The Complete Airbnb Cleaning Process (that we use)
I’m skipping the intro fluff in this article. Below you’ll find our complete Airbnb cleaning process. We’ve been using this process more or less for the entire 5+ years we’ve been hosting and managing Airbnbs.
Our Airbnb Cleaning Process
Here’s a list of everything we do when we clean one of our Airbnbs, and the list is roughly in the order the tasks are completed.
1. Strip all used beds, gather towels and start laundry
The process of cleaning (we usually use the term “flipping”) and Airbnb is somewhat repetitive, and after you have 50 or so flips under your belt you start to learn some small tricks to minimize the amount of it takes to finish.
One of these tricks is to start all your cleaning machines first.
You’ll learn this quickly the first time you finish cleaning and your laundry is still running.
So the first thing I do is strip all the beds that were used (we leave unused beds alone), gather up all the towels and anything else that needs to go into the laundry and start it up.
Note: we use hypoallergenic laundry detergent.
I also start the dryer if an old load is still in there from our last “flip.” That way if I need to use that clean laundry for something it won’t be wrinkly.
2. Gather used dishes and start dishwasher
Next I head to the kitchen. Look for any dishes that were used, which means anything in the sink or kitchen, but also check for dishes in the bedrooms and living room.
Get that dishwasher started as quickly as possible so you can hopefully unload the clean dishes before you leave.
If you don’t have a dishwasher, then it doesn’t matter as much when you clean the dishes. But I will say that I do all the dirty things I possibly can at the beginning (must do trash towards the end), and then I wash my hands before starting on everything else.
3. Put everything back in its place
This is a “clean task.” So I usually take a moment and wash my hands before putting everything back in its place.
Some guests do a great job at putting everything back in its place, but even these guests usually misplace a few items.
Get your decorative pillows, tissue boxes, blankets, coffee tables, chairs and whatever else back to its correct location.
Note: if you clean Airbnbs while watching a child (done this dozens of times) you’ll want to do this step towards the very end, otherwise your child will undo your work.
Doing this now will help everything else move faster. If you don’t do it right away, you’ll find yourself vacuuming and trying to move things around. It’s faster to do one thing at a time and finish the job before starting on your next task.
4. Wipe down all countertops
I like to wipe down countertops early in the process to get all the crumbs and stuff onto the floor. That way when it’s time to vacuum I kill two birds with one stone.
Plus, I’ll be disinfecting later, so I don’t try to spend too much time cleaning countertops unless there’s a real mess. Something like sticky jelly or a coffee spill should be cleaned now, but don’t worry about getting a streak-free countertop just yet.
5. Clean bathrooms
Cleaning bathrooms is one of the worst tasks during an Airbnb flip. It’s best to get it done early in the process when you still have your energy.
We use old towels and rags to clean the bathroom so we’re not throwing away wipes all the time.
As such, I usually go through a process of cleaning increasingly dirty things. I’ll start with the sink area, then move on to the shower, and finally hit the toilet. That way the towel is never cleaning something after having touched something else that’s much dirtier.
You must clean your bathrooms thoroughly every single time you flip. It’s the only thing that I never skip Other things can be skipped if guests didn’t interact with those things, but it’s impossible to tell with toilets so just clean them every time.
6. Replace towels
Now I start on another list of “clean” tasks. So time to wash hands again.
Now, I start putting out fresh towels in every place where a towel is needed. Hand towels, kitchen towels and shower towels that were put in the laundry get replaced.
7. Make all beds
Then I go through and put new, clean sheets on every bed that was used by the previous guests. Kate taught me this really nice way of making beds that can make even the most boring beds look luxurious.
I need to write an article about that.
8. Clean furniture
Now it’s time to get out the vacuum cleaner and get to work. I start with the couches and chairs, either brushing them onto the floor or just going straight on the furniture with the vacuum wand.
Make sure you don’t leave any crumbs, or feathers. We have so many down pillows that feathers end up on furniture all the time.
9. Clean floors
Once the furniture is cleaned it’s time to move on to the floors. We always vacuum everything and if needed we will mop.
One trick I use is to vacuum the back of a carpeted room first and slowly make my way to the door. If you keep your back to the door the whole time you’ll vacuum over all your footsteps and the carpet will look super clean.
10. Refill supplies
We’ve finished the bulk of the cleaning tasks now. It’s time to start making your way to the exits. You may refill supplies along the way (or better yet move this task to the beginning of your cleaning routine), but I tend to leave it until the end.
This way I can make note of any supplies that are running low and will need to be bought.
No reason why you couldn’t do this before your cleaning though.
11. Take out trash and recycling
This is another lesson learned from dozens (perhaps hundreds) of cleanings over the years. Leave the trash until the end.
If you do it at the beginning you’ll be throwing away random stuff while you clean and have to do the trash a second time.
If you keep a recycling container in the house (we always do) then clear this out as well.
I generally just throw this stuff outside the front door and pick it up as I’m leaving.
12. Set out consumables
Definitely wash your hands again before doing anything with food.
We put out muffins, coffee, tea, granola bars, oatmeal and sometimes other things for our guests to enjoy during their stay. I usually do this at the end, but I think you could throw it into a number of other spots and potentially save some time.
13. Finishing touches
There may be something special that you do that needs to happen for each guest before you leave. We put a sign up in one of our listings and we have to change the name out for every guest.
If you have something like this, now is a good time to do it.
You may also have other verification tasks to do here. One thing I like to do is verify that the TV is still connected to the internet and logged into Netflix.
14. Disinfect all surfaces
Before you leave the house, you should disinfect all commonly touched surfaces. This includes countertops, doorknobs, sink and fridge handles, remote controls, and toilet handles.
We started doing this to get in line with Airbnb’s enhanced cleaning guidelines that showed up during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
15. Handle trash and recycling
On my way out I grab the trash and recycling to be disposed of. Depending on what location I’m at and what day it is, I may put the bags out to the curb, put them in my car to be hauled somewhere or put them in an on-site outdoor trash can.
The Evolution Of Cleaning Airbnbs As We’ve Grown
So there you have it. That’s what we do to prepare our spaces for new guests.
But over the years we’ve gone from 1 listing, to 2 listings to 3 and now 4. With each home we add to our portfolio the demands of hosting change.
Sure we’ve been using automated messaging software and the like, but the most intensive part of hosting is definitely cleaning/flipping.
So we’ve had to adapt, sometimes more slowly that we would like. And here’s roughly the timeline we’ve gone through.
- Kate and I cleaned everything ourselves for a couple years
- As we added a second listing, I had to run out to clean them over my lunch break while Kate sometimes fit one into her schedule as well (these were the major “hustle” years)
- After listing #3, we decided we ought to get some help. We found a cleaner and she helped us out when possible, but Kate and I still ended up doing most of the flips.
- This cleaner eventually moved away and we began doing 100% of the flips again
- While prepping for listing #4, Kate got really serious about automating the cleaning process (by now she had quit her job and managed the Airbnb business full-time)
- We went out and found 2 cleaners, later adding a 3rd, and ever since we’ve mostly removed ourselves from the cleaning process.
Kate is very close with our cleaners, and keeps in touch with them daily. We call them all friends now and Kate spends time with them outside of Airbnb stuff.
We even threw a “company” Christmas party this past year with everyone getting together and celebrating. As we look to add more listings in the future we continue to find ways to optimize the cleaning process.
Someday, I’d like to write up a handful of articles on scaling your Airbnb business over time. But for now, this is the quick and dirty summary of how we got to where we are with cleaning 4 listings.
The process of cleaning your Airbnbs in between guests is pretty involved, but repetitive enough that you can really streamline the process after doing it a few dozen times.
At my peak a couple years ago I was able to leave work, clean our smallest Airbnb, eat my lunch (usually leftovers), and drive back to work all within my 80 minute lunch break. Of course, if a guest was particularly messy, I was late back to work, but still not bad.
Mastering the cleaning process is a crucial part of running a growing Airbnb business.