By Terri Perrin / Published October 2022
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of state profiles highlighting the opportunities, advantages, and challenges of the pressure washing industry across the USA. To read about opportunities in a specific state as the series is updated or to read past state profiles, please visit Cleaning-Coast-to-Coast.
In 1970 the Florida legislature officially adopted the tagline “The Sunshine State” to promote tourism. While the weather in Florida is amazing, National Weather Service statistics confirm that Florida is, in fact, not the nation’s sunniest state. Arizona leads that list, followed by California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and then, Florida. Statistics aside, folks who live in Florida rave about the weather, and rightly so! They average about 240 days of sunshine each year. It rarely snows or drops below freezing. That’s why Florida is a favored destination for “snowbirds”—northerners, not winged creatures, who spend the winter here—from both Canada and the U.S.
The name “Florida” is derived from the Spanish name “La Florida,” which means “place of flowers,” and while flowers are abundant here, so are opportunities in the pressure washing industry.
“Florida is unique because we can pressure wash year round,” explains David Hardy, vice president and part owner of family-owned and -operated Florida Pressure Washing Equipment & Supplies. With three locations in Central Florida, this distributor sells, rents, and repairs pressure washers for both industrial and homeowner applications. “There are so many people pressure washing in Florida that some people joke that you can pull up to any intersection on any given day and you would have the industry represented on all four corners—distributor, contractor, manufacturer, and someone actually doing the work!”
Covering about 58,500 square miles, Florida ranks 22nd in the U.S. in terms of geographical size. It is, however, the third largest state by population, which is expected to top 22 million by the end of 2022. This population boom is showing no signs of slowing down.
While space exploration and research (think NASA), agriculture, construction, and other industries are good for pressure washing-related businesses, it is the tourism sector that really fuels the industry. Florida is a land of theme parks, tourist attractions, and more than 1,350 miles of coastline with mostly sandy beaches (think beach-front properties). With the exception of where Florida connects to Georgia and Alabama, the state is a peninsula entirely surrounded by water. Quoting pre-pandemic statistics, in 2019, 131.42 million tourists flocked to Florida. These tourists supported 1.6 million jobs and resulted in an economic contribution of more than $96 billion.
The good news for pressure washers is that “image is everything” at the multitude of theme parks and hotels that are based in Florida. Disney World, for example, has six different parks, and Universal Studios Orlando Resort has three …just to name a few! And they all need regular cleaning.
Joey Faitella, owner of Wash Pros of the Treasure Coast in Jensen Beach, FL, is a relatively new service provider. His company focuses on exterior power washing, mainly high-end residential, some commercial, flat surface, and roof cleaning. While he agrees that there are ample opportunities for power washing contractors, it is a “saturated market.”
“While I have been in the pressure washing business my entire career, previously serving and selling equipment, I didn’t start my own contracting company until 2020,” recalls Faitella. “In doing my due pre-launch diligence, I reached out to individuals who had been in the business for years. They made it clear to me that there would be plenty of competition. That said, there seems to be enough work for everyone. I don’t advertise, and my business has grown simply by word of mouth. The work is out there. You just have to go for it.”
Faitella adds that having so many miles of coastline comes at a cost for his customers. Salty ocean spray carried by the wind can quickly damage surfaces. The combination of moisture, mildew, morning dew, sea spray, and sun speed up erosion. Property owners need to power wash more often than those in other parts of the country. He says you also find that most buildings are made of stone, block, or stucco, and roofs are traditionally barrel/Spanish tile roofs. You won’t find much in the way of wood or vinyl siding and asphalt roofs here.
Faitella adds that one thing that is unique is that chemicals are less expensive here. “I don’t know why,” he says with a laugh, “but I’ll take it! There are places all over town where you can pull up and fill up your tanks with sodium hypochlorite and go.”
“It’s interesting to note that the seasons are a bit reversed in Florida as compared to other parts of the country,” states Faitella. “Summertime is actually our slow time in the residential area, but it gives us an opportunity to take a break. Basically, it’s because the snowbirds go home … although more and more of them are now making Florida their permanent home. That factor is combined with the fact that there’s a lot of rain in the summer, and then we get lots of calls for roof cleaning.”
James Baltz is the general manager at Whisper Wash in St. Petersburg, FL. Whisper Wash has manufactured a complete line of flat surface cleaners for industrial applications since 1995. They supply distributors in the U.S. and Canada, and some of their distributors sell Whisper Wash products worldwide.
“From a home or business maintenance point of view, the climate in this region is challenging,” reports Baltz. “You can pressure wash an area, and in a couple of weeks, it may need to be cleaned again. Service providers usually offer a full package of cleaning options that often includes windows. Florida is a big tourist destination, and public image is so important. One big difference, when serving the hotels, resorts, and theme parks, is that the work may need to be done at night or early in the morning when the tourists are not out and about. Ideally, you don’t want to have contractors working when lots of people might be around.” This is both for safety and public image reasons.
If you are wondering how the hurricanes that occasionally hit Florida affect business, Hardy says that they don’t really have an impact. Cleanup after a hurricane is mostly debris removal. Although, rising water tables and higher than normal tides can result in dirt and mud settling on pavers, sidewalks, parking lots, etc. and power washers can clean up!
While the competition may be fierce in Florida, contractors also have each other’s backs, explains Baltz. Some businesses elect to purchase the equipment and then have employees do the work rather than rely on a service contractor. “If I am visiting a public place and I see a staff member—or contractor—doing a power washing task improperly or inefficiently, I will often approach him or her to have a chat in an effort to educate the individual. We, as an industry in general, like to work in collaboration to educate rather than poach the contract. Then the worker can reach out to whoever is in charge of maintenance and relay the information about how they can do this work more efficiently. Recently, for example, I was reading an article from one of the Facebook groups about the Lincoln Memorial being cleaned. The park’s grounds crew were using a wand to clean the marble. The pros in the pressure washing industry would have volunteered their time to show them the most effective and efficient way to clean. One could damage the marble surface very easily with too much pressure or the wrong chemical.”
Baltz adds that the industry as a whole has turned from simply using water pressure to employing effective surfactant cleaners and chemicals as it is more efficient and uses less water. Contractors are also going for units with larger gallons per minute (GPM). Whisper Wash is responding by building larger surface cleaners so that a five-foot-wide sidewalk, for example, can be effectively cleaned in a single pass.
“When it comes to environmental regulations, Florida, like most of the U.S., is not as strictly regulated as California or Texas,” informs Hardy. “But manufacturers, distributors, and contract cleaners are paying close attention to environmental concerns. When possible, wastewater is directed onto the landscape, and water reclamation practices are in place in any areas close to natural waterways. Some of the bigger companies, like Walmart, expect you to recover the water. Generally speaking, wastewater recovery isn’t required unless it is contaminated with grease and oil.”
Another thing unique to Florida, says Hardy, is that a lot of people buy their own pressure washers to do light cleaning of their home, sidewalks, and driveway. But they don’t want to do that massive once-a-year cleaning. They’ll call a contractor for that and use their home machine for DIY maintenance.
Availability of parts and equipment from global sources is also affecting some Florida business operators. “Supply chain disruptions continue to be a problem, and it is challenging to keep our customers going,” laments Hardy. “If we don’t have the parts they need, they can’t get out and work. Everyone is fighting to grab what little bit they can. When everything got shut down due to COVID, this made a huge impact that is still being felt.”
“Since we are an American manufacturing company, we have seen very little issue with our supply chain,” adds Baltz.
“A majority of our suppliers are local and have been with us for over 20 years. Our main issue is trying to keep up with the growing pains that we have endured for the past few years. The population increase in the St. Pete/Tampa area has given us the upper hand with recruiting new employees. In the past two years we have seen a big growth of new pressure washing business startups across the country. Even though Florida’s market has been saturated for years, we still get a good number of new customers visiting us to pick up their first-ever surface cleaner. Our more economic surface cleaners like the Ultra-Clean 16-in. have increased in sales by 300 percent because of this. It’s a great little unit perfect for those starting out with a four-gpm pressure washer.”
“Perhaps the biggest challenge facing our industry in Florida is human resources,” concludes Hardy. “Even though we have had tremendous population growth in the last couple of years, a lot of contract cleaners are having trouble getting employees. They can’t hire them, and they can’t keep them. They hire and train people up, and it doesn’t take long for that person to realize that he might be able to do this on his own. The big companies with eight or nine trucks seem to do better with employee retention. The ever-rising cost of fuel is also a major challenge for business owners right now.”
In summary, “The Sunshine State” is a mecca for power washers, and when it comes to opportunities, they are endless. Hardy explains that he has one customer who uses a pressure washer to clean hides on his alligator farm. Also, power washers are used for when live palm trees are shipped out of the country. The root ball is cleaned with a 5,000 psi machine because they can’t export the soil. Now that is truly thinking outside the box of traditional pressure washing services!
Surprise! Surprise! Florida Fun Facts:
- The Three Rs in Florida don’t necessarily refer to “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” It’s a local joke that the Three Rs here are “Relax. Retire. Re-vote.”
- About 2/3 of Florida’s residents are from elsewhere …it is rare to find someone born and raised there!
- When you think of cowboys, you probably think of the Wild West. In fact, America’s first cowboys came to (what would become) Florida on Spanish ships in the 1500s. They brought horses and cattle here.
- This is the flattest state in America. The highest point is only 345 feet above sea level.
- It has the most golf courses of any state in America.
- There are no dinosaur fossils in Florida.
- The official state reptile is the alligator.
- The state produces more oranges than anywhere else in America.