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5 Ways to Ensure A Vacation Rental Meets Your Definition of Clean | Frommer's G.Tbov / Shutterstock

5 Ways to Ensure A Vacation Rental Meets Your Definition of Clean

Every vacation renter claims their units will be clean, but in reality, many of them cut corners. Here's how to make sure your Airbnb or home rental is sanitized to your own standards.
The rental home business is booming. Demand at some agencies has as much as doubled from 2020 through 2021. Homes away from home—houses, villas, condos, and apartments—provide families more privacy than a resort stay and more space for the money than booking several hotel rooms.

Control over cleanliness has been another motivator for people who now choose rentals over hotels. VRBO, Airbnb and other mega-rental companies have tried to meet Covid-19 concerns by posting clarified cleanliness protocols—but only as as guidance, not as law. The fact is not every property takes pains to make sure everything is scoured clean between rentals.

So how can you tell if the unit you intend to rent will meet your definition of clean?  

Screen for well-reviewed hosts. Consider renting from a top-rated account. Although doing so doesn’t guarantee spotless lodgings, it may help. Previous renters who cared about things like dirt-free bathrooms, schmutz-less floors, and greasy counters will usually mention prior dissatisfaction through reviews and lower ratings.

Analyze the cleaning fee. Many renters tack on a cleaning fee that may amount to several hundred dollars, depending on the size and duration of your stay. Ask specific questions about what the fee covers.

For example, are glass shower doors or shower curtains washed between customers? Since I’m allergic to dust, I ask if ceiling fan blades (which can be dust collectors) are wiped off.     

Bring your own bedding and towels. When I questioned the top-rated owner of one rental, she disclosed that she washes the blankets once a season, at the beginning. I negotiated with her to wash the blankets before my stay. Since she couldn’t remember when she last dry cleaned the bedspreads, she agreed to take them off the beds before I arrived. Her pillows were only replaced every few years, and not recently. We brought our own. 
Many European hotels don’t even furnish washcloths because it’s assumed guests would never want to share them to clean themselves. Following on that sensible tradition, you might want to bring any cloth that will be touching your body. That means towels, sheets, and pillowcases, but not necessarily blankets, bedspreads, and pillows.
Some U.S. vacation rental homes require you to bring your linens, anyway. Ask what you should bring and when each bedding component was last cleaned.  

Ask about the windows. It's fine to inquire about how often windows and glass doors are swabbed. This sounds petty, but not when you pay top dollar for a beachfront view of the lapping waves but can’t see them because of a layer of accumulated grit. At one place we were about to take, a former renter’s review mentioned “cloudy” sliding doors obstructing his view. We negotiated to have them washed before our arrival. 

Besides, a dirty window can also be a sign of other cleaning steps that aren't being undertaken on a regular basis.

Take a census of cleaning supplies. Find out what’s provided. One of our recent rentals had an array of cleansers for counters and floors, while the owner of another warned us that he provided none—which meant that his place rarely sees even casual wipe-downs aside from the one that happens during the few hours someone drops by with their own cleansers.

If it makes you feel more comfortable, bring your own antiseptic counter wipes and sprays. 

Remember: Unlike staying at a hotel, where toiletries are usually discarded between guests, at a home rental, it’s a more hygienic practice to pack your own soap, shampoo—in fact, some rentals won't provide them—and even (if you’re a stickler) your own toilet paper.