Avada’s “Dirty Little Secrets” for Cleaning & Maintaining Cabins

You’ve heard it time and again: maintaining a well-organized and spotless cabin is not only vital for your reputation but also for your financial success. We don’t want to sound like a broken record, but cleaning and maintenance should be at the top of your priority list as an owner.

Trust us, cleaning and maintaining a cabin is a universe of its own — unlike anything you’ve experienced with your own home. With a constant influx of guests, every short-term rental property requires more frequent cleaning and upkeep. 

Thinking this sounds like a hotel? Not exactly. Rentals usually have a different set of spaces, like kitchens, dining rooms, outdoor areas, and so on. That’s why they require their own set of rules and procedures.

At Avada, we like to think that a missed spot is a missed dollar — or many missed dollars. If a guest writes a review about an unclean cabin, folks that read it may end up with a negative impression.

Read on for nine of our “dirty little secrets” for cleaning and maintaining cabins.

1. We draw a line between routine cleaning and deep cleaning

We always strive to provide guests with an immaculate experience, but conducting a deep clean after each checkout is time-consuming and extremely costly. Instead, we opt for routine cleaning while reserving deep cleans for select times throughout the year. 

But what exactly is the difference?

Routine cleaning

Routine cleaning is a practical and efficient approach that targets the most visible aspects of your cabin. The aim is to ensure it looks flawless when a new guest checks in, just like the pictures on the listing.

Yes, routine cleaning is a little lighter, but that doesn’t mean it’s not thorough. Cleaning staff should keep a watchful eye for any missing or damaged items. They should also double-check the supply of plates, cups, and other essential amenities. Should they come across anything in need of replenishment or repair, they need to report to you.

During a routine clean, there’s one main enemy to battle: hair. Always arm your cleaners with a sticky roller and tell them to be extra vigilant — not only for the strands of others but also their own.

Deep cleaning

Once or twice a year there comes a moment when the need arises for some heavy lifting. This means cleaning under heavy appliances and furniture, dusting all the blinds and fans, checking walls and ceilings for cobwebs, treating the wood, among other things.

Deep cleans ensure your cabin remains in impeccable condition and it helps to prevent significant maintenance issues down the line. Still, they demand considerably more effort and cost at least three times higher than a regular cleaning session. You’ll also need to plan on blocking your cabin for a day or two.

At Avada we like to deep clean at least once a year (in Jan/Feb slow times), but if your property has a high turnover, it may be better to double the frequency and do another one in Aug/Sept before the winter rush. We also like to have an independent inspector go after a deep clean just to be sure it’s performed up to our standards. With a 1BR deep clean costing at least $350, it’s important that it’s money well spent.

2. Trust the pros

While personally taking charge and handling all cleaning tasks may be tempting, we prefer to redirect our energy elsewhere. Instead, we trust the services of professional cleaning companies and/or freelance experts to keep our cabins spotless. (At Avada we have our “in house” group, but as an independent owner you won’t)

Housekeeping is complex and it requires meticulous attention to countless details, hence the pros are the best ones to tackle it. By relying on their trained eye and skills, you can rest assured that every detail, from restocking amenities to maintaining inventory, will be handled with care.

In our experience it’s good to get an outside group to come in from your regular crew to get that second set of eyes looking in on the place. If you’ve got over 4.9* this rule can be bent or if you think it may cause too much heartburn from your crew, but there are obvious advantages to getting an outside group helping.

Here are some tips for finding pros:

Cleaning companies

An established cleaning service can offer some advantages and there are a couple of larger shops. Besides counting on a wide availability of cleaners, these companies often train their staff a bit better, something that will give you some peace of mind. True, the service will likely be a bit more pricey but you should just talk to them and evaluate the pros and cons.

Freelance cleaners

Another option is to hire an independent cleaner to spruce up your rental. Take into consideration that anyone can establish a cleaning business and start offering services and our market is definitely full of folks that fall into this category. That’s why it’s important to carefully evaluate their experience and check references beforehand. More experienced cleaners command higher rates, but on average, you can expect to pay around $300-400 to deep clean a 1BR cabin.


Seeking recommendations from fellow hosts in your area is always a great idea. By tapping into their experience, you can find reliable cleaning professionals with lots of experience in the rental sector. As you can benefit from the firsthand accounts of other hosts, this method often yields excellent results. You should start your journey in this Facebook group for cleaners in the Smokies.

3. We value our staff and involve them in our business

Knowing the value of your cleaning staff is essential for success. You can think of them as the pillars of your business and your best allies to identify anything wrong with your property (without leaving a review, that is).

Some hosts like to offer bonuses tied to earnings. This can indeed be a powerful way to get cleaners motivated. However, if this is not your preference, you can still find other creative methods to reward their hard work.

At Avada, we like to involve our cleaning staff directly in the biz, making sure they understand how important they are for our revenue. By making them feel valued and appreciated, we inspire them to take pride and ownership of what they do. They have a direct link to our support system, logging in any issues they find during their daily cleans. We also choose to pay above average rates and expect above average results.

One other thing we like to do is block check-ins on major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve to allow staff members to spend time with their families.

4. We give feedback

It’s Business 101 that constructive feedback is a cost-effective method to enhance productivity and drive results. With cleaning, it’s no different. Providing detailed feedback and instructions is a way to boost professional growth and morale as well as ignite motivation. This is how you establish a collaborative relationship with your cleaners, which will certainly result in better outcomes.

However, remember that good communication is never a one-way street. It is crucial to actively listen to your staff and understand the challenges they face on-site. Offer support and guidance when needed, but also recognize that they have the expertise in their craft, so trust what they have to say.

At Avada we have a standing weekly meeting with our cleaners to discuss “big picture” items that can “raise the bar”. Topics range from a new approach to cleaning hot tubs to the specific cleaners being used at a cabin. And of course this is in addition to guest-driven items that warrant instant communication- left behind items, reported cleaning issues, etc.

5. We give them a helping hand

You can also give your staff a hand and help streamline their process. One way we find effective is by providing cleaning supplies for your guests to use during their stay. Offer items like dish pods and sponges and extra garbage bags and they are likely to use them before leaving the cabin. 

This is a small investment that can help with the effectiveness of cleaning. Also, implementing small cleaning rules for guests to follow before check out, such as taking out the trash and washing the dishes, is a great way to speed up the cleaning process.

We give guests a QR code to scan as they leave to let us know they checked out. When that happens we instantly text the cleaners to let them know the cabin is open for cleaning. This allows them to get a jump on their day.

6. We create checklists & cleaning manuals

Cleaning staff rotates very often, and they’re not robots; they may forget certain tasks. Providing them with checklists and procedure manuals helps clarify your expectations and ensures they don’t overlook any crucial tasks.

Consider creating a checklist that outlines all the essentials that need to be completed between guest stays. You can also include a separate checklist for minor things that often go overlooked, like cleaning the inside of the fridge and microwave and removing hair from the shower.

For more complex tasks, you can include some sort of visual aid, such as photographs or instruction videos. These can show both the process and your expected result. It’s easy to share them with cleaners nowadays since everyone carries a smartphone.

If your cleaning crew speaks a different language, providing instructions in their mother tongue can foster effective communication and understanding — and once more you’ll make them feel valued.

Also, to keep your cabin looking fresh, it’s important to establish a proper cleaning and maintenance routine. Beyond checklists, developing systems that outline when and how to perform specific tasks will be very helpful for you and your crew.

Something else we do is help the cleaners help themselves. We’ve seen plenty of guests try to scam refunds and a common complaint is about dirty hot tubs. We require cleaners take a date stamped photo of the empty and full hot tubs. This serves as proof that the work was done and gives us ammo when the guest complaints come in. There are plenty of third party apps that’ll do this including Solocator.

7. We buy supplies in bulk

Considering that rental properties generally demand more cleaning than a regular home, it helps to keep a generous amount of cleaning products on hand. We, for one, like to buy them in bulk as this saves a lot of costs in the long run. 

Some retailers will let you buy everything online in bulk at great discounts, and they let you reorder the same product easily in the future, which saves a lot of time. 

Also, maintaining a steady supply of cleaning products means you’ll always be well-equipped to handle any unique cleaning needs that may arise, which not only helps with cleanliness but also leaves a positive impression on your guests.

8. We perform preventive maintenance

It’s not all about cleaning; it’s also about maintaining your cabin. We like to take the route of proactive preventive maintenance. This means conducting regular inspections and repairs to address potential issues before they escalate into costly problems.

Beyond the basic tasks like replacing batteries in smoke detectors, smart locks, and remote controls, consider scheduling periodic professional inspections and maintenance in your cabin. This may involve cleaning gutters and air filters, checking the HVAC system, implementing pest control measures, and conducting roof inspections. We also require a yearly fire safety inspection to make sure all the detectors and extinguishers are in proper working order. By staying diligent in preventive maintenance, hosts also keep a secure and comfortable environment for their guests.

Our motto is: don’t delay, address it right away. Neglecting regular maintenance can cost a hefty price.

At Avada we give our owners a dozen different PM settings so the cabin is as maintained as you want.

9. We leverage tech

In our tech-driven era, you can leverage online solutions to streamline cleaning processes for your cabins and ensure efficiency. Pretty much any PMS (property management system) like Ownerrez, Hostfully, Guesty, etc. will have interfaces for the cleaners. There are also services like Turno that connect hosts with local cleaners and provide a seamless platform for managing cleaning schedules, tasks, and communication with the cleaning staff.

If you’re dealing with a significant number of units, using a tool like Breezeway can save a lot of time and make cleaning and maintenance management across all your properties a breeze. With task management tools, for instance, you can set reminders for essential maintenance and upkeep tasks, like filter replacements and so on. And you can choose fixed intervals or set the alarm for a certain number of guest stays.

Not just for cleaning and maintenance, but for every other aspect of your business, embracing tech for short-term rentals can be a game-changer.

At Avada we take it one step further. We have our task management system tied directly to our scheduling system and all of that shows up in a custom-build phone app that our cleaners and maintenance staff use. The apps also allow the team to directly comment on tasks they’re working on or create new tasks for things they see that need to be addressed.

Hiring a professional manager to oversee cleaning (and everything else)

While it is doable to oversee cleaning and maintenance yourself, the task can quickly become overwhelming as your “real life” intrudes on this side hustle.

That’s where we come in.

As property managers in Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg/Sevierville, we have long-established cleaning and maintenance crews that each focus on a small number of cabins. With our years of experience, we can assure your property will always be in excellent condition and guest ready. 

When you’re ready to reclaim your time and remove this stress from your life (and probably make much more money), give us a shout!