Last updated on February 5th, 2020.
Cleaning Fees for AirBnB
Disgusting secret: Some vacation hosts don’t clean their places.
When some people learn how to become AirBnB hosts they dream of easy money and glamor. That dream doesn’t include hand-scrubbing a filthy toilet, or a greasy kitchen.
Most of my friends are fellow business owners. Many are involved in Florida’s crazy real estate market in some way or another. Several are AirBnB Superhosts. One runs a busy, professional cleaning service for AirBnB and snowbird rentals. Others are real estate investors, and stay busy with a mix of flips, short term vacation rentals and long term tenants.
We’re all fascinated by the entrepreneurial process, so we talk about it a lot. We compare notes about pricing strategies, bookings, calendar management and especially turnover processes. We talk about flaky property managers, how to handle a difficult guests and tenants, and one of the most dreaded fears; a bad review on AirBnB, or TripAdvisor.
AirBnB Cleaning Services
Some hosts and landlords know they don’t want to mess with cleaning, so they try to outsource it by hiring AirBnB cleaning services. That sounds like a great solution, except that many cleaning services don’t clean well, either.
Many cleaning services are… superficial, at best. They come in, change the sheets, wipe a few surfaces, spritz a deodorizer and leave. Some don’t even fully vacuum or mop between guests— they describe their process as “spot cleaning, as needed”.
And then, some don’t even spot clean. I’ve arrived to an AirBnB that clearly hadn’t even been swept or vacuumed at all, which was disgusting.
Not everybody is like this. Some hosts, like my friends, actually love cleaning. They take pride in a job well done, and give their guests a great experience.
Likewise, I know that some vacation rental cleaning services probably do a great, meticulous job each and every time. I’ve never met one. But, like life on other planets, they’re probably out there—somewhere…
Side note: Why do you hate AirBnB?
I don’t hate AirBnB at alI. I love AirBnB and all of the benefits it’s brought to the world. I’m an avid customer, and will probably be a host one day. AirBnB is an incredible platform. It’s up to the individual hosts to be good hosts and business owners.
And, I should say, the problem of bad cleaning is not unique to AirBnB. Every other short-term vacation platform has the same problem, as do long-term, snowbird and seasonal rentals.
At the end of the day, the problem is that homes get dirty. Certain spots are magnets for dirt and grime, especially with a stream of guests. Spots become filthy from every-day use, and normal surface cleaning just won’t cut it. They only come clean with time, effort and attention to detail.
How to know if AirBnB host cleaned
If you’re looking for a snowbird rental or an AirBnB for Florida, check these spots.
If you look at these areas you’ll know whether a room, or house, or apartment, was truly deep-cleaned by a professional, or if it’s only ever gets topical, surface-clean by an amateur.
Almost all of these areas have a few things in common. They’re all:
- Easy to miss
- Hard to reach
- Hard to clean.
These tiny areas all add up to make a big difference. They make a place feel clean and fresh, or like a dirty house.
Side note about Florida:
I found that it’s hard to find a clean vacation rental in Florida. More than any other place I’ve lived, actually. When we first moved here I was shocked by the filthy rental homes on AirBnB, craigslist and realtor websites. Not a single place felt truly clean.
Even nice, luxury waterfront places were gross. Our realtor and superhost friends say it’s especially bad in Florida because of several factors:
- Labor shortages
- Never-ending demand
- The Snowbird crowd
- Transient population.
I’ve found this to be true for hotel rooms, too. Luxury, big-name hotels in Miami Beach, and the Florida Keys have made us wonder if anyone in Florida really knows what “clean” means.
Easy to miss
These areas are often not obvious to an untrained eye, but they’re important. Together they determine the overall feel of a room, whether it’s clean or dirty.
Hard to reach
How often do people pull an oven away from a wall to clean behind it? Not very often. These hard-to-reach spots don’t get cleaned frequently:
- Above cabinets
- Behind an oven
- Under the refrigerator
- Around cluttered areas
- Inside deep, dark cabinets
- Detailed areas: floor baseboards and tile grout
Hard to clean
Many areas around the house are difficult and take a long time to truly clean well. These spots share some common characteristics.
- Tight spaces
- Horizontal surfaces
- Hard-to-reach: up high and down low
Amateur cleaners without a professional eye for detail miss many of these spots.
Note: The photos in this article were taken from an actual AirBnB I stayed in. Shockingly, it had great (real!) reviews. Not a single review said anything about the cleanliness.
It’s gross to find hairs in a room that’s supposedly been “cleaned”.
Especially in places like a kitchen, bathroom or even worse, on a pillow, hidden hairs can make you question how thoroughly a place has been cleaned.
Human and pet hair are hard to get rid of. Even with deep, thorough cleaning and laundry cycle, stubborn hairs can stick around.
Hairs- human and pet- build static electricity to cling to fabric like a magnet. They find their way into all sorts of unexpected nooks and crannies on floors and baseboards.
Trick: Professional cleaners often use a sticky lint roller to get rid of every last stubborn hair.
Tops of ceiling fans
Dirt, dust and grime love ceiling fans. The spinning blades accumulate grease vapors from cooking, which makes them oily and sticky. Then the flat, sticky surfaces attract dust. Over time it becomes a disgusting, greasy fuzz. Fan blades should be cleaned regularly, but they’re often ignored because they’re up high, hard to reach and out of sight.
Drawers and shelves
Drawers and shelves get grungy. They’re hidden away in dark, small spaces that are easy to miss. Tight, hard-to-reach corners accumulate crumbs, gunk and filth. If you see gross drawers and shelves it’s not a good sign; it’s very likely that the room is only ever surface-cleaned by inattentive cleaners.
Light switch covers
Lots of oily, dirty hands touch light switches. Over time, that oil and dirt builds up. Switches can be a pain to clean because they have intricate, small spaces that are hard to reach. They need narrow cleaning tools and patience to clean grime from tight spaces. Light switches don’t get any attention during a light cleaning session.
Inside light fixtures
Have you ever looked up at a light fixture and seen a bunch of dead bugs and spiderwebs? Light attracts bugs. They crawl inside the cover and then can’t get out. Those bugs attract spiders, and before you know it the light is an insect grave yard. Sometimes the build-up can even block out light. Dirty light fixtures are gross and can make a whole room feel dark, dingy and dirty. These should always be cleaned as part of a thorough cleaning routine.
How to clean baseboards
Baseboard cleaning is essential because they accumulate dirt, hair, nicks and scuffs. But, base boards and trim pieces are exhausting to clean so people don’t do it very often. If someone takes care of their baseboards it’s a good sign for the rest of the house, and vice-versa.
Professional cleaning tip!
For professional baseboard cleaning results you need to get down on your hands and knees. If you have a lot to do, especially if you’re doing an entire house, do your self a favor and use knee pads. If you don’t have knee pads you can use a thick cushion or something soft— even a folded towel is better than nothing.
How to deep-clean a house
In a true deep cleaning you should approach the room systematically to make sure you don’t miss anything. Many professional cleaners recommend using the “Follow the Wall” strategy.
Follow the Wall
To “follow the wall”, pick a place— a door is a good reference point— and work your way around a room from that point. The whole point of this method is to avoid skipping around. If you skip around from mess to mess, you’ll inevitably miss details in between, or lose your place.
Work your way around a room. Follow the wall inch by inch. As you work along the perimeter scan your eyes from floor to ceiling. Use furniture and cabinetry as if they were walls, and work your way around them. After you’ve finished the perimeter, focus on the floor and ceiling.
If you need to revisit to an area, especially something like a repair, use a trick to stay organized and precise. Use a small, easy-to-remove colored stickers to mark an area. You can number them to keep a list. If you do this be sure to follow up and actually resolve these issues and remove the stickers! If you forget, the problems will be labeled for guests to see!
Windows are often a major source of light, and can really determine a room’s feel.
Clean windows can make a room feel fresh and alive, and dirty windows make it feel stuffy and dead. Dingy, dusty and cob-web infested windows can make even the cleanest room feel like a dungeon.
Surface cleaning and maintenance routines might clean a window, but they often overlook more serious aspects of dinginess. Things like old, cracked, dirty caulk and old paint splatters make a big difference.
Window tracks—especially on older windows—are notorious for harboring dirt, dust, bugs and debris. They usually have tight spaces that require a lot of work to truly clean. Sometimes it takes special equipment like an ultra-narrow vacuum attachment, or very fine scraping tools, to really get tracks clean. If a room only ever gets topical, surface cleaning, window tracks are a dead-giveaway.
Glass window panes take a surprising amount of time, effort and attention to detail to get truly clean, spot and streak-free. Ideally, it takes two people—one outside and one inside, to get a truly perfect, professional result. Good, thorough cleaners should have an eye for detail, and smudgy windows are not acceptable.
Window Mini Blinds
Blinds–especially cheap “mini blinds”–take forever to clean. They combine the worst parts of detail cleaning: flat surfaces and tight, hard-to-reach spaces. Even worse, they’re often made of flimsy, brittle plastic that must be supported from both sides to clean thoroughly. If you want to know whether a room’s been carefully deep-cleaned, take a peek at the blinds!
Drapes and curtains
Fabric drapes and curtains attract gobs of dust, and many people don’t take time to wash them. If you’re brave enough, give them a shake. You’ll probably see dust floating around the air afterward.
Window sills are easy and should always be clean. They’re flat, well-lit and very obvious. Because they’re so easy, they should always be spotless and dust-free. Unfortunately they’re often not part of even the laziest turn-over checklist. If easy-to-clean window sills are covered in dirt and dust, it’s a red flag.
Tops of door and window trim
Door and window frames are popular hang-outs for dust and grime. Especially if there’s a kitchen nearby, sticky, vaporized grease particles settle on the horizontal surfaces. Even without kitchen grease, most door and window frames fail a white-glove-test.
Is there lint in the dryer?
A good cleaning routine should check and clean the lint trap. Make sure that the washer and dryer are both clean and smell fresh. If you find lint in the dryer it’s not the end of the world, but it’s not a great sign, either. It would make me question how thoroughly a place had been cleaned.
HVAC duct work becomes disgusting over time. Especially if air conditioner filters aren’t changed, the vents and ducts can blast allergen-filled air everywhere in a house.
Note: Do not access HVAC or other systems unless you have permission, it’s safe and you can do so without causing injury or damage.
One tell-tale indicator of bad air conditioner hygiene is the vent where hot or cold air is blown out. You’ll usually find these on a ceiling.
Do you see dirt and dark spots on the vent, or on the ceiling around the vent? If yes, that means the filter hasn’t been changed properly. The ducts are probably disgusting, and you may be breathing filthy air.
Warning: After you know about this you might start seeing filthy ceiling vents everywhere you go– including at your favorite restaurants. Sorry.
Corners of closets
Deep, dark corners of closets get overlooked by cleaners. Look closely with a flashlight and you might find bugs, dust and all sorts of debris left over from previous occupants.
Louvered closet doors
Closet doors often have vented slats to allow air flow. That’s good because it can help prevent musty closet smells, but they’re a pain to clean. Louvered slats combine lots of horizontal surfaces with lots of small nooks and crannies. They’re even worse when they’re near a kitchen because they get caked with vaporized grease and dust.
Behind and under the bed
Cleaning under the bed can be hard. The whole thing might need to be moved, which probably takes more than one person. If it’s dusty, or there’s junk under a bed, there’s a good chance the place was not cleaned thoroughly.
Areas behind and under furniture, especially couches, get gross. Spills, crumbs, bugs, spiders, and all sorts of things build up. A good deep-cleaner will move furniture and thoroughly clean under and behind every piece. Unfortunately cleaners often have to handle an entire job by themselves, so there might not be anyone to help move furniture. If you’re disgusted after looking under or behind furniture, it’s a bad sign of surface-level-cleaning.
When people eat on furniture spills and accidents will occur. Without effective cleaning, filth builds up and becomes disgusting. Kids are notorious for stuffing gross stuff behind furniture, especially couches, because it’s usually in front of a TV where they hang out.
If there have been any pets in a place you can bet there’ll be hairy evidence—or worse—under the couch and around the furniture. Many dogs and cats “mark their territory” in new places, there might be evidence of this too.
Behind couch cushions
Check under and behind couch cushions and you’re likely to find all sorts of revolting treasures. This should be an obvious item on a good cleaning check-list, but it’s often ignored. Any hard-to-reach space or slot behind the cushions is almost guaranteed to be disgusting if a place only gets surface-level cleaning.
Inside dish washer
Some people assume dish washers are self-cleaning, but that’s not necessarily the case. Food residue can accumulate and make dishwashers into a science experiment. If a dishwasher sits unused and has moisture trapped inside it can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew
Corners of floors and baseboards
Baseboards and corners in kitchens accumulate all sorts of dirt and grime. Even the cleanest kitchen will feel dingy if the baseboard and corners are gross.
Fridge and freezer
Is there food left in the fridge from a previous guest? Is it clean? Are there any spots of spills, drips food debris, etc.?
Look up: Lights, ceiling, cabinets, etc.
When cooking grease is vaporized into smoke. The greasy smoke floats its way around a kitchen, and maybe the rest of the house. Wherever it goes, it finds surfaces to cling to. The sticky grease traps dust particles, which creates a truly disgusting mix.
To see if a kitchen is truly clean look high on kitchen cabinetry and on any horizontal surfaces. Look at the light fixtures in the kitchen. They’ll usually have intricate, hard-to-clean spots that cleaners don’t take time to clean.
Inside cabinets and drawers
Cabinets, shelves and drawers again? Yep. Look in the deep, dark corners to see if the kitchen was truly cleaned. Many people will clean out big items but don’t take the time to thoroughly clean drawers and shelves.
Vent-a-hoods are ground zero for disgusting kitchen filth. Kitchen vents attract hot, greasy smoke and all sorts of nastiness. A thorough cleaning job must make sure to regularly de-grease and sanitize the entire range hood, but lazy cleaners won’t. Pay special attention to the removable grease filters of the vent. During a true deep-clean these should be removed and cleaned thoroughly.
Look at the cabinets around the stove and oven. Horizontal spaces and recessed areas in cabinets are magnets for cooking smoke and grease. These are a classic-tell-tale for a lazy, superficial cleaning job. They’re almost guaranteed to accumulate grime as a kitchen is used.
Tops of cabinetry
Some cabinets extend all the way to the ceiling, but other designs stop short and leave a space above them. This space becomes disgusting over time. A good, periodic deep-cleaning regimen should focus on de-greasing, vacuuming and dusting the tops of kitchen cabinets. Make sure to do this before cleaning the rest of the kitchen, floors and rest of the house. If a kitchen has poor ventilation it’ll require more frequent cabinet cleaning because it’ll be a greasier cooking environment.
The lower drawer of an oven
If an oven has a removable bottom drawer make sure to check it. Food and spills often find their way into the drawer, and it’s rarely cleaned. When the drawer is removed if often reveals a forgotten patch of kitchen floor that probably hasn’t been cleaned since the oven was installed. Be prepared to find some unpleasant surprises.
How to clean oven racks
Oven racks need to be cleaned regularly, but they’re not part of a casual cleaning routine. The best way to clean them is to remove them completely from the oven and take them to a place where you can soak them and have room to clean thoroughly. Many professional cleaners know how to clean oven racks in the bathtub for best results. Soaking the oven racks in a good de-greaser solution and hot water can make them easier to get clean. Pipe cleaner tools and stiff brushes are great tools for cleaning oven racks because they can work their way into tight crevices between the racks, especially after grease and food residue has been softened by soaking in hot, de-greaser solution in a bathtub. Experienced and thorough cleaners should not miss this spot. If an oven rack is dirty it means that a place has not been thoroughly deep-cleaned.
Around the Oven
Another good place to check is the oven door. Spills, splatters and food find their way to the oven door. It needs to be cleaned regularly but it’s often forgotten.
Check the oven door glass. Many people don’t know how to the inside of a glass oven door, especially between oven door glass, so it never gets done. Spills happen when cooking food splatters and also when people insert or remove food from the oven.
Switches and controls
Hands get dirty while cooking, and sloppy cooks might use oven controls with those dirty hands. Plus, they have small gaps and spaces that accumulate grease and probably aren’t cleaned often. A good, thorough deep clean will remove any oven knobs that can be disassembled and soak them in hot, soapy water to remove grease.
Ovens are often sandwiched in between counter tops, and there might be a gap or space between them. If so, this is a classic hiding place for food and spills.
Under the coil, under the pan
Electric oven designs moved away from raised heating element coils. Modern electric ovens favor easy-to-clean flat ranges. But, lots of older ovens, and some new models still use this hard-to-clean design.
This goes without saying, but never mess with a stove when it’s hot, or if it’s been used recently. And don’t do anything that will electrocute yourself. And don’t do anything to break the stove.
When an oven has raised cooking elements be sure check under and around them. These raised coils harbor all sorts of spills and their tight spaces are hard to clean.
While you’re at the oven, check to see if there’s a catchment area under the coils. Not all ovens have this feature, but many have a lift-away section below the range surface where spills and crumbs congregate. If it has this area, chances are it’s not cleaned very frequently.
Under the Fridge
The area behind and to the side of the fridge becomes absolutely disgusting over time.
Inside the refrigerator there is a strong fan that blows air over refrigerant coils- that’s how the cooling works.
Because air in the kitchen is often filled with greasy air, this fan builds an unimaginable amount of grease, dust dirt and filth. Over time the coils and fan blades can get so filthy that they stop working efficiently. It’ll make your refrigerator work harder, and eventually it’ll stop completely.
Even the most thorough deep-cleaning regimen probably won’t address this issue, but it does need to be done periodically. If you decide to tackle this, make sure you do so safely. Take all necessary precautions for working with electricity and moving parts, and make sure you don’t accidentally break the fridge.
Bathrooms are one of the most important rooms in a house to clean thoroughly. Health, safety and hygiene considerations aside, people are just grossed out by dirty bathrooms, and rightfully so.
Because they are often high-humidity and high-use environments, bathrooms need to be deep-cleaned regularly.
Moldy shower and bathtub
I’ve always used bleach to kill mold but have always disliked the drying and cracking effect it has on my skin.
Does hydrogen peroxide kill mold?
Some professional cleaners suggested an alternative mold killer: hydrogen peroxide. I haven’t tried this yet but it sounds promising. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) after-storm recommendations, hydrogen peroxide can be a good, more mild alternative to bleach for killing mold.
The professionals use a 3% concentration, which is important because there are different concentration strengths. Just use a spray bottle to mist and generously coat the entire moldy surface. Let sit for at least 15 minutes and then scrub the mold and stains away. After scrubbing it’s important to clean the area thoroughly to make sure no trace of mold remains.
The toilet, and especially the area around it, speak volumes about how a bathroom was cleaned.
More than any other space in the house, except maybe the kitchen, the bathroom should be meticulously cleaned, scrubbed and sanitized. Unfortunately that rarely happens. Certain areas around toilets are notorious give-aways for bad cleaning jobs.
Side of base of toilet around round spaces
I’m not sure who designed western toilet pedestals, but they made a hard job for meticulous cleaners. The rounded, intricate designs at the base create lots hard-to-reach crevices. This spot is sometimes made more difficult by limited space, so it’s important that thorough cleaners really spend time to get this part right.
At the base of the toilet there are often two raised plastic caps. These are covers for bolt heads, which anchor the base to the ground. These should be removed and cleaned thoroughly, but they probably haven’t budged since the toilet was installed.
Obviously this should be sanitized with disinfectant. It’s rarely done during a quick surface-clean, but should be done frequently.
Area around the toilet
People can do disgusting things in the bathroom. I won’t go into details here- you can use your imagination. Check walls and cabinetry around the toilet for… signs of abuse, neglect and lack of thorough cleaning. Hope you don’t find anything.
Under attachments points of toilet seat
A toilet seat is usually attached to the toilet bowl with two plastic screws. The screws are covered by little plastic plastic covers. Take a peek at these covers to see how they look. Good cleaners know that these need to be opened, or even completely removed, to be cleaned thoroughly.
Showers and tubs are hard to clean well. Too often they’re quickly sprayed down, and maybe wiped with a rag to remove soap scum. If you look closely in the grout spaces between tiles, especially those with lots of grout lines, and you’ll see just how clean the shower or tub really is.
Be sure to check bathtub/shower corners and details around drain and fixtures. Look under the soap holder. It catches a river of soap-scummy water and nobody ever thinks to clean there.
Personal horror story: My wife and I arrived in an AirBnB in a big, fancy city. We were excited about a luxurious stay and the swank rooftop pool. It was not cheap, and the reviews were all fantastic. The bathroom and shower were covered in mold. It was in a fancy new building with a fancy rooftop pool, but shoddy maintenance and bad cleaning had already turned the place into a health hazard. We were only there for one night, and couldn’t find anywhere else to stay on short notice, so we stayed. We never felt comfortable and even for one night, the mold gave us horrible headaches and allergy issues.
Shower curtains and door frames
Shower door frames have tiny crevices where water, hair, mold and soap scum hide. If you’re wondering just how thoroughly a bathroom has been cleaned, take a peak around the shower door frame. Pay close attention to the door hinges and hard-to-reach areas. If you see mold, mildew, soap scum or any other nasties, you’ll know that the shower was not deep-cleaned.
This isn’t an obvious deep-cleaning step, but what about other details?
- Are the toiletries restocked, full and fresh?
- Are the soap, conditioner and shampoo bottle full?
- Is there a fresh, full roll of toilet paper on the roll?
Attention to detail can really change the feel of a place.