What Licenses are Needed to Start a Cleaning Business?

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When you start a cleaning business, you need specific licenses, permits, and, sometimes, a janitorial bond to comply with your location’s regulations and work for certain clients. 

While not all US states implement the same licenses to run a cleaning business, most require a general business license, and you’ll need adequate insurance coverage.

That might seem extensive, but these licenses and bonds ensure you comply with the legal requirements, and insurance protects you and your clients.

This post will look at the different licenses, permits, and bonds you might need to start a successful cleaning business.

Do you need a license to start a cleaning business?

All US states require start-ups to have a general business license to ensure they comply with regulations and pay taxes. 

Some states have a general business license at the state level; for others, it’s local, so you must research your location’s business license requirements by contacting your state’s Department of Revenue or local county clerk’s office.

Besides the legal requirements, licenses, permits, and bonds give your business credibility, which helps create trust with your future clients. 

So, no matter what cleaning business you’re starting, here are the licenses you might need.

Service contractor's license

Contractors are independent entrepreneurs who provide a service to customers while not working for them directly as employees.

Anyone who provides this service, even once a week, must get a service contractor license from their state before starting their business. 

You can find your state’s relevant office on the SBA website.

Commercial Cleaning License

In most US states, entrepreneurs who want to provide a commercial cleaning service need a commercial cleaning license to ensure they adhere to higher standards, often using complex machinery and hazardous chemicals.

A commercial cleaning license can be expensive because it covers more extensive operations and accounts for an increased liability potential.

Janitorial License

Like a commercial cleaning license, a janitorial license covers specific services, including commercial property cleaning and maintenance.

Cleaning companies that use industrial chemicals and offer waste removal services need a janitorial license. 

Specifics for getting a janitorial license vary between US states, affecting the fees and application process.

Cleaning business janitorial bond

A CBJB is not a license but an insurance policy protecting clients from damage (or theft) caused by your cleaning business while cleaning their properties. 

Many commercial clients (and some private) require you to have a cleaning business janitorial bond before hiring.

You’ll need separate insurance policies (like general liability and commercial auto) to protect your business from financial losses, as a CBJB only covers client losses.

Specialized Business Licenses

Niche service cleaning businesses, like hazardous waste disposal, medical facility cleaning, or crime scenes, need a specialized business license. 

Most states require this license to ensure you comply with strict environmental, health, and safety regulations relevant to the specialized niche you’re providing.

The cost and requirements for a specialized license are specific to your service and the relevant state and local municipality departments.

Other Business Licenses and Permits to consider

Whether you choose to operate as a sole proprietorship, or to form an LLC,  there are additional licenses/permits that you may need for your business, which depend on whether you plan to hire staff, sell taxable products or services, or use a fictitious business name.

An employer identification number (EIN)

All US businesses that hire employees need an EIN from the IRS; other reasons business owners might require an EIN are to open a business bank account, get a credit card, or obtain a business loan.

Sales and use tax license

Businesses that sell taxable products or services need sales and use a tax license (also called a seller’s license) to collect and pay sales tax to their state’s Department of Revenue.

DBA license

A DBA (Doing Business As) is a name you use other than your legally registered business name or, with a sole proprietorship, the owner’s name. 

Cleaning businesses often register a DBA to use a catchy brand name that suits their niche and service; another benefit is it stops another company in your state from using the same name. 

You apply for a DBA from your local county clerk’s office and pay the fee. Most DBAs are renewable every 5 years but check with your location as each differs.

How do you get a business license?

As with all business licenses and permits, where you apply depends on your location. For some US states, it’s the Department of Taxation or Department of Revenue; in others, it’s your city licensing board or county clerk’s office. 

Most states, however, allow you to apply online or by mail.

How long does it take to get a cleaning business license?

A cleaning business license can take a few weeks to a couple of months to get, depending on the type of license your new business needs and your location.  

Some states and local municipalities offer an expedited service (you pay extra). In contrast, others implement more complex requirements that take longer to complete.

Cleaning business license cost

Costs vary from state to state but usually range from $50 to $200; it depends on your location and the license you need to run your cleaning business.

Conclusion

And those are the licenses you need to start a cleaning business.

To get the necessary licenses, first identify your cleaning niche and contact your state’s business registration office or local county clerk.

And remember, licenses aren’t only about staying compliant; they also help you establish a business your local community trusts.

FAQS

How do I start my own cleaning business from scratch?

8 steps exist to starting a successful cleaning business:

Do you need a license to clean houses?

House cleaning licensing requirements are less stringent than those of other cleaning niches, such as specialized and commercial. However, most states require a local municipality business license to clean houses.

How to start a cleaning business in North Carolina?

North Carolina doesn’t require a general business license to start a cleaning business; however, like all US states, it has specific licensing requirements you must follow. Besides those, you must take many other steps to start a cleaning business in NC, all of which you’ll find in my “How to start a business in North Carolina” post.

This portion of our website is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. All statements, opinions, recommendations, and conclusions are solely the expression of the author and provided on an as-is basis. Accordingly, Tailor Brands is not responsible for the information as well as has not been evaluated the accuracy and/or completeness of the information.

Terry is a serial entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience building businesses across multiple industries – construction, real estate, e-commerce, hotelier, and now digital media. When not working, Terry likes to kick back and relax with family, explore Taoism’s mysteries, or savor the taste of fine Italian red wine.