Managing Your Vacation Rental

Clean as a Whistle! – Create a winning vacation rental cleaner team

Written by Joan Talmadge
5/5 - (5 votes)

Updated March 2024

If a “Most Valuable Player” award was given at the end of a typical rental season, I’d nominate turnover cleaning crews! If you’re like me, you are unable to be at your vacation rental home during turnover day, so you are dependent on your cleaning person or crew to adequately prepare your home for your next guests. Vacationer expectations for cleanliness are at an all-time high. Nothing turns off guests like arriving to find that their rental home hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned. So, don’t forget the essential deep cleaning prior to the rental season!

Most rental homeowners enthusiastically share other helpful information with fellow homeowners, but we find that homeowners are about as eager to give out the names of their cleaning help as young parents are to share the name of their favorite babysitter!  Good cleaning help is a treasured resource.  On, we have many cleaning companies listed by region in our Home Services Directory.

When looking for a reliable cleaning service, be sure to ask for and call references.  In many cases, a company representative or the owner will come to your home to assess the size and scope of the cleaning job and give you a quote.

Busy bees for a short time

If you use a cleaning company, the crew will consist of more than one person, and they will be in and out of your home in a short time so they can get to their next cleaning job.

Once, when I happened to be at our home during turnover day, I watched in amazement as the 5-person crew swept in (pardon the pun) and lost no time getting to work. One was obviously the kitchen “specialist.” Another was responsible for the bathrooms, and still another was the dust and vacuum person. They are professionals!

Getting started

It is essential that you make your expectations clear to your house cleaners ahead of time.   Ideally, you will walk through your home with them prior to the beginning of your rental season so there is no misunderstanding about your requirements.  Post a list of responsibilities at your home, perhaps in a cabinet or closet where you keep extra supplies for them to use in replenishing your home.

In most cases, you will expect the cleaners to sanitize bathrooms, dust, vacuum, and replenish soap and paper products.  The biggest job is usually the kitchen, where they will empty the refrigerator of any food items left behind, clean the appliances, check the oven and microwave, and empty the dishwasher, if necessary.

What not to expect the cleaners to do

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a thorough spring cleaning before the start of the summer rental season!  That is the time when we would expect the cleaners to move furniture to vacuum underneath, wash down woodwork, etc. With such limited time, the cleaners should not be expected to do the same kind of thorough cleaning that they might do off-season.

See our post about spring cleaning tips. Unless previously agreed upon, most house cleaners cannot be expected to put outside furniture back in order, sweep porches, decks or patios, clean BBQ grills, water plants, make any repairs, etc.

Be sure your tenants know what’s expected of them

Communication is key.  Leave a checkout list for your tenants, so that they are clear about their responsibilities.  If you post it on your fridge, they can’t miss it.  The list would likely include your requirements for disposing of trash and leftover food and washing and putting away dishes, linens, towels, etc.

Be sure that your home is sufficiently stocked with supplies such as dish detergent, garbage bags, and cleaning products. Tenants will leave your home cleaner if these products are available.

Have your cleaners report in

Be sure to ask the cleaners to notify you if they notice any damage or if the tenants left your home in poor condition, requiring extra cleaning on their part.  If so, you will need to notify the tenants responsible soon after their departure, preferably within a few days.  See our post regarding withholding money from a security deposit.

For tips about hiring other helpful professionals to prepare and maintain your home, read our Service Provider post.

Do you have any advice or tips about turnover cleaning?  Want to share the name of your cleaners? 🙂

About the author

Joan Talmadge

Joan Talmadge - My husband Jeff and I created in 1997, shortly after buying our Cape home. My background includes teaching fifth grade for 8 years and writing and editing educational publications for 15. I get great joy from helping fellow homeowners successfully rent their homes. Jeff and I are proud to have two of our three grown children working for, truly a family-run business. For me, the Cape and Islands are magical all times of the year -- whether it's walking on Nauset Beach, playing golf, or enjoying family and friends. Email Joan


  • I think it would be nice to have a cleaning company come and clean my house. Since I don’t know what to look for the article helps out a lot, like doing a walk thru to point out what needs to be done. That is smart, so everyone is on the same page.

  • I run Cleaning Orange County and we do a lot of vacation rental cleanings. I agree that the service we provide is very valued by the land lords. After all, a property must be properly maintained to retain its value. I have to echo that landlords and tenants must clearly agree on the terms. I hate being caught in the middle!