Cleaning your vacation rental property can be a tedious, time-consuming task on a normal day, let alone in the midst of a global pandemic. So what measures should you be taking to ensure company and guest safety? How has property cleanup changed over the last few months and what does this mean for the future?
The Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals (VRHP), a subsidiary of the Vacation Rental Management Association (VRMA), has developed augmented recommendations for cleaning vacation rental properties in light of COVID-19. The guidelines include a plethora of information and best practices on topics focusing on disinfection and sanitation techniques, proper use of personal protective equipment, recommended products, maintenance, communication processes and more.
The new guidelines are part of the VRMA & VRHP SafeHome campaign, which empowers members to adopt and execute safe travel standards that conform to—and, in many cases, exceed—those that are mandated nationally, statewide or locally. The SafeHome initiative encourages all vacation rental management professionals to openly communicate with guests and employees about the precautions they are taking to help keep them safe and healthy.
The Definition of Clean
The right approach to cleaning begins with knowing the difference between sanitization and disinfection.
“While those two words are similar, the processes are very, very different,” says VRHP Executive Director Durk Johnson. “When I disinfect a hard surface, that means the product has to sit for a specific amount of time on the surface to kill that virus or bacteria that the label says it’s been tested against.”
Speaking from a sanitization standpoint, Johnson says, spraying the cleaning product on the surface simply reduces the number of virus microbes or bacteria on that surface, thus reducing your chance of getting sick. Knowing not only what products to use, but understanding the product to make sure you’re using it appropriately is vital.
“We can disinfect a hard surface—hardwood floors, tile, countertops, toilets, tubs—because the product can actually sit on the surface and kill the bacteria or virus,” he says.
The Right Tools for the Job
Due to the constant need of cleaning supplies amidst the pandemic, Johnson says reaching out to a local janitorial supply company is the best route to go. Many products are already sold before the supply truck even arrives to the dock, he says, so calling to make sure your name is on those products and also to make sure that these products being offered have been tested to kill COVID-19 is essential.
Johnson recommends reading the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA’s) continually updated list of disinfectants for use against the virus, which includes about 400 products you can use. “We want to make sure we’re using the appropriate product on the appropriate surface and that kills the appropriate viruses and bacteria.”
Timing is Everything
How long should a vacation rental manager wait to enter a property after a guest departs? Since no one can be sure a guest didn’t have COVID-19, management professionals should assume they did. Housekeepers need to think about not just the virus on surfaces, but also how long it takes for virus particles to settle on surfaces that need to be disinfected and sanitized. With summer months approaching, waiting at least 24 hours before entering a unit can be difficult, so getting the air circulating is a way to speed up that process.
“It’s this whole symphony, if you will, of steps we need to do to ensure that those that are going into clean are safe and that the property is ready to receive the guests,” Johnson says.”
(Guest) Safety First
Another important element is communicating to guests about your enhanced cleaning efforts.
“We want vacation rental properties to tell their stories and talk about what they’re doing and learning,” Johnson says.
However, it can be difficult, as new information about COVID-19 is constant, which means ongoing change to cleaning methods.
Johnson says that finding a way to cut through all the noise going on to share your message is absolutely necessary because “if you’re not sharing your message and you’re not telling your story, somebody else is going to tell a different storyline with a different ending, and it may be to your disadvantage.”
Join VRHP Executive Director Durk Johnson and Michelle Williams, VRHP council chairperson and VRMA Board member, in VRMA’s Arrival Podcast episode as they dive into these new guidelines and discuss the best ways to implement them into your housekeeping routines moving forward. Visit the VRHP standards and practices page to learn more and view the new guidelines. For more COVID-19 information, you can visit the VRMA COVID-19 resources page.
*The cleaning guidelines are not legal or medical advice, and are subject to change as more information becomes available about COVID-19. VRHP further recommends that all housekeeping staff complete training regarding proper and safe cleaning techniques and property security. Because guest and employee safety is paramount, VRMA and VRHP will continue their efforts to educate and inform members and the professional vacation rental management community overall of evolving guidelines and recommendations so that they are always able to provide a safe and enjoyable environment to guests, staff and the general public.