Cleanliness is one of the biggest pain points of short-term letting for both guests and hosts alike. For guests, a dirty home can ruin a vacation before it even begins. But for hosts, it can tarnish their whole business’ reputation.
To make sure you don’t forget a thing, vacation rental owners and property managers should always tackle big cleaning tasks with a clear game plan in mind. Whether you do the hard work yourself or have a team of professionals to help, it’s important to structure each task and how you will carry them out.
Keeping your vacation rental clean to the highest standards goes hand in hand with pleasing your guests and ensuring a great all-round experience.
We’ve prepared this guide with a handy vacation rental cleaning checklist which you can use for your next deep clean.
To save time, download our free checklist template and edit it as you please:
Supplies you may need:
The cleanliness of your rental home is one of the most common concerns of your guests.
But before you get too overwhelmed, take a look at the list of tools and products you’ll always want to have on hand.
- A quality vacuum for carpets.
- A microfiber mop with both wet and dry pads for hardwood floors.
- Glass cleaner.
- All-purpose cleaner for the kitchen and even floors.
- Disinfectant for toilets, bathtubs, and other germ-prone areas.
- Plenty of microfiber cloths.
- A few scrub pads for extra stubborn grime.
- A pumice stone.
- A toilet brush.
- Wood polish to add the finishing touch.
- Think about your own rental house: are there any specific cleaning tools you need?
Your Cleaning Secret?
It is advisable to plan every detail of your cleaning duties and always keep your checklist in hands.
But if you want to succeed with your vacation rental business, we also recommend asking the experts; those who already have a proven business in the rental and housekeeping market.
We asked them a few questions, to help YOU cleaning YOUR house.
Let’s get started!
Before guest arrival
It’s good to keep in mind the importance of the cleanliness of your vacation rental.
Nothing ruins a relaxing vacation faster than dirty accommodation.
That’s why we’ve made this handy checklist of items and areas that need to be cleaned and doubled-checked before your guest arrives.
General cleaning and common areas
There’s a big difference between a rental that feels cozy and lived-in, and one that’s just messy and unclean.
And trust us, guests can tell the difference!
There are some spots around the home that owners can easily miss and forget to clean.
Household items such as doorknobs, light switches, and cupboard handles can get grubby quickly, so make sure to give these a once-over every time guests check out.
There are several spots around a home that can be easily missed and leave your home feeling less welcoming than you had hoped. Be sure to double-check the following:
- Light switches
- Cupboard handles
- Refrigerator handle
- Oven handle
- Excess dirt under or around rugs
- Cobwebs on light fixtures
- Cobwebs in corners
- Space between couch cushions
- Food in cupboards
- Take a look at your own rental house: are there any hidden corners or details you should add to this list?
Cleaning the Living Room
It is important to make sure that your guests are comfortable with the cleanliness of the living room, because it is where they will want to relax and hangout.
They don’t want to use a sticky TV remote or sit on the remains of the last guest’s sandwich.
- Disinfect all remotes
- Vacuum/wipe down all sofas and be sure to vacuum beneath the cushions as well
- Disinfect light switches
- Dust/disinfect coffee tables
- Clean the TV screen
- Keep bookshelves or magazine racks tidy
- Double-check if throw pillow covers need to be washed
- Wash all used throw blankets
- Vacuum under furniture
- Remove area rugs when cleaning the floor
- Take a look at your own living room: are there any hidden corners or details you should add to this list?
Does a cleaning checklist really help?
Or is there any other secret to it?
“A cleaning checklist helps because it takes the guesswork out of the cleaning. Work in order of the list and you don’t have to figure out what needs to be cleaned and when it needs to be cleaned.” – Becky Rapinchuk
Cleaning the Kitchen
One of the biggest reasons travelers are choosing vacation rentals over hotels nowadays is the added benefit of having a fully furnished kitchen.
That’s why it’s a real shame if they open the oven to find it thick with grime and looking like it hasn’t been cleaned in months!
When it comes to the kitchen, be sure to clean the inside of each amenity – as well as wipe down and disinfect the outside. That means appliances, drawers, cupboards and worktops as a minimum.
Make sure any long-life food is still in date, all spices, condiments and oils are looking good and always have a fresh supply of tea towels, sponges and other cleaning products on hand.
- Finish putting all clean dishes away
- Double-check that no dried food is on the “clean” dishes
- Wipe down microwave inside and out
- Wipe down oven and stove removing and cleaning dirty drip pans if needed
- Clean off any fingerprints or smudges on cabinets
- Replace the dirty garbage bag with a clean one if it has not already been done
- Clean out crumbs in drawers
- Empty refrigerator and wipe shelves
- Clean out drain filter in sink
- Wipe down the backsplash behind the counter and sink
- Take a look at your own kitchen: are there any hidden corners or details you should add to this list?
Cleaning the Dining Room
As your guests gather their friends and family around the table, make sure that their focus is on enjoying the well-prepared dinner they’ve slaved over all afternoon and not on the crusty food stuck between the leaves of the table.
Eating on a table like that is not only unappealing but unhealthy.
- Clean out food and grime from between the table leaves
- Check under the table that nothing has been stuck to the bottom
- Wipe down dining room chairs
- Clean deep in the crevasses and curves of each chair to remove any food or other dirt
- Wash table cloths
- Wash any cloth napkins
- Move the table and chairs aside while you clean the floor
- Clean and disinfect any child booster seats or highchairs
- Dust off overhead lights and remove cobwebs
- Clean off any centerpieces well
- Take a look at your own dining room: are there any hidden corners or details you should add to this list?
Cleaning the Bathrooms
If your rental provides towels for your guests, it’s essential they’re in great condition. The same applies to other bathroom basics such as shower curtains and bath mats.
We all know that mold can build up quite easily in bathrooms due to the damp conditions. Inspect all tiles or water-prone areas for any problems often, and re-seal them with silicone if necessary.
- Clean the entire toilet, including the bottom half
- Clean behind the toilet
- Make the faucet shine with window cleaner or stainless steel cleaner
- Clean the mirror
- Take the extra time to scrub soap grime from the tub
- Clean around the jets of a Jacuzzi tub
- Clean any hair out of the drain and off the walls
- Wash all towels and bathmats
- Dust off any decorations
- Replace all complimentary toiletry items
- Take a look at your own bathroom: are there any hidden corners or details you should add to this list?
The impact of a clean house
What kind of impact does the cleanliness of your vacation houses really make on your rental business?
“Huge. It’s the #1 complaint. You must elevate your cleanliness standards to the pickest of guests. You must assume you are cleaning for the clean-freak guest. That means hiring quality and timely cleaners.” – Daniel Rusteen
Cleaning the Bedrooms
Where your guests rest their heads at the end of a long day on vacation is, quite possibly, the most important room of all.
Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for a relaxing getaway, and a clean bed (including mattress, pillows and cushions) is vital.
Investing in quality mattresses and linens is a must if you want them to last. You should have a minimum of two sets of bedding for each bed and check for faults (such as snags or stains) regularly.
- Replace the dirty linens of slept-in beds with fresh ones
- Straighten out and replace bed skirt when needed
- Check between mattress and headboard for lost items or garbage
- Dust the nightstand
- Dust light fixtures including small nightlights
- Disinfect bedposts
- Disinfect light switches or remotes
- Empty out all dressers and closets
- Check under the bed for any left-behind items
- When vacuuming the floor, get around the edges or around furniture well with the nozzle
- Take a look at your own bedrooms: are there any hidden corners or details you should add to this list?
Don’t overlook the bedrooms!
Is there any part of the house that is often overlooked and not cleaned as much as we should?
Especially if we often have many different guests in our vacation house during the holiday season!
“I think people neglect their bedrooms because rarely do we invite guests into them. Making your bed and having a clean bedroom to relax in at the end of the day is a luxury – don’t skimp on doing this task!” – Becky Rapinchuk
Cleaning the Laundry/Utility Room
The laundry/utility room is where things become clean.
Therefore it only makes sense that the room itself is clean and organized.
The last thing a guest wants when doing their own laundry is to worry that their clothing will come out of the laundry room dirtier than when it went in.
- Clean out the washing machine detergent tray
- Clean up any soap or softener spills that are left on the washing machine
- Clean out the dryer lint
- Disinfect the knobs, buttons, and doors of the machines
- Clean out the sink and anything in its drain
- Restock complimentary laundry detergent, softener, or dryer sheets
- Pull out the machines and sweep/dust behind them
- Keep supplies well labeled and organized
- Dust around, underneath, and behind supplies
- Check laundry baskets or drying racks are clean and ready to use
- Take a look at your own laundry/utility room: are there any hidden corners or details you should add to this list?
Cleaning Windows and Doors
There is little meaning to that amazing view you advertised about your rental house if your guests can’t see it through the dirty, streaky windows.
And as far as your doors go, the front door of your house is going to be the guest’s first impression of the home.
Shouldn’t it be a good one?
- If needed, hire a professional to clean the exterior windows to ensure there are no streaks
- Clean glass interior of windows
- Clean the window frames
- Open the window and clean dirt and bugs out of the track
- When screens are removed for exterior cleaning, use the opportunity to clean off the screens as well
- Dust off the tops of curtain rods
- Vacuum or wash curtains when needed
- Disinfect all door handles
- Dust door frames, especially the tops
- Clean the kick plates of exterior doors
- Take a look at your own windows and doors: are there any hidden corners or details you should add to this list?
Cleaning the House Exterior
The exterior of your property is the first thing guests are going to see, so you want to give off an amazing impression and set the standard for the rest of the house.
Take care to remove any fallen leaves or branches from outdoor areas, regularly trim bushes and mow the lawn, and keep any exterior furniture in a good, clean condition.
- Pull weeds and remove debris from the garden
- Wipe dust and bird droppings from lawn furniture
- Wash down chair cushions
- Wipe off railings
- Clean glass railings with window cleaner
- Remove leaves and other debris from the pool
- Disinfect safety railings or ladders leading into the pool
- Clean burnt-on food and drippings from barbecue
- Sweep out patios
- Disinfect any outdoor eating areas/tables
- Take a look at your own house exterior and garden: are there any hidden corners or details you should add to this list?
During your Guests Stay
At times that there will be something on the property that you will have to keep clean while your guest is present.
An example of this could be the swimming pool. If it is within the agreement that you will keep such areas clean during the stay, the guest should know the date and the hour. The owner and guest may even find it convenient to agree on an appropriate time.
Things you may need to clean while your guest is present:
- The swimming pool
- Swimming pool bathrooms
- Swimming pool changing rooms
- Patio furniture
- Shared spaces such as the kitchen
- Think about your own vacation house: is there anything you must remember to clean while guests are around?
After Your Guests Depart
When your guests are on their way out, it is not uncommon that they leave in somewhat of a rush.
The busy morning has them focused on getting packed without forgetting anything and getting ready for the day.
This means that for the owner, there may be more filth left behind.
Socks get left under the bed. A dirty dish gets left in the living room. Muddy footprints get tracked through the house as they check one last time that they didn’t forget anything.
This is why it’s especially important to double-check these little details if there is limited time before the next guest arrives.
- Check under the beds
- Open dresser drawers
- Look for spills and smudges on kitchen appliances
- Check refrigerator and freezer for leftovers
- Clean hair out of the shower and tub
- Look for handprints and smears on glass doors
- Clean out toothpaste or other dried-on products from bathroom sinks
- Shake out “Welcome” mats
- Pull garbage in kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms
- Finish washing dishes guests may have missed
- Take a look at your own vacation house after guests leave: is there anything you should add to this list?
Out of Season Regular Cleaning Tips
Maintaining a vacation home is a lot of work.
However, you can take the stress out of it if you keep up on little projects throughout the year.
It is much more overwhelming to get the property ready for guests if it becomes rundown over time due to disuse.
You will save a lot of time and money if you periodically check on the condition of your home even during the off-season. This will ensure not only the comfort of your guests, but their safety as well.
Check every month
- Sweep off porches and balconies
- Ensure that the plumbing is working properly throughout the house
- Check that there are no burnt out light bulbs, including exterior lights
- Pull weeds in the pathway
- Trim back overgrown shrubs or flowers
- Take a look at your own vacation house: is there anything you should add to this monthly list?
Check every 3-6 months
- Open up all doors and windows to air out the house
- Dust all the furniture
- Wipe away cobwebs from walls and corners
- Clean behind stove and refrigerator
- Clean under and behind sofas and living room furniture
- Take a look at your own vacation house: is there anything you should add to this list?
Check every year
- Spot clean marks on walls
- Treat stains in upholstery and carpet
- Touch up chips in the paintwork
- Treat scuffs on wood furniture
- Wipe down kitchen cupboards inside and out
- Take a look at your own vacation house: is there anything you should add to this yearly list?
How to simplify cleaning in your vacation rental house
Everyone is looking to keep their vacation rental cleaner and more inviting but without putting in too much time and effort.
How can you do so?
Here are a few tips that simplify the cleaning and maintenance process of your home while still ensuring that the house is as clean as possible.
- When the house is not being used, cover furniture with sheets or special furniture covers to eliminate excessive dust
- Store mats and area rugs where they won’t get dusty or stained
- Have pest control add a barrier around your home so bugs and spiders won’t take over the unused property
- Remove all food from the house that could attract mice or other uninvited guests
- Keep lawn/patio furniture indoors and covered to protect it from the elements
Bizarre and nightmarish cleaning experiences
With your long-time experience in housekeeping, you probably witnessed something catastrophic, funny or at least bizarre related to a not-so-clean house. Do you remember any such stories that could be shared with our readers?
“I’ve had my share of ‘catastrophic’ cleaning disasters with 3 dogs and 2 kids – the worst was coming home to a dog being sick from one end of the house to the next. It took 2 days to get everything cleaned up and back to normal. The moral of any story with a cleaning disaster is to relax, take a deep breath and remember that it’s ‘just dirt’ and it can be cleaned up!” – Becky Rapinchuk
“When I was a guest in Cali, Colombia a bird got injured and stuck in my backyard patio area, it couldn’t fly out. It was there for over one day. I fed it and gave it water, hoping it would heal and fly out. I told my host about this, but they seemed not to care. The bird being nervous and there for a day, pooped everywhere and when the cleaning lady came over for the weekly cleaning (unknown to her about the bird) she was horrified and confused. I quickly clarified the issue when I returned home from the gym.” –Daniel Rusteen
A cleaning checklist on your smartphone
It’s a good idea to keep a list of to-dos with you when you are cleaning your rental home so that you don’t forget anything important.
The advantage of keeping the list on your phone as opposed to carrying around a printed one is that you are less likely to lose it!
It will be extra handy and always in your pocket. It is also easier to share if you have someone helping you clean.
Here are some of the best Apps for your cleaning checklist:
- Chore Checklist (Android)
- House Cleaning List (Android)
- Clean My House (Android)
- Housekeeping (Android)
- Checklist (Android)
- Tody (iOS)
- Home Routines (iOS)
- Spotless (iOS)
- Devoir (iOS)
We’ve also put together this list of eight cleaning apps for vacation rental businesses which will help you easily find experienced cleaning staff for your property.
Should you set a cleaning fee for your vacation rental?
Most owners require that guests leave the property as it was found.
There is still a need for a turnover cleaning that many owners charge an extra fee for. In addition, many owners choose to include a security deposit in the event that the property is left damaged or excessively dirty.
While this may deter some travelers, it will be a protection for you, your property, and your future guests.
How much should you charge to clean your vacation rentals?
Cleaning a vacation rental takes more time than a private residence does.
With that in mind, the prices of cleaning service charges change drastically depending on the location, condition, and size of your home, as well as the demand.
Communicating with several cleaning services to determine the average rate per hour is a good place to start. You can then add on a little extra to cushion any unexpected costs.
Should you hire a cleaning service for your vacation house?
Cleaning a vacation rental home takes a lot of time, focus, and energy to make sure it gets done the right way.
Because of this, you may opt for hiring a cleaning service. You can do so simply by googling “cleaning services near me.”
These housekeepers are trained to do the job quickly and thoroughly.
This will ultimately save you time and money and gives you peace of mind that your house is ready for guests.
Why you should hire a cleaning service:
- Trained, speedy professionals
- You don’t have to take time out of your day or off work to clean
- Less stress after already managing the guests’ stay
- Extra time to focus on other parts of the presentation of the home
- Avoid the commute to the home if the destination is far
Why you should not hire a cleaning service:
- Save money by doing it yourself
- Keep a closer eye on the quality of the cleaning
- Have more opportunities to improve other aspects of the home
- If the guest has a problem with the cleanliness, you can address it yourself
- Avoid the hassle of finding a housekeeper that you trust
Prioritize your cleaning
What do you think it is the one thing rental owners should prioritize to be sure their vacation house is always clean and ready to receive guests?
“Good question. I would recommend the one thing that rentals owners should prioritize is the one thing they have absolute control over: hiring quality and timely cleaners. This will take care of everything else. The bulk of complaints come from a bathroom that isn’t spotless, yet cleaners often skip the double-check of this room – I know that from experience. Cleaners are busy and not supervised. They cut corners. So if you make them check the bathroom twice, then the bedrooms will get less attention. Then you’ll need to create a rule for the bedroom, etc. Then the cleaners start to forget basic rules. However, if you hire quality and timely (I say timely because traditional, residential cleaners don’t care about time, they show up whenever. But when you have a guest check-out and another check-in within 4 hours, the cleaners must be done by check-in time, no exceptions) cleaners then they will ensure the home is up to scratch every time. And hiring is completely within the property owners’ control, the actual cleaning job is not.” –Daniel Rusteen
Prevent health problems with a clean house
HACCP stands for “hazard analysis and critical control points“.
What does this mean for your rental home and your guests?
These laws prevent health problems caused when food is contaminated with biological, chemical, or physical hazards.
By being familiar with these laws, you can prevent certain problems from arising in your vacation house. For example, by being aware of what cleaning products should be used in food areas as well as problems that arise from unsafe tap water.
Helpful Housekeeping Books
There is so much information available on how to ensure your guests enjoy a clean and tidy space while renting your property. Experts from around the world have written books on their philosophies of a clean and tidy home.
The following books will inspire you to find the right approach to cleaning.
- Hinch Yourself Happy: All The Best Cleaning Tips To Shine Your Sink And Soothe Your Soul by Mrs Hinch
- Clean Mama’s Guide to a Healthy Home: The Simple, Room-by-Room Plan for a Natural Home by Becky Rapinchuk
- How To Clean Your House: Easy tips and tricks to keep your home clean and tidy up your life by Lynsey Queen of Clean
- The Cleaning Bible: Kim and Aggie’s Complete Guide to Modern Household Management by Aggie MacKenzie and Kim Woodburn
- Mind Over Clutter: Cleaning Your Way to a Calm and Happy Home by Nicola Lewis
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever by Marie Kondo
- 30 Days to a Clean and Organized House by Katie Berry
- The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson
These are just a few ideas to get started.
For a more complete list of what you need to do each time you deep clean your property, download our free vacation rental cleaning checklist!
About the contributors
You can learn more about who Becky and Daniel are, when they started working in the housekeeping and holiday rental market and what they usually do to help owners like you.
I’m Becky, a cleaning and home-keeping expert, business owner and author of 3 books. I’m also a wife and mom to three – I love figuring out quicker, better ways to accomplish those sometimes mundane tasks of home-keeping. I love routines and have developed a cleaning routine that’s pretty popular and used by thousands of people to do a little every day to keep it more manageable and under 10-30 minutes every day. I also give away a free monthly cleaning routine calendar sure to help you get your home in order and keep your cleaning routine on task.
I worked at Airbnb from 2013-6. From there I started an Airbnb property management company which I still run today. I manage 5 properties remotely around the world. My main business, OptimizeMyBnb.com, helps Airbnb hosts make more money. I do this by helping the host rank high in Airbnb search and offer the guest a better experience. I also work with tools to help the host automate more tasks and earn higher nightly rates.