your business’s operational plan, including office location, key equipment and assets.
  • Sales and marketing: Detail how you will create business marketing, sales and promotional strategies. Also, go over your unique selling points (USPs).
  • Financial plan: Share financial planning for several years and provide your startup costs, profit/loss estimates, cash flow, balance sheet and break-even analysis. 
  • Appendix: Add additional business and financial documents like licenses, permits and legal documents.

5. Certification for carpet cleaners

As the owner/operator of your cleaning business, you’ll want to secure all necessary training and certification. One great way to train in carpet cleaning is to secure an apprenticeship with a local business. You might also ask to clean the carpets of friends and family.

Carpet Cleaning Technician (CCT) certification is available through the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). Acquiring this certification demonstrates knowledge of pre-inspections, fabrics, proper cleaning techniques, cleaning equipment and chemicals, soiling conditions, finishes, fiber and carpet constructions.

6. Business structure

Decide the legal structure for your business to ensure your tax, personal liability and business registrations are in order. Business structures include:

  • Sole proprietorship: This is a common structure for small businesses. The owner and the company are one and any business debts, losses or liabilities are assumed by the owner. 
  • General partnership: General partnerships involve two or more people who agree to keep the profits and assume all responsibility for business losses. 
  • Limited liability company (LLC): Limited liability companies are often recommended for small businesses because they do not leave owners liable for business debts.
  • C Corp: The business is a legal entity separate from the owner who is not liable for debts. Instead of earning profits directly, they take them through shareholder dividends.

7. Startup costs

The cost of starting a carpet cleaning business can vary based on the services you choose, what equipment you use and whether you want to operate your business from home or an office. As a result, startup estimates range from as low as $1,000 to more than $100,000. It all depends on your client base and what you’re willing to spend to accommodate them. 

Here is a quick breakdown of average business costs you might expect:

  • Equipment: $2,000 to $8,000
  • Supplies: $200 to thousands (per month)
  • Business registration: $200 to $300
  • Insurance: As much as $1,000 annually
  • Marketing: Free to $20,000+ monthly
  • Van and truck mount: $10,000 to $50,000

8. Business location and hours

When starting your business, it’s common to operate from home to reduce overhead. But if you decide to rent a space, pick an affordable location that is also a reasonable distance from your prospective client base to save on gas and reduce vehicle maintenance needs.

Operating a carpet cleaning business offers flexibility in your schedule. You’re free to choose your business hours. However, it doesn’t hurt to align your hours with your clients’ needs to stand out from your competition and build a great reputation in the community.

9. Business name, registration and taxes

When choosing your business name, pick one that aligns with your mission, services and objectives. Including your business type in your name is also a great choice (ex. Carpet Cleaning Pro Team of Springfield). Once you’ve chosen some potential names, check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for availability and then register the one you select. 

You’ll also need to register your business in the state where your company is located and file for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS to secure a tax ID. 

10. Business permits and insurance

Make sure you acquire the appropriate permits and insurance to protect your business. 

  • Wastewater disposal: Some states and publicly owned wastewater treatment works (POTWs) require carpet cleaning businesses to have authorization or a permit to dispose of carpet cleaning wastewater. Check your state’s requirements.
  • Wholesale license: You might need a wholesale license to buy cleaning supplies in bulk.
  • Cleaning license: Check with your state to see if you need a cleaning license or if a business permit is enough to operate your carpet cleaning service.
  • Surety bond: A surety bond reimburses your customers for employee theft and is a great way to build trust among your client base.
  • Business insurance: Your business will need insurance. Look into general liability, business property, equipment breakdown insurance, worker’s compensation, property, commercial auto, professional liability and business owner’s policy (BOP).

11. Business loan and other funding options

If you need help with startup costs, there are several funding options to consider for your business:

  • Bank loan: If you have good credit and a quality business plan, consider reaching out to your bank for a business loan.
  • SBA-guaranteed loan: Another option is a guaranteed loan for entrepreneurs from the Small Business Administration.
  • Grants: Look at sites like to find programs that offer financial assistance for entrepreneurs. 
  • Crowdfunding: Consider a business funding campaign via a crowdfunding website, which allows you to receive funds from donors to start your business.
  • Personal relationships: If someone you know already has the capital, consider reaching out to them for assistance. 
  • Self-fund: if you have funds saved or assets you can sell, consider funding your business on your own.

12. Business bank account

Depending on your business structure, a business bank account will be required (ex. LLC or C Corp). But even if you are a sole proprietor, it’s good to open a business bank account to secure your revenue. A business bank account also enables you to accept credit cards. Be sure to keep your business and personal funds separate for recordkeeping and tax purposes.

Before choosing your business bank account, don’t forget to compare fees, introductory offers, protections and merchant credit card processing capabilities and branch accessibility. 

13. Business equipment, products and truckmounts

Without the right equipment, your carpet cleaning business won’t get off the ground. Here are some equipment and products you’ll need:

  • Portable carpet extractor
  • Carpet spotter and upholstery cleaner
  • Cleaning solution
  • Liquid detergent 
  • Stain remover
  • Defoamer
  • Carpet rake
  • Hoses
  • Sprayers
  • Wands

Make sure that the tools you buy are environmentally friendly and also user-friendly for you and any team members you hire. 

Van and truck mount

As for transportation, it’s a good idea to rent a used commercial van that can accommodate your cleaning equipment. In addition to portable carpet cleaning equipment, consider a truck mount, which is a carpet and upholstery cleaning system that is mounted on the floor of the van with extensions that allow you to clean spaces many feet away without losing power.

14. Business marketing

Telling your community about your carpet cleaning business is crucial to growing your client base. Here are some great ways to market your business:

Online marketing

Consider marketing your business on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Purchase social media ads and try pay-per-click marketing with Google Adwords.


Creating a website is one of the best ways to market your business. You’ll want to purchase a domain name, secure a hosting plan and hire a web designer/developer to create an attractive website that outlines your business offerings and shares contact options (ex. “Get a Quote” or “Schedule a Consultation” feature). Be sure to prioritize Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your page, which helps rank your business website higher in search engine results. You can write your own blog articles about carpet cleaning to improve your SEO. If you aren’t comfortable doing that, a freelance writer can help you rank for keywords.

Business listings

List your business on Yelp and other business listing services and create a Google business profile to get your name out there.

In-person marketing and networking

Market your business in traditional ways, like distributing flyers and setting up vendor booths at community events. 

Creative marketing

Create a carpet cleaning blog, offer webinars and use incentives to get your clients to refer your business to new customers. Also, consider creating Youtube videos that educate on carpet cleaning or offer DIY tips for cleaning carpets.

15. Time to get started

Once all of your affairs are in order, you’re set to begin working. If you’re working solo, find your clients, grab your equipment and get started. If you plan to hire workers, now’s the time to build your team. You can recruit skilled carpet cleaners on business networking sites like LinkedIn for free and also pay for plans on recruitment websites. As your business grows, consider hiring a general manager for scheduling and accounting as well as a marketing professional.

Give your carpet cleaning business a great head start with VIIZR

Building your carpet cleaning business is one thing; managing its daily operations is another. Even if you’re starting as a team of one, you’ll need to manage estimates, invoices, work orders and business files effectively. 

Let VIIZR do the hard work for you.

Our web-based business management software for carpet cleaning businesses takes your daily operations to new heights. Stay on top of quote requests with our centralized customer messages and send out quick, professional estimates in minutes via our estimating software. 

Work order management capabilities make it easy to draft orders with a few clicks and make adjustments in the field. When ready to bill, convert orders or estimates into detailed invoices and track them right on our platform. If you hire workers, schedule and send them to the right carpet cleaning job sites with our drag-and-drop scheduling tool and Maps & Routing feature.

There’s no limit to the possibilities of success for your carpet cleaning business. The key is starting on the right foot and managing operations seamlessly after opening your doors. With VIIZR on your team, giving your carpet cleaning business the start it deserves is a breeze. Get started today with a free 14-day trial.

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