A Complete Guide to the Best Vacation Rental Cleaning Practices

Lizzie Griffin
Lizzie Griffin

March 8, 2024

The success of your vacation rental business depends on highly efficient cleaning practices that deliver exceptional quality without fail. 

Just one bad review from a guest can damage your brand and put future guests off from booking with you. And just one oversight during preparation for a homeowner’s stay could be all it takes to make them think again about renewing your contract.

In this article, you’ll learn about the five main issues that are unique to vacation rental cleaning and see how to address them with the right strategies, processes, and tools. 

By following our best practices, you’ll be able to improve occupancy rates, make your operations more scalable, and even reduce your managerial workload—ultimately enhancing the guest experience, the homeowner experience, and the host experience.

Also, look out for contributions from Liam Carolan, STR host coach and director of UK STR company Ginger & Gold.

Take the stress out of managing turnovers
Breezeway is a complete solution to vacation rental operations management, with auto-scheduling, in-app cleaning checklists, and supply management tools.

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Vacation rental cleaning practices: 5 main concerns

Vacation rental cleaning has unique concerns relating to your customer service, operational efficiency, and business as a whole. Here you can see them broken down into five key areas:

  • Scheduling
  • The guest experience
  • Managing supplies
  • The homeowner
  • Brand values

Take a look at each area discussed below, then see how our six top cleaning practices address all these issues.

Turnover time constraints

Vacation rental cleaning must be done in a narrow time window between guest check-out and check-in. Turnovers aren’t only about cleaning—they also involve resetting the property for the next guest, meaning restocking supplies, checking for missing items, and ensuring everything is functioning correctly.

Because of this, cleaning schedules often have very little flexibility—and any miscommunication between you and your housekeeper can be very costly. A delayed clean or, even worse, a missed clean, could damage your brand and send your listing spiraling down the search results of online travel agencies (OTAs).

Despite these tight time frames, guests can make last-minute changes, including bookings, cancellations, special requests, and call-outs—all of which your operations need to accommodate.

Guest expectations

Guests staying at vacation rentals generally have extremely high expectations—so your standards must match those of hotels. They expect the property to be impeccably clean, well-maintained, and ready for immediate occupancy. 

As a result, guests are very unforgiving of cleanliness and maintenance problems and issues with presentation—a poorly folded bathroom towel, a flickering kitchen light, or dust on a shelving unit could all be cause for a bad review and low star rating.

Inventory management

As your portfolio grows, you need a streamlined way to avoid mix-ups and make sure housekeepers always have exactly the linens and supplies they need for the property they’re cleaning. 

This includes household items (especially for the kitchen and bathroom), and, if you’re providing them instead of a third-party cleaning service, the cleaning supplies, too.

As well as managing this flow of stock across your portfolio, cleaning vacation rentals also requires basic maintenance checks and reporting—so you can quickly take care of issues like broken bulbs and wobbly steps before guests arrive. As you do this, you need to track costs that, as per the terms of your vacation rental management agreement, should be billed to the owner.

Managing homeowner relationships

The guest experience is at the heart of the vacation rental industry, but the homeowner experience is equally important.

It’s not enough to simply do a good job—it needs to be obvious you’re going above and beyond so you can maintain strong relationships with your homeowner clients and successfully market your services as you grow your portfolio.

You can enhance your homeowner relationships with transparency in your reporting and tec
h-enabled management systems that help you stand out among competing property management services. Also, you need to appreciate homeowner needs and concerns, be responsive to their requests, and be prepared to roll out the red carpet for when they stay.

Brand values and consistency

The quality of your vacation rental cleaning practices reflects your brand values. Consistently upholding the highest standards is crucial when competing against other vacation rentals as you look to maximize occupancy rates and scale your operations.

Ginger & Gold vacation rentals homepageStrong STR branding (as seen here on the Ginger & Gold homepage) needs to be upheld across all your services, and none more so than your cleaning operations.

6 Vacation rental cleaning practices for picture-perfect units

Cleaning vacation rental properties is about far more than mopping, wiping, and dusting. For a successful vacation rental business, you need streamlined, repeatable processes that ensure a fantastic guest experience while keeping your costs down.

The following six vacation rental cleaning practices speak to all the concerns discussed above. Also, they are practical for your housekeepers and scalable for a growing portfolio. Plus, they reduce your manual tasks so you can spend less time managing turnovers and more time marketing your services to prospective homeowner clients.

1. Automate scheduling and team coordination

Scheduling vacation rental cleans is notoriously complicated and time-consuming. You have to be alert to any last-minute changes, avoid common errors like sending two housekeepers to do the same turnover, and stay on top of homeowners booking themselves a stay without letting you know.

As you grow your STR portfolio beyond half a dozen or so high-occupancy vacation rentals, manually scheduling turnovers becomes very demanding—it can keep you from other key areas of your business, and you risk missing a clean before a check-in.

This is why you should have STR software create and share your cleaning schedules for you. No matter how many units you add to your portfolio, you’ll have a system in place to make sure each clean gets done on time—even when you receive last-minute reservations.

Here’s how it works with Breezeway:

  • Breezeway connects with your booking platform (like Airbnb or Vrbo) and/or your property management system (PMS).
  • You create rules for each property and booking type, so you can customize what’s needed for different amenities (like hot tubs or backyard grills) or guest needs (like special accommodations for pets or toddlers).
  • Whenever a new reservation comes in, the software creates a new schedule based on your rules and the details of the booking.
  • Breezeway auto-shares the schedule with your housekeepers and assigns tasks based on their availability.
  • The auto-scheduler then automates updates if there are any changes to your booking information.

Now, you can track property status across your entire portfolio and see in your dashboard as each turnover gets done.

Breezeway dashboardBreezeway’s auto-scheduling saves you hours of work and minimizes the chance of human error.

2. Use digital cleaning checklists for consistency

Implementing a cleaning checklist is a pivotal step in consistently upholding your brand standards across all your turnovers and properties. 

A comprehensive checklist serves as a roadmap for cleaners, helping ensure every key task is completed. Since checklists are a highly repeatable process, they make your operations efficient and scalable.

"Carefully customize your cleaning checklists for each unit. Then continue to look for ways to make them better—better for the guest experience and simpler for the housekeeper to follow." Liam Carolan, STR expert and director of Ginger & Gold.

With Breezeway, as well as being able to create a digital cleaning checklist for each unit, you can create special checklists for homeowner preferences. So, whenever the owner stays, they have their special linens on the beds, the furniture organized just as they like it, and their personal coffee maker plugged in before they arrive.

Also, you can add representative photos to your checklists, showing how you want each property to look. With these photos, your housekeeper will have a clear and helpful guide on the presentation of each space, including details like the placement of decorative pillows, the arrangement of bathroom amenities, or the layout of communal areas.

Breezeway digital cleaning checklistBreezeway’s checklists help housekeepers complete turnovers as you want them done.

3. Implement a simple and reliable process for managing supplies

A dependable system for tracking and replenishing supplies, from replacing kitchen essentials and bathroom toiletries to washing and packing linens, reduces your costs and manual tasks. Here are three other key benefits of an effective process for linen and inventory management

  • It upholds the guest experience by minimizing the risk of running out of essential items.
  • It allows you to track billables, like disinfectants and other cleaning products or replacement HVAC filters, so you’re not left out of pocket.
  • It makes your operations streamlined and efficient—no unnecessary back and forth with housekeepers and no last-minute trips to the supermarket to pick up supplies.

But your process for managing stock and packing linens needs to be so straightforward that a housekeeper who’s completely new to working with you can manage it without any difficulties.

You can make this possible by associating supplies with tasks within your operations management software. For example, with Breezeway, your supply counts automatically update every time a turnover is completed, which you can oversee in your dashboard, allowing you to stay on top of what stock you need to bring in for the coming week or month.

Breezeway supply management dashboard

Breezeway makes managing your supplies a simple and accurate process.

You can also use Breezeway’s inventory management tools to generate linen packing reports whenever a new booking comes in. With this solution in place, your housekeeper—even if it’s their first day—will always be armed with the correct linens and supplies for each turnover.

4. Use uploaded photos to remotely inspect each turnover

Property inspections should be a standard feature of your turnover workflow to guarantee a positive guest experience on arrival. Any issues you notice, like misplaced items or insufficient cleaning, can be fed back to the housekeeper for future cleans.

The problem with inspections, though, is that you need to be available for them, which isn’t always possible if you carry them out in person—especially if you manage multiple units.

As a result, remote inspections become necessary for your business—they allow you to manage quality from wherever you are, meaning you can grow your portfolio without being a bottleneck to your own property care process. Plus, they save you potentially hours of traveling time. 

The simplest way to manage remote inspections is for your cleaners to share photos of their completed work, which you can easily organize using within the Breezeway platform:

  • As housekeepers complete their tasks, they take a picture and upload it to the app.
  • Once a turnover is completed, you receive a notification.
  • Now you remotely inspect each image, which you can do against your representative photos.
  • This gives you the chance to let the housekeeper know if there are any issues that need addressing before the scheduled time of check-in.

"Using the photo checklist function on Breezeway means I always know the task is done and the property is guest-ready, and the inventory tool makes managing consumables much more systemized."

- Liam Carolan, STR expert and director of Ginger & Gold

Multiple photos of a Ginger & Gold propertyGinger & Gold uses Breezeway to ensure operational efficiency and a consistently fantastic guest experience.

Want to learn more about short-term rental inspections?
Download Breezeway’s vacation rental inspection checklist.

5. Make reporting maintenance issues easy for housekeepers

Part of the vacation rental cleaning process should be to run basic maintenance checks of appliances and amenities before each new check-in. This allows you to: 

a) Make sure the property is in perfect condition for your next guest
b) Identify if the previous guest caused any damage during their stay

If you’re running remote inspections, you won’t be able to carry out those checks yourself, so it’s a task for the housekeeper that you can add to your standard turnover cleaning checklist. 

However, you still need a simple way for housekeepers to report the issues they find, whether it's a broken lamp, a leaky faucet, or a malfunctioning air conditioner—and messages get easily lost in WhatsApp groups.

The solution is to connect maintenance reporting with your other operations management processes. With Breezeway, your default maintenance service provider is automatically notified as soon as your housekeeper reports a problem.

  • Reported issuesHousekeepers can easily report maintenance issues within the app.


6. Schedule deep cleans as recurring tasks

Standard turnovers are normally scheduled as part of the reservation workflow. When you have a vacation rental with a high occupancy rate, this leaves little room for deep cleaning, like carpet shampooing, upholstery cleaning, or specialized maintenance needed for amenities like pools and hot tubs.

So, create recurring tasks on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis that you can assign to a service provider in advance. This solution to long-term property care helps you meet home safety and hygiene standards while improving the guest and homeowner experience.

  • Breezeway platform showing recurring tasks featureSet up recurring tasks to easily manage deep cleans and maintenance checks.

Better cleaning practices means better business performance

Maintaining exemplary cleaning standards in your vacation rental business isn’t just about cleanliness itself—it's about upholding your brand's reputation, ensuring guest satisfaction, and securing homeowner trust.

The key to sustaining those standards as part of a growing STR business lies in implementing scalable processes and embracing automation across all your cleaning operations. These processes include:

  • Automated scheduling based on your customized rules
  • Following unit-specific cleaning checklists
  • Systemizing special accommodations for homeowner stays
  • Remote inspections
  • Streamlined maintenance reporting
  • Regular deep cleaning implemented alongside your reservation cleaning workflow

By consolidating these processes within a single STR operations management platform like Breezeway, you can reduce your workload and create better experiences for all your customers.

Take the stress out of managing turnovers
Breezeway is a complete solution to vacation rental operations management, with auto-scheduling, in-app cleaning checklists, and supply management tools.

Book a Demo