Starting a power washing business can be a great option for a new entrepreneur or person looking to get a side hustle going.
Not only is the startup cost of a pressure washing business relatively low in comparison to many other entrepreneurial options, the profit margins are good and the work is relatively easy to master.
If you’re ready to say goodbye to your 9 to 5 and start working for yourself, working as a self-employed power washer may very well be a great way to do it.
In the following sections, you’ll learn:
- How to Learn to Power Wash
- How to Approach Short and Long-Term Strategy Planning
- Information About Licensing
- How to Price Pressure Washing Services
- How to Properly Maintain Your Power Washer
- Tips for Hiring and Managing Employees
- The Best Way to Approach Accounting
- The Importance of the Right Insurance
- The Best Pressure Washer for Every Budget
- Other Equipment You’ll Need
- Helpful Marketing Tips
Before you take the plunge and buy your first power washer, you need to carefully consider what it’s going to take succeed as a new power washing business and thrive a self-employed entrepreneur.
Like most small businesses, getting a power washing business off the ground will require much more than just buying equipment and selling jobs.
While starting a business comes with a whole new set of challenges and frustrations, the feeling of being your own boss, creating jobs in your local economy, and the freedom of deciding what your work week is going to look like can be life changing.
Learning How to Power Wash
While it may seem like it goes without saying that you should learn how to power wash before starting a pressure washing business, it’s amazing how many people dive into this industry with no practical awareness of how to deliver the services they plan to sell.
While learning how to pressure wash is far less difficult than many skilled trades, there is definitely a learning curve involved with going pro.
As with learning most things these days, your best friend in learning power washing techniques is going to be YouTube.
There are countless videos available that explain everything from equipment choice to techniques and equipment maintenance. Watch as many as you can find.
Once you’re familiar with the process, it’s time to pick up a wand and put your newfound knowledge to work.
If you have the money to buy equipment right when you’re starting off, the best way to go about learning how to power wash is to buy a pressure washer and start using it.
If you are a homeowner, you should start your learning journey by pressure washing things around your house.
Some ideas for surfaces to practice on include:
If you don’t own a home, there’s no need to worry.
It’s typically very easy to get other people to let you practice on their property in exchange for free power washing.
Ask the property manager of your apartment if you can power wash some of the common areas for them free of charge. Alternatively, you could ask some friends who own homes to practice power washing at their houses.
If you are going to be practicing on someone else’s property, you should make sure that the person who you’re doing the work is ok with the potential of damage.
As a new pressure washer, the likelihood of marring someone’s concrete, damaging their siding, or taking some paint off of a surface is pretty high.
As long as the owner or manager of the property is ok with this, offering your services for free is a great way to get pressure washing experience and build a list of potential future customers.
If you don’t have the money for a power washer or can’t find a place to practice, you may look into working for another power washing business for a while.
This will not only help you learn the techniques you’ll need to start your own pressure washing business, but it will help you earn some money that you can apply towards buying your own equipment when you’re ready.
In the interest of keeping things ethical, it’s best to be honest with the owner of a business you are working for about your intention to one day start your own business.
If the owner is ok with this, working for another power washing company is a great way to learn the ins and outs of the pressure washing industry.
If they aren’t, keep trying. Even if you have to look outside of your immediate area, turnover in this industry is high enough that you will eventually get hired on a crew.
PRESSURE WASHING BUSINESS STRATEGY
Just like in the corporate world, the importance of planning in the power washing industry cannot be overstated.
From deciding on which pressure washing services you want to offer to your approach to pricing and developing your competitive advantage, a good strategy can easily spell the difference between success and failure as an entrepreneur.
The best way to approach this typically involves writing a business plan in which you outline your operational strategy from end to end.
If you’re unsure of how you should be planning the strategy for your new pressure washing business, you may want to reach out to your local Small Business Administration.
Also known as the SBA, this governmental organization exists for the sole purpose of helping aspiring entrepreneurs realize their dreams of starting a business.
The SBA offers free business counseling, assistance with writing business plans, assistance with lining up financing, and much more. If you haven’t already connected with your local chapter, you should do so ASAP!
Depending on the state you intend to start your power washing business, you may need to be licensed by a regulatory board to do so legally.
From the general business licenses required by many states, counties and municipalities, to the more power-washing specific licenses required by states like California, it’s important to make sure you have all of your ducks in a row before you start selling power washing jobs.
Many states regulate pressure washing detergents and cleaning agents used in performing this work. Because these chemicals often pose a public health risk, most governing boards require power washers to keep wastewater out of public drains and waterways at all costs.
With this in mind, it may make sense to preemptively invest in a wastewater reclaim system when you are buying your power washing equipment. While these systems can be expensive, they can end up saving you a lot of money in the long run by helping you avoid expensive fines for non-compliance.
Depending on your state, city, and county, you may need a separate license or permit from the local wastewater plant or a similar agency. Requirements vary widely by locale and can change from time to time, so make sure you are up to date.
For more information on the licensing requirements for pressure washers in your area, it’s best to reach out to your local governing authority.
HOW TO PRICE POWER WASHING SERVICES
The number of options for pressure washing services you can offer as a business owner can be overwhelming.
With that in mind, it’s better to focus on specializing in a few services at first and adding to your service offerings as you grow your business and improve your skills.
Depending on the area you are planning to serve with your power washing business, the prices you will be able to charge for your services may vary from the estimates on the table below.
However, regardless of where you live, you should always be shooting for making a minimum of $50/hour gross.
Anything less than that and the operating/overhead costs of running a power washing business will leave you working for less than minimum wage.
RESIDENTIAL SERVICE PRICES
- Exterior Concrete Cleaning$.10 cents/ sq. ft(Driveways, Sidewalks, Patios, Walkways, etc.)
- Brick Walls and Siding$.15 cents/ sq. ft
- Pools$.20 cents/ sq. ft
- Heavily Soiled Flat Surfaces$.25 cents/ sq. ft(Spilled Paint, Oil Stains, Dried Mud, etc.)
- Heavily Soiled Vertical Surfaces$.30 cents/ sq. ft(Spilled Paint, Oil Stains, Dried Mud, etc.)
RESTAURANT AND BAR SERVICE PRICES
- Exterior Concrete Cleaning$.15 cents/ sq. ft(Back Dock, Sidewalks, Patios, etc.)
- Interior Surface Cleaning$.25 cents/ sq. ft(Tile, Concrete, Stainless Steel) [w/o water reclaim]
- Interior Surface Cleaning$.40 cents/ sq. ft(Tile, Concrete, Stainless Steel) [w/ water reclaim]
- Kitchen Vent Hood, Fan, and Duct$400 each, $250 each additional[Steam Clean]
- Restaurant Equipment$50 each
- Restaurant Roof$.30 cents/ sq. ft
- Heavily Soiled Restaurant Roof$.40 cents/ sq. ft
APARTMENT SERVICE PRICES
- Exterior Concrete Cleaning$.10 cents/ sq. ft(Sidewalks, Patios, etc.)
- Building, Stairs, Sidewall, and Breezeways$.15 cents/ sq. ft
- Interior Surface Cleaning$.50 cents/ sq. ft(Tile, Concrete, Stainless Steel) [w/ water reclaim]
- Pool$.20 cents/ sq. ft
- Parking Circle/Pergola$.25 cents/ sq. ft
GAS STATION SERVICE PRICES
- Exterior Concrete Cleaning$.20 cents/ sq. ft(Gas Pump Pads, Parking Spots, etc.)
- Heavily Soiled Exterior Concrete$.50 cents/sq. ft[Steam Clean]
- Interior Surface Cleaning$.50 cents/ sq. ft(Tile, Concrete, Stainless Steel) [w/ water reclaim]
- Awnings$10/ linear ft.
COMMERCIAL CONSTRUCTION SERVICE PRICES
- Construction Site Cleanup$.20 cents/ sq. ft(remove paint, caulk, dirt and tire marks)
- Heavily Soiled Construction Site Cleanup$.30 cents/sq. ft(Oil Stains, Epoxy Paint, Grease) [Steam Clean]
- Equipment Washing$100/ each piece of equipment
MOBILE WASH SERVICE PRICES
- Exterior Wash Only$30/car, $40/truck
- Full Exterior Detail$60/car, $80/truck
- Interior Detail$40/car, $50/truck
While these tables should serve as a good guideline for pricing the services you decide to offer, it’s important to keep track of your material cost and labor hours for every job and adjust your price accordingly.
In calculating your average hourly profit, you also need to consider the other overhead costs of your power washing business including but not limited to:
- Maintenance Cost
- Office Space and Supplies
- Marketing and Advertising Cost
- Work Vehicle Depreciation
As much as we’d like the opposite to be true, you cannot run a successful power washing business with a broken power washer.
Unfortunately for a new power washing business owner, the equipment required to complete jobs tends to require a considerable amount of maintenance to keep running.
To avoid unnecessary downtime and keep customer satisfaction as high as possible, you should put together a preventative maintenance schedule for your equipment that includes regular oil changes, seal inspections and general well-being checks for your equipment.
At minimum, you need to plan on changing the oil in your pressure washer motor every 100 working hours. The same goes for your pump oil.
You also need to be regularly inspecting your wands, surface spinners, nozzles, and hoses for wear on a regular basis. Ideally you should save up enough money to buy a backup version of equipment that is more susceptible to wear and tear.
Carrying backup nozzles, hoses, and wands with you to each job can save you tons of time when you run into the inevitable equipment failure.
Assuming you will be using a truck to tow your pressure washer, you will also want to plan for preventative maintenance for it as well. Regular fluid changes and inspections can help make sure your equipment doesn’t fail you when you need it most.
For those interested in more information, this pressure washing equipment maintenance guide may prove useful.
HIRING AND MANAGING EMPLOYEES
Unless you are planning on operating as a sole proprietor for the life of your pressure washing business, it will be important to spend some time thinking about how you are going to approach hiring and management down the line.
Preemptively planning where you will find employees and how you will train and manage your team can help you avoid some huge headaches when it comes time to scale.
To make sure you are well prepared to onboard new employees when the need arises, it’s best to start documenting your processes and procedures as you develop them.
Once you have your power washing technique down cold, take the time to write down the steps you take on each job. These documents can then be used as training manuals for new employees or guidelines for you to reference when you are getting them up to speed.
Turning our attention to management, it’s also important to think about how you will delegate tasks and keep employees motivated on the job.
While this process will look different for each pressure washing operation, your end goal should be to inspire your employees to take the same level of ownership and pride in the work that you do.
A few ways you can accomplish this include bonus incentives for jobs well done, clearly defined advancement opportunities, and a firm commitment to granting employees the autonomy they need to learn and grow on their own.
By taking the time to document both the process and time it takes to complete each service you offer, you can help make sure the process for benchmarking and incentivizing employees is smooth and pain free.
Unlike some of the more long-term considerations mentioned in this section, accounting is something you will need to think about before you do perform your first job.
For starters, you will need to decide how you want to your business to be taxed by the IRS. The most common power washing business structures include:
If you are starting your power washing business without a partner, a sole proprietorship may be the best option for organization.
To form a Sole Proprietorship, you will need to file a DBA and apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with your state tax office.
Any income earned using this option is passed to the proprietor and often susceptible to both self-employment tax and personal income taxes when it comes time to file.
While this structure is the simplest and cost-effective option for starting a new pressure washing business, it does come with one important disadvantage: if your business gets sued, you can be held personally liable.
Unfortunately for sole proprietors, this means that a lawsuit against their business could end up costing them personal assets like their house or vehicle.
If you are going into business with a partner, an LLC is probably your best bet for organization.
LLCs are almost as easy to set up as a Sole Proprietorship and handle income in a similar way when it comes to taxes.
While you do not need to have a partner to form an LLC, it is widely-considered the best way to structure a business if you do.
Where an LLC differs is in the realm of legal liability. Because this structure is set up as a separate entity, a lawsuit against an LLC business is usually limited to collecting against the assets of the actual business when it comes to paying damages.
While the cost to set up an LLC is a bit higher than a sole proprietorship, it’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind of knowing that a lawsuit against your business won’t cost you your personal assets.
An S-Corp is basically an LLC with a few key differences.
If you organize as an LLC, you have the option to become an S corporation instead. This is a simple type of incorporation that offers some tax advantages when compared to an LLC. It does, however, require you to file additional paperwork.
To make things more confusing, an LLC can opt to be taxed as an S-Corp without actually needing to form the business as one.
Unlike an LLC, an S-corp limits the total shareholders allowed to 100 or less and forbids non-U.S. citizens from becoming shareholders.
S corporations cannot be owned by corporations, LLCs, partnerships, or most types of trusts.
They are also limited in the classes of stock they can issue.
S-Corps are required to maintain bylaws, issue stock, and hold shareholder and director meetings on a regular basis. They are also required to record meeting minutes from these meetings and keep them archived.
Rather than the owner(s) being the sole decision makers like in an LLC, an S-Corp leaves decision-making to board members and directors. Basically, the board of directors handles the majority of major and long-term decisions for an S-Corp, while the elected officers make decisions related to daily operations. Shareholders do not manage the business and affairs.
Like an LLC and Sole Proprietorship, income is handled as a pass-through, with the owners of the S-Corp assuming personal tax liability for profits and losses.
Perhaps the most uncommon and complicated structure available for a pressure washing business, a C-Corp is similar to an S-Corp, albeit with a few key differences.
For starters, C-Corps are taxed both at a corporate level and at a personal level. However, rather than using the pass-through approach of the other structures, a C-Corp pays owners and shareholders via dividends.
The C-Corp structure also allows for more than 100 shareholders and does not restrict non-U.S. citizens from being shareholders.
If you are hoping to raise venture capital and scale your pressure washing business nationwide, you may want to consider structuring as a C-Corp. That said, because of the added complexity of forming a business this way, you may want to enlist the help of a CPA or tax attorney.
Beyond deciding how you want to form your pressure washing business for tax purposes, you’ll also want to have a system in place to track mileage, business expenses, profits and losses to avoid unnecessary headaches when it comes time to file your taxes.
Quickbooks Self-Employed is a great resource for new entrepreneurs as it’s designed to streamline the tracking process in a way that makes preparing your taxes much easier.
This platform also includes an integrated system for invoicing customers and a useful tool for calculating quarterly tax liability.
POWER WASHING INSURANCE
Beyond the general liability insurance certificate you will need to set foot on most commercial job sites, it’s also important to carefully consider the other insurance you will put in place to protect your power washing business.
Even if you do mobile wash and are not required to carry General Liability coverage by your clients, insurance is always a good idea in the power washing industry.
Consider what would happen if you accidentally sprayed a customer’s vehicle with the windows down or got too close and damaged their paint.
The legal liability of repairing damage to customer property almost always falls to the owner of the business responsible for causing it. Even if you weren’t at fault, the chance of getting sued for property damage as a pressure washing business owner is too big to ignore.
Some of the pressure washing insurance coverages offered by Tomins include, but certainly are not limited to:
(INSERT RELEVANT COVERAGES WITH FELICIA)
Interested in learning more?
THE BEST POWER WASHER FOR YOUR BUDGET
Once you have all your ducks in a row, it’s time to purchase your equipment and start selling jobs.
While including good advice on every piece of equipment you need would require a separate guide in itself, the following sections were written to give you a basic understanding of the best equipment to buy as a new power washing business owner.
Spending less than $1000 on a pressure washer for commercial use is rarely a good idea.
Not only will most options available in this price range fall short of the capability you need to tackle most commercial applications, entry-level power washers are not build to withstand the hours you will end up putting on them.
That said, if your budget only allows for $1000, your best bet is going to be something with a Honda motor and a pump with an output of at least 3500 psi and 3 gpm.
While new power washers end up getting tricked into thinking their $400 4000 psi home depot power washer is up for the task of commercial pressure washing, these units typically have a flow rate of less than 2 gallons per minute.
At the end of the day, GPM is a much better indicator of a power washer’s ability than psi.
In choosing an entry level power washer, you should pick based on GPM and engine above all else. As aforementioned you should be buying something with 4 gpm at minimum.
While the honda engine is a bonus in the reliability department, a Honda clone or Briggs engine will work just as well at the end of the day.
If you are between a power washer with a Honda motor and a 2 GPM pump and a Briggs and Stratton motor with a 4 GPM pump, buy the Briggs unit without question.
The best pressure washing pump manufacturers are legacy, cat, and general pump. Even though might have luck with another brand, these are definitely the industry standard.
This price range is the sweet spot for cold water units.
Assuming you aren’t planning on doing any kitchen exhaust jobs or epoxy paint removal, there is very little that a solid pressure washer in this range can’t tackle. As with our sub $1000 example, the most important consideration in choosing your first power washer should be the GPM of the pump.
You should be able to find general or legacy pump putting out 5 gpm in this price range. That said, the higher the gpm, the better.
If you’re lucky, you may find a hot water unit in this price range, but the likelihood of it having a no-name pump and motor is high. It’s usually not worth risking your equipment reliability to get a hot water unit in this price range.
However, if you find a hot water pressure washer with a general, legacy, or cat pump under $3000, you should buy it without hesitation.
At this price point, you should only be looking at hot water units.
Once you have a pressure washer with an oil burner or hot box, a whole new world of applications and services opens up to your business. Not only will a hot water unit enable you to clean heavily-soiled surfaces without detergent in many cases, it will also enable you to start cleaning kitchen exhaust systems as well.
While it is possible to clean a vent hood with a cold water power washer, it’s definitely not advisable.
Taking on a vent hood job without a hot water unit will require a considerable amount of scraping by hand and chemical application in most cases.
In choosing a hot water unit, it’s important to make sure the flow rate of your burner is well-matched to the output of your pump. Buying a hot water pressure washer with a low flow rate burner and high flow rate pump will stop you from being able to achieve the temperatures necessary to harness the cleaning power of steam.
One final important consideration to keep in mind when choosing a hot water unit is the orientation of the burner.
A horizontal burner tends to be much more efficient at heating rapidly flowing water and should be prioritized over a vertical burner model if possible
At this price range, you should be looking exclusively at dual pump units capable of running (2) guns simultaneously.
Assuming you have a powerful enough engine and pumps with a minimum flow rate of 4.0 GPM, these units essentially double your cleaning power and should help cut job times by 30-40%.
While most units at the low end of this price range will not come with a trailer, it often makes sense to spend a few extra thousand dollars to get one that does. While you can put a commercial skid in the back of a pickup, the combined weight of these units and a decent water tank is often more than the average truck can handle.
Buying a pressure washer already mounted on a trailer not only helps make sure you will be able to transport your unit, it will also save you time and cost in plumbing it to a water supply and running pressure lines.
Most trailer mounted skids will come ready to use from the factory, enabling you to start learning your machine as soon as you buy it.
It’s important to note that you will need at least a 400 gallon water tank to avoid running into issues down the line. Combining the fact that some job sites will not have on-site water with the fact that two pumps at 4.0 GPM will drain a 400 gallon tank in about 50 minutes, the more water capacity, the better.
That said, before you go out an buy a 1200 gallon tank, you’ll need to make sure that your tow vehicle is up for the task of towing that much weight.
In calculating your gross trailer weight, you’ll need to add 8 lbs. for each gallon of water you plan to carry. Long story short, it may be time to start looking at a 3500 series truck.
While there are plenty of great prebuilt pressure washing trailers available, you may want to talk to a custom fabricator or a pressure washer builder before making a decision.
Depending on where you live, you may find a local supplier who can build you a better unit for the same price or less.
OTHER EQUIPMENT YOU’LL NEED
Assuming you are not buying a pressure washer that comes with all of the necessary equipment to power wash, you will also need to budget for a few other key pieces of equipment.
At minimum, you will need:
- 100 feet of high pressure line (5000 PSI rated)
- 100 feet of Garden Hose
- (1) 3 foot lance
- (1) 4 foot lance
- (1) Spray Gun (5000 PSI)
- (2) 100’ Hose Reels
- Assorted Spray Nozzles (15O, 25O, 45O)
- (1) Turbo Nozzle
- (1) Surface Cleaner
- Caustic Degreaser
- Waterproof Boots
Depending on the applications you plan on specializing in, you may also want to look into a multitude of other equipment options.
From hand spinners to specialized lances, having the right tool for the job makes life as a professional power washer much easier in the long run.
To keep your power washing business open, you will need to consistently sell jobs.
While many new pressure washing business owners approach lead generation from more of a sales perspective, strategic inbound marketing is often a much more efficient way to grow your business long term.
In planning to start your pressure washing business, you should make sure to plan and budget for a marketing strategy, with both short-term and long-term objectives and benchmarks. Whether you choose to hire a marketing agency or handle marketing yourself will depend on your free time and willingness to delegate other tasks.
If you are tech-savy and feel comfortable working with Google Ads or Social Media Platforms, the most cost-effective way to go about this may be doing it yourself.
That said, there might be more profitable ways for you to spend your time from a big picture perspective. If that ends up being the case for you or you aren’t overly familiar with marketing strategy, it’s probably smarter to hire your marketing out.
At the end of the day, you will need to carefully consider your strong suits in planning your day-to-day activities and stay open-minded to outsourcing when it makes sense.
Starting your own power washing business can be an incredibly rewarding and profitable way to start working as an entrepreneur.
Making sure you take the time to plan all of your strategy beforehand is the best way to make sure you can keep doing it long term.