Managing Your Vacation Rental

Clean Sweep – Will your home pass the white glove test?

Written by Joan Talmadge
5/5 - (9 votes)

Spring cleaning.  Just the mere thought of it exhausts me.  But when you own a rental home, a thorough spring cleaning is essential.  Launching into the summer vacation rental season without it can be a recipe for disaster.

To write this post, I decided to consult with experts, David and Carla Wood, former owners of  a professional cleaning and concierge services and current owners of Cape Cod Linen Rentals.  I asked David for his thoughts on the subject.

Why is a thorough spring cleaning so important?

In order to establish a high level of cleanliness in a home throughout the season, it is very important to perform a thorough detailed, baseline, deep, spring cleaning. From that point on, regular weekly cleanings can continue, easily maintaining that desirable level of cleanliness.

And remember, it can happen any time in the year, even twice a year. Personally, we like to have our own house done twice; spring and fall. We find that the summer and winter months involve high activity and a lot of use which in turn means lots of dust, dirt and just plain grunge.

What is the most overlooked cleaning task?

Detailing!  Most folks are really good at obvious broad-stroke cleaning. But they forget to deal with odors, inside toaster ovens,  toasters, blenders, coffee makers, and cleaning under furniture, behind and around toilets, in closets, high dusting, dusting inside lampshades, as well as only dusting around and not under things, doing edges and corners, baseboards, sills and the like. And let’s not forget the dirty oven… out of sight is really not out of mind for good cooking reasons as well as creating a potential fire hazard.

What is your advice on cleaning products?

Use quality products. Don’t be trendy or follow fads. Windex, 409, ammonia, diluted vinegar, a basic solution of diluted bleach, and any basic dusting product and cleansers work just fine. Use real paper towels – Bounty towels are the only brand I use. They do absorb, and they hold up and are worth whatever the cost!

What should a homeowner expect from his cleaning company?

If you have a cleaner, make sure that they are doing the job they say they are doing. Don’t accept sloppy work. Have a list of items to be included in the job. Communicate with your cleaner, and remember that they are professionals, and pay them a fair wage. They’re doing what you don’t want to do or can’t schedule. You pay for what you get. Pony up!

What if the homeowner decides to do it his/herself?

Become a cleaner if you can’t afford one. One big cleaning takes time but when it’s done, it will make the weekly cleaning so much easier and quicker.

Or work out a Cleaning Co-op; share cleaning chores with a friend or friends. Work together on a different house each week. The work will go more quickly, and misery loves company! Then go out for cocktails to celebrate!

Can you provide us with a pre-season checklist for homeowners?

Yes, click here to download a checklist to use as a guide each year. Feel free to edit the checklist to include chores specific to your own home.

Any final advice?

Do it, do it, do it! Don’t put it off!

And, remember: as unpleasant a task as spring cleaning is, there’s nothing worse than having to respond to a disgruntled tenant in the midst of the season! Presenting a clean and well-maintained home is critical.

Do you have any cleaning tips you’d like to share?

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


  • Three comments/suggestions:

    Remove window screens and vacuum or scrub to remove spider webs, pollen and dust.

    Open sofabeds and vacuum mattresses and metal mechanisms thoroughly to remove crumbs and spider webs.

    Magic Erasers work really well to remove marks from painted walls–maybe better than Soft Scrub, which I haven’t tired on walls. Also, Magic Erasers, which are wrung out before they are used, don’t drip.

  • Hi Joan!

    Some great tips for those who may not think of the details. It’s a ‘regular’ w/me & anything/home I clean, however.

    I always check the inside of ALL the kitchen & bath cabinets, drawers & dresser drawers for a good wipe out w/Pine Sol or Spic ‘n Span, over just making sure crumbs are not around. Don’t forget to do the same w/any closet shelves.
    You can leave an unused dryer sheet in some drawers for a nice, fresh scent, if desired.

    Also, check all glasses, dishes, pots/pans for any food or dust residue & wash them in the DW or by hand, so everything is sure to be clean, clean, clean, especially if you’ve had ‘Winter’ tenants. Something people don’t think of is the silverware containers/organizers in their kitchen drawers. You’d be surprised when you lift out the silverware, just how many crumbs or whatever, can be there. This also gives you a chance to check for how clean the utensils are too. All bigger utensils should be washed, especially from the grill. Replace if necessary.
    Make sure all cabinets, drawers, etc. are nicely organized & do so at each changeover, as guests sometimes tend to just put things away ‘anywhere’.
    If you still have a wall phone…make sure that is clean too, especially the ear/mouth area. Spray your Bounty paper towel & wipe thoroughly. Use disinfecting spray. We’ve found the slim line phone on the wall is used a lot. Avoids them being charged for calls on their cell phones during times they otherwise would be.

    Take down all overhead light fixtures & wash them to make sure all bugs & dust are removed. This goes for ceiling fans too!
    Don’t forget the window sills & screens for a good clean & vac too! Windex makes a great outside window wash you attach to your hose & just blast away!

    The kitchen garbage (& all others too) are also sometimes forgotten. Inside & out!
    I also go around ALL the baseboards in the home w/a cleaning solution & bucket, including any wood on the stairs & hand railings. Get fingerprints off doors, especially around the handle areas. Leaves the home smelling great!

    You can also run wires from lamps, TV’s etc. thru your rag to get the dust off them too. Don’t forget all light fixtures as well. Recent study said they have the most germs & are the least cleaned. I spray Clorox Cleanup in Bounty & wipe them all, even the plug outlets.

    Remember if you have A/C units, to wipe &/or vac them out from all angles & clean the filter well after vacuuming too! The filters should be checked & cleaned each month during a changeover to keep them running efficiently.

    All decorative items in the home are washed/ wiped, including behind picture frames. Cobwebs can build up anywhere, if left to do so.

    I also make sure I’ve turned over all the mattresses & sprayed w/lysol &/or Fabreeze & let them ‘stand’ for a day or 2 w/windows open to ‘air’ in the room. Wash the mattress pad protectors & the pillows too! Get pillow protectors to keep pillows looking their best. They can be easily washed between guest w/the linens. Replace mattress pads & pillows every few years, or as needed.

    If you have an older sofabed, you may want to consider getting a good ‘egg crate’ & nice mattress pad over that, to keep the mattress on it more comfy for guests. Ours feels just like a regular bed & we just replaced both for it this year.

    Check your W/D for odors & run a cycle w/bleach in the Washer, if need be. Windex the outsides or Clorox Cleanup, if some stains are present to lift them off a white set.
    You can also wipe down the dryer barrel to have it smelling fresh. Very important to not just Vac the lint catchers, but also WASH them w/soapy water. Many dryer fires start b/c the lint traps are too dirty. It may look clean after you get the lint up, but you’ll be surprised when actually washing it, how dirty it really gets. Also use a long brush device to stick down the lint trap area to give that a good cleaning. And vac behind & on the sides of the machines.

    Outside showers need cleaning too, so don’t forget to get all those cobwebs that built up there over the off season…top to bottom! Clean the fixtures well too. Wash down w/a hose after getting the cobwebs out. Check weekly for sweeping out & cobweb removal during the season.

    • Wow, JoAnne, talk about thorough! Thank you for all of the helpful suggestions. I love your ideas for making a traditionally uncomfortable sofabed infinitely more comfy.

  • One very important item I did not see on the cleaning list was the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Cobwebs and dust can get in there and can cause the alarm to go off. So I always clean them out and put in a fresh battery for the season.

    • Good suggestion, Veronica. And how important it is that we have properly functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Thanks.