Essential COVID-19 Disinfection Protocols for Short-Term Rentals

COVID-19 is changing the way we live, work, and spend time with our loved ones. It’s no surprise that it should also change the way we clean our rentals. 

We published a complete guide to disinfecting your rentals previously, but many of our customers have gotten in touch to ask for a more detailed breakdown of cleaning protocols while disinfecting. 

  • Do I need to use certain cleaning supplies? 
  • Do I need to change cleaning cloths or rags for different cleaning solutions? 
  • Will I damage electronics if I try to disinfect them?

We put together this guide on cleaning protocols to address these concerns and provide detailed instructions to upgrade your process during the COVID-19 pandemic. These protocols come directly from the CDC, and were reviewed by Durk Johnson of Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals to suggest specific considerations for our industry. 

What Products Should I Use? 

Properly works with customers all over the world, so we’re loath to recommend specific products as they are frequently advertised under different names in different countries, and may have different formulas depending on local regulations. However, we can give specific guidelines recommended by specific regions. 

The EPA has provided a list of disinfectants specifically effective against COVID-19, and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has laid out what ingredients you should look for in a disinfectant to be effective against coronavirus. We will update with lists for other affected countries as they become available. 

For the purposes of disinfection, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol are effective. Diluted bleach solutions are effective, but Durk does not recommend them for household cleaning because they can harm many household surfaces. 

If you are using disinfectant wipes, you must store them with the lids closed. If the wipes have dried out, the disinfectant is no longer active and they will not be effective. 

Watch Out For Deadly Combinations 

Many common household cleansers use ammonia, acids, or bleach. Ammonia is also found in urine, which is essential to know if your cleaners are cleaning after a guest who brought a baby or a pet with them. 

Mixing bleach and ammonia or bleach and acid creates a toxic gas that is very dangerous! Make sure, if you intend to use bleach in your cleaning products, that it does not create a dangerous combination with one of your other cleansers. 

Know Your Dwell Times 

Products come in the form of “ready-to-use”, dilutables (such as bleach) and wipes. With all of these products, it’s essential to read the package completely so that you know which category they fall into and whether or not to dilute the product. Always follow dilution instructions to the letter, and do not “top up” dilutables, as this can render them ineffective or too strong for use on some surfaces. 

Products will have a “dwell” time or a “contact” time listed on the label. These refer to the amount of time your product needs to be on a surface to kill microbes. If your goal is disinfection, make sure your product is on the surface for the correct period of time. 

Use the 8-Fold Method 

You should make sure to use a clean side of the cleaning cloth every time you wipe down a fresh surface, and to change cleaning cloths entirely if you are changing rooms or the type of cleanser you are using. 

The 8-fold method is folding a cloth in half, and then in half again. This gives you eight equally-sized surfaces that you can use one after the other very rapidly by flipping the “pages” of the cloth like a book. 

Keep changing surfaces until you no longer have clean ones, and then move to a fresh cloth. Again: do not use the same cloth for different rooms of the house.

You should use an entirely fresh cloth for the following surfaces: toilets, trash cans, and food prep surfaces. Once you have finished cleaning those areas, discard that cloth and use another fresh one for your next surface. 

Check to See if Your Supplies Need an Update 

You may want to update the list of supplies you provide for your cleaners or that you ask your cleaners to provide for themselves. You want to make sure that the protocols for your supplies aren’t undermining your efforts to disinfect your rentals. 

Cleaning cloths and mop heads. To avoid contaminated supplies, your cleaning cloths and mop heads should be either cotton or microfiber. Microfiber cloths are more absorbant, but need to be laundered separately from other types of material. 

To prevent cross-contamination, use a color-coding system for your cleaning cloths to separate the ones used for regular cleaning from those used for disinfection. You can also use color coding to separate different types of cleanser – for example, if you use bleach in your bathrooms, you won’t want the bleach coming into contact with a laminate countertop. 

The International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA) recommends a four color coding system: 

  • Red: High risk areas such as toilets and restroom floors 
  • Yellow: Low risk areas such as sinks and mirrors 
  • Blue: All-purpose cleaning (desks, side tables, most surfaces)
  • Green: Food preparation areas, including the kitchen and dining table

To address high touch areas specific to vacation rentals (you can find a list of high touch areas you should disinfect in this article), add another color to the list for those areas that are high-touch but do not fall into any of the above categories, such as light switches. 

If you do not have colored cloths currently, you can use permanent marker or sew color-coded labels onto your cleaning cloths as a temporary solution. If this isn’t possible, make sure your cleaners are supplied with enough cloths that they can use a single cloth for each surface type and replace it with a fresh cloth for the next surface. 

Triple Up Your Buckets 

Durk Johnson recommends not using a bucket at all for your cleaning process if possible, as it provides one more surface that needs to be kept disinfected. However, if you currently use a bucket process, take your cue from the CDC and use the three-bucket system

  • Bucket 1 should contain your detergent or cleaning solution. 
  • Bucket 2 is for rinse water.
  • Bucket 3 is for disinfectant. 

Color code your buckets to make sure your cleaners don’t mix up the contents. 

How to Clean Electronics and Touchpads 

You can disinfect electronics by wiping them down with a disinfectant spray or an alcohol-based disposable wipe. 

Do not saturate your electronics! You should never immerse electronics in water. However, a damp cloth and a disinfecting solution will not harm your electronics as long as the cloth is thoroughly wrung out. 

For the crevices of devices like remote controls, temperature controls, and keypads, use a Q-tip soaked in disinfectant. 

Further Reading:

How to Properly Disinfect a Short-Term Rental

Everything Property Managers Need to Know About COVID-19

During this difficult time, Properly is creating free resources to help property managers protect and inform themselves, their guests, their owners, and their service providers. You can find all of those resources here at Everything Property Managers Need to Know About COVID-19.

You can also sign up for our newsletter Properly Informed to get new resources delivered directly to your inbox.