How to Make the Leap from Residential to Commercial Cleaning in 2024

How to Make the Leap from Residential to Commercial Cleaning in 2024

How to Make the Leap from Residential to Commercial Cleaning in 2024

If you run a cleaning company focused on residential house cleaning but are looking to expand your small business, it might be smart to consider offering commercial cleaning services.

While the leap to commercial from residential cleaning is doable, there are some things you need to be aware of in the process.

Commercial Cleaning Services Are Still in High Demand

Consider every office, every store, every gym, and every restaurant within a one-mile radius of your house. All of those businesses need to be cleaned. Certainly, some of them are cleaned by employees or business owners, but others outsource the work to commercial cleaning companies.

The cleaning industry for businesses is one that will never dwindle, as businesses will always need to be cleaned.

One of the big benefits of offering commercial cleaning services is that, if you do a good job, you may be able to set up a contract that lasts for years. 

And know that there’s lots of opportunity for quality janitorial services: in fact, 55% of commercial cleaning companies lose business every year due to poor service. That means if you can offer stellar service, you have the opportunity to take considerable market share.

Commercial Cleaning vs. Residential Cleaning

It’s up to you to decide whether you prefer residential or commercial cleaning jobs. Both offer unique advantages and disadvantages, and often it’s simply a matter of preference. 

Beyond the obvious (cleaning homes versus cleaning offices and businesses), there are some key differences in the types of services you’d offer for each.

While both residential cleaning and office cleaning may entail the same basic tasks, such as dusting, cleaning bathrooms, cleaning windows, and vacuuming, office cleaning may require more time or more staff, especially for larger offices. 

You may be required to clean spaces with medical equipment or heavy machinery, and you may have to deal with hazardous waste.

Also, you may need different business credentials, licensing and insurance coverage if you’re transitioning from residential to commercial cleaning (we’ll cover those in a bit).

Another difference is your clientele. With residential cleaning, your clients are the owners of the homes you clean. They may have certain preferences about cleaning products or how keepsakes are handled during cleaning. 

With commercial cleaning, once you understand your client’s needs, you may have fewer ongoing demands from your customers, since cleaning a business is a little less personal than cleaning a home. And your clients likely won’t be around when you work, as commercial cleaners usually work after hours.

How Do Commercial Cleaning and Janitorial Services Differ?

There are actually a few different types of services cleaning business owners can offer, the two primary types being commercial cleaning and janitorial services.

Janitorial services cover the daily or weekly maintenance and cleaning of a professional space, whether that’s an office, school, store, restaurant, or other business. These tasks include cleaning restrooms, dusting desks and computers, cleaning windows and glass doors, and taking out the trash.

Commercial cleaning may involve more manpower for tasks that require deeper cleaning less frequently, like steam cleaning carpets or power washing windows in an industrial building. They may also require specialized equipment. 

You could choose to offer one or both of these services as you transition from residential to commercial cleaning.

How to Transition From Residential to Commercial Cleaning

The first step in this transition for your business is to understand how commercial cleaning will differ from the work you’re already doing. As mentioned, you may need certain licenses to qualify to work for some businesses. 

At a minimum, your business should be structured as an LLC or corporation, not a sole proprietorship. 

And you may need to increase your staff, since it may take significantly longer to clean a commercial space than a home.

You may also need to shift your marketing strategy and business plan to better target your new audience. Find out how your new potential customers look for information about commercial cleaning online, then invest in the right digital marketing tools.

You’ll need to create a budget for what essentially are startup costs, because you are, in a way, starting a new business! While you may already have cleaning equipment you can use, you may still need to invest in more, as well as staff and marketing.

Required Staff and Equipment

One of your biggest challenges will be labor. You may need to hire additional personnel, since commercial cleaning jobs tend to require more labor and time. If possible, find employees who have experience in commercial cleaning or in skills that you lack, such as carpet cleaning.

If you already have employees, you may need to invest in additional training to get them prepared for the different types of work they’ll be taking on with commercial clients.

Take inventory of your cleaning supplies and equipment. Is it adequate for the jobs you’ll be taking on? You may need more industrial disinfectant, for example, to tackle public restrooms, or a higher power vacuum cleaner that can go the distance in a 5,000-square-foot office.

3 Types of Commercial Cleaning

The actual cleaning or janitorial services you provide may depend on the type of space you’re cleaning. Here are three examples you may encounter, and what you can expect.

Office Cleaning

This typically requires daily or weekly cleaning of desks, public spaces, restrooms, reception areas, and meeting rooms in office buildings and office parks. You’ll be responsible for dusting all surfaces, taking out the trash, cleaning windows and doors, and possibly cleaning out the communal fridge to make sure no one leaves their tuna sandwich over the weekend!

Medical Cleaning

Cleaning medical offices, hospitals, and health centers will require similar duties, though you may also be handling hazardous waste. There may be certain regulations for how you handle hazardous waste, such as using personal protective equipment or not throwing it away with general trash. You may also be required to disinfect all surfaces to provide a sanitary environment for employees and patients.

Industrial Cleaning

Industrial cleaning may require more physically exerting activities, such as sandblasting or pressure washing floors and loading docks. You may be asked to clean heavy machinery or exhaust systems in factories, warehouses, power plants, and production facilities. You may be required to use specific cleaning chemicals for certain tasks.

Commercial Cleaning Credentials

While they’re not necessarily required, getting certified as a commercial cleaner could give you an edge over the competition. Here are some cleaning certifications that might be relevant:

  • Cleaning Industry Management Standard-Green Building Certification
  • OSHA Safety and Health Specialist Certificate Program: General Industry
  • Custodial Technician Certification
  • GBAC® STAR Facility Accreditation
  • Biohazard Cleanup

How Commercial Cleaning Contracts and Pricing Work

While you may be used to your residential customers paying you an hourly rate without a contract, you’ll see some changes in how you do business with commercial cleaning clients.

Many commercial cleaners charge based on the square footage, while others detail pricing based on the different types of services required and the amount of labor required for each. The key is to fully understand the scope of the work so you don’t quote too low a rate.

Many potential clients will start with a request for proposal, and you’ll bid on the contract.

If you win the bid, you’ll be required to send a contract to review and sign before work begins. Your contract should include your business’ contact information and outline the services to be provided, as well as the pricing. You can include the period the contract is good for, such as six months or one year. If the contract can be renewed automatically at the end of the period, specify so in the contract. 

Commercial Cleaning Checklist

Now let’s look at what small business owners need to consider before relaunching a residential cleaning business as a commercial cleaning company.

Business Insurance

You likely already have one or more business insurance policies for your residential cleaning business but be aware that some clients may require you to have specific types of policies or certain coverage amounts.

General Liability Insurance

This is an absolute must for any type of cleaning business. It protects you in the event that someone slips and falls on a floor you’ve just mopped or otherwise hurts themselves because of your cleaning services. It also covers property damage, so if you accidentally spill bleach on a computer, you won’t be held responsible for the costs.

Commercial Property Insurance

Another type of cleaning business insurance you should consider is a policy that covers commercial property. This policy covers all your cleaning equipment in case of theft, vandalism, fire, or natural disasters.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

This is a type of insurance that you might not have already if you’ve been working alone in your residential cleaning business. It covers your employees in case they become injured on the job, and it’s required in most states.

Commercial Auto Insurance

Your residential auto insurance policy might not be adequate if you’re using your personal vehicle for work purposes. In some states, it’s required to have a commercial policy, which protects you and your employees while driving a vehicle for commercial purposes in the event of an accident or damage to another person or property.

Janitorial Bond

Something else you may be required to have (or at least should consider, as it can give your clients peace of mind) is a janitorial bond. This is a contract between you and your customers that protects them in case of theft that may occur during commercial cleaning services.

For example, if an employee of an office that your company cleans claims that a tablet was stolen from her desk while one of your employees was cleaning, you won’t have to pay to replace it yourself. Instead, the bond covers the expense.

Business Licenses

Every city and state has requirements for business licenses and permits that a small business needs. You may already have what you need…then again, you may not. Check with your Secretary of State as well as local government offices to find out what licenses you’re required to have as a commercial cleaner.

Business Structure

Another thing to consider is whether you want to change your business structure. If you’ve never formally applied for a business structure, you’re operating as a sole proprietor (or a partnership, if you have a partner). Being a sole proprietor is fine, though it doesn’t protect you if a customer sues you or takes you to court for an issue.

The limited liability company (LLC) separates you as the business owner from the company. That means if your business is ever sued, your personal assets can’t be taken to cover those expenses. A corporation has some of the same benefits. Talk to an accountant or attorney to see which is a better fit for your business.

Business Bank Account

You’ll need a business bank account as commercial clients won’t expect to pay you via a personal bank account. You may also need a merchant account for clients who want to pay using a business credit card. (This can also allow you to easily set up recurring payments.) 

Business Credit

Some clients may check business credit, so you’ll want to establish business credit as soon as possible. It can also be helpful to have good business credit in order to establish net-30 vendor accounts and qualify for a variety of small business loans and financing.


The way you’ve been looking for customers may not work as you transition to a commercial cleaning company. You may have subsisted on referrals and word of mouth for years, but now that you’re shifting to a different audience, you’ll need to do the legwork to find new clients.

Start by printing new business cards that outline the services you offer to the commercial market. Pass these out to local businesses and introduce yourself to business owners and managers. Sometimes it’s as easy as being in the right place at the right time to score new business!

Your commercial cleaning business should have a website where visitors can learn about the services you offer, and maybe even book a consultation online. Remember: your website is your stake in the digital world. Many people search for services online, so by having an online presence, you’ll make it easier to be found.

When you complete a job and your client is happy, don’t be shy about asking them to leave you a glowing review on Yelp or Google. These review sites are also frequented by people looking for cleaning services, and a few positive reviews can help you rise in results against the competition.

As you build your customers, collect their email addresses and send a monthly newsletter. You can announce new services or special discounts to entice them to continue to use your services or expand what you do for them.

Remember: the key to running a successful business is customer service. Do a fantastic job in your new commercial cleaning business, and your customers will keep you around for years, and tell others about you.

This article was originally written on February 28, 2024.

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