Cleaning up London

Overview of the UK cleaning sector

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The UK cleaning industry

Figures provided by the British Cleaning Council (“BCC”) show that the cleaning industry contributes over £54.5 billion to the UK economy. The BCC commissioned market research company, Firedog to compile a report on the industry.

Since 2013, turnover from the sector has increased by 28%, which is higher than the turnover for the whole economy, which has increased by 14%.

As well as making a significant contribution to the UK economy, the cleaning industry also employs over 970,000 people. Wage growth in the sector is higher than the national average, with a growth of 6.4% compared to a national average of 2.3%.

The report also shows that the number of foreign-born workers in the industry is higher than the national average with 41% of the general cleaning subsector being foreign-born compared to an average of 17% across the UK workforce.

Contract cleaning size and growth

Based on company sales, the contract cleaning market is worth more than £3 billion. According to a report by MTW Research, the sector is set to enjoy a £95 million boost in 2019 in spite of Brexit uncertainties. The report forecasts growth of £450 million over the next few years.

According to MTW, key trends include

  • Increase in public sector contract cleaning. The 2019 Public Spending Review will boost growth in Education, Health and Transport / Infrastructure contract cleaning
  • Domestic tourism and leisure sectors will continue to be higher growth sectors for contract cleaning
  • The recent rapid growth in private health care facilities is slowing but health spending on cleaning services is set to rise by around £35 million in 2019
  • Growth in shared workspaces will boost contract cleaning. Shared office workers are more susceptible to viruses which will drive demand for cleaning and hygiene control solutions

Trends in the commercial cleaning sector

Global themes in technology and the environment are reflected in key trends in the cleaning sector.

Technology developments

Whilst cleaning is mostly considered a labour-intensive and low-tech sector, technological developments are making inroads. Over the past two years, robotic cleaning machines have featured heavily at cleaning exhibitions across the globe. Many cleaning companies will find it increasingly worthwhile to invest in autonomous cleaning machines and reduce employee costs. This is particularly true for floor cleaning machines that are far less labour-intensive.

The Internet of Things has also caught up to the cleaning sector with increasing numbers of smart devises on the market. There will be more connected devices, particularly in washroom dispensers, air quality control, and waste disposal.

Online booking apps are already commonplace in the domestic market and commercial cleaners are adapting to run resource management in real time on smart phone apps instead of assigning work manually. While these apps are becoming increasingly accessible around the UK, there is a particularly high demand for booking cleaners online in Central London.  

Environmentally friendly cleaning

Environmental damage caused by plastic waste is never far from the headlines at the moment. Businesses are coming under increasing pressure to reduce the amount of non-biodegradable plastic that goes to landfill. Plastic bottles, cloths and cleaning equipment are going to be targets for environmental campaigns. Cleaning companies will come under increasing pressure to have responsible processes and supplies that reduce environmentally damaging waste.

Potential solutions centre around biodegradable packaging and equipment, including cloths made from plant material instead of plastic. The use of plastic bottles can be reduced through the use of super-concentrate chemicals instead of ready to use.

Currently, many so called eco-friendly products are merely diluted products to reduce their hazard rating. The cleaning supply industry will need to develop new chemicals which are less damaging to the environment.

Waste management and increased recycling

Room for landfill is running out in the UK. Around 57 million tonnes of rubbish is put into the ground every year and landfill space is reaching capacity. Landfill is expensive and unpopular with environmentalists. There is pressure on companies to do things differently.

Facilities management and cleaning companies will need to be responsible in their waste management. Measures include a higher proportion of recycling, clearer differentiation of waste streams, and reducing the amount of plastic sacks used for waste disposal.

Growth in demand for domestic cleaning

According to a 2017 report by insurer Esure, demand for house cleaners has grown by over 25% over the past 5 years. Whilst the UK has experienced periods of recession over the past 10 years and periods of uncertainty in recent years, the demand for house cleaners has been robust.

The average working adult is spending far less time on domestic chores and much more time on leisure than 15 years ago. The growing domestic cleaning market provides an opportunity for new companies with innovative business models to win first-time customers and market share from traditional cleaning agencies.

Reasons for growth in domestic cleaning

There are trends on both the demand and the supply side that are driving the growth in the home cleaning market.

Changing attitudes to hiring home help

Florentina works as a weekly cleaner in North London and remarked that "People are no longer embarrassed to admitting that they paid for cleaning, gardening or dog walking services. There has definitely been a change in attitude over the past 10 years."

The rise of the gig economy has normalised the hiring of domestic services and made them more accessible. Because people work longer hours they have less free time to spend with family and friends or engage in leisure pursuits. There is a growing recognition that hiring a home care professional can add hugely to the quality of life.

Increasing emphasis on leisure time and health

People are prioritising leisure and family time more. People are less prepared to sacrifice evenings or weekends doing domestic chores. There is also a growing recognition that healthy living conditions have a strong impact on both mental and physical wellbeing.

Valeri works as a domestic cleaner in South West London and told us "After a long working day, people feel that it is important to come home to a restful and relaxing home to recuperate." 

Affordability

Disposable incomes increased by 3.5% for working households in 2018. This combined with the lowest rates of unemployment for decades have meant that a greater proportion of the population can afford to hire a professional cleaner. New business models, such as TidyChoice, cut out cleaning agency middleman which makes the service more affordable.

Supply-side expansion

The desire for flexible working conditions has seen an influx of cleaning professionals towards domestic cleaning platforms. TidyChoice allows cleaners to choose their own location, hours and rates. This level of flexibility optimises availability and increases overall supply-side capacity.

Because TidyChoice cuts out agency fees, house cleaners earn more than they would at traditional agencies. In addition, they have direct relationships with their customers and complete control over their working preferences. These advantages make cleaning a more attractive career.

References

1 Facilities Management Journal, “Contract cleaning market set for growth in 2019”, 1 February 2019

2 MTW Research, “Facilities Management Market Report 2019”, January 2019

3 Bright & Beautiful, “The Bright Future For The UK Domestic Cleaning Market”, 2019

4 Totalclean, “British Cleaning Council Industry Trends Report”, 16 October 2018

5 Foremost, “5 cleaning industry trends for 2019”, 2019 

6 British Cleaning Council, "The Cleaning and Support Services Industry: Research Report 2020"