Licenses & Regulations


It’s very easy to buy supplies and equipment and hit the streets or web offering your detailing services to local clients and customers but… you need to make sure you are legally permitted and covered to operate a business in your particular state and municipality. This process is going to vary from state to state, county to county, and city to city, so you’ll need to do your own research but this video will act as a general guide in getting you pointed in the right direction.

Environmental Regulation

First, you need to research your local laws and regulations to see if you’re able to operate a detailing business in your particular location. You will also need to research wastewater and water-use regulations at your city, county, and state level because there are many regulations on the federal level and even more in place on the local level depending on where you live. This is because the water run-off from washing a vehicle can include dirt, soap, oils, and various cleaning solvents that can impact and contaminate local streams or rivers. One of these contaminants includes phosphates typically found in soaps. Phosphates can cause excessive algae to grow in local watersheds. These algae smell bad, look bad, and can harm water quality. As these algae decay, they consume the oxygen in the water causing issues for the wildlife living in that water.

There are options for mitigating run-off and various chemicals that are biodegradable and eco-friendly if you live in an area that uses stormwater sewers vs. sanitary sewers. A sanitary sewer is like what is in your house, it runs under the streets eventually leading to a treatment plant where it is treated before safely introducing it back into the water system. A wastewater sewer drains directly into the water system so more care needs to be applied to jobs performed near these types of sewers. Certain states, like Ohio, require mobile detailers to obtain a permit from the Ohio EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that allows them to distribute wastewater into the public sewer systems. In Illinois it gets a little more complicated, that state requires a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit for businesses that discharge water directly into a stormwater sewer and a state construction permit and/or state operating permit if the waste water is being discharged directly into a sanitary sewer system.


All of these local laws and restrictions stem from the 1972 Clean Water Act created by the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA. So read over that to make sure your covered federally but also locally, because that’s where things get a little more complicated and specific when it comes to these types of regulations. Once you are certain you can get the necessary permits and that you aren’t going to be doing harm to the environment, we can move on to the next step.

Picking a Name

If you haven’t already determined the name for your detailing business, I recommend going to that part of our series now because all the steps taken after that will require filling out forms with that business name.


You will need to file for an EIN or Employee Identification Number with the Internal Revenue Service or IRS.  Also, depending on your state, you may need to file a Tax Information Authorization from the IRS when you are filing for your business permit. This process takes only a couple of minutes and prevents you from some very easy to avoid headaches with the IRS.