Preparing for your (rental) guests

Preparing for your (rental) guests

Steve and I are very deadline driven.  Renting out our cottage means that the spring cleaning that should be done, actually gets done in preparation for our rental guests arriving for the summer season.  We always want everything to be absolutely perfect but we’ve learned over many rental experiences that it doesn’t have to be.  Our guests don’t know that we’ve been meaning to replace our wood shed or that a bunkie is in the plans.  They think our place is perfect the way it is.  As long as our pictures were accurate, we know that people won’t be disappointed.  But it does have to be CLEAN.

Here’s how we prepare our rental properties at the beginning of the rental season:


  • Wash sheets, mattress cover, duvets, vacuum mattress and make bed
  • Clear out drawers in dressers (we store our personal belongings in the locked garage)
  • Clear all coats and shoes from the mudroom
  • Clean mirrors and windows
  • Dust every surface, including blinds
  • Wash windows
  • Vacuum
  • Wash curtains
  • Change batteries in smoke detectors (one should be in the room or just outside the door)


  • Thoroughly clean shower, including scrubbing grout.
  • Wash shower curtain/clean glass door
  • Ensure shampoo, conditioner and bottled soap plentiful (individual soaps don’t work as they have to be thrown out after someone uses them)
  • Clean toilet (we don’t use bleach as we’re on a septic system)
  • Clean and organize vanity – I’m talking vacuuming out drawers and wiping down, putting away personal items but leaving any first aid related items, insect repellent, sunscreen and toothpaste
  • Vacuum and wash floor
  • Clean mirror and windows
  • Put out fresh towels
  • First aid kit obvious and accessible
  • Clean out the garbage can
  • Provide lots of extra toilet paper in an obvious location

Mudroom/Laundry Room:

  • Put away our shoes
  • Put away our coats
  • Ensure there is enough laundry detergent for the washer and dryer sheets for the dryer
  • Leave an umbrella or two
  • We leave headlamps for coming back up from the beach after the sun has set

Living area:

  • Ensure games accessible
  • Provide books, magazines and tourist brochures
  • Wash sofa slipcovers, pillow covers and throws
  • Vacuum furniture and floors
  • Wash floors
  • Dust
  • Provide binoculars along with a bird and mammal book
  • Wash windows – our views are spectacular so clean windows are key
  • Clean out fireplace/wood stove and lay it with kindling just in case it’s chilly and the guests need to start a fire.  Leave firewood beside the fireplace, along with matches and instructions for lighting.


  • Fridge and freezer:
    • clean out perishables
    • stock condiments, including maple syrup – people who are travelling don’t necessarily have these with them.  I sometimes leave cream for the coffee
    • Clean entire fridge
    • Leave note saying “help yourself”
  • Pantry
    • pancake mix – breakfast is not included in this listing but I thought it might be a nice touch for next to no cost
    • coffee, tea, hot chocolate
    • basic spices
    • Marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers for S’mores
  • Clean oven
  • Clean stove, sink, under sink
  • Ensure fire extinguisher current
  • Clean microwave
  • Clean crumbs out of toaster
  • Set out fresh dish towels and dish cloth
  • Clean out garbage can and recycling
  • Ensure hand soap and dish washing liquid full
  • Wipe down cupboards, inside and out
  • Clean utensil holder
  • Vacuum and wash floor
  • Ensure plenty of extra garbage bags and other cleaning supplies


  • Clean all outdoor furniture and cushions
  • Fill up the propane tank for the Barbecue and fire table
  • Put out the Muskoka chairs around the fire pit, on the dock and the beach
  • Weed whack any paths and cut lawn over septic but otherwise we leave our place pretty natural
  • Plant flower baskets/planters
  • Clean out gutters
  • Ensure no pesky little critters can get in by plugging all possible holes with steel wool


  • Store any personal items here
  • lock away paddles – watercraft are not included in our rental due to insurance policy

We find that each guest leaves the cottage so clean, that the work in between guests is not too challenging.  Just the usual changing of sheets, wiping down of the bathroom, vacuuming and washing floors, cleaning out garbage/recycling and restocking.  It takes no more than two hours.  And now that we’re so busy, we’ve hired a local cleaner as our bookings are back to back.

On Airbnb, guests give you an overall rating out of five as well as ratings for accuracy, check in, location, communication, value and cleanliness.  Ensure that you earn those five stars by taking the time to prepare your listing.  Those reviews are so key and you want people to specifically mention how clean your place is like this review did…


Do you rent out your cottage?  Any cleaning tips to add to the list?  Please comment below.


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