Cleaning and Maintenance of Cottages, Lets and Vacation Rentals

DSCF9743Owners should arrange things to make this easy and practical. High quality bedding and towels not only last longer but tend to be easier to work with. It is a good plan to have at least three and, ideally, four sets of sheets and towels. Egyptian cotton or Turkish cotton are good choices.

Some will choose a lower quality of bedding saying it saves on ironing. This is a trade off. There is no doubt that many (mainly women) will spot cheap bedding and it will have a direct impact on income.  A compromise could be mixed fibre.  People sense and do not like lower quality items for the sake of ‘practicality’.  It says ‘guests come second’ and is a typical sign of low quality cottages and management attitude.

It is a good idea to make sure guests are well informed about how to use certain items in the let.  For instance if you have installed an induction hob a note on how it works is wise and advice that guest should not use certain types of pots, pans or  types of expresso coffee pots on an induction hob.  This may sound overly controlling but family habits die hard and they cause innocent damage calling for unnecessary maintenance or replacements which are avoidable with some forethought.

It is essential to plan, to ensure the few hours between one group leaving and another arriving are used to do all the necessary cleaning and maintenance.  This part of running a holiday let is often the most difficult because there is never a guarantee that every Friday, for the sake of argument, will call for this work to be done.  Some holiday let owners pay a retainer to assisting staff to get over this problem, but in areas of low staff availability, the problem magnifies.  We have seen some holiday lets refuse new bookings for several weeks as their owners make new arrangements to cover for this necessity.  See useful suppliers, national agencies & regional agencies

Some useful items:

Caustic Soda Crystals. Great for cleaning woodburner glass, dealing with seriously dirty ovens and much more. (Always add the crystals to water and protect eyes and hands keep).

Dr Beckmann’s Fake Tan Stain Remover It works well on make-up, fake tan, sun tan & acne cream stains on white towels -  It can be bought on Amazon or eBay.

If you do a significant amount of ironing invest in a steam generator iron.  These are more expensive but are very significantly better and save a huge amount of time when faced with a heap of sheets to get through:  Which reports on these.

More to come later.


A Skeleton Cleaning Check List For Changeovers

Remove items needing washing. (All towels including tea towels, bath mats. Check for stains on mattresses, sheets and towelling).

Start each bedroom from the ceiling downwards.  Do the beds and then the floors in that order.


ash04empty and clean the bin always using a new liner

change bedding. before re-making bed where washing machine is on site, start washing bedding towels etc: now.  If several bedrooms, do this before any other items in check list.

make absolutely certain the bedding is in good condition. this is a key booking quality factor

dust: beds, lights, side tables,

vacuum floor, skirting, beneath furniture.

check drawers,

mop flooring where necessary,

check and clean pictures and mirrors

air where necessary


oak18asurfaces, shelves, basin and taps inside and out, shower and all plumbing.

lavatory inside and out

empty and wash out bin

mop floor and clean mirrors

check and replenish shower gel etc:

replenish toilet paper and check reserve roll

air where necessary


bluebell11empty and clean kitchen bin. then wash hands

clean surfaces

empty fridge

check and clean beneath fridge

check plates and cutlery… for losses or damage

check glasses and clean where needed

check and clean cupboards

clean oven and underneath

ditto microwave

ash10ditto kettle

ditto toaster

ditto other sundry items

empty and wash out bin

clean coffee machine

check on washing liquid

put any new food into fridge or arrange new welcome basket

check tea and coffee, any conserves,

replace sponge. don’t try to economise… they cost pennies and a tired sponge is a small but telling quality failure

check and clean cupboard doors

clean lights, switches, plug sockets

check fire extinguisher and fire blanket


lookout02check and replace table cloth, sofa cover

dust chairs, tables, tv, cupboards, blinds, curtains, pictures, empty bins, vacuum floor

check beneath all furniture.. vacuum there also

mop floor where appropriate

locate and check remote controls; change batteries when necessary

tidy up electric cables

locate and check guests book and / or guest information book

where relevant: clean wood burner (and glass… if necessary us a dilute solution of caustic crystals with gloves and eye protectors) replenish matches, paper, kindling (‘starting sticks’) log basket

constantly check the sofas for condition. this is a key booking quality factor

reposition furniture to standard arrangement where appropriate

air where necessary


077clean inside and outside of windows

empty dustbin, renew bin bags, wash tea towels, oven gloves

test the wi fi from time to time

where relevant, check wood supply and honesty box for wood use

check all lights and double check all plumbing including shower for leaks or potential problems

visual check of decoration especially for marks, scratches, damage to plaster, stains, or any sign of wall paper lifting

check stocks of toilet paper, bin liners, light bulbs, cleaning equipment etc:

if bedding etc: washed on site, remove and dry, iron where necessary, then store.



Check fences for damage

Check gates

Remove any trash or rubbish from the garden or outside area

Mow grass and maintain any flowerbeds

Remove any pet excement (never a fun job)

Check parking area

Make sure all benches, chairs, parasols and other garden furniture is present and in good condition

Check any sun houses

Maintain the hot tub checking the water, chemicals and its condition.  It is often a good idea, and usually much less expensive, to drain the hot tub between booked visits.  This approach significantly reduces any danger of disease or upset and it can also significantly reduce the need for the use of expensive chemical treatment although even so some will still be required.

Check swimming pool similar to checking hot tub above, except that draining and refilling is obviously not an option.  Ensure all safety signs and equipment are in place

Look over the outside of the building to check guttering and for the need for any maintenance

Check the key safe.. if used.  Change key code from time to time.

Sometimes, it can be a good idea to call in on any neighbours


Where appropriate, report to owner that all is well.

Sit down, wipe your forehead and relax for a few minutes.

Thanks to Lay My Hat and Normandie Rentals for much of the changeover check information



It is well worth investing in an iron with a separate water tank / steam generator; do not economise on ironing equipment, it is not worthwhile.  Some find ironing sheets when on the bed a useful short cut.


Shutting down for the Winter

Quite a bit about this is provided in the information for Bed and Breakfast operators under Advice.

However some basic steps are worth listing:

Make a check list of what you will do.  Turn off the water main tap / fawcett.  Once flow has stopped gently turn it back on by about 1/5th of a turn.  Hopefully this will not start the flow again and will insure against the tap seizing up come the spring.  Leave bleach in all the toilets.  Air and strip all beds.  Check security systems including all catches, locks, windows and doors. Empty and clean the fridge / freezer and remove all perishables from the kitchen.  Turn off gas at the cylinders.  (Sometimes it is an idea to take cylinders to a more secure location if possible to remove temptation).  Disconnect all electrical equipment except for security and smoke alarm systems as well as for any internet controlled devices you may have installed.  Use dust sheets.  Leave check list for the spring as a reminder of what is needed to be done.

There are some wrinkles which are worth knowing about.  For instance, if you run a freezer in an outbuilding with an habitually lower ambient temperature, particularly through winter, condensation can develop damaging the freezer where it would be unaffected in a warmer domestic setting.  Many fridges will not perform well in low ambient temperatures and can easily fail to operate so spoiling their contents.  Either empty the freezer or buy suited to a colder ambient temperature.

Much more information can be found under Bed and Breakfast advice  See useful suppliers, national agencies & regional agencies



You may know many of these cleaning ideas but there might be a couple new to you.

It is worth experimenting with surgical spirit (ethanol), white spirit, methylated spirit to see how well they work in different situation but the tips below can be useful.


Biro or ball point marks.

Try a white cloth with methylated spirit.  Ethanol from the chemist cna be useful.

Beetroot stains

Rinse.  For coloureds immerse in a solution of borax for about a quarter of an hour.  For whites apply a dusting of borax to the fabric and rinse using hot water then wash using a biological detergent

Blood stains

Immerse fabric in a strong salt solution in water.  It is also worth trying this with detergent.


Scrape off excess. Cover with brown paper and then use a hot iron.  It can be an idea to freeze the fabric and then crumble off the brittle wax at low temperature

Chewing Gum

Freeze and treat and crumble or scrape off the gum

Tea / Coffee

Do not use soap.  Rinse with cold water and spot detergent on the stain.  Stubborn stains often can be removed with a 33% white vinegar / water solution


Try nail polish remover


Scrape and use meths on a clean white cloth

Fruit juices

If fresh, rinse in cold water later wash with biological detergent.. soak if need be


Dab with a clean cloth and meths, rinse  then wash as usual.

Nail varnish

Remove excess.  Use non-oil based remover followed by meths to pick up any colour traces

Emulsion paint.  Fresh, use water.. and soak.  If dry, use meths followed by normal washing.

Gloss paint

If water solulable, use water.  If dry, apply washing liquid, wipe with white vinegar on a cloth or sponge then rinse and wash.     If oil based use white spirit, followed by a rinse and a wash.

Pencil marks.

Concentrated washing up liquid rubbed into the mark, then rinse and wash.

Rust stains

Apply a lemon and some salt rubbing into the material.  Leave for about 30 minutes then rinse and wash.

Shoe polish marks

Use a cloth and dab some white spirit.  Then wash.

Red Wine

For washable material, pour fizzy water on the area affected, then use kitchen towelling to mop up.  Try applying a generous amount of salt to the area.  Rinse with cold water, sponge with washing liquid and water, rinse and then wash as usual.  Believe it or not there is a web site dedicated to wine stain removal:

White Wine.

If still fresh, rinse and wash.  If dry, work in some concentrated washing liquid to be followed by soaking and washing with biological powder.



Blocked or leaking guttering and down pipes can cause significant damage for want of a simple check.  Water management is the single most cost effective maintenance job you can do.

Check roof tiles.  Again, this can save immense sums by taking simple steps.

When building try to use pressure treated timber otherwise spend some time to add protection to existing wood such at window and door frames.

Keep an eye in all electrical appliances.  Power surges can damage them.  In the off season when, perhaps, bookings are few in number, unplug them as this could save a significant sum.

Likewise check the plumbing.  One flood can be as good as a fire when it comes to cost and damage.  Burst pipes are an especial danger.  Lag and insulate pipes and, of course, lag and insulate the roof.  It can be an idea to leave the loft entrance open in very cold weather to equalise a slightly warmer temperature throughout the building.  If temperatures threaten to go very low and no guests are no the horizon, in certain circumstances, consider draining the water system.  This may be a bother but once you have had to clear up after a major leak, the work involved will seem more than adequate good value insurance.

If you have a wood burner or open fire keep the chimney well swept.  Depending on the design of the flue and use different periodic sweeping will be necessary. It will also obviate nearly all the danger of chimney fires or simply a blocked or inefficient draft causing the danger smoke in the house.

Keep all trees well maintained.  Control creepers and climbing plants making sure they never go to the eves.  Tree and plant roots can be an issue.  Vegetation such as rotten branches can cause significant damage come the next major gale.

Make sure all locks are sound and work as they should.  This includes window locks, all catches and main door locks (which should be double acting).  It can be an idea to instaLl an alarm if your holiday let is remote from your home or remote from the eyes of local people who may keep an eye on things as well as deter unwelcome visitors by their presence at the same time.

Take care if you decide to use key safes; there can be insurance implications:

Buy a good one with a 5-7 didget code.  Locate out of site but in a place that is easy to use for those not used to operating them.  Bolt it firmly to the wall.  Leave keys in the key safe for the minimum practical period. Suggest to guests not to store keys in the safe during their stay.  Change the safe code between lets.  Do not leave keys for long periods in the key safe.

As with so many things, it comes down to thoughtful management to avoid problems with keysafes.


This information is provided by way of contrast and to prompt further investigation before acting.  As ever, seek relevant professional or competent people to check before taking any decisions.  Where applicable, all contents of this website are copyright Country Holiday Lets Ltd   See useful suppliers, national agencies & regional agencies