Airbnb Cleanliness Rating: The Biggest Reason Guests Give Bad Reviews

The Airbnb Ambassador & Super Host Coach, “A-Coach,” sat in his office when the phone rang. It was on the Airbnb business line, and he picked it up.

“Good morning, A-Coach here. How may I help you?”

“Hi, this is Anabel. I was planning my first Airbnb and came across your Facebook group. I read that having a clean place to host guests is important, so I called to learn more BEFORE I open for business.”

“Thank you for calling Anabel. I am happy you called BEFORE you opened because hospitality clean is not the same as living in your own home clean. I love to help people like yourself who want to get into the Airbnb business and do it right. Doing it right is suitable for all of us hosts out there to elevate the Airbnb experience.

“According to Airbnb data, a lack of cleanliness is the top reason guests leave a negative review. And it is not just Airbnb, but this is true for the entire hospitality market.

COVID-19 has changed everything!

“Suzanne Bagnera Ph.D. of the Hospitality Institute said, “The first question that comes to mind when someone decides to book is: ‘Am I going to be safe?’”[1]

“We used to take a clean hotel room for granted and hope that hotels would deliver. But now, because we associate the word ‘clean’ with something that is virus-free, it has become more loaded than it used to be.”[2]

“Anabel, right after the start of Covid-19, Airbnb announced their Enhanced Cleaning Initiative, which includes the first overarching standardized protocol for cleaning and sanitization in the home-sharing industry. Through a partnership with former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and backed by global health and hospitality experts, Airbnb created an Airbnb cleaning handbook and a five-step process to not just clean but to make our homes and rooms virus-free.”

Turn cleanliness into an asset

“I have a question. If Airbnb wants us hosts to do enhanced cleaning. How will our guests know we are doing it?”

“If guests demand it, if Airbnb promotes it, use your listing website to tell the world you follow enhanced clean procedures. Make Enhanced Clean declaration the first thing a prospective guest sees when they look at you’re listing.

“Airbnb takes the cleaning process seriously and requires hosts to commit to the cleaning process. Not only is your reputation at stake, but the reputation of Airbnb.

“What does the enhanced clean process mean?

Enhanced Cleaning Process in five easy steps

Thank you for asking, Anabel. It is not difficult to understand or to carry out.

Enhanced cleaning means both CLEANING and DISINFECTING!

Step 1: Prepare for the enhanced cleaning task

You should have proper ventilation, approved disinfectants, and start by disinfecting your hands.

Step 2: Clean

Start by sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, and mopping BEFORE sanitizing. Use high heat for dishes and laundry. Wipe down surfaces with soap and water.

Step 3: Sanitize

Spray high-touch places, let disinfectant stand, and air-dry.

Step 4: Check

Follow a cleaning checklist to make sure all areas are cleaned and sanitized between each stay. The easiest way to do this is to walk through your place as a guest would. Spot everywhere guests could leave/exchange viruses and bacteria. Create a checklist of locations to disinfect after each guest.

Step 5: Reset

To prevent cross-contamination, finish cleaning and sanitizing a room before replacing items for the next guest.

“Anabel, does this make sense?”

“Yes, when you explain it, it seems so logical.

Squeaky clean pays for itself in guest’s reviews?

“Anabel. I know you said, in the beginning, you were starting a new Airbnb. In the beginning, you have startup costs that you cannot avoid if you want to get the door open. I have a simple question for you. How much would you pay for fantastic guest reviews?”

“I don’t have a number and never thought of the costs to get my listing out there. I am sure it is several thousand dollars.”

“And what if I told you all you need to do is create a safe, clean environment, write about why you love your place, and take some good pictures?”

“You mean it is FREE!”

Yes, and not only FREE but recommendations and UNBIASED statements from guests that stay with you!

“Cleanliness is the first question on Airbnb’s guest reviews. We have a 5.0 cleanliness rating in both our rooms. See what free cleanliness ratings look like:

Autumn, September 2021: It was a very clean and cozy place to stay.”

Sarah, September: “Lovely people, very clean, cute and peaceful place!”

Shannon, August 2021: “Hosts were very clean and Covid-conscious.” 

Tina, July 2021: Everything is spotless. I appreciated the strict covid rules.

James, June 2021: Jodi and Bart’s place was SUPER comfortable and clean.”

Let your guests do the talking, and guests will come.

“Airbnb enhanced clean protocol is guidance for cleaning between guests. However, periodically you must go beyond this protocol.

Periodic SUPER clean for the WOW factor

“There are areas of your listing that require more attention and a super clean. A best practice is to put these on your calendar and do them when you do not have guests to attend to. Some examples:

Space or itemNotes
Windows and window coveringsWindow blinds get dusty. Windows get rain spots and a film. Clean as needed.
Walls and baseboardsWalls and molding get fingerprints and dust. Clean as needed.
FlooringYour vacuum cleaner removes only 10% of the dirt. Clean carpets professionally 2-3 times a year.
Air-condition units and heating ductsClean the air-conditioning system in the spring and heating in the fall. Sometimes a professional contract is appropriate. Comfort is not the only benefit, but you will save on utilities. Think of your reviews.
ShowerShower curtains and shower walls and floors have 60 times more bacteria than your toilet seat. Yes, I was surprised by this fact too.
Shower groutTile/grout mold, besides the health factor, is the worst visual you can give your guests.
Mineral build-upA byproduct of minerals in your city water. Deep clean as necessary.
Sink drainsHair, soap, and other deposits eventually slow down the water exit. Pull the stopper out and give this a power clean. You don’t want guests complaining that the bathroom sink drains slowly.
ToiletInside and out and under the seat
Trashcan with lidGet a suitable, sanitary waste can for guests. Keep it clean and disinfected.
BathmatWash regularly or replace periodically.
Bathroom FanVacuum brush to remove any fuzzies.
Yard maintenanceCleanliness is not just for the inside. Think about the first impression your guests see.
Tree trimmingAs necessary.

A-COACH said, “And, that is all there is to it. Follow these simple guidelines daily, and your guests will rave about you to the world. Remember what I said at the beginning of this call. Guests read your listing to answer their primary demand, ‘I want a clean and safe place to stay.’”

“Thank you so much for your sage advice. I will put this into practice today.


[1] Suzanne Markham Bagnera, Ph.D., Director of the Hospitality Institute

[2] NYTimes, “The Most Important Word in the Hospitality Industry? ‘Clean.’ Sep 11, 2020

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