Opening a dry cleaning business: do I need a license?

A dry cleaning business is a very attractive option for many entrepreneurs, as there is an increasing demand for this service, both in the UK and the rest of the World. Government figures have shown that the dry cleaning sector is worth about £1 billion, with a steady demand for over two decades.

What makes dry cleaning businesses so profitable, though? First off, dry cleaners cover the needs of those who do not own or do not want to purchase a washing machine at home, but they also allow professionals to have clean uniforms and suits every week, thus avoiding the time-consuming process of washing and ironing work clothes.

Special fabrics, coats and blankets often require special treatment and a dry cleaning business is able to provide a fast, efficient service for these delicate items. From an investor’s point of view, a dry cleaning business is fairly easy to manage, as it only requires a small team, along with the initial purchase of equipment, and an optimal marketing plan to find new customers and fidelize existing ones.

In order to open a dry cleaning business, it is necessary to get a special license and make sure your business complies with local rules. In this article, we are going to list everything you need to know in order to get a license, also providing some additional tips to successfully start your dry cleaning business. Let’s get started!

Get to know the specific regulations of your city

Municipalities have the freedom to determine any specific conditions or requirements necessary in order to open a business. Therefore, these requirements can vary considerably depending on the city in which you plan to open your dry cleaning business.

Moreover, going through the entire list of applicable regulations for each city can feel quite messy, almost like being lost in a jungle, especially when it is difficult to interpret regulations or understand every single part of them correctly.This is why it is particularly important to get to know the specific regulations of your city and even consider hiring a professional to help you put everything in place, as by doing so, you will avoid unpleasant surprises. Consult your lawyer or your accountant on this matter as soon as possible, as this will save you a lot of time later on. As a matter of fact, it is not infrequent to open a business, only to find out about new requirements which were not included in the initial plan later on.

Hiring a professional to help you understand and comply with regulation will save you a headache for sure! Alternatively, you can also get in touch with your local city hall and request all the specific information and requirements you need to know in order to get a license for your business.

How to apply for a license

According to the website of the Metropolitan Borough Council, in order to operate your dry cleaning business, you need to apply for a special permit, and this process can take up to three months. It is also explained that dry cleaners are subject to Local Authority controls with regards to their emissions in the air. The 2016 regulation on Environmental Permitting for England and Wales establishes that it is against the law to operate a dry cleaning business using organic solvents without applying for a permit first.

In order to apply, you can download the application form in PDF or Word format. You can find it here:

When you apply, you will be asked to pay a fee, and you can do this online. Once the fee has been received, your application will be reviewed. A special committee will establish whether your application is “duly made” or not. If your application lacks any specific information or key point, it will be rejected. You can expect your application to be reviewed in about 10 working days. Once the application is duly made, local authorities will review it and decide whether or not to grant the permit. This process can take up to three months. It is important to know that your business is not authorized to operate during this time, as no business is allowed to operate without the necessary permit.

If you wish to add new categories of services to your existing business, you will need to apply separately for those amendments, which will be subjected to specific deadlines.
With regards to eligibility, it is specified that only those who have control over the operation of a facility can apply for a permit. If your permit is denied, you can still appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, who will give you guidance on the changes needed in order to make your business eligible.

Get to know your neighbours 

Another important recommendation is to properly get to know your building before starting a dry cleaning business. It is crucial not only to explore the area in which your store will be located, but also
to know the specific situation of the apartments in your building. You need the authorization of the building’s owners to set up your business on the ground floor.

Keep in mind that if all the apartments of the property are owned by the same owner, it will be easier for you to negotiate and come to an agreement, particularly if your space needs to undergo necessary works to legalize your activity. Negotiating with a single owner is certainly more convenient than having to convince multiple owners, who would need to come to an agreement, increasing of course waiting time and delaying your plans.

It is also a good idea to get to know your neighbours, if possible. It is frequent to have to deal with a fussy neighbour who complains about the noise, heat, or lint that the dryers deposit on the attic terrace. Getting to know your neighbours in advance will allow you to prevent unpleasant situations and start your business on the right foot!

We hope you enjoyed this article on how to obtain a license. If you are interested in opening a dry cleaning business, also check out our articles with tips and tricks on how to launch a successful dry cleaning business! Don’t forget to share this article with a friend or family member who is also interested in this sector. Let us know if you enjoyed these tips and if they were useful to you. See you in the next article!

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