How to Make Guests Want to Clean Your Vacation Rental or Airbnb

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June 6, 2014
Enticing Guests to Clean Up your Self Catering Cottage

Late in 2013, Matt Landau of Vacation Rental Marketing Blog wrote what turned out to be a controversial article, titled Go Big or Go Home. He made the point that vacation rental owners should embrace the fact they are indeed in the hospitality business and should treat their guests accordingly. More specifically, he was asking the vacation rental community to stop asking guests to clean up at check-out.

Not surprisingly, he unleashed a hurricane of heated discussion. In fact, here we are in 2017, and the discussion is still on-going (check out the Disqus comments at the bottom of the article).

I’ve been following Matt for a while and I was surprised at the passion he aroused in the Airbnb and vacation rental community. Many owners disagreed. Strongly. A few agreed in an equally emotional manner; virtually no one felt neutral about it.

It was really interesting.

The discussion highlighted a common conflict between owners and guests on the subject of cleanup.

THE OWNER’S PERSPECTIVE: There is often a time crunch between departures and arrivals occurring on the same day. Consequently, requiring guests to do part of the clean up makes it possible to get the place up to snuff by the time the afternoon crowd arrives.

Cleaning up before check-out

Guests are often asked to do some housework before checking out of vacation rentals. It is “self-catering” after all. Keep in mind, however, that guests may resent doing what they consider the work of the cleaning staff. There’s a fine balance. Photo courtesy of Lintmachine.

It’s not uncommon in the vacation rental business for guests to do dishes, clean counters, sweep floors, take out the trash; sometimes, they are even asked to strip beds, do a load of laundry and vacuum.

THE GUEST’S PERSPECTIVE: The “home away from home” environment naturally encourages people to clean as they go and they usually don’t mind loading a dishwasher, sweeping floors or wiping down some countertops, but many guests resent doing additional chores. Their reasoning is commonly, “We are paying a cleaning fee, so why are we expected to do the job of housekeeping?”

So who’s right?

Honestly, both sides have valid points. On the one hand, vacation rentals are different from hotels; there is a bit of “self-catering” expected. Owners should not be expected to wash a week’s worth of dishes or clean up 5-day-old spills at least not without a hefty cleaning surcharge. Guests renting vacation rentals expect to clean up after themselves. It’s part of the deal.

On the other hand, guests are…(hmmm!)….guests, and owners have to respect that. I mean, put yourself in their shoes, do you want to do laundry and strip beds at the end of your vacation?


Where is the compromise, the in-between place wherein both owners and guests are happy?

I’m not going to say I have the answer. There are no absolutes on this one.


I do have a suggestion.

How about providing the kind of amenities that would entice your guests to do more cleaning than they are naturally inclined? What about some gizmos that keep the house cleaner?

Like some really fetching cleaning products and items that seem to seductively whisper,

“Clean up because I’m beautiful.”


Check out the following goodies. I will be extraordinarily surprised if you don’t want to get your hands (or in one case, feet) on them and start…


The kitchen is the area receiving 80% of the dirt and grime, so let’s start here.

First of all, I always – always – recommend earth-friendly cleaning products. You don’t want anything toxic in your vacation rental. Period. Guests are more environmentally aware than they used to be and prefer eco-friendly options. And in general, the packaging rocks!

Kitchen Products from Mrs Meyers

Mrs. Meyers dish soap, hand soap, and counter top cleaner come in nine different heady scents; you can leave them out on your countertops because the bottles are so beautiful.

My hands down favorite kitchen products are by Mrs. Meyers. First of all, the heady scents alone are enough to make you want to do dishes, wash your hands and keep your counters clean; but more importantly, they are earth friendly and non-toxic. Best of all, they are really effective cleaners!

Bio's Washing Up Liquid

UK made BioD makes an excellent washing up liquid. It’s just one of their many earth friendly cleaning products. Pretty bottle too!

Bio D is a family-owned, ethically motivated company, dedicated to promoting the use of hypoallergenic, environmentally responsible detergents that have a minimum impact on the ecosystem. Their washing up liquid is a workhorse of cleaning power. Plus, how can you resist the title, Washing Up Liquid?

“Let’s just wash up, shall we?”

Magic Sponge by MicroFiber

MicroFiber Magic Sponges last longer than most others; at least if you wash them religiously between bookings. Four-pack available on Amazon for $14.95.

Kitchen sponges should play a starring role in your vacation rental kitchen. You would be surprised at how many owners forget to provide them. We have often rented homes where the sponge was kept hidden away under the sink. Worse? An old, dirty sponge that no guest wants to touch.

Keep sponges in an attractive and handy container and make sure they’re new or look new.  Avoid this advice at your peril!

Dishrack and Sponge Holder from Simple Human

Simple Human products are both long-lasting and well designed. A dish rack that provides both safe storage of knives, as well as handy flatware and glass holders, is a great option for guests. Available on Amazon for $72.99. The suction cup sponge and scrubber holder is so polite looking, you can’t help but do a dish or two. $16.99 on Amazon.

I am a big fan of both dish racks and sponge holders. Both make it easy to do dishes as the day whiles away.

Hand Broom and Dust Pan by Schoolhouse Electric

School House Electric makes a stunning hand broom and dust pan that makes cleaning up simple spills easy. Hang it up so guests can see it; it’s that gorgeous! $30.

We’ve all spilled some crumbs from that last cookie, but sometimes, let’s face it, we don’t want to look for the broom (“Where is the broom anyway?”). Hanging a dashing hand broom and dustpan prominently (and the one above is almost an art object) makes it much more likely guests will clean up the cookie crumbs.

The next item I’m recommending – a kitchen trash can – is expensive. $469 exactly.

$469! What?!

Why am I recommending that you spend a small fortune on a kitchen trashcan?

Simple: it’s almost indestructible. And gorgeous. So gorgeous that you should include it in kitchen photos on your website.

The bottom line: if guests like the look of your trashcan, they will want to use it. Frequently.

Think about that for a second.

Most kitchen trash cans are slobs. Most of them are stored under the sink, out of sight. Which is a problem. First of all, guests can’t find the trash and when they do find it, they often miss the bin. Ever seen the dried gross stuff splattered on the back side of a cabinet door, down the side of the bin and around the bottom of a trash can? Yuck!

The other problem is that guests’ hands are dirty from cooking or eating when they are holding the rubbish they wish to get rid of; they use those same hands to open the cabinet door and guess what happens to the knobs and pulls on the cabinet doors?


So, for those of you who don’t have a sleek trash compactor that slides out seamlessly with a foot press, I am going to recommend The Vipp.

The Danish-made Vipp is so dishy that in 2009, the original model was acquired for the permanent collection at MoMA.

Wow! Wow.

I think it’s fair to say that such a graceful beauty will summon guests to use it. Often.

Large Bin by Vipp

Yes, the Vipp Kitchen Bin does have a hefty price of $469, but it will literally last years and years. It cleans easily and the foot pedal is both fun to use and sanitary! Available from Design Within Reach.

I have two Vipp trash bins at home (a small and an extra-large one) that I bought 9 years ago. They are as handsome as the day I bought them so I can vouch for their extraordinary hardiness.

Definitely worth the money.


One of the biggest problems in bathrooms are guests not wiping down the glass after showering (I mean, why would they? They’re on vacation!); hard water deposits build up and are hard to remove later.

However, guests might be more likely to at least think about wiping down the glass if they could do it with a sleek, squeegee in four easy moves.

Four swipes and they’re done.

Squeegee by Cleret

The Squeegee by Cleret makes it easy to wipe transparent shower doors in approximately 4 wipe downs. Awesome! Available on Amazon for $14.50.

The Cleret Squeegee was invented back in the late 1980’s by Al Hansen and it’s been a big hit ever since. Amazon reviewers claim that the width of the squeegee is so wide that you can wipe down a shower door in only a couple swipes! Check out what the website says about their design-savvy invention:

At Clerét, we don’t make boring, ordinary looking squeegees! Too many other companies are doing that. We make squeegees that are downright cool looking, invitingly fun to use, and work great because that’s what consumers have told us they really want.

So now that the shower door is taken care of, what about the wet towels on the floor?

I got this hot tip on the Home Away forum from a super helpful self-catering cottage owner in the UK. She found a great solution to the problem by providing brightly colored plastic bins in the bathrooms. She swears that guests throw their wet towels into them!


And because they’re plastic, the towels don’t mildew any cloth or fiber lining like in traditional hampers.

I was skeptical initially when I read her advice. Frankly, I find most plastic bins pretty ugly. But after I googled her recommendation, I instantly changed my mind and ordered two for my own laundry room.

They are called a Tubtrugs.

Colorful laundry baskets

Tubtrugs, 100% phthalate-free, food-grade plastic (so they’re safe for pets and kids) are made by UK-based Faulks and Company and come in many fetching colors. They can be put to numerous uses, but I particularly recommend them for gathering used towels. Guests notice their bright colors and literally want to pick them up and put them to use. Available on Amazon for $13.34 for a 10-gallon tub.

Tubtrugs are so fun to look at and use that you can keep them in plain sight; they enhance the decor. And that’s right out of the mouth of an interior designer. Put them in the bathrooms and see how your guests start to throw their towels in them.

They’re also great for storing cleaning products. My husband has one in the garden shed and stores his tools inside. They’re UV fade proof and are almost indestructible.

And they’re a lot cheaper than The Vipp so it’s a no-brainer.


Let’s face it: guests eat and drink all over your vacation home.

They make cocktails, drink wine, sip coffee, snack on chips, eat sandwiches on the rug watching television, run around with cookies in their hands. You get the picture. To be fair, most guests try not to make a mess, but we’re all human.

But when they do spill food, do you think they’re going to get up and lug a big vacuum out and clean it up?

Probably not.

And if they don’t see a coaster for their coffee, wine, water, cocktail or beer, are they going to avoid placing it on your nice wooden table?

Not likely.

The solution is simple:  have a hand-held vacuum in plain sight and provide lots of coasters. Lots.

Rapido Mini Vacuum by Electrolux

The handheld, lithium battery powered Rapido by Electrolux is so gorgeous it won the 2014 Red Dot Award. Available on Amazon for $78.

A well-designed hand vacuum, like the Electrolux Rapido, is attractive enough to have out in the open – on a table or counter – and because guests can see it, they will be more likely to use it. They might even seek out reasons to use it. After all, it sorta looks like a Star Wars weapon, right?

Coasters, coasters and more coasters. I am a big fan. I don’t think you can have too many. Put them in any location where you want guests to use them.

Here is a dashing option.

Agate Coasters by Lawson-Fenning

These coasters enhance the desirability of your beverage! How can guests resist not using them? Available from Lawson-Fenning.


Who is your gatekeeper?

What keeps the majority of the dirt from coming into your rental in the first place?

I’m talking about the doormat.

Did you know that the simple act of wiping your feet prevents 85% of the dirt and contaminants outside from coming into your home? The stats come from an EPA research report called The Door Mat Study.

85% is a big number.

Think of all the cleaning saved, all from one humble doormat!

Lawson-Fenning Wire Mesh Doormat

A good, efficient doormat, like this wire-mesh one by Lawson-Fenning may prevent 85% of the dirt from coming into your vacation rental. $42 from Lawson-Fenning.

Finding a sturdy doormat is essential, preferably one that can be hosed down from time to time. This wire mesh mat from Lawson-Fenning will do the job splendidly and can be used in both winter and summer.


I would love to hear your ideas of how you get your guests to clean up. This is only the beginning of the conversation. I’m on a quest to discover more to help my subscribers.

So what methods and gizmos do you use in your own vacation rental to entice guests to keep your retreat clean?

“We want to know!!!”

To many clean days ahead…..




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