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Carpet Cleaning Prices

By Michael Hilton

The Old adage "You get what you pay for" has never been more true (and false) with respect to carpet cleaning and carpet cleaning prices. However, the carpet cleaning profession is one in which you don't necessarily have to go with a national franchise to ensure you get good results for the carpet cleaning price you pay. I have worked with national franchises and "mom and pops" alike and the best and worse carpet cleaning results I have seen were from a national carpet cleaning franchise. The purpose of this section is not to confuse your decision-making, but to offer suggestions to help you ask the right questions of your carpet cleaner and give you parameters for carpet cleaning pricing. If we were to tell you that the average price per square foot for carpet cleaning pricing is $0.28 per square foot, it tells very little about the franchise that charges $0.35 per square foot for carpet cleaning or the carpet cleaning price of $0.15 that your "mom and pop" carpet cleaner may charge for the same service.

Carpet Cleaning Franchises

With a national carpet cleaning franchise, you get a tried and true carpet cleaning system. The technicians have access to technical support, quality chemicals, tested equipment, support in the accounting and marketing phase of running a business, and suggestions and guidance from the Franchise in how to look and act like a professional. These are all business generation tools for the franchise.

You, the residential carpet owner, get a complaint resolution policy, that may not always work, but franchises do intervene in some instances. You must realize, however, that the carpet cleaning franchisee is the customer of the franchise. The franchise gets a portion of every carpet cleaning dollar that you pay. If a franchise is relatively free of customer complaints, you may be the odd man (or woman) out when it comes to who to believe.

The mom and pop does not have this base of support, yet they are the business owner and for most, "the buck stops here". They do not have a marketing machine helping them to secure leads or advising them of where to cut corners to save labor dollars. Because they have far fewer customer leads and opportunities, the carpet cleaning results they provide must reflect their need for repeat business.

The problem with most "mom and pops" and carpet cleaning franchises alike is not the system or support, but the residential carpet owner themselves. Most consumers clean carpet far too infrequently. Yet they expect the carpet cleaner to come into their home and return their never before cleaned, seven-year-old carpet to its original glory. Many problems related to carpet cleaning, rests with the carpet cleaner in trying to accomplish this result for the homeowner. A restorative carpet cleaning requires more time, leaves the carpet wetter, and therefore reflects carpet cleaning pricing.

For more information on hiring a carpet cleaner, visit our carpet cleaner section.

Carpet cleaning should be performed every 12 to 18 months. If this were the case, every carpet cleaner could charge $0.10 per square foot to clean, the carpet cleaner would be profitable, the consumer would be more satisfied with the results, carpet wear would be less, and fewer dissatisfaction complaints would result.

The carpet industry is an unusual animal. Consider the following:

  • Paint costs about $0.02 per square foot to purchase. Labor to apply paint averages $0.30 to $0.40 per square foot to apply. Product $0.02 labor $0.40 - Care $0.02
  • Hardwood flooring costs about $4.00 per square foot. Labor averages about $3.00 per square foot to install. Finishing may average about $2.00 per square foot to coat. Product $4.00 - Labor $5.00 - Care $0.40
  • Laminate flooring (fake wood) runs about $1.50 per square foot on clearance and $2.50 per square ft. to install. You end up sweeping and mopping 3-4 times per week, but your time is not worth anything, right? Product $1.50 - Labor $2.50 - Care $0.40
  • Sheet vinyl averages about $3.00 per square foot (for decent quality) and labor averages about $2.00 per square foot. You end up sweeping and mopping 3-4 times per week, but your time is not worth anything, right? Product $3.00 - Labor $2.00 Care $0.40
  • Vinyl Tile $1.40 to purchase $2.00 to install, $0.80 - Care
  • Ceramic tile averages about $2.00 per square foot and labor averages about $3.00 per square foot. You end up sweeping and mopping 3-4 times per week, but your time is not worth anything, right? Also, those grout lines never get dirty, right? Product $2.00 - Labor $3.00

The average new carpet price is something like $2 per square foot at retail and about $1 per square foot through our Dalton, GA discount carpet wholesalers. Carpet installation prices average about $0.50 per square foot. Carpet cleaning price averages about $0.28 per square foot. In the carpet industry, unlike other coverings industries, the carpet itself is the single most expensive line item, yet the consumer does less to enhance its expected life than any other product in our home and it is the third most expensive consumer purchase we will ever make. Product $2.00 Labor $0.50 Care $0.28

Spring Cleaning

A hint to make everyone happy is to contract with your carpet cleaner to clean your carpet every spring at $0.14 to $0.15 per square foot. Some carpet cleaners may believe, they can't be profitable at this price, but much of their time is spent "not cleaning" or doing things (estimates etc.) that do not generate income. If a carpet cleaner: cleans two homes each day, can clean 800 sq. ft. per hour, with good results s/he can cover costs, be profitable, and have a savings account.

Let's do the math. The average home has about 1000 square feet of carpet. At $0.15 per foot, this amounts to $150.00 for about two and a half hours work (80 minutes cleaning-40 minutes set up/break down-30 minutes transportation time) If there is less than 500 sq. ft. of carpet, I would charge a minimum $75 fee just to unwind my hoses. If there is less than 500 sq, ft. of carpet, I would charge more per square foot due to economies of scale-It takes the same amount of time to do the transportation, set-up, breakdown, etc. for 150 square foot of carpet as 1000 square feet. $150 is about the minimum profitability point for many carpet cleaning jobs unless it is a regularly recurring task.

At 2000 sq. ft per day (500,000 sq ft Per year), this amounts to $300 per day and $1500 per week. Half goes to overhead, which leaves $750. This amounts to about $38,000 per year (group carpet cleaner groan about here, because a two man crew cuts this in half again, but read on). Let's look further though guys. If a homeowner waits 7 years to have their carpet cleaned again, these 100 or so jobs become zero next year. So you charge $0.30 per square foot, make $150,000 ($75,000) this year on these consumers, nothing next year, or year three, or year four, or year five, or year six and another $150,000 in year seven, when the average consumer cleans again. So in seven years @ $0.30 per foot, (assuming these customers can find or remember you in seven years) the carpet cleaner would average $21,428 ($10,714.00) per year on these 100 or so customers vs $38,000 ($19,000.00) on a yearly cleaning over 7 years.

The problem with this theory is the average residential carpet is cleaned every 7 years and the average carpet is replaced every 7 years, so the average carpet is cleaned once during its lifetime, so let's look at the residential carpet owner side of the equation.

Cost of Carpet Cleaning

Assuming the average costs of carpet listed above ($2.00 material, $0.50. labor) for EACH consumer. 1000 square feet costs $2500 to purchase and $2500 to replace the dingy carpet in seven years. That's $5,000 (Mrs. Neal my 6th grade math teacher would be so proud) Now lets throw in the one cleaning at $0.30 per foot or $300.00, which brings the sum to $5300.00.

If you're still with me, lets clean that carpet at $0.15 per square foot, so that's $0.15 times 1000 square feet times 7 years. That equals...(this can't be right, Mrs. Neal)....$1050 for cleaning. Add in the original cost of the carpet $2500 (the carpet will last 13 years with yearly cleaning) and let's see...$3550 for carpet purchase and yearly cleaning over 7 years vs. $5300 for one carpet cleaning and carpet replacement.

How can this be? The consumer saves money, the carpet cleaner makes money (provided his job isn't outsourced), the carpet industry is happy, because their product is performing as it should and I'm happy because you read this entire section. My University of Georgia Economics professor is happy because money is changing hands and our money is working for all of us. But of course, your carpet manufacturer can always make more carpet every 7 years if you prefer.

Did you know?

By increasing carpet cleaning frequency to once per year, you actually save money by extending carpet life, have a healthier home by extracting allergen, and limit the number of carpet cleaning problems that you can expect.

About the Author
Michael Hilton was the original creator of Carpet Buyers Handbook. Having owned and operated a carpet wholesale company, Hilton has a vast knowledge about all-things carpet related as well as other types of flooring.

Other Helpful Links
Carpet Cleaners
Do's and Don't's
Selecting a Cleaning Method
Carpet Cleaning Prices
Franchise or Independent?
Areas of Responsibility
Now is the Time for Professional Carpet Cleaning
Hiring A Pro
Hiring a Pro for Carpet Cleaning
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