If you've been worried about your health and safety as you clean properties during the spread of COVID-19, you're not alone. Here's what you need to know about how it's spread, how to protect yourself, and what you can do about decreased bookings and lack of income during this difficult time.
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus first detected in China at the end of 2019. It has spread rapidly throughout the world, and has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. While most infected appear to contract mild or even asymptomatic cases, for those whom it affects severely, it can be life-threatening.
The good news for cleaners is that COVID-19 is not an airborne illness - while infected particles may be able to linger in the air for a very brief amount of time after an infected person has vacated the property, this is a very unlikely way to contract the virus, and the virus itself is not airborne. It is contracted by direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people.
For cleaners, this is an important distinction. If an infected person coughs into their hand and touches a surface, that surface is infected. However, you cannot get infected by simply touching the surface. You would have to touch the surface and then touch your own nose or mouth, thereby directly introducing the virus to your system. Even in this case, transmission is not likely, but it is possible, and you should definitely guard against this possibility.
Wearing gloves, handwashing frequently, and refraining from touching your face during a clean are essential precautions to take during this outbreak. Face masks are also good practice for all cleaners, not because you need to guard against the likelihood of inhaling the virus - by the time you enter the property, it is very unlikely that any particles from a guest will be lingering in the air - but because you may be able to infect others even if you do not currently have symptoms of the virus. As you work, you are exerting yourself, and small particles can exit your mouth and land on a surface that you've just cleaned, which can infect a guest if they touch the surface and then touch their own nose or mouth.
If you follow these precautions, the risk to you while cleaning is very low. Your primary risk is contact with other people.
Before your job begins, please put on a face mask (reusable cloth ones are fine for this purpose, unless you will be working with toxic chemicals), being sure to cover both your nose and mouth. The virus may be able to linger in the air inside rooms for a short period of time, but your mask is not primarily to protect you from particles in the air. It's to prevent any particles from escaping your nose and mouth and getting onto the surfaces you've just cleaned. Because you may have the virus and be asymptomatic, it's essential to wear a face covering while cleaning. It's best to behave as you would if you knew you had the virus, and protect those around you accordingly.
On arrival, go immediately to the sink and wash your hands thoroughly. This is to remove any infection on your hands from opening the door or handling the keys or keypad. Hand washing for 20 seconds with soap and water is very effective against COVID-19 - if you're interested in the science, here's an excellent breakdown of why soap and water works so well.
Once your hands are clean, put on clean disposable gloves.
Now you can proceed to clean the property.
However, while we're sure your usual cleaning process is thorough, it is likely not sufficient to protect guests against COVID-19.
Because of the way COVID-19 is transmitted, you need to disinfect the property as thoroughly as possible - not just clean it. Here’s our full guide on how to disinfect a short-term rental.
Since the virus may be able to live for up to seven days on many surfaces, you need to disinfect the touch points in your rental in case someone infected has coughed into their hand and touched a surface in the property.
We’ve used the protocols advised by global health organizations including the CDC, EPA, and World Health Organization to create Properly’s COVID-19 Disinfection Checklist for short-term rental disinfection. If you're already using the Properly app with your clients, they already have access to this checklist - it's been delivered to every account. Ask your clients to send it along with your usual checklist for your next job.
Have clients who aren't using the Properly app yet? This is a good time to encourage them to start. They can download the Properly app for free and immediately use our included Peace of Mind checklist for their next clean. It’s a modifiable checklist that includes all basic turnover tasks as well as the tasks in the COVID-19 Disinfection Checklist, which are advised by global health organizations including the CDC, EPA, and World Health Organization.
Some cleaners feel like using a checklist is beneath them. It can feel like you're being told you can't be trusted to do your job well when you're given a list of tasks to perform.
That's how surgeons around the world felt. They trained for years in medical school and during their residencies to perform surgery. Using a checklist definitely felt like it was beneath them.
And yet, essential tasks did get missed all the time, and a checklist was proposed as the best way to avoid them. Grudgingly, surgeons at hospitals around the world agreed to try a new surgical safety checklist to reduce complications and deaths,. The World Health Organization announced the results in 2009: the checklist reduced the number of complications by 34% and the number of deaths by more than 40%.
In other words? Even when someone's life is at stake, exceptionally-trained people sometimes forget critical tasks. Checklists keep us from those little human errors that can have big consequences.
Why do checklists work so well? According to Atul Gawande, the author of The Checklist Manifesto, it’s because human error interferes constantly with our ability to carry out a succession of tasks - even if we are highly trained to perform those tasks.
We're sure you're excellent at your job and that you're fully aware of the importance of a great clean to a guest's experience. During a crisis like this one, you're probably even more aware that your job is essential to a guest's safety, and so you're definitely going to doing your work to the utmost of your ability.
Implementing checklists drops the number of errors dramatically. To check an item off our list, we have to pause in real time, and ask ourselves whether we’ve completed the task. If we ask ourselves later, we might forget. Did you lock your front door this morning? You probably did. But are you sure?
Now imagine I asked you the same question this morning immediately after you left the house. If you had locked the door, you’d confidently say yes. If you hadn’t, you’d say “oh, wow, I forgot! Thanks for reminding me!”
That’s exactly how Properly works to help you at your job. If you've already performed the task, you can check it off with confidence (and with one hand - the Properly app is super easy to use on the fly). If you forgot the task - which happens to the best of us - the checklist will remind you.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, you'll also be asked to do additional tasks you're not accustomed to. Disinfection takes additional time and specific supplies. Visual checklists like Properly’s show you exactly what needs to be done, so it’s easy to complete a task even if you're unfamiliar with it.
We created the COVID-19 Disinfection Checklist and the Peace of Mind Checklist to address this specific health crisis. We want to make sure that best practices that can prevent the spread of this disease are followed by everyone in this industry.
We created these checklists to clearly spell out exactly what those best practices are and make it easy to implement them immediately. Even if your cleaners have never completed these tasks before, the Properly checklists should make it possible for them to correctly disinfect your rentals by following the visual guidelines in the app.
Our COVID-19 Disinfection checklist and Peace of Mind checklist were created using the best available advice from the CDC, EPA, and World Health Organization, and have been reviewed by our own industry professionals. We will continue to keep our checklists up-to-date as new information about COVID-19 becomes available.
This is going to be a very difficult time for everyone in the travel industry, and your clients may be too occupied with their own worries to think much about how the cancelled bookings are affecting you.
However, we do think that there's a very real possibility that as the crisis abates, people will desperately want to escape from their homes. Many will have been under quarantine for a long time to protect themselves, and after a few weeks, they'll know they're not symptomatic. They'll want to stay in places they know are clean and safe from infection.
We are also seeing that many owners and property managers are adapting by taking month to month rentals. Your client could offer weekly cleaning while the guest is there.
During this period, it's a good idea to collaborate with your clients on how you can expand your cleaning process to include disinfection. Disinfection will take more time and effort, and you should be paid for that time.
Managers should take a look at our page for them on how to talk to their guests and update their listings to describe their additional cleaning process. They can pass the increased cost of a clean directly to the guest, who will be glad to know additional precautions are being taken.
This means you can be paid more for each booking, even if there are fewer bookings for a time.
Remote Inspection is a verification service Properly provides for busy managers. If you're already using Properly, you'll know your client sometimes asks you to send verification photos of essential tasks at your property to be absolutely sure they got done.
If a property manager doesn't have time to check those photos in real time, we do it for them with our Remote Inspection team.
If we spot a mistake, we’ll let you know right away so you can fix the issue before you leave the property. Think of us as your backup squad - we're here to make sure you never have to deal with an upset client or go back to the property to re-clean if a guest complains.
During this time where every guest is hyper-concerned about cleanliness, any tiny slip in your normal cleaning process can make them think the property wasn't cleaned well. If they see a T-shirt a previous guest left behind in a drawer, for example, it might make them worried that this property wasn’t thoroughly cleaned overall - even if that's literally the ONLY thing you forgot.
Remote Inspection gives you a second set of eyes. We don't want you getting into trouble because of a tiny slip-up! We'll catch it before you leave the property, and you'll get your rightful appreciation for a job well done.
Our research on March 20 confirmed that at this time, unless restrictions change, cleaning is considered an essential service. However, as the situation is rapidly changing and different in every area, you should check with your local regulations.
You should absolutely not clean properties if you have any symptoms of illness, to protect both yourself and guests.
This chart from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is a helpful reference to assess your symptoms.
Check your local health department, medical insurance provider or clinic for tele-health consultations to speak with someone about your symptoms and get advice. Please take good care of yourself while sick, and take every precaution you can to avoid infecting others.
Absolutely. Many people are seeking cleaners who know and follow safety procedures, use approved and effective disinfectants, supplies and methods.
You can use reassure prospective customers that you additionally use a checklist to ensure that no step of disinfecting their home or business has been missed. You can get our checklist in the app, or download it for free here.
To find new clients through Properly, join our marketplace. Find more information here.
We simply don’t know. It’s a new situation and it’s evolving rapidly. We’ll continue to produce the best resources we can to keep everyone informed during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’d like to join our mailing list for updates, you can do so using the form below.