Why You Need to Update Cleaning Standards + Free Vacation Rental Cleaning Checklist

As a vacation rental homeowner, you know that managing the clean of your property is no small task. In these uncertain times, prioritizing cleanliness is not just a best practice … it’s essential.

For guests, arriving at a dirty home can ruin a vacation before it even begins. It can also cause anxiety at a time when vacation rental cleanliness is connected to feelings of health and safety. For hosts, this experience greatly affects your property reviews. 

In order to manage guest expectations and bring in more revenue, it’s important to establish a detailed vacation rental cleaning routine, so that every guest feels inclined to leave a positive review and becomes a return visitor.

Whether you are cleaning the home yourself or managing housekeepers who do the cleaning for you, our vacation rental cleaning checklist and guide will help reinforce your cleaning standards, make sure your property lives up to guest expectations, prevent overlooked areas from being forgotten, and disinfect your property according to updated CDC guidelines.

To save time, download our vacation rental cleaning checklist!

Guest Expectations in 2020

According to PhocusWire, when the demand for travel returns, the considerations of cleanliness will be at an all-time high, as well as the preference for vacation rentals over hotels. For instance, rather than risking crowded airports and close-proximity, public environments, travelers will likely opt for destinations that are more local or accessible by car, and lodging that is more private.

While price and location will remain important factors to future travelers, this new travel climate will surely affect how they select accommodations, bringing cleanliness to the top of their priorities.

So, what factors contribute most toward overall ratings? 

  1. Cleanliness
  2. Staff
  3. Location
  4. Value rating
  5. Lowest price

Having a sanitary place to stay while traveling is important under normal circumstances, but with coronavirus cases mounting in the United States, it’s also a crucial way of helping protect travelers from infection.

Keeping Your Home Disinfected

TurnKey has always used products that are proven to disinfect and sanitize homes and surfaces. However, since March 2020, our teams have also begun to monitor guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which are constantly changing.

While many travelers will find comfort in the sense of seclusion a vacation rental offers, they will also have hotel level expectations when it comes to the cleanliness of your home. At TurnKey, we use professional housekeepers to clean and disinfect each home between stays. While not a comprehensive list, below are guidelines our housekeepers use to deep clean each home.

Household cleaners and disinfectants: 

  • Clean the area or item with soap and water or another detergent if it is dirty. Then, use a household disinfectant.
  • Follow the instructions on the label to ensure the safe and effective use of the product.
  • Many products recommend that you keep the surface wet for several minutes to ensure germs are killed.
  • Use precautions such as wearing gloves and making sure you have good ventilation during use of the product.

Cleaning carpeted floor, rugs, and drapes:

  • Clean the surface using soap and water or with cleaners appropriate for use on these surfaces.
  • Launder items (if possible) according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely.

Doing the laundry:

  • For clothing, towels, linens and other items:
    • Wear disposable gloves. Wash hands with soap and water as soon as you remove the gloves.
    • Launder items according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely.
    • Clean and disinfect clothes hampers according to the guidance above for surfaces.
TurnKey Vacation Rental Laundry

Cleaning electronics and switches:

  • For electronics, such as tablets, touch screens, remote controls & switches, wear disposable gloves and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and disinfecting.
    • Wipe, do not spray.
  • If no guidance, use alcohol-based wipes or spray containing at least 70% alcohol and dry surfaces thoroughly.
  • Consider the use of wipeable covers for electronics.

Taking out the trash:

  • Use gloves when removing garbage bags and handling and disposing of trash. Be sure to wash your hands afterward.

Other useful tips:

  • Dishwashers that feature a sanitize cycle must meet the standards set by NSF International, a consumer protection group.
    • Certified dishwashers must reach a final rinse temperature of 150 degrees and achieve a minimum 99.999 percent reduction of bacteria. If you have a sanitizing dishwasher, you can disinfect pet bowls, scrub pads, some kids’ toys and more.
  • Replace your HVAC filters.

Assessing Your Property

Vacation rental professionals understand that cleaning a property effectively requires specific training, appropriate supplies, and a systematic process. This includes assessing your property thoroughly, and now is the perfect time to do this.

When was the last time you updated your linens, towels, or household decor? Assessing your property can help you eliminate the chances for bad reviews due to condition or lack of comfort. This section breaks down how to assess your property and the main items in your vacation rental to update.

Things to Consider Updating

  • Linens, towels, bed covers
  • Lighting fixtures
  • Home Decor
  • Power outlets with USB ports
  • Furniture
  • TV and accessories
  • Alarm clocks with USB chargers
  • Silverware & plates

“This is a great time to look at your property with a fresh set of eyes or get your mother in law to go through it with you!”

Chris Elam, Vice President of Guest Experience


  • Check corners for dirt, grease and mold. 
  • Clean the area where you keep trash and recyclables.
  • Clean counters clean of grime, dirt, and mold.
  • Are the appliances clean of food particles and grime? Remove them and clean under and behind.
  • Are the light switch plates clean? Should they be replaced?
TurnKey Vacation Rental Kitchen


  • Should the flooring be deep cleaned? Check corners for dirt, dust, and mold.
  • Remove furniture to clean the floor. #nodustbunnies
  • Are the window sills clean?
  • Are the windows clean?  
  • Are your ceiling fan blades clean?


  • Check corners for dirt, mold, or hairballs.
  • Are the counters clean of dirt and mold.
  • Is the toilet clean?
  • Should the toilet seat be replaced?
  • Ensure there is NO mold or grime in the shower and or tub on the ceiling.
  • Are the windows and the sills clean of dirt and mold?
  • Is the lighting dark? Bright lights are important.
TurnKey Vacation Rental Bathroom

Living Areas

  • Should the flooring be deep cleaned? Check corners for dirt, mold.
  • Should the furniture be replaced or steam cleaned?
  • Ensure the windows, blinds and fan blades are cleaned.
  • Complete a deep dusting and cleaning of furniture and entertainment systems.
  • Check batteries in all electronics.
  • Clean the remote or replace it with a new one.


  • Pressure wash walkways, patios, and the sides of the house.
  • Deep clean or replace the outdoor grills and/or firepits.
  • Deep clean the patio furniture or look to refurbish or replace it.
  • Tidy up the landscaping and foliage.
  • Ensure there is no clutter or debris in the outdoor space.
TurnKey Vacation Rental Patio

Updating Your Listing

As a vacation rental owner preparing for industry shifts and changing traveler preferences, you will need to make sure your home is not only clean but marketed as a safe place to stay.

During the weeks following a heightened awareness of cleanliness, your guests will need to feel that you have taken all the necessary sanitization and disinfection measures to feel safe in your home.

To ease future travelers’ minds, we recommend that you update your property listings across channels to address cleanliness.

Additionally, be sure that all of your photos showcase a clean home. We recommend choosing photos with bright and clean lighting, white sheets and linens, several photos of each room and a floor plan to help potential guests understand if the property will fit their needs.

By updating your property listing to be relevant to the changing travel, you can show travelers that you’re doing everything to stay on top of the situation. 

Professional Vacation Rental Cleaning Standards

As future guests make it clear that cleanliness and sanitation will be important factors in their return to traveling, employing stringent cleaning standards will help ensure good reviews and return visits. Having professional housekeepers with strict guidelines and checklists to clean your vacation rental between stays, can add an element of safety and security for future travelers.

At TurnKey, all properties are equipped with our patented GuestWorks® cleaning system and verification technology. The GuestWorks system requires professional housekeepers to follow strict cleaning standards that are customized for each home, and confirm their use of COVID-19 fighting products. Each home clean is then validated by photos and the cleaning products used before the job is considered complete. As added verification, guests rate the condition of the home clean when they check-in. 

While we have always used professional housekeeping services and maintained strict cleaning standards, here is how we have adapted our vacation rental cleaning process to utilize CDC guidelines:

Highlights of our existing process:

  • Cleans are automatically scheduled to occur before each guest stay.
  • Secure, keyless entry (unique, time-sensitive code for each clean) allows housekeepers to avoid interacting with others during the cleaning process.
  • Comprehensive home-cleaning checklists, custom for each home.
  • Every clean is photo-verified by a third party.
  • Cleans are then rated by each guest upon check-in.

Highlights of the updates to our process:

  • Require housekeepers to check a box confirming the use of COVID-19 fighting products.
  • Require housekeepers to take a picture of the COVID-19 fighting products being used.
  • Adding steps to our checklists to require wiping down commonly touched items like doorknobs, handles, light switches, etc.

TurnKey Takeaway:

How to Update Your Vacation Rental Cleaning Standards

We’ve gone over why it’s important to update your vacation rental cleaning standards and how to prepare for future guests:

  1. Use a vacation rental cleaning checklist.
  2. Understand guest expectations.
  3. Disinfect your home according to CDC guidelines.
  4. Assess your property for upgrades and places to deep clean.
  5. Update your listing with your new cleaning standards.
  6. Hire a property manager like TurnKey to manage your cleans with professional housekeepers.

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