COVID Cleaning

What you need to know to keep guests safe and get business moving.

As a short-term rental owner, cleanliness has always been at the top of your to-do list. With the threat of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever. 

A preliminary study from the National Institute of Health found that the virus can remain on surfaces for hours, or even days. COVID-19 particles can stay in the air for three hours, on cardboard for 24 hours and on plastic or metal for 48 to 72 hours. When done correctly, cleaning reduces or eliminates the virus from surfaces in your rental.

Cleaning in the time of COVID-19 is more time-consuming. But it’s worth the extra effort to keep guests healthy and to make your rental more attractive during this unprecedented travel slowdown. Read on to learn everything you need to know. 

How Cleaning is Different Now

If you’ve been hosting for a while, you probably have your cleaning routine down pat. While you don’t have to completely reinvent your procedure, there are changes to be aware of. 

The most obvious difference is time. Before COVID-19, you might have left a few hours between guests. Now, it’s good practice to leave at least three hours between checkout and cleaning and 24 hours between guests. 

Waiting to clean allows most, if not all, airbourne COVID-19 particles to settle on surfaces, which you can then sanitize and disinfect. If you clean before the three hours have passed, particles may settle in places you’ve already cleaned and re-infect them. 

You’ll also need to rethink your linens. Invest in extra sets of: pillow protectors, mattress pads, blankets and duvet covers so you can wash used items while having enough on hand for your next guests. 

It’s also a good idea to remove extra blankets or pillows. Soft surfaces are absorbent and difficult to clean. Removing them means a safer experience for your guests and less cleaning for you. 

Finally, add a mask and gloves to your cleaning kit. Without them, you could shed the virus onto surfaces if you’re an asymptomatic carrier. Remember to change your mask if it becomes wet or soiled—a wet mask is an ineffective mask. If you can’t wait three hours before cleaning, wear splash goggles to protect your eyes from airborne particles. 

Sanitation—everything you need to know

Sanitizing is enough for some services in your rental, but not all

Your old routine probably involved sanitation without you even knowing it. Sanitation refers to reducing surface contamination or bacteria to a safe level. Most sanitizing products kill or inactivate 99.9% of all known bacteria, viruses and fungi. 

To sanitize, you’ll need soap, water and approved cleaning products. A pressurized pump sprayer is also helpful for sanitizing soft surfaces like couches or rugs. 

You should sanitize: 


  • Linens

Wash sheets, blankets and comforters at the highest temperature allowed per the manufacturers’ recommendations. Linens that can’t be washed at high temperatures will not be sanitized and should be avoided if possible. 

Clean all linens, even if they weren’t used by previous guests. Guests may have touched extra linens and traces of the virus could be present on them. If you’re not able to replace all blankets and comforters, consider covering them with a freshly-washed duvet cover. Finally, don’t shake linens, as this could disperse COVID-19 particles into the air.

  • Dishes and flatware 

Wash all dishes and utensils using your dishwasher’s sanitation setting. At this setting, water reaches 150 °F/ 65°C and kills 99.9% of bacteria. 

Again, wash everything, not just the items the guest used. A guest will touch many forks while grabbing one from the drawer. 

Sanitization is safe enough for most of your rental, however, some surfaces get more contact and require disinfection. 

Disinfection is the new normal

The threat of COVID-19 means more surfaces in your rental need disinfecting

Disinfection means killing all particles on a particular surface. You’ll need stronger cleaning products to disinfect, so it’s a good idea to check this list of approved disinfectants and replace your supply as needed. And don’t forget to verify the products are approved for the surface you’re cleaning. Bleach products, for example, are not safe on all surfaces. 

You should also familiarize yourself with the correct dwell time for each product. Dwell time refers to the time a product needs to sit on a surface to be effective. Find it listed on the product label or on the manufacturers’ website. 

You should sanitize: 

  • Bathrooms

Bodily fluids are most likely to linger here, especially if there are no windows. Sanitize all the surfaces you’re able to reach, paying special attention to frequently touched areas like toilet handles and faucets. 

  • High-touch points 

Including, but not limited to, 

  • Light switches, outlets, lamp and fan pull-chains and switches

  • Window sills, pulls, and handles

  • Cabinet knobs

  • Bureau drawer knobs 

  • Controls for large appliance and electronics (washer and dryer, dishwasher, stove)

  • Controls and cords for plug-in appliances and electronics (coffee maker, toaster, television, hair dryer)

  • Remote controls 

  • Temperature controls (heat and/or air conditioning)

  • Hangers and luggage racks

  • Amenities like soap, shampoo, and cleaning supplies (don’t forget laundry detergent, dish soap and sponges)

  • Toys and games

  • Stair and porch railings

  • Door knobs and handles

Make this your last task before leaving. It’s easy to re-infect these surfaces as you move from room to room so it’s best to wait until you’re ready to go. 

  • Your entry process 

Disinfect the keypad, lockbox and/or keys to ensure your guests arrive at a pristine property.

Improve the Guest Experience

Add extra linens to your rental to encourage guest cleanliness

To help guests participate in your new cleaning process, stock up on: hand soap, paper towels, tissues and toilet paper.

In addition, provide extra towels and sheets, especially for longer-term guests. Encourage guests to clean up by supplying disinfectants and sanitizing wipes. You can even post cleaning guidelines in your rental to help guests who decide to do laundry or run the dishwasher. 

How to Market Your Rental 

Share your new cleaning procedures in your rental listings

Now that you’ve invested time and energy cleaning your rental, it’s time to share it! Here are a few ways to market your COVID-proof listing:

  • Mention your check-in and checkout process 

This is especially attractive if you use a lockbox or smart lock because both promote  social distancing. Make sure the instructions are explained in guest communications so check-in is as seamless as possible. 

  • Update your listing description 

Add a sentence to the beginning of your description stating that your property ia clean and safe. Mention that you’re using disinfecting products and taking extra care, but avoid unproven claims like 100% disinfected or COVID-free. 

  • Place a door hanger on the entry 

People appreciate visual proof of sanitation (that’s why hotels place a paper cover over the toilet). Place a door hanger or sign stating This property has been properly cleaned and sanitized for your arrival to gain guest confidence.

Top Benefits of a Clean Short-Term Rental Property  

Expect your cleaning process to be longer and more involved for at least the next year or so. It seems like a big undertaking, but careful cleaning and skilled marketing will make your rental stand out. You’ll also put guests at ease during these uncertain times. And most of all, you’ll be doing your part to stop the spread of COVID-19.

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