This annual list of the best commercial cleaning (janitorial) franchises was revised and updated on January 26, 2021.
Commercial cleaning services are a huge industry. The market is worth an estimated $64 billion in the US alone, employing over two million people in over a million businesses. This is hardly surprising, as every workspace needs to be cleaned, and this is seldom one of the responsibilities of a business’s own staff. Cleaning is regularly outsourced to external providers, who bring in the specialist skills, materials, and equipment to ensure that others get to live and work in a pleasant, hygienic environment.
Cleaning is a low-investment sector that’s easy to enter, and in which franchises play a significant part. There are 36,000 franchised outlets in the US, providing cleaners for a wide range of businesses. 90% of contract cleaners work on office buildings, making this the biggest earner for the industry, but there are a huge range of other properties to deal with, including public buildings, shops, and gyms. From 2015-2020, the janitorial industry saw average annual growth of 2.1%.
Many of the companies franchising in this market offer both “unit franchises” and “master franchises.” A master franchisee is the one who sells the owner-operator unit franchises and takes the lead on lining up clients and negotiating service contracts. The unit franchisee is the one who actually delivers the cleaning services, without having to worry about the sales aspect. The industry therefore offers you the option to either provide cleaning services or act as a higher level manager and coordinator, overseeing franchised cleaning work.
The closure of workplaces and greater home working due to COVID-19 initially reduced the demand for regular commercial cleaning, leading one prediction to foresee a 2.7% decline in industry revenues in 2020. Those serving retail outlets, schools, and office spaces in particular saw a loss in business thanks to closures designed to counter the pandemic.
But COVID also increased the need for rigorous cleaning in workplaces that were open. Once the initial surge of closures passed and businesses started to reopen, there was a greater need than ever to ensure that cleaning was done regularly and well, to fight the spread of the disease. This led to a surge in demand for disinfectant cleaning. Some cleaners saw their work boom as building managers rushed to get deep cleans and more frequent cleans, so that workplaces could more safely stay open.
The overall effect has been to protect larger and more resilient cleaning businesses, which were able to weather the initial crisis and pick up work in its aftermath, or which are able to keep going with temporarily reduced earnings. Large and mid-sized businesses are flourishing, while smaller ones or those that were heavily leveraged have been more likely to fail, creating space for others to expand.
A COVID-driven recession will affect the cleaning industry, as businesses they service struggle financially. However, the service offered is an essential one, and this will limit the impact of a recession. A 7.4% gain and recovery is forecast for the industry in 2021, as vaccinations and better government measures bring the pandemic under control while stabilizing the economy; and 5.4% annual gains from then through to 2025.
Modern concerns with the environment we live in have led to two new trends in commercial cleaning. One is eco-friendly or “green” cleaning, driven by clients’ desire to reduce their environmental impact through less harmful cleaning products. Natural products and organic ingredients reduce the harmful impacts of the cleaning industry, protecting the environment and helping clients to live up to their ethical values. Environmental certification can help businesses to attract clients and even to charge higher fees for their work.
The other is “cleaning for health” with its focus on eliminating germs. In the aftermath of COVID, this trend is likely to be more prominent, as customers are more aware of the risks of transmitting diseases, and eager to counter these risks. Different companies lean more towards one than the other of these specializations and some focus on both. Such specialized services can be a good way to stand out, or for a business to offer a variety of options and customer choice.
In the new post-COVID world, disinfectant cleaning will be a more important part of every cleaning company’s business. Staff will need to improve their understanding of disease control and their focus on disinfection and high-contact surfaces. Businesses may also want to increase the stocks of cleaning supplies they hold, in case of supply chain disruptions which caused problems early in the pandemic. These are steps that are relatively easy to take, and that will let a company show its customers that it is taking the new situation seriously.
As offices gradually fill up again, so will the schedules of cleaning companies. Regular deep cleaning and daytime cleaning to control the spread of disease are likely to boost commercial cleaning for years to come.
The Top Commercial Cleaning (Janitorial) Franchises of 2021
JAN-PRO provides a range of commercial cleaning services, including its proprietary EnviroShield commercial disinfectant system similar to what is used in hospitals. Its backpack vacuums exceed HEPA filtration standards. Cleaners also use color-coded microfiber cleaning cloths to eliminate the transfer of germs from one area to another. The chain focuses on serving light commercial businesses with footprints of less than 50,000 square feet. It was recently acquired by Incline Equity Partners from the previous owner, Webster Capital.
Founded by Jacques Lapointe in Providence, Rhode Island in 1991 and franchising since 1992, JAN-PRO offers both master and single-unit franchises. The number of locations has been growing steadily from 7,084 in 2011 to the current total of 10,388, of which none are company-owned and 1,860 are located outside the US.
Coverall is a “health-based cleaning system” that wins a lot of medical facility contracts along with all kinds of other commercial clients because of its focus on achieving germ-free healthy environments. It claims to employ eco-friendly cleaning, thought it doesn’t back that up with any certifications. Different from most of the companies on this list, it offers only unit franchises (not master franchises).
Founded in 1985 and franchising since then, the number of locations has declined in recent years from 9,457 in 2009 to the current total of 8,278, of which none are company-owned and 1,480 are located outside the US.
3. ServiceMaster Clean
ServiceMaster Clean has put a ton of time and effort into developing its cleaning standards based on guidance for healthcare systems from OSHA, CDC, AORN, HIPAA, EPA, and other regulatory organizations. Franchisees can apply for in-house financing through the franchisor’s subsidiary, the ServiceMaster Clean Acceptance Company (SMAC). The company only sells unit franchises, not master franchises.
Founded by former minor league baseball player Marion E. Wade in Chicago, Illinois in 1929 and franchising since 1952, the number of locations held steady for several years and currently stands at 4,937, of which nine are company-owned and 1,815 are located outside the US.
4. Vanguard Cleaning Systems
Vanguard Cleaning Systems distinguishes itself from the competition with its five service standards: 1) A dedicated account liaison for each customer, 2) Informed and motivated to exceed expectations, 3) Advanced cleaning technologies, 4) Diverse and specialized capabilities, and 5) A disciplined approach. The company offers both unit and master franchises.
Founded in 1984 and franchising since then, the number of locations grew steadily from 1,519 in 2009 to 3,327 in 2018, but just declined to the current total of 3,118 (down from the previously reported total of 3,239), of which none are company-owned and 296 are located outside the US.
5. Stratus Building Solutions
Stratus Building Solutions offers all kinds of commercial businesses its signature Stratus Green Clean, an eco-friendly approach using its own proprietary line of biodegradable, non-toxic, and Green Seal Certified (GS-37) Stratus Green Clean chemicals free from VOCs, known carcinogens, and fragrances.
Founded by Dennis Jarrett and Pete Frese in 2004 and franchising since 2006, the company offers both master and single-unit franchises. The number of locations has expanded in the past several years from 1,155 in 2015 to the current total of 2,030 (up from the previously reported total of 1,787), none of which are company-owned and 109 are located outside the US.
6. CleanNet USA
CleanNet USA offers a full range of janitorial services, as well as exterior building and grounds maintenance. In additional to conventional cleaning, the chain offers a Clean Green Program that is eco-friendly for LEED certification and uses Green Seal products. The company is currently facing a lawsuit from a franchisee who says since the company sets each janitor’s schedule and pay, they aren’t really franchisees at all but employees, although the company does deduct franchise fees and royalties from pay.
Founded by Mark Salek in 1988 and franchising since then, the number of locations has fallen in recent years from a high of 5,274 in 2011 to the current total of 1,746 (down from the previously reported total of 2,038), of which none are company-owned and 48 are located outside the US.
7. Anago Cleaning Systems
Anago Cleaning Systems provides an in-depth orientation program, state-of-the-art equipment, and green chemicals for a wide range of commercial businesses and facilities. The chain backs its Total Satisfaction Guarantee with a “2-hour response” visit the day after any clean to address any issues not covered. The chain’s Green Cleaning Initiative is always on the lookout for new and greener cleaning products along with its HEPA filter vacuums and reusable microfiber cloths. Company headquarters were recently moved from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Pompano Beach.
Founded by David Povlitz in 1989 and franchising since 1991, the company offers both master and single-unit franchises. The number of locations has been steadily climbing in recent years from 1,154 in 2010 to the current total of 1,711 (up from the previously reported total of 1,692), of which none are company-owned and 72 are located outside the US.
8. Buildingstars International
Buildingstars International is different from other companies on this list that tend to clean any type of commercial business. Instead, it focuses solely on office buildings to reduce the amount of variation in what cleaners have to deal with (no restaurants, centers, retail stores, or health clubs).
The company also offers franchisees a way to “ease” into the business. The Technician Franchise lets a franchisee start cleaning part-time to retain the security of current employment. When ready, they can transition to full-time Onsite Manager with their own crew of cleaners. With enough experience they can then move into the Corporate program focused on larger buildings and accounts.
Founded in 1994 and franchising since 2000 with both master and unit franchises, the number of locations has grown steadily from 309 in 2010 to the current total of 906 (up from the previously reported total of 805), of which seven are company-owned and all are located in the US.
9. Mint Condition
Mint Condition has both unit and master franchise options. It positions its commercial cleaning services as “cleaning for health” with Green Seal certified cleaning products. Cleaners receive full training that includes classroom instruction, hands-on training, and on-the-job training.
Founded by Jack Saumby and his wife Marcy in Charlotte, South Carolina in 1996 and franchising since then, the company offers both unit and master franchises. The number of locations has grown steadily in recent years from 163 in 2010 to the current total of 409 (up from the previously reported total of 376), of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
10. Office Pride Commercial Cleaning Services
Office Pride Commercial Cleaning Services positions itself as a faith-based business providing janitorial and floor care services to commercial clients that exceed customer expectations. Its eco-friendly commitment includes Green Seal certified cleaning products, high-filtration vacuums, and reusable/washable microfiber cloths and mops. This is a unit franchise opportunity as there does not appear to be a master franchise option.
Founded by Todd Hopkins as an independent research project in his MBA program at Butler University in 1992 and franchising since 1996, the number of locations has climbed in recent years from 116 in 2010 to the current total of 141 (down from the previously reported total of 144), of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
Hoodz has a more specialized focus than most companies on this list. It specifically services commercial kitchens with cleaning, code compliance, and fire prevention solutions for restaurants, institutions, and other food service operations. It ensures cleaning that complies with all local, state, and federal regulations as well as exceeding standards related to NFPA 96, ANSI IKECA C10, insurance companies, fire inspectors, and health inspectors. The chain is owned by the Belfor Franchise Group, a company that includes two other franchises: DUCTZ (HVAC cleaning) and 1-800 Water Damage (restoration and carpet cleaning).
Founded in 2008 and franchising since 2009, the number of locations quickly expanded to a peak of 160 in 2012 but has since declined to the current total of 137, of which six are company-owned and one is located outside the US.
360clean developed its JaniMed cleaning system to ensure a space is truly clean and doesn’t just look clean. After all, you can’t see germs. It uses hospital-grade disinfectants on high-touch surfaces, HEPA vacuums, and microfiber cloths. It does also use Green Seal certified products, but only “where applicable,” indicating its germ-free focus is prioritized over being eco-friendly.
Founded by Barry Bodiford and his wife Allison in 2005 and franchising since 2008 with both master and unit franchises (and in-house financing for the latter), the chain has expanded over the past nine years from only 24 locations in 2010 to the current total of 86, all of which are franchised locations in the US.
13. City Wide Maintenance
City Wide Maintenance is another health-focused commercial cleaning chain that also offers a full range of other building maintenance solutions for both the interior (20 different focused services) and exterior (eight different focused services) of a building. This appears to be a unit franchise opportunity as master franchises are not mentioned.
Founded in 1961 in Kansas City and franchising since 2001, the number of locations has grown slowly but steadily over the past nine years from 26 in 2010 to the current total of 66, of which two are company-owned and all are located in the US.
14. System4 Facility Services Management
System4 Facility Services Management started out as a standard commercial cleaning chain, but reinvented itself in 2012 as a full-service facility management company. This reorganization also saw its core model change from unit franchising to master franchising, under which there are independent “affiliates” to provide the services but who do not pay franchise royalties and may work for other companies as well. This is why the company’s number of locations dropped from 1,302 in 2011 to only 27 in 2012 because it now only counts the number of master franchisees.
Founded by Phil Kubec and Edward Hammer in Cleveland, Ohio in 2003 and franchising since then, the number of locations has expanded in recent years from 27 in 2012 to the current total of 60, of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
15. Image One Facility Solutions
Image One Facility Solutions services all types of commercial clients with commercial cleaning, carpet cleaning, post-move cleaning, daily janitorial services, hard surface floor care, post-construction cleaning, green cleaning, window washing, and vacancy cleaning. Its proprietary IntelliClean system leaves no detail unnoticed. The chain sells unit franchises of different types depending on how much business the franchisee wants to handle.
Founded by Tim Conn and Mike Schuchman in 2010 and franchising since 2011, there are currently 16 locations, which is four more than were listed on the company website last time around and all of which are located 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.