Cleaning Business License Basics

Business license application form flipped to reveal trust.

When I started my house cleaning business over twenty years ago, I splashed the words, “licensed, bonded and insured” in all of my ads for customers.

I also added those words to all of my marketing materials like business cards, brochures, refrigerator magnets and monthly customer statements. Why were those words everywhere my name and logo appeared? In a word, trust.

At that time, I only had one customer. I needed an edge since I didn’t have a lot of professional cleaning experience.  I wanted potential customers to know that I was serious. My house cleaning business was not here today and gone tomorrow. I was in it for the long haul.

My previous business experience helped me understand why getting licensed was important to my new cleaning business. I was willing to take the legal steps to be open, honest and trustworthy in how I set up my business.

Licensing, bonding and insuring the new business added a layer of assurance to people considering my cleaning services. That assurance planted the seeds of trust and grew my customer list over time.

Two More Reasons To License Your Business

Licensing your cleaning business also helps through dollars and cents. A licensed house cleaner can command higher fees than a cleaner without a license. Your rates as a licensed cleaner should reflect the costs of running a legal business.

It is up to you to remind customers you are licensed (and hopefully bonded and insured) and charge more for house cleaning than an unlicensed house cleaner.

Licensing is a legal requirement to do business in many towns, counties and states.  If licensing is required, there can be severe consequences for self-employed business owners that don’t register for a license.

They can include, fines, interest and in extreme cases, shutting down your business. Business licenses are also connected to legal name registration and tax registration.

(Don’t) Fake It Until You Make It

Not all cities, towns, counties or states license house cleaning services. However, if you plan to start a business in areas that licenses residential cleaning businesses, be aware that your license is a part of the public record.

That means extra-careful customers will call or go online to check your license. They want to be sure of your honesty. They will also check to make sure your license is current. That means staying on top of annual license renewals and any changes to your license.

Business license in a ring binder to show your sales prospect.When meeting a prospective customer for a sales walkthrough, I always carry an old-fashioned three-ring binder with current copies of my state and city licenses.  This way the the prospect can see the licenses and I can answer any questions right then and there.

A tablet or laptop loaded with a digital copy of your licenses is another way to display your licenses to potential customers.

License Extras

Many towns and cities also have Home Occupation licenses and permits for home-based businesses. Home Occupation requirements vary from place to place.  

Foot traffic, business signs, noise or odors are always top concerns for towns and your neighbors. It is a good idea to check with your town or city clerk’s office about Home Occupation licenses and permits, if you plan to run your business from home.

Some business license applications for sole proprietors and general partners require Social Security numbers. One way to protect your Social Security number is by using an Employer Identification Number or EIN instead.

An EIN  is a unique nine-digit tax identification number issued to businesses by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). While EINs are generally used by businesses that have employees, sole proprietors and general partners can apply for an EIN from the IRS even if they do not plan to hire employees.

An EIN can be used instead of a Social Security Number (SSN) on many business forms including business licenses.

Many states, counties and cities require a NAICS code on business license application and tax registration forms. These governments use the codes to classify and keep track of what types of businesses are licensed in the state or county.

NAICS Codes for cleaning and janitorial services are easy to find and use.

State and Local Requirements

States have a lot of different rules about whether business licenses are issued by the state, counties and towns or towns only. In Oregon, you may find yourself applying for licenses from the state, the county and your town or city. In Kansas, you may find you need no licensing at all.

In some parts of the US, business licenses are also known as tax registration certificates or business privilege licenses.

It is a good idea to check with the local city or county clerk’s office for licensing requirements. If you also need a state license, the city or county clerk’s office will provide guidance on your next steps.

In many areas, you will need both county and city or town licenses.

State Licenses Required

Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada,

New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Washington, & West Virginia

County Licenses Required

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut,

Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa,

Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana,

New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota,

Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota,

Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, & Wyoming

Only City And Town Licenses Required

District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri

Rhode Island

A Trust Edge

A business license identifies who owns the business and who is responsible for actions taken by the business. In this way, a business license can promote trust in you and your business.

A business license shows potential customers that you are willing to take the legal steps to be open, honest and trustworthy in how you set up your business. A business license can give your house cleaning business a trust edge.

Under-the-table house cleaners can charge less, but are unable to provide assurance of legal or financial responsibility to cleaning customers. That responsibility matters if something is broken or there is an accident on the customer’s property.

Licensing your cleaning business is one step to seeding and growing customer trust —— and ultimately your customer list.  It is worth the effort to license your residential cleaning business.  Get started today.

Cleaning Business Start-up Basics

Use this full map of US state and city laws to help you:

  • Apply for a business name
  • Get a business license
  • Register to pay taxes

Just click on the map to find your state and get started.

USA map of states.

Was licensing your business easy or hard?  Share your license story in the comments below⬇︎.

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2 Comments

  1. blank Debbie Ramirez says:

    Trying to get my a cleaning business going in my small town. Wanted to ask, do I first get a license? And do I need insurance right away for my business or for people that will work for me?

    1. Hi Debbie,

      To get license, business name registration and tax information for your state, go to the State Startup Laws page and click on your state.

      Yes, you do need a business liability insurance policy right away for your cleaning business. You need insurance as a solo cleaner or if you work in a partnership. You need that layer of protection in case you break something expensive in your customer’s home or you hurt yourself on the job. Look for insurance brokers that write policies for different insurance companies. Your agent should also be able to set you up with a janitorial bond at the same time.

      If you decide to hire workers, you really must have insurance and bonding for your business.

      When you advertise your cleaning service in your local area, be sure to let potential customers know you are licensed, bonded and insured.

      Debbie, good luck with your new business!

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