Pressure Washing Licenses and Insurance 101: What You Need to Operate Legally

Jan 15, 2024
pressure washing

If you’re looking to turn pressure washing into a thriving full-time business, there are some legal and financial boxes you need tick right out the gates. As boring as paperwork might sound, properly registering your business, getting compliant insurance policies, and understanding necessary state licenses establishes critical protections and credibility that enables scaling.

Ignore the licensing and insurance pieces early on opens your personal finances and assets to massive risk that can demolish all your pressure washing entrepreneurship dreams if something goes wrong.

In this blog post, we’ll summarize licensing must-haves, insurance basics every pressure washer needs to carry, employee versus subcontracting benefits and drawbacks, why leading well separate success from failure, and additional bits of wisdom to startup on the right foot!

Required Licensing & Sales Tax ID For Legal Operation

First up, you’ll likely need to pay for a standard business operating license in the main county/city where you’ll be based. Fees vary based on jurisdiction population but expect startup costs between $25-$100+.

Technically, to fully comply, you may be required to get individual municipal licenses in every little township your mobile operation enters for jobs. Realistically, unless zoning around aggressively, you can likely get away without this level of exhausting micro-permitting.

You WILL for sure need a sales tax ID number (separate from your EIN) to legally charge and collect state sales tax from pressure washing clients as required. Remittance responsibility kicks in quick - usually quarterly once over certain revenue thresholds.

An EIN (employer identification number) is also crucial to obtain right away for proper federal tax compliance, basically acting as your business’s social security number with the IRS. Both EIN and sales tax ID filing are free and fast online.

For additional information on licensing requirements, check out this blog post:The Ultimate Guide To Starting Your Own Pressure Washing Business (


Must-Have Insurance Policies Protecting Your Business

Carrying adequate insurance is easily as important getting licenses to operate a safe pressure washing business. Otherwise, you risk your entire personal finances on day one!

Start with general liability coverage protecting from third party property damage and bodily injury claims - slip and falls, accidental surface and plant damage etc. General liability also commonly satisfies commercial contract requirements. Premium costs range ~$50-$150 monthly depending on coverage scale.

Also consider commercial auto to cover equipment and work vehicles, workers comp protecting employees if injured, and umbrella policies to add supplemental coverage if sued or faced with a damages award that exceeds standard policy limits after an incident.

Review exact specifications listed in each policy carefully regarding coverage scope, exemptions etc. Underinsuring with gaps can completely sink you!

Understanding Employee Laws or 1099 Subcontracting

As you scale, one decision you'll encounter is whether to bring on W2 employees, which triggers payroll tax and compliance requirements, or use independent subcontractor workers classified as 1099 recipients.

True 1099 "employees" in pressure washing legally need to take care of their own insurance, taxes, work hours etc. However, recent crackdowns are scrutinizing this arrangement if workers don't clearly establish independence. Consider pros and cons of each setup as you grow a team.

Leadership & Mindset: Overcoming Excuses and Fears

While anyone can handle operational cleaning work, scaling a thriving pressure washing business long-term requires seriously developing leadership, strategic planning, financial, tax and legal acumen.

Successful owners never stop self-educating in business skills and personal development training. Be honest about current excuse patterns or fears of raising prices, asking for the sale, bidding big contracts etc. Then seek coaching/programs to shift limiting mindsets into abundance.

The infrastructure covered in this article sets you up for legal compliance and physical risk protection. But cultivating an adaptive learning mindset while leading any hired team members determines if you turn pressure washing into a stagnant small hobby or a 7-figure empire!

Pressure Washing Wisdom Overview

We covered quite a bit of ground setting up a legit pressure washing startup on safe legal and financial footing! Let's recap key lessons:

  • Get all essential local/state business operational licenses to avoid fines for unlicensed work after the fact
  • Obtain a sales tax ID and EIN to start remitting required taxes from day one
  • Secure general liability insurance plus strong supplemental policies like commercial auto, workers comp etc. to shield personal assets
  • Weigh pros and cons of 1099 subcontractors vs W2 employees as you scale up teams
  • Commit to continual leadership, mindset and business operations education outside physical cleaning work

While not the “fun” parts of entrepreneurship, respecting compliance, insurance, licensing, and planning aspects leads to sustainably profitable - and legal - pressure washing success for years to come! Check out the blog post: The Ultimate Guide To Starting Your Own Pressure Washing Business for more helpful advice.



  1. What specific licenses do I need to start a legal pressure washing business?

You will likely need a standard business operating license in your county/city, a sales tax ID number to charge and remit state sales tax appropriately, and an EIN number from the IRS for federal tax compliance.


Can I get away without getting properly insured as a new pressure washing business?

Absolutely not. You need general liability protection at minimum from day one. Also strongly consider commercial auto, workers comp, bonding insurance and umbrella policies. Lacking coverage can ruin your personal finances if an accident happens.


As a new owner, what insurance policies are absolutely mandatory?

General liability. This covers 3rd party bodily injuries, property damage and often legal defense. Some commercial contracts require it as well. Expect $50-$150+ per month based on your revenue.


I have employees - what policy do I desperately need?

Workers comp. It covers wage loss and medical bills if an on-the-job injury occurs. Rates vary based on payroll percentages. Required by law for W2 staff.


What licenses cost the most for a pressure washing startup?

Workers compensation insurance and commercial auto insurance see steep rates as your revenue and payroll climbs. But all licenses and operational compliance does add up quick. Bid jobs at profitable levels to offset them.


Can I avoid insurance spending by using subcontractors instead of employees?

Partially. You shift the burden and requirements onto them. But beware - legally classifying subs vs employees has gotten tighter. There can still be risk.


Do I need to carry insurance if I’m the only worker?

Yes. As a solo operator your personal assets are at risk without proper liability coverage from injury claims, damaged property etc if an accident occurred on a job. Never operate uninsured.


Can I buy cheap minimum insurance plans to start as I’m just testing this?

Never opt for discount "minimum coverage" insurance packages. Review the plans extensively and buy proper policies that fully protect your specific business model from Day 1.


What background and skills make for better pressure washing business leaders?

Developing strong leadership, communication, operational strategy, financial, tax, compliance, organizational planning, and team building skills separate thriving business owners from struggling solos.


Why invest in leadership skills building as a new pressure washing owner?

Because everything covered regarding licensing, insurance, hiring, growth obstacles etc boils down to your vision, problem solving and team leadership capabilities guiding sustainable success.