Revised and updated December 29, 2020.
Residential cleaning services have been on the rise for decades. There were 1,189 residential cleaning service franchise businesses in the US in early 2020, following five years of 1.5% annualized growth. Changes in the population and the way we live have created more demand for professional cleaning, leading to a diverse range of services, many of them franchised. Though COVID-19 hit the industry hard, the strength of these long-term trends and the inescapable need for cleaning mean that the industry is likely to see a swift return to growth.
The fundamental service of residential cleaning is the same regardless of circumstances: someone is hired to clean another person’s home. But the nature and schedule of the service can vary a great deal, to suit the facilities of the service, the size of the home, and the needs of the customer. From daily or weekly cleans to an occasional deep clean, regular services can be varied, and there’s even demand for one-off services, such as when moving in or out of a house.
Green cleaning is increasingly popular, with cleaners using more environmentally-friendly cleaning products. This can be at the special request of a particular customer or can be a defining feature of a cleaning brand.
Cleaning someone’s house is a very personal service, as the cleaners are entering their customer’s home, and so it’s important to make the customer feel comfortable. It’s also very important to provide a high-quality service to the standards that matter to the customer. It’s easy to change cleaners, and dissatisfaction, either with the standard of the cleaning or with the attitude of the cleaners, could easily lead to the loss of a job.
The residential cleaning industry has grown substantially in recent decades, largely because of demographic changes. In 1950, 8.1% of the US population was aged over 65. By 2000, that figure was 12.4%, and it’s expected to grow to 17.9% by 2025. That’s a growing number of people whose age and infirmity make it hard to do their own cleaning, and so rely on help from family or professionals.
On top of this, there was a sharp rise in dual-income households between 1960 and 1990. In recent decades, fewer households have contained an adult with the time available to stay on top of cleaning and tidying. As a result, there’s a far larger market for domestic cleaning services to economically-active families than there was two generations ago, and services have been emerging to fill that gap. The acceptance of this trend has normalized hiring a cleaner, making it more acceptable and appealing for a range of people, not just the elderly and the wealthy. In increasingly busy lives, people want to save time for leisure, and hiring a cleaner achieves this goal.
927,000 people were employed as maids or housekeeping cleaners as of May 2019. Over 100,000 of them provided services to homes and other buildings, while others cleaned in hotels, hospitals, care homes, and a range of other facilities.
COVID-19 caused a huge disruption for residential cleaners. The nature of their work meant that it couldn’t be done without entering other people’s homes. In many jurisdictions, this became impossible because of anti-COVID regulations. Even in times and places with more relaxed controls, many customers didn’t want to have outsiders in their homes. Layoffs meant that more people had time to do their own cleaning and lacked the money to pay a cleaner.
The need for greater cleaning to combat COVID helped fill the gap for some cleaning businesses, as they were able to pick up work cleaning workplaces or shared spaces in communal buildings. The American House Cleaners Association has pointed out the usefulness of cleaning services in helping to fight the disease and encouraged people to hire cleaners for deep cleaning. Some customers have asked for more cleaning rather than less to battle COVID, and the industry’s inclusion in many lists of essential services has let it continue, though in a reduced state.
Residential cleaning is not recession-proof, as it’s a service people can replace with their own labor when money is tight. However, it’s an industry that recovered well from the last recession. As the COVID recovery begins, residential cleaning services may find that some customers don’t return, due to lost income, but an increased awareness of the importance of hygiene will create more work for others. We’re moving into a world that’s much more conscious of both the danger of germs and the importance of good cleaning in combating them.
Residential cleaning offers great opportunities if it can be targeted right. Affluent urban and suburban locations have the best opportunities, and social media makes it easier to market services to these communities. Green services and the demand for deep cleans to battle germs provide a way to make services stand out.
1. Merry Maids
Merry Maids offers a wide range of cleaning services, including house/apartment cleaning, green cleaning, maid service, specialty cleaning, detailed cleaning, housekeeping, move in/out cleaning, holiday cleaning, and organizational services. The company’s satisfaction guarantee is backed up with a free re-cleaning. It also has its own line of maintenance products, Shineffective, that have been approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency to carry the Design for Environment (DfE) label, meaning they meet strict safety standards.
The chain is a subsidiary of The ServiceMaster Company, which includes several different home services brands. Founded by Dallen Peterson in Omaha, Nebraska in 1979 and franchising since 1980, the number of locations has continued to grow during the past decade from 1,628 in 2010 to the current total of 1,708 (no change from the previously reported total), of which three are company-owned and 695 are located outside the US.
2. The Maids
The Maids sends 4-person cleaning crews in bright-yellow branded vehicles to serve customers. Services offered include recurring cleaning, occasional cleaning, move in/move out cleaning, seasonal cleaning (spring and fall), same-day cleaning, and special cleaning services. The company is an exclusive partner of Mr. Clean, and makes extensive use of that branded character on its website.
Founded by Daniel J. Bishop in Omaha, Nebraska in 1979 and franchising since 1981, the number of locations currently stands at 1,473 (up from the previously reported total of 1,452), of which 174 are company-owned and 53 are located outside the US.
3. Molly Maid
Molly Maid prides itself on the fact that of the two million cleans it performs each year, approximately 90% of them are for repeat customers. It offers a standard array of house and apartment cleaning services (regular, occasional, special events, moving), including green cleaning, although it does not adhere to any particular green cleaning standards beyond its own.
Molly Maid is a Neighborly company (formerly Dwyer Group), which is a collection of 16 different brands that provide all kinds of home services. Founded by David McKinnon in Canada (who moved the company to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1984) in 1979 and franchising since then, the number of locations now totals 492 (up from the previously reported total of 485), of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
4. Maid Brigade
Maid Brigade offers a full range of home cleaning services to customers, including apartment cleaning and house cleaning that can be one-time or regular according to a customer’s needs. The company has been committed to its Green Clean Certified system since 2007. It includes products and equipment based on standards developed by the independent, non-profit Green Seal organization. The Maid Brigade website explains its green cleaning standards in great detail.
Founded by Bart Puett and Don Hay in Atlanta, Georgia in 1979 and franchising since 1980, the number of locations has declined in recent years from a recent high of 500 in 2011 to the current total of 424 (up from the previously reported total of 450), of which 18 are company-owned and 58 are located outside the US.
MaidPro doesn’t have a menu of pre-configured cleaning services. Instead, a representative sits down with customers to build a cleaning plan that is tailored to their needs and budget. Its approach to cleaning is based on a 49-point checklist that can be modified as needed to meet a customer’s needs. Several pages of the company’s website explain how the company is green and the green products it uses.
Founded by Mark Kushinsky and Richard Sparacio in Boston in 1991 and franchising since 1997, the number of locations has risen steadily to the current total of 275 (up from the previously reported total of 268), of which none are company-owned and 10 are located outside the US.
6. The Cleaning Authority
The Cleaning Authority was purchased by Steve Robinson and Tim Evankovich in 1989 from the original founders. The company’s Detail-Clean Rotation System ensures each of four home zones gets an extra deep cleaning at the right frequency. All the cleaning products used are environmentally responsible and sustainable. The menu of services includes one-time cleanings, move in/out cleanings, apartment cleaning, and house cleaning.
Founded in 1977 and franchising since 1996, the number of locations currently stands at 221 (down from the previously reported total of 226), of which three are company-owned and seven are located outside the US.
7. You’ve Got Maids
You’ve Got Maids offers customers weekly cleaning, biweekly cleaning, green cleaning, move in/out cleaning, and a 54-point spring cleaning option. It backs up its satisfaction guarantee with an offer to re-clean if the customer requests it within 24 hours. Customers can also download the company’s Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Your Kitchen to learn how to effectively clean a kitchen using natural products.
Founded by Frank and Cynthia Berger in Orlando, Florida in 2005 and franchising since 2010, the number of locations has expanded rapidly to the current total of 95 (down from the previously reported total of 99), of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
8. Two Maids and a Mop
Two Maids and a Mop takes a unique approach to paying its cleaners with a performance-based model where higher customer ratings could reward cleaners with wages better than the industry average. The company founder also created a 100-page room-by-room guide to cleaning a home, thereby ensuring consistency in the quality of cleaning customers receive.
Customers can choose a Design with Time Cleaning Package for limited specific cleaning based on time, a Top to Bottom Deep Cleaning Package to cover the entire home, or an Empty Home Move In/Out Cleaning Package for those who are either vacating or about to move into a house, apartment, or condo.
Founded by Ron Holt in Birmingham, Alabama in 2003 and franchising since 2013, the number of locations has quickly grown to 79 (down one unit from the previously reported total), of which two are company-owned and all are located in the US.
9. TruBlue Total House Care
TruBlue Total House Care provides a range of services to seniors and busy families from whole house cleaning to handyman services, routine lawn care and property maintenance, seasonal tasks, pressure washing (siding, decks, sidewalks), and safety audits. Services can be purchased “a la carte” or customers can sign up for a flat-rate House Care Plus monthly plan.
Co-founded by Gary Green and other franchise veterans in 2011 and franchising since then, the chain currently has 48 locations (up from the previously reported total of 40), of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
10. Home Cleaning Centers of America
Home Cleaning Centers of America gives customers a full range of home cleaning services using OSHA-approved cleaning products. Before quoting a price, the company takes the time to visit the home to ensure the quote will be accurate. Franchisees who prove to be successful at their home cleaning service have the option to expand their business to provide additional services such as carpet cleaning, office cleaning, window cleaning, and country club cleaning.
Founded by Mike and Jeanette Calhoon in Kansas City in 1981 and franchising since 1984, the number of locations has held more or less steady for more than a decade and currently stands at 30, of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
11. Sears Maid Services
Sears Maid Services carries the well-known Sears brand name but is part of a separate company, Sears Home & Business Franchises, that includes four other brands: Sears Carpet & Upholstery Cleaning, Sears Air Duct Cleaning, Sears Garage Solutions, and Sears Handyman Solutions. The larger retailing company has had its problems with store closings and bankruptcy, but none of that directly impacts these franchised services.
In addition to one-time cleanings, customers can sign up for weekly and monthly cleaning services. Other services include apartment cleaning, move-out/move-in cleaning, and intensive fall/spring deep cleaning services.
Founded in 1992 and franchising since 2014, the company website lists 30 US locations.
12. Maid Simple
Maid Simple offers a full range of home cleaning services without contracts, including eco-friendly and pet-friendly options, all of which can be configured to meet each client’s unique needs and schedule. Cashless payments are made online only when the cleaning has been completed.
The company offers franchisees two different models for getting started. The first option is being an owner/operator who performs the cleaning and hires additional workers as the business grows. The second option is a manager model for those who want to hire and manage maids from the start so the franchisee can focus on networking in the community.
Founded in 2012 and franchising since then, the company website lists 24 areas it serves in Columbus, OH and its surrounding communities, but it’s not clear if those represent individually-owned franchises.
eMaids began during a significant building boom that saw the addition of many new high-rise apartment buildings. It offers both house cleaning and office cleaning in and around New York City, with a focus on Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.
Appointments can be booked through the company website along with a 24/7 answering service. It uses non-allergenic cleaning products, but has found it’s the cleaners who value “green” cleaning even more than the clients.
Founded by Miriam Kahn in New York City in 2004 and franchising since 2010, the company website lists a total of 20 locations in 10 states and Washington, DC.
14. Maid Right
Maid Right makes a point of sending the same cleaner back to a home so they develop a more detailed knowledge of the customer’s needs and desires. The company’s Signature Clean program provides comprehensive cleanings and medical-strength protection against germs and bacteria with its proprietary EnviroShield system, non-toxic cleaning products, vacuums with HEPA filters, and detailed cleaning checklists used on every job.
The Maid Right franchise model is based on the highly successful JAN-PRO commercial cleaning model. It is an owner-led model where the franchisee is directly involved in providing the cleaning services.
Founded in 2013 and franchising since then, the number of locations has declined sharply from 29 in 2016 to the current total of only six, of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
15. Maids by Trade
Maids by Trade offers home cleaning services using its EcoPink System, an approach to eco-friendly cleaning the company developed in collaboration with the non-profit group Green Seal. The EcoPink System focuses on preventing cross-contamination of germs from bathrooms to kitchens and between houses, reduction of water and cleaning product use, using only Green Seal certified products, commercial-grade vacuums with HEPA filters, reuse of washable cleaning rags, following all EPA house-cleaning guidelines, and using only products approved by the EPA.
The company offers three different cleaning plans: Essential, Standard, and Premium.
Founded by Fortino Barajas in Portland, Oregon in 1997 and franchising since 2016, the number of locations now stands at three, two of which are company-owned, all in the US.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.