Where is the Big Money in Cleaning?

Services that warrant an extra fee

In the commercial cleaning and facilities management industries, higher-paying jobs may involve specialty services that require more training, higher risks, and a limited number of competitors.

Other factors that drive up costs and profit may include providing services that are dangerous, hazardous, uncomfortable, offensive, repulsive, nasty, outside of regular business hours, and jobs that nobody else wants or knows how to do. Even when it comes to basic office and house cleaning, if you specialize, the chances are better that you will make more money than someone who does not have a specialty.

Here are some areas where cleaning contractors can expand their services and bring in extra business (with the right training and resources).

Trauma and Crime Scene Cleaning

This sort of work is highly profitable, although most people don’t want to do it, and for good reason. The work is hot, smelly, uncomfortable, and hazardous (if done improperly) due to possible exposure to bodily fluids and blood. Special training, a poor nose, and a strong stomach are required.

Other examples include cleaning up drug manufacturing sites, methamphetamine labs, and hazardous and infectious materials containing anthrax, Ebola, norovirus, etc. In some extreme cases, price may not even be part of the discussion; you may be told to clean it up as fast and as safely as possible, and send the insurance company or government the bill.

Restoration (Fire, Water, Smoke, and Odor)

When insurance companies, government, and software bidding programs are involved, it’s going to drive up costs and profit. This work is often completed under the pressure of getting it done and controlling costs. There are risks of lawsuits, slow paying insurance companies, favored contractors, messy work, 24/7 demands, and storage space requirements.

Restoration work is often bid using the Xactimate estimating software, although there are other programs and guides available. You can expect to charge two to 10 times more for this type of work.

Stone and Wood Floor Care

Caring for these floor materials requires special training, equipment, and chemicals, so they demand a higher rate than other types of floor care. Prices range from US$2 to $30 per square foot, depending on the scope of work, the type of surface, the size of the job, and competitiveness in the marketplace.

High-End Accounts and Homes

When you deal with high-cost properties and surfaces, there is greater risk because the surfaces you are cleaning are more delicate and costly.

High Tech and Biotech

Cleanrooms—spaces used for manufacturing or scientific research—computer rooms, and controlled access areas are bid at a premium rate. The risks are higher and the spaces require special training and materials. Required clothing and procedures are often uncomfortable and confining. Billable rates range from $35 to $45 per hour.

Food Processing

When laws, regulations, inspections, and the government are involved, costs and the importance of cleaning increase, along with the price. Add an extra $5 to $10 per hour to your billable rate.

Union vs. Nonunion

When you can take over an account that was previously cleaned by union staff, you may be able to find efficiencies, increase production rates, and reduce hourly wages.

Inspections, Corrections, and Repairs

Floor coverings, fabric, odor, mold, and other building surfaces and specialty inspections pay well. Inspections come into play when there is a claim regarding performance, installation, or manufacture of a product or surface. Inspectors provide services to attorneys, government agencies, insurance companies, retailers, dealers, manufacturers, installers, and contractors, as well as home and building owners. Special training, background checks, and certification are required. Fees per inspection range from $100 to $1,000, or more.

Surface Repairs

Options may include repairs to the surfaces we clean, such as stone, tile, and wood floors; walls; doors; furniture; cabinetry; and tables. Other repair areas may include specialty surfaces, such as high-pressure laminate surfaces, leather, vinyl, and fabric-upholstered furniture.

Expert Witness

If you have established yourself as an expert in the field, you may qualify as an expert witness in legal cases. This can be accomplished by speaking, teaching, and/or writing about a specific subject throughout a period of years. Retainers range from $2,000 to $5,000, with an hourly rate of $250 to $350 per hour, plus room, board, and travel. Most cases seldom end up in court. When depositions or court testimonies are involved, you earn your money.

Education, Training, and Consulting

This is a growing field of expertise and service in the cleaning industry. It’s easy to start in this field, but earning a good living or providing services on a full-time basis is a challenge and can take many years. Most consultants specialize in a specific market segment. They may also sell products or services and work part time as a trainer or consultant. Rates range from $25 to $150 per hour.

No Longer Add-on Services

There are some services that may no longer be appropriate as an add-on, because they are more commonplace. For example, customers now expect or demand their contractors to use green processes, equipment, and chemicals. The same can be said for day cleaning. We used to charge 15 to 30 percent extra for day cleaning, but do not charge additional fees anymore.

At the end of the day, there are many areas where contractors have the potential to expand their services; however, don’t forget to consider your resources, training, and the risks before forging ahead.

Keep it clean out there.

Posted On November 19, 2015

William R. Griffin

President of Cleaning Consultant Services, Inc.

William Griffin is the president of Cleaning Consultant Services, Inc. He is an industry consultant, author, and trainer with more than 35 years of experience. Contact him at or visit

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Where is the Big Money in Cleaning?
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