Vacation Rental 101: Housekeeping

The Evolve TeamLeave a Comment

How to handle vacation rental cleaning

The number one cause of vacation rental guest complaints? Cleanliness.

When guests are paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to stay in your home, they expect it to be immaculate. And they’re understandably upset if it hasn’t been cleaned before their arrival.

Fortunately, it’s an easy problem to avoid. All you need is a trustworthy housekeeping service that consistently delivers a quality cleaning–by vacation rental standards.


A vacation rental cleaning is more in-depth than a typical house cleaning, and your housekeeper will need to ready to provide a higher level of service. For example:

  • Clean the linens that were used by previous guests
  • Sanitize surfaces after previous guests check out
  • Check that the next guest has sufficient quantities of toilet paper and cleaning products
  • Keep an eye out for damage
  • Check for missing items and take pictures of damage
  • Test various items in the house to be sure they work

In other words, your housekeeping service isn’t simply going to clean. They’re also going to make your home guest-ready. Skip ahead to see the full task list for a vacation rental cleaning.


The first decision you’ll need to make is whether you’re going to do the work yourself or hire a cleaning company.

If you live locally, you might consider doing your own cleaning. It’s a good way to cut costs and increase your income but it only makes sense if you can make vacation rental management a full-time job.

But before you decide, ask yourself an honest question: do I feel up to deep-cleaning the entire property several times a week?

In high season, you might have “quick turns” where a guest checks out at 10 a.m. and the next guest checks in at 4 p.m. In that window, you’ll need to provide a thorough cleaning. If you can’t commit to that, you need to hire someone who can.

Most owners don’t want to take on that level of commitment. For them, it’s an easy decision to hire a cleaning service with vacation rental experience.


Cleaning fees vary based on location and property size but you can get a good idea of a standard cleaning rate for your area on a listing site like VRBO. Look at 10 properties to get an average of the cleaning fee other properties in your area charge.

Generally speaking, you should expect to pay more than you would for a typical house cleaning.

The good news? Your guests pay the cleaning fee. It’s standard practice to pass along cleaning fees to the traveler as a line item in their booking total, so the price tag shouldn’t be a huge cause for concern.

That being said, it pays to be price conscious, as an exorbitantly high cleaning fee can turn travelers away from booking your property.


Once you’ve decided to hire a cleaning company, ask owners in your area for referrals. If your neighbors are vacation rental owners as well, chances are they might already have a cleaning service they know and trust.

Otherwise, you can get some good leads from the listings and advertisements in your newspaper or by checking online. Whenever possible, look for cleaning companies that are licensed, insured and bonded.

We recommend asking for references and calling all references provided before making a hiring decision. We do this when we vet businesses for our Evolve Partner Network, and those references have helped us find the very best housekeeping services.


Here are some questions to ask when you’re interviewing potential service providers:

Have you cleaned vacation rentals before?

Ideally, the answer is ‘yes.’ That means the individual/service has cleaned a vacation rental before and knows what’s required.

If they haven’t worked with vacation rentals before, you can always explain what additional services you’ll need them to perform. Lack of experience isn’t a deal breaker but you want someone who understands they’ll need to add a few skills to their repertoire.

What are your rates for a scheduled cleaning for a vacation rental vs. a quick turn? What about last-minute emergencies?

Ask how much your cleaning service charges for regularly scheduled services. This will be the base rate you can expect to pay.

Then find out how much extra you’ll pay for a “quick turn,” when you’ll need them to complete the clean within a set window of time, usually between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Because the cleaners will need to schedule their days around you, you’ll likely pay an extra fee.

Also, find out if they’re available on an emergency basis. If there’s a mistake with the scheduling and the property wasn’t cleaned for the next guest or if the plumbing backs up and you need immediate assistance, see if they’re willing to help! And find out how much it’ll set you back.

How many people do you have on staff?

It’s best to have more than one cleaner available. This increases the likelihood that you’ll have help when you need it.

If this service only has one person, it’s a good idea to find an additional backup just in case that person is not available in an emergency.

Are you willing to provide additional services in every clean?

Confirm they can provide the scope of the services you’ll need beyond your usual vacuuming, sweeping, and dusting, including:

  • Sanitizing all the surfaces in the bathroom and kitchen
  • Washing and changing the linens
  • Hanging fresh towels
  • Emptying the fridge and cleaning the interior
  • Putting away dishes
  • Cleaning underneath and between furniture cushions
  • Looking for damage or missing items
  • Stocking the home with toilet paper, soap, etc.
  • Providing light maintenance (changing smoke detector batteries, light bulbs)

Download these checklists for a full cleaning task list for your housekeeper to review before every guest check-in.

You should also ask about a semi-annual deep clean that will keep your home looking bright and year-round. A deep clean includes things like:

  • Washing the curtains
  • Flipping the mattresses
  • Paint touch ups
  • Steam-cleaning or conditioning furniture
  • Cleaning all kitchen appliances

Get a free copy of our Deep Cleaning Checklists to see how experts keep up with regular wear and tear and keep vacation rentals in great shape.

This post is part of Evolve’s Vacation Rental 101: The Expanded Ultimate Guide to Success series, where we discuss the ins and outs of vacation rental ownership for newcomers and experienced veterans alike.

Have questions or want to know how we make vacation rental ownership easy and profitable? Call our Homeowner Consultants at 877.818.1014 or click here to learn more about Evolve.