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How to start a garment cleaning business

Published on 3rd September 2019 - Last update on 21st December 2019

The business of cleaning clothes has had ups and downs over the years. New fabrics and changing fashions, cheaper clothes which only get worn once, plus the move away from formal workwear, have all meant less demand for professional cleaning – but busy lifestyles, with less time for home cleaning, and smaller homes with no space for laundry equipment, mean more.

Both dry cleaners, and the ‘wet’ cleaners – laundries and launderettes – are enjoying a big resurgence. and it could mean some opportunities for a rewarding business.

Dry cleaning

Dry cleaning uses solvents rather than water, helping to preserve the shape and structure of tailored clothing.

It can be easy to start as an ‘agency’ cleaner, perhaps as an extra profit line for an existing high street business such as a local convenience store. Agencies simply take in clothes for a third party to do the actual cleaning. A location in or near train stations is popular for this type of business, allowing customers to drop off and collect clothes during their daily commute.

Traditional high street cleaners do cleaning on-site. Premises with sufficient space for machines, finishing work and garment storage are all essential in this case.

However, the largest dry cleaning businesses are the industrial services used by agency cleaners, and are generally large, specialist businesses with no direct contact with customers.

To operate any type of dry cleaning machine, you will need to have an environmental permit from your local council. Operating without a permit comes with a maximum penalty of £50,000 or 5 years' imprisonment. In addition, your premises must meet all the appropriate standards for electrical and water safety.

The start-up costs of a business like this may be high, especially if you wish to bring in several machines. However, you may be able to start a business on an agency basis, and to bring in small, standalone machines as the business builds itself up.

Laundries and Launderettes

Cash-rich, time-poor customers and those with no space for washing drying and ironing facilities at home are helping drive a recovery in the ‘traditional’ washing sector.

Most launderettes are still located in districts with low-income or transient populations but are increasingly appearing in city areas. They can operate virtually without staff, requiring only someone to open up and check machines. However, the real profits may come from the service wash - in effect, a laundry service where customers can have their clothing washed, dried and ironed for a set fee.

There is also scope for laundry businesses which collect, clean and deliver clothes based around a centralised commercial facility. The traditional laundry service may also be in demand for cleaning towels, sheets and tablecloths by hotels and restaurants.

However, the costs of starting up a launderette can be quite high, as centrally-located premises are crucial, and as a mature industry, the best locations are already in use.

It may, therefore, be most cost-effective to buy an existing launderette, even if it does require substantial refurbishment. Similarly, it may be more cost-effective to buy an existing laundry, especially if it already has lucrative contracts with local businesses and established private customers.

Need help with funding a garment cleaning business? See how you can find lenders who can help

Can you start up a dry cleaning or laundry business?

 Whether you are starting up, buying into an existing business, or ready to move your current business on, finance will be key to your success. The costs you may face include:

  • Premises - leasehold or freehold, the costs of premises in a central location, ideally with parking and public transport nearby, will be a major cost for any business that deals with the public.
  • Shopfittings and interiors - worn interiors with cracked tiles are offputting to customers. A clean, attractive interior has become essential for all types of garment cleaning business and some launderettes now include wifi and seating areas that are more like lounges that the traditional row of hard chairs.
  • Equipment - All garment cleaning businesses depend on their equipment, whether it is a large capacity industrial dry cleaning machine, or the washers and dryers in a launderette.
  • Ventilation - the standards required for ventilation are high for both dry cleaners and for launderettes. Dry cleaners, in particular, face tight environmental controls, and may not receive planning permission, especially if they are located close to homes.
  • Vehicles - Many laundries and central dry cleaners will also require vans to take care of deliveries and collections.
  •  Staff - skilled operatives may be required. Dry cleaning may require some operators with experience, and special techniques may be required with certain types of fabrics.

What about buying an existing business?

You may also need funding to buy an existing business. The cost of buying an existing garment cleaning business will depend on the turnover of the business and the profit is currently capable of generating, the condition of its equipment, the market it serves, and on whether it owns its premises.

It may require a large investment, especially if premises are included in the sale, but it may be easier to buy an existing business than start up from scratch. It will almost certainly be easier to borrow the funds to buy an existing business which is already demonstrating profitability.

Why you need Rangewell to find finance for your business

The clothes cleaning industry may be recovering from some lean years, but many lenders are, unfortunately, still reluctant to work with the sector. As a result of this, you may find that getting funding, and especially getting the funding you need to start up a new business, may be particularly challenging. 

However, all the costs involved can be met if you find the right lender. At Rangewell, we work across the garment cleaning sector and have found lenders who are able to help - and provide a personal service to you.

So if you are looking at the possibilities of starting up or buying a laundrette, or any business in the garment cleaning industry, and need to find the funding to help you achieve your goals, call us now to get our experts working for you.

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Richard Mitchell

Richard Mitchell

Content writer
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