How to Clean a Bed and Breakfast

Have you ever wondered how clean “clean enough” is for your B&B inn? The answer to the question seems to be a highly personal one. Your question about cleanliness covers several areas of the inn, including laundry, housekeeping (common areas, guestrooms, bathrooms, and the kitchen), and even air quality.


I’ve experienced innkeepers who believe that scalding hot water and bleach are what it takes to clean sheets and towels, while others feel that cold-water and baking soda are sufficient. Scalding water and hot dryers break down fibers faster than warm or cold water and cooler dryers. Bleach is a toxic chemical that eats fibers. When I’ve spoken with those in the health sciences field I have learned that not all germs (bacteria and virus for this discussion) are killed by bleach or the temperature levels reached in home or commercial laundry facilities. Since you can’t kill the things you are most concerned about, why not focus on the dirt and stains and not harm the fabric any more than normal wear and tear does anyway? It makes sense to me.

And there is an increasing number of people who are chemically sensitive who will appreciate not having the bleach on their sheets or towels.


What about your housekeeping pattern? To get a clean inn, some innkeepers dust and vacuum daily while others dust and vacuum weekly. What about bathrooms? Is bleach needed in the toilets and tubs/showers
or will vinegar and baking soda do the trick?

It’s my opinion that housekeeping in public places needs to be much more thorough than at home. I think dusting and vacuuming for the common areas needs to be done daily. And in guestrooms it needs to be done between guests and as needed. Public bathrooms need to be cleaned several times a day, depending on occupancy. Guestroom baths need a thorough cleaning between guests and at least a tidying during a guest’s stay, wiping up water and emptying trash daily. And kitchens, not always seen by guests, need to be mopped at least daily, if not twice daily.

There are disinfectants on the market that don’t harm the humans using them but do get surfaces clean. Vinegar and baking soda make one such solution — and it’s inexpensive. Borax is another great cleaner
around the inn. Take care of your staff and your guests by not using harsh chemicals to clean surfaces.

Air Quality:

Do you open your windows to let fresh air in or use chemicals to scent your air? Is a dryer sheet your trick to fresh smelling laundry or is a vinegar rinse your answer? Even in the city, outside air is a better air freshener than chemical fragrances. The fragrances merely mask the odors, they don’t freshen the air or laundry. And dryer sheets add a residue that diminishes absorbancy and leaves an odor that many people don’t like — or, worse, it causes them an unhealthy reaction. I have found that 1/4 to 1/2 cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle leaves my laundry soft, fresh smelling, and low in static (not bad for my dry climate).

In my travels I see the gamut of approaches and find I fall in between the extremes. Here are some examples of what I see as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of housekeeping.

The Good:

  • A daily dusting and vacuuming of the common areas, and between guests in guestrooms.
  • Opening doors and windows to keep the air inside fresh, rather than using chemicals to mask the stale air.
  • Supplying fresh glasses for guests in their rooms, especially between guests.
  • Gentle laundering of sheets and towels on whatever prescribed schedule you have, but no less frequently than weekly; and of course table linens, bath mats, robes, blankets have their day in the laundry too.
  • Mopping the kitchen floor at least daily, if not twice daily.

The Bad:

  • Weekly dusting and vacuuming of common areas and guestrooms.
  • Weekly mopping of the kitchen floor.
  • Strong laundering of guest linens, weakening the fibers.
  • Not regularly washing throw-rugs in bathrooms.

The Ugly:

  • Dusting and vacuuming infrequently, long after it’s noticeable.
  • Overuse of bleach and dryer sheets in the laundry, leaving enough residue that guests know what you use for your cleaning, not to mention the way the chemicals weaken the fibers so you have to replace linens more frequently.
  • Fluffing bath mats in the dryer during a guest’s stay, without washing it first.
  • Never washing the napkins that line the muffin baskets; think of the grease, germs, and dust you collect there.
  • Wiping out guestroom glasses rather than providing fresh ones.
  • Never mopping bathroom floors (or shampooing bathroom carpets).

My feeling is that the inn should have a daily surface cleaning, linens should be washed regularly (and I like the environmental approach of doing it without the use of harsh chemicals), hard surfaces should be mopped frequently, guestroom dishes (glasses, mugs, spoons, and coffee pots) be machine-washed at least between guests if not daily, and surfaces that are touched by guests regularly should be cleaned regularly. I could go on for a long time with examples of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but it’s time for you to think about this for yourself.