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top 10 bed and breakfast cleaning tips | a pile of pastel sponges and a basket of cleaning products

Top 10 tips for cleaning your bed and breakfast

running a bed and breakfast starting up a bed and breakfast Apr 20, 2021

This week’s blog post is my top tips for cleaning your bed and breakfast.

And my top tip is

“Get someone else to do the cleaning for you”

OK, that makes it’s the shortest blog post ever, more of a tweet really. 

When I was writing the online B&B course I wrote the notes first, then produced the slides and then recorded the lessons. When I went to look for the lesson on cleaning, I realised I’d completely left it out of the course notes!

To anyone who knows me fairly well, this will come as no real surprise because I really don’t like cleaning at all, which is a bit unfortunate for a B&B landlady. It  really is the part of the job that takes up most of your time.

So why is this blog so long? Really how difficult is this, Karen?

OK, so this blog has turned from a tweet into war and peace but ……

For most B&B owners cleaning is the task that takes up the most time.

For a changeover, one set of guests leaves in the morning and another new set arrives in the evening, I allow (pre COVID) about 1 hour 20 minutes per room.

Read more about room tidies ( room refreshes ) here >> Should you do a room refresh at your bed and breakfast when guests are staying?

The thing with cleaning the rooms is that you normally have time constraints. You have to have it finished by a certain time.

In my office job at BA if  I hadn’t finished a report or couldn’t make it to a meeting, I could usually apologise and reschedule. You can’t do that with a guest who arrives at check in “Oh sorry, we haven’t manage to clean your room today, please come back tomorrow”

And if you’re running a B&B on your own you're dependent on lots of other stuff before you can start cleaning.

You may have to wait till guests finish breakfast or check out before you can start cleaning. If there are 2 or more of you or if you have staff, they can be getting on with cleaning whilst you are waiting for breakfast to finish or check outs.

And there are very have tos in running  a B&B , aside from the legal stuff BUT you HAVE TO HAVE CLEAN ROOMS

It doesn’t matter what type of B&B you run, from cheap and cheerful to high end luxury, cleanliness is really important. And this is even more the case in the days of COVID19. The cleaning burden on B&Bs has increased significantly as a result of the extra tasks that need doing.

If a room isn’t clean, that’s when the guest complaints and bad reviews start to pour in. And even worse, someone could get ill.

Back to my first top tip on cleaning - unfortunately, I’d make no profit as a B&B if I did pay someone else to clean for me all of the time. So I’ve had to come up with some hacks that allow me to get through it as efficiently as possible.

1 Design your rooms to be easy to clean

One thing I really wished I’d done BEFORE SETTING UP MY B&B ROOMS is consider designing them from the perspective of how easy they would be to clean. The room design checklist, available with the online course, was born from this mistake!

Are the electric sockets in an easy place for you to plug in the vacuum cleaner?

Are there lots of surfaces to clean?

Do you really want to be getting on a step ladder every time you clean the room to clean the dust and insect corpses out of that trendy uplighter lamp shade?

Why did I think that ledge running all around the huge room would be a good idea?

You can read more in this blog post --> The Top 8 Mistakes I made setting up my B&B rooms

And remember it’s not just cleaning the B&B bedrooms but also the dining room, kitchen and any other common areas.

So, when you’re designing a room, look at every design element, piece of furniture, cushion, ornament and imagine yourself cleaning it everyday for the next 17 years. How easy is it to clean? Is there an alternative that will make your life easier?

2 Allow just enough time to do the cleaning

In 1955, Cyril Northcote Parkinson defined Parkinson’s Law:

“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion”

And, in my experience, this is never more true than when you’re cleaning the B&B.

If you’ve got all day to clean the B&B before guests arrive, that’s exactly how long you’ll spend cleaning.

I recommend you decide exactly how long you are going to spend cleaning the room, turn off your phone and any other distractions off, set an old fashioned kitchen timer - your phone is off remember - and go...

If you are someone who gets into the habit of picking your phone all of the time, then I recommend the Forest App. You decide how long you want to go without picking up your phone, e.g. the amount of time you’ve decided you’re going to take to clean and set the app going to grow a tree! If you pick up your phone inadvertently it will remind you to put it down again!

3 Make cleaning fun

OK, this is obviously quite a stretch for me, but if you’re not a cleaning fan,  associating something you enjoy with cleaning can really help motivate you to get started.

Listening to music is an obvious one.  I have several cleaning playlists on Spotify.

I suggest you create the most motivating compilation you can. Start with Journey - Don't stop believing and see what spotify recommends from there…

Though this comes with a warning - I always remember the day that I was warbling along to Whitesnake at full volume, hand down a toilet, when the guests turned up 2 hours early. It was the downstairs room with the door open, so they let themselves in. I jumped a mile and uttered a very unlandladylike expletive when they said a loud hello right behind me.

Not exactly the first impression - landlady, showered, smartly dressed, wearing a frilly apron, greeting them with a smile and a homemade lemon drizzle cake - I was hoping to make.

When I’m not doing my best rock chick impression, I really like to listen to audio books or podcasts. You can check out my favourite Audible books and get a free 30 day trial by clicking here

4 Identify all of the tasks that need doing

Identify a minimum set of essential cleaning tasks for each room, and then a set of cleaning tasks that could be done but aren’t essentials. Prioritize the essential tasks, then fit in the non essentials when you have  a bit more time.

E.g. cleaning the bathroom and changing the bed between guests are essentials but cleaning the windows or dusting the top of the wardrobe, whilst you should really remove all dust from the room at each clean, could possibly be left for a day when you have more time.


5 Create a schedule for all of your cleaning tasks

All this scheduling and creating lists may seem like overkill. But trust me, there are days when you're going to thank me for suggesting this, as you'll need to get things done with military precision.

As well as identifying all of the tasks you need to do, you need to work out what order you’re going to do all of your cleaning tasks in.

For example, the first thing you’ll want to do when changing over a room is to strip the beds and remove all of the dirty bed linen, towels, used crockery and toiletries.

I will normally clean the bathroom first, dust the bedroom, vacuum, make the bed, then bring all of the replacement items back into the room. I’ll finish with washing the floors.

You could also schedule certain tasks for later in the day. Getting the guest rooms ready to your minimum cleaning standard needs to be the first thing that gets done. Cleaning the kitchen is also an essential each day, but could be done once the guests have arrived if you’re really pushed for time.

You may also split your schedules into per changeover, daily, weekly, monthly. You would always do certain tasks every changeover, but some tasks you may only do weekly or monthly, such as cleaning windows or changing mattress protectors.

To be honest I tend to schedule in the non essential tasks for the days we’re not so busy, rather than having a set day of the week or month to do them.

Remember that you’re not just cleaning the rooms. You may also be having to shop for supplies, bake cakes and bread, doing laundry, ironing, answering the telephone, dealing with online bookings, doing your marketing.

6 Create a Cleaning checklist

Create a checklist to  make sure you’ve covered everything that needs to be done when you’re changing over or tidying a B&B room.

After a few weeks of cleaning your B&B, you’ll find that you don’t have to refer to the list. But It’s still really useful to have just in case you have to hand the cleaning over to someone else in an emergency or take on staff.

As a little bonus, here’s my B&B COVID checklist, usually only shared with people who take my course.. If you want to use it, make a copy of it and rename it.

7 Make sure you have the right equipment

Having the right cleaning equipment can make a huge difference in the time it takes to clean. - check out the last section in the blog for more equipment ideas favourites from other B&B owners.

It’s a really good idea to have spares  in case something goes wrong. Let’s look at vacuum cleaners as an example.

I’ve been through quite a few different makes of vacuum cleaner in my 16 years of running a B&B. I’m now firmly settled on a Miele Cat and Dog Cylinder. They’re not that heavy and are very efficient at removing dust, dirt and dog hair.  I have one for upstairs and one downstairs. If your budget allows,  I would recommend one for each floor to save you time hauling them up and downstairs.

I also have a Shark rechargeable. This is a great vacuum for doing room tidies and quick vacuums. It also transforms into a handheld - great for vacuuming up crumbs and stray hairs. However I would never have this as my only vacuum. I don’t think the rechargeable is up to the job for a changeover.

And of course, I love my Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner.

More details in this blog post here 

Another gadget which I love is my spray mop. It makes life so much easier than carrying around  a heavy bucket and mop each time you need to clean a floor!

I got mine from KOH as part of a package. But this one on Amazon is very similar and highly rated

Another simple tip that was a bit of a game changer for me to use the large car cleaning microfibre cloths for cleaning, rather than the small fiddly ones that they usually sell as bathroom cleaning cloths.

8 Find the right cleaning products

Finding the right cleaning products that actually work is a bit of trial and error.

I swear by distilled white vinegar for cleaning glass and chrome. I like Method as it’s environmentally friendly and smells nice.

Bio D sanitiser meets the EN1276 standard for COVID19 and is environmentally friendly.

9 Plan for when things go wrong

As I’ve mentioned it’s a really good idea to have spares of equipment in case something breaks down.

But it’s also sensible to have a stock of cleaning products that can deal with emergencies such as red wine being spilt on the carpet.

You should also plan for situations such a mattress protector or bedding getting damaged. I have had a couple of incidents of people having diarrhea in the bed ( Too much information I know - I'm sorry but it can happen ). Luckily the mattress protector saved the mattress but the protector was a write off. The first time it happened I had to rush out to try and find a new protector as I didn’t have a spare - lesson learned.

10 Getting Help with the cleaning

If you're going to hire someone to help with the cleaning, remember, that at the end of the day, the responsibility for making sure that room is clean is yours. If there’s something wrong with the room then your guests aren’ going to care whose fault it was!

My cleaners now are very good but in the past I've had staff who will forget to do things - like cleaning the toilet or the bath. Once one of them forgot to do a  whole bedroom - that is actually a recurring nightmare of mine - luckily it was for my daughter staying so it wasn’t a disaster!

For that reason I always check the rooms after it’s been cleaned by someone else. 

And by the way, you're definitely going to need that checklist if you're getting someone else to help you with the cleaning.

Find out more about more about the daily routine of a B&B owner in this blog post here --> What does a B&B owner actually do all day?Some more practical tips from B&B owners

I went out to the Facebook Group of Course Attendees for some of their B&B Cleaning Tips!

“To remove nasty mould from grout in small areas: spray cotton wool pads with mould and mildew remover (I use Astonish). Press the pads (wearing gloves of course) onto the grout and leave for a minimum of 20 mins. Et voilà! Clean grout without scrubbing”

“I would be lost without my Karcher ... windows, shower screens, glass and all hard surfaces ” and to ensure it’s streak free “There is a technique.... warm water with a squidge of fairy liquid and a drop of white vinegar. Don’t apply pressure when going over with the dryer. Buff when dry with a good glass cloth”

“Not really a cleaning tip but I have invested in a hot water tap in the kitchen.... no need to keep refilling and reboiling the kettle! Happy days. It also does filtered still drinking water.

Also a soda stream for providing fizzy water without all the plastic bottles

Jacky Godfrey Raise View Grasmere

“Norwex envirocloth and window cloth for all things glass and chrome” 

“And my mangle and wringer washing powder - made from a traditional recipe with no fillers so only use white vinegar for rinsing no fabric conditioner needed”

Julie Del Morlea Bed and Breakfast, Loch Ness

“I’d recommend a Neato robot vacuum cleaner. Mine cleans the downstairs of my house everyday on a schedule and will be doing the communal areas of my new guesthouse. It actually maps the room and then cleans it logically (unlike the ones that just bump around). My robot mop will also be coming to Blackpool. I just need a robot bed maker now!”

Alton Hobbs, Blackpool

“Ecover limescale wonders on our shower screens (local water supply is via a mineral rich borehole and we all suffer from streaky shower screens).”

Fiona Dodds, The Rumblie, Laggan

“Microfibre cloths are brilliant, but stay away from cheap ones. Never use fabric softener on them or they will not work properly.”

Alison Hallett

"Dew cleaner for mirrors, no streaks"

Catriona haskell, Millburn B&B, Skye

“Car cleaning cloths for the showers, plus a product called 'White Rock' which I think has been discontinued . Couldn't live without my spray mop too (so much easier than lugging a bucket around) and the Miele Cat and Dog is the best vacuum cleaner I've ever owned.”

Clare Wright, The School House B&B, Shropshire

“For someone remodeling, I'd recommend paying lots of attention to the window sills. I've been quite pedantic about getting the window sills completely smooth, in large part to make them easy to clean. Having lived in quite a few old houses, poorly painted window sills often have several layers of paint and drips and caulk that's coagulated in the corners, which produces the perfect place for dust to find permanent hibernation. And unless you're regularly doing the toothbrush routine around the edges with lots of water, it's supremely difficult to keep them clean.

So we stripped a lot of paint off, sanded the sills till the wood was like silk, primed them, and then painted them bright white with two layers of high gloss paint. It was a lot of work, but dust just does not collect... a quick wipe of the cloth and it's sparkly clean, and there's no digging into window sill corners to get the dust collecting in edges. Anyone glancing them at can easily see how clean it all is.”

Leah Weintraub, Illinois, USA

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