View, download, or print our free Vacation Rental Cleaning Checklist below.
When preparing for guests to a rental or Airbnb property, making it personal and welcoming will go a long way towards encouraging cleanliness. Guests who feel like they’re visiting family who has pulled out the stops for them will feel excited and positive about their experience. If they’re happy and enjoying their stay, they will be more likely to treat the rental unit with respect and care. Be sure all the essentials are in place and easy to find, and include some little extras. Investing in quality items that are easier to care for and clean, such as nicer towels, will be noticed and help garner you repeat business and good reviews.
Guests choosing to stay in a vacation home likely have very different expectations than guests who are staying in a traditional hotel. They want to rent a vacation property to enjoy a similar lifestyle as they do at home, with the ability to cook, hang out together, and entertain. Chances are, they’ll also be spending more time in the rental unit than they would at a hotel, where most people just go to sleep. Be sure your rental unit looks as good in the daylight as it does in the evening.
Some guests are fastidious and clean up after themselves, and other renters and their children might leave the most insane messes behind them. With a checklist, you can at least manage expectations for vacation rental cleaning in the event it looks like a tornado swept through when that last family checked out.
Even if your guests are relatively clean, there are still common issues that regularly come up and need to be addressed in a rental property. Here are some of the common problems for various areas of the rental home…
Bathrooms & Bedrooms
These are the spaces that are most private and intimate. They should feel warm and inviting to guests. Cleanliness is critical in these spaces, and no beautiful listing photo will help you if a guest leaves a review describing the dirty bathroom. Even most major hotel chains will, without question, move a guest if they complain about a dirty bathroom. They are that important!
- Hair on the floor and in drains – Hair is one of those things that gross people out the most but is often easiest to miss. It sometimes ends up in places like shower walls and curtains, behind toilets, and along baseboards. Have your housekeeper focus on those areas every single time instead of during monthly deep cleans.
- Stained and dingy linens – Towels, sheets, and especially kitchen linens can get dingy in a hurry when used and washed frequently. We recommend using white or predominantly white linens in your property as they’re easier to get clean and don’t look dingy as soon. Use hot water and baking soda or borax to your wash cycle to freshen up towels. And if the stains don’t come out and they are just tired- please get rid of them. Cut them up for cleaning rags later but do not present stained items to your guests. Icky linens are a huge turn-off and relatively small expense to keep new and fresh. If you request your guests to wash their own linens, be sure to give explicit instructions on how to do so and provide them with any supplies needed.
- Faucets – Clean up any mineral build-up from these and be sure nothing is dripping or leaking. Every time.
- Rust or mineral stains in toilets – utilize bleach or another appropriate cleaner to address mineral build-up and stains. If the enamel on your toilet is chipping or stained beyond repair, allowing rust to show, replace the toilet. Nobody wants to guess what the dark brown stain in the toilet might be.
- No toilet plunger – as unsightly as these items can be, be sure there is one located in every bathroom and easy to find so you don’t get the call at 1 am about a toilet that “won’t work.” Ensure it’s in a container where it can be replaced in the very likely event a guest does not clean it after use.
- Mildewed or stained shower curtains – Use hotel-grade shower curtain liners that resist rust and mildew and always keep some extras on hand. This is one item you’ll need to plan on replacing regularly.
- Toilet paper – We know. People are particular about this. Just put a fresh roll of the good stuff on every time at the beginning of a guest’s stay and keep plenty on hand, preferably in an easy to find toilet paper roll holder, drawer or cabinet near the toilet. Nothing could be tackier than a quarter roll of half-ply left and nothing might frustrate a guest more than being stranded there with no idea where to find more. You really don’t want them to get creative with your towels.
The gathering place in many vacation rentals and where your guests will prepare food, the clean kitchen is a really big deal. Guests rented a vacation rental property instead of a hotel so they can enjoy cooking their own meals and dining together. The importance of this room is second only to the bathroom in how your rental unit’s cleanliness will be perceived. Countertops should be gleaming. Help your guests help themselves. There should be an adequate roll of paper towels readily available with a back-up nearby.
- Dirty coffee maker – Coffee lovers can be fanatical or be the kind that’ll drink from the same pot for two days, but one thing is for sure- if they don’t have coffee when they want it (now!) they won’t care how nice the rest of your unit is. Coffee makers should be clean inside and out. Wipe down the coffee maker on the outside, and thoroughly clean around and underneath it. Have filters and everything handy for them to get their fix quickly without having to clean it first.
- Dirty toaster, or toaster oven – These appliances just get dirty even with fastidious people using them. It’s not a bad idea to invest in a nicer toaster that won’t look dingy and gross. Wiping the outsides of these with a good degreaser, thoroughly cleaning and wiping down the crumb tray, and shaking the entire unit out over the sink will go a long way to keeping it clean. Toaster and microwave ovens should be wiped down inside after every visit.
- Dirty stove and oven – Stovetops should be immaculate and don’t miss the backsplash behind it. Grease is just gross. A glass-top stove will be easier to keep clean in a rental, and regularly wiping out the oven will be easier than trying to remove built-up, caked-on debris. Don’t wait until it looks like a Hawaiian lava flow in there. Leave out aluminum foil for your guests to use over your pans, maybe leave a friendly note that foil means no clean-up!
- Stinky refrigerator – Keep a fresh box of baking soda in there and change it out every month. Wiping things down after every visit will ensure that not even the almost-invisible residue from somebody’s sushi leftovers is gone. Dump ice out of the ice maker every month because it will absorb odors and taste disgusting. If your refrigerator has a water dispenser, have spare filters on hand.
- Stinky dishwasher – Be sure the rim and gaskets are wiped down and cleaned between every visit. Not everyone cleans the plates as thoroughly as your grandma does before putting them in the dishwasher, so ensure there’s no food debris or silverware in there clogging things up. Refresh your dishwasher regularly with the dishwasher sanitizing tabs.
- Consumables – It’s helpful for guests not to have to purchase every single thing they need to cook a meal. Having a few essentials on hand like common spices, cooking oil, salt, and pepper, etc. will be helpful to them, but be sure to have these checked every visit. Wipe down all bottles, jars, and lids to ensure there’s no grease or remnants of somebody else’s spaghetti sauce on the jar of basil.
- Living Room
Your guests likely chose a vacation rental over a hotel room so they’d have a nice living room to gather and relax in. Ensure it’s clean and well-appointed. Common pitfalls include:
- Crud in the couches and chairs – Upholstered furniture can hoard an incredible amount of spare change, hair, and food debris, especially if your guests had a super bowl party in the living room. Vacuum all crevices and if possible, remove cushions and vacuum underneath them as well.
- Upholstered furniture – Spot-clean any stains or residue no matter how small or innocuous it may look. Having a portable steamer on hand to quickly tackle and sanitize these things will keep furniture looking new.
- Misplaced remote controls and game controllers – Be sure these are visible and in a prominent place. People tend to leave them in weird places.
- Dead batteries – Don’t put a damper on the party. Make sure the remotes all have new batteries put in them often with a few spares in the consumables closet just in case.
- Doorknobs, light switch handles, and cabinet handles – These areas get grubby in a hurry and can harbor more germs than a toilet seat! Wipe down regularly with disinfectant. ‘ll
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – Just plan to switch out batteries on a schedule instead of waiting for them to start beeping. Trust us on this one.
- Vents and fans – Throughout your property, you should check to be sure there’s no build-up of dust and debris. You don’t need allergy sufferers to suffer, and it just looks unsightly. Vacuum around these, and remove floor vent covers to vacuum up any debris and dust that’s visible inside the ducting.
- Ceiling fan dust – You would be surprised at what hides on a moving surface. A duster with a long handle will make short work of this hard to reach area. Swiffer dusters have an angled head that’s perfect for this task.
- Burned-out bulbs – Keep lightbulbs on hand at all times, and if possible, use long-life LED bulbs in your unit that are less likely to burn out. Plan a replacement schedule for them. LEDs give off better light, last longer and use less energy!
- Leftovers – Check under all the furniture and behind everything. Things fall off behind furniture, and sometimes children hide their trash like squirrels. You would be surprised the lengths some people go to rather than just walking a few steps to the nearest rubbish bin. We’ll never forget the stinky taco wrappers somebody carefully folded origami-style and stuffed behind the nightstand in one of our first Airbnb stays.
- Hard floors – If your property has both carpet and hard floors, you know hard floors can present their own issues. Be sure your housekeeper is using a vacuum that can engage a hard floor and effectively clean these areas as well as the carpet.
If you rely on a cleaning service or property managers to clean your rental, it’s critical to set clear expectations and standards before they are hired. Even so, you should regularly visit the property to ensure everything is in tip-top shape and nothing needs repairs or replacement, and drop-in visits without announcement will help you be sure your guests are enjoying the best possible service. Be responsive if housekeeping alerts you to any issues.
If your cleaning service does not bring their own, stocking your property with equipment to make it easy for your housekeeper to clean things to your standards will help ensure the job is done right every time.
Tips & Tricks
Here are some common things we recommend you have on-site somewhere on the property to make life easier:
- Handheld steamer – Tackles everything from grime and build-up in bathrooms to quickly handling stains on carpet and upholstered surfaces like sofas and chairs
- Long-handled dusters with refills – These telescoping dusters will get to all the tight spots, and the disposable dusting attachments will ensure you aren’t just pushing the same dust around.
- Extra/specialty cleaning supplies – Keep what your guests will need to clean up after themselves out and easy to find. Specialty or more toxic cleaning substances that could be misused or damage your home if misused (like bleach and pest control!) should be kept locked up except when being used by your housekeeping staff.
- Touch-up paint – In the event that something gets pretty badly scuffed, you can quickly go in and make a repair without having to match paint. Keep in mind that after a few years touching up paint may look worse than the scuff because paint colors change. Using semi-gloss paint from the beginning will make it easier to clean and touch up.
Keeping everything other than what the guests need locked up will help you keep things in stock, keep any children (and oblivious adults) safe during their visit, and ensure your housekeeper’s life is made a little easier.
Having an owner’s lockout closet will give you a great place to stash extra essentials and keep them out of the way of the renters. This will make it easy for you to keep extra cleaning supplies, welcome baskets for your guests, and any personal items you may need if you are visiting your own property. Be sure to have several keys to the closet, one which is hidden on the property in the event of an emergency. To keep curious young visitors from tearing the closet door off the hinges to see what’s inside, be sure to label the closet. Affixing a tasteful little engraved plaque with “Owner’s Closet: Private” or something along those lines is a polite way to indicate this space is off-limits.
Our checklist should help keep your rental unit sparkling clean and welcoming to your guests.