Cleaning your vacation rental since the COVID-19 outbreak

Written by Elizabeth Weedon
3.3/5 - (12 votes)

The single most important responsibility of a vacation homeowner is to provide a safe and clean property. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we now need to take extraordinary measures to clean and disinfect our homes – and to reassure our guests that we are.

In our WeNeedaVacation.com office, we are hearing from vacationers asking what our homeowners are doing to safeguard their health while staying in their rental homes. It’s important that you reach out to them and provide them with adequate assurance!

What does it now mean to “clean” your vacation rental home?

Here are the distinctions between simply cleaning and disinfecting or sanitizing:

Cleaning removes many germs, dirt, and particles from a surface, even by just using soap and water.  Even though it doesn’t kill the germs, it lowers their number, and it’s usually recommended that surfaces be cleaned before sanitizing or disinfecting.

Sanitizing kills germs, but not as many as disinfecting.

Disinfecting includes the use of chemicals to actually kill germs that are left on surfaces after cleaning.  Thus, disinfectant chemicals lower the risk of virus infection. Products need to remain on a surface for about 3 to 5 minutes.

What is a virus? It’s an infectious microbe, smaller than a fungus or bacteria.

According to the CDC, “Current evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19.”

What you can and should do now

Some suggestions directly about cleaning:

  • Contact your turnover cleaner to ask about additional measures they will be taking to protect their staff), your home, your guests, and you.
  • Ask your cleaner if they will be charging more and/or requiring additional time during the turnovers.
  • Provide your guests with plenty of cleaning and sanitizing products for their use while they are in your home. (Examples: pairs of Playtex gloves, sponges and scrub sponges, soaps, hand sanitizer, disposable antibacterial wipes, Lysol, bleach, paper towels, etc.)
  • Go to https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2 to view a list of disinfectants for use against the virus and FAQ’s about the use of these disinfectants.
  • View the CDC’s guidelines for Cleaning and Disinfection for Households.
  • Remove as much clutter as possible. Cluttered surfaces make it nearly impossible to clean and disinfect thoroughly and waste valuable time for your cleaners.
  • The two most likely areas for spreading the virus are the kitchen and bathrooms, so extra care needs to be taken when cleaning those high-traffic areas.
  • If you provide linens, launder them using the highest water temperature possible. Be sure to wash bed coverings regularly, too, perhaps replacing thicker/heavier ones with ones that are easier to launder. And avoid shaking out dirty laundry.
  • Keep in mind that coronaviruses last much longer on hard surfaces than soft ones (from hours to even days), so be particularly diligent about disinfecting: cabinet and drawer handles, doorknobs, electronic equipment (like the TV remote), countertops, light switches, garbage/recycling containers, window air conditioners, appliances, picnic containers, etc.
  • Use disposable gloves while cleaning, and wash your hands with soap and warm water after removing them.
  • Use disposable products like paper towels. If you use rags and cloths, make sure you wash them after each use at a very high water temperature.

Other suggestions:

  • Consider no longer providing linens for your guests.
  • Add language to your lease to provide greater liability protections specifically for virus-related risks. (See more below.)
  • On your listing, promote the extraordinary efforts you and your professional cleaners will be taking to assure their safety. Vacationers will be extremely concerned about this!
  • Reach out to reassure your already-committed guests, too, that you and your professional cleaners are taking these extraordinary measures.
  • Emphasize that your guests need to leave promptly at check-out in order to allow ample time for your cleaners. Also, request that incoming guests abide by the check-in time in order to allow sufficient time for the cleaners to complete their job.
  • Be prepared for the fact that your guests will be spending considerably more time in your home than usual due the virus. They will be eating in much more often, sometimes getting take-out meals, and generating a LOT more trash.  Rather than deal with the mess and animal risk of overflowing trash bins, consider adding another one or increasing the number of trash pick-ups each week.

Legal issues

Although it’s a good idea to edit your listing to promote the extra efforts you are making to clean and disinfect your home, be careful about how you say it. You can say, for example, that strenuous efforts have been made to protect your guests’ safety – and even provide some of the specific precautions you and your cleaners are taking. But do not claim to present a “virus-free” home!

As mentioned above, be sure there is language in your lease that protects you from the legal risks of your guests contracting the virus during their stay.  In our sample leases, we have simply added “including viruses” to the hold harmless clause: “TENANT agrees to hold LANDLORD harmless of any injuries or claims caused by or contributed to by accidents, allergic reactions, or any other casualties or health problems, including viruses, which may arise during tenancy or as a result of said tenancy. Safety precautions undertaken by LANDLORD are not foolproof, and TENANT shall hold LANDLORD harmless from all claims to person or property arising out of the use and occupancy of the premises.”*

While providing a clean vacation rental home has always been extremely important, it has become absolutely vital in light of the coronavirus crisis. But also, keep in mind how significantly concerned your guests will be, and be ready to reassure them about what steps you are taking to protect them while they’re in your home.

*This sample clause is provided by WeNeedaVacation.com, LLC, for the convenience of its clients. WeNeedaVacation.com, LLC, represents this only as a sample and makes no representations or warranties that it is appropriate for any particular client’s circumstances. Further, do not rely on this sample without consulting your attorney. 


Cleaning Protocol and Checklist: PDF | WORD DOC

Cleaning Log: PDF | WORD DOC

Quick links:

EPA’s info about the coronavirus: https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus

EPA’s list of effective disinfectants: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2

CDC info about cleaning and disinfecting guidelines:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/cleaning-disinfection.html

Sample Cleaning Checklist:  (Access PDF File) or (Download Editable File)

Sample Cleaners Log: (Access PDF File) or (Download Editable file)

Information for this post came from the following contributors:

Many professional house cleaners listed in our Home Services Directory

EPA regarding the coronavirus: https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus

CDC regarding cleaning and disinfecting guidelines:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/cleaning-disinfection.html

Durk Johnson, Executive Director of the Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals Association (Div. of the VRMA) on Vacation Rental Formula, The Cleaning Issue: https://www.vacationrentalformula.com/vrs237-the-cleaning-issue-with-durk-johnson-of-vacation-rental-housekeepers-professionals/

VRMintel: The Importance of Deep Cleans – Let’s Get Real: https://www.vrmintel.com/the-importance-of-deep-cleans-lets-get-real/

About the author

Elizabeth Weedon

Elizabeth Weedon - Although I’ve worked for WeNeedaVacation.com since 2008, I’ve been a loyal homeowner on the site since early 1998, just a few months after the website was launched by the Talmadges. I grew up summering on the Vineyard and managed my family's rental home there since the mid-1980’s. I’m passionately devoted to the Vineyard – and to WeNeedaVacation, which I credit with enabling me to hold onto the special property that has been in our family for nearly a century. An enthusiastic member of the WNAV Homeowner Support Team, I endeavor to keep my finger on the pulse of the Cape and Islands vacation rental industry so that I can provide homeowners advice about how to ensure their booking success with us. With owner Joan Talmadge, I am also responsible for editing and writing much of the text on our website, our monthly newsletters, and Homeowner Blog posts.


  • With regard to Julie’s comment. As a homeowner, I totally agree with a Deep Clean prior to season which would include disinfection. However, the disinfection process during Covid-19 will need to be done after each guest as well. Just doing the disinfection during the spring clean will only be good for the first guest stay unless there is a 7 day pause between rental guests.

    This has become overwhelming for both housekeeping and owners. Luckily our season is primarily winter at our Ski Resort abd this will give us plenty of time to get our groove back for the crazy busy winter season.

    • Hi, Teena. I’m not sure where you get the “7 day pause between rental guests.” But yes, homes now need to be both cleaned and disinfected upon every turnover this year. Although it seemed pretty challenging at the outset, most homeowners and cleaners seem to have things down to a pretty good system at this point, and we are hearing about very few problems or complaints from vacationers.

  • I own several cottages. I have cleaner who is great, but does not wash bedspreads
    Is there anyone out there who owns several properties and had any idea on how you will have the ability to take our each bedspread each week, replace w clean ones and launder the dirty ones during the week so they are ready for the following week check in?
    I am in a dilemma. Thank you

  • Good morning. I have cleaned rental properties on Cape Cod for 20 plus years. Please have your cleaners do a thorough Spring clean using disinfectants due to this virus. Homeowners that do not do this will be charged for extra cleaning at the beginning of season. I have MANY years of experience in this area. Julie Warme