A Definitive Guide to the Airbnb Cleaning Fee

Get all the dirt on those extra charges before you book your next stay

Updated September 19, 2022 11:48 am
basket of cleaning products
What you need to know about Airbnb fees
Peter Dazeley

A few months ago, a now-deleted TikTok from user @melworeit went viral, sparking a subsequent — and lively — debate surrounding Airbnb cleaning fees and what sorts of responsibilities guests should be saddled with. (Editor’s note: A new article from Business Insider, regarding “chore lists” that Airbnb hosts leave on top of exorbitant cleaning fees, continues to fuel the discussion.)

In the post, which garnered hundreds of thousands of views, the fashion and lifestyle creator chided an Airbnb host who, in addition to charging a $125 cleaning fee, requests that guests perform an array of household tasks prior to checking out.

“It does have a $125 cleaning fee, as most Airbnb’s do, and I don’t have a problem with that. But this is what I do have a problem with: in addition to that $125 cleaning fee, we ask that you remove garbage, fine, remove bed linens, fine, start the dishwasher and a load of laundry,” she says in the video. “Now maybe this is entitlement, or privilege talking, however — if I’m paying $225 a night to stay somewhere plus $125 cleaning fee, I’m not doing any fucking laundry. Full stop. I know it’s like one load of laundry, it will take me like two minutes to do, but it’s the principle that bothers me.”

Other users were quick to weigh in in the comments. “I have a cabin on Airbnb. I am amazed when [other] hosts complain about dishes in the sink or trash on the floor. That is what the cleaning fee is for,” one said.

“Yea, no. Let me explain this to you. Every turnover requires a 100% attention to detail for cleaning,” another quipped. “One hair freaks a guest out. Asking you to put your dirty towels in the wash and dishes in the dishwasher is like asking you to pick up after yourself.”

The prevailing sense, however, seems to be that Airbnb users just generally do not know, or understand, what cleaning fees cover. And, to be fair, $125 is enough to give most pause. But there are a handful of factors to consider — COVID chief among them — most of which likely were not explicitly stated anywhere in the listing in question. 

Carolyn Major Bisby is a seasoned Airbnb Superhost based out of Phoenix, Arizona who agrees that most cleaning fees are too high. She charges just $25 and does all of the cleaning herself. We spoke to Bisby and, in conjunction with a little extra digging, determined what exactly it is that you are — or aren’t! — paying for.

So, what is a “cleaning fee” for Airbnb?

It’s fairly self-explanatory, but just to review the basics: In every Airbnb listing there is a nightly rate, which includes the cleaning fee divided by the total number of nights of the trip. Once a trip is requested, the nightly rate and the cleaning fee are listed separately in the price breakdown.

Per the Airbnb site, the fee “is a one-off charge for cleaning the space you stay in and is set by the Host. It’s an extra amount on top of the nightly rate when you book a listing. This fee covers the extra expenses Hosts incur when getting their place ready for guests to arrive or after they leave.”

The cleaning fee, it notes, is part of the booking total and is not returned to guests at the end of the trip.

How is the Airbnb cleaning fee decided?

According to a spokesperson for the platform, “Hosts need to set their own cleaning fees because everyone is in a different position when it comes to cleaning — particularly as some Hosts choose to clean listings themselves to reduce costs, whereas others hire professional cleaners.”

“Guests also have visibility into the cleaning fees before committing to a stay and therefore can factor the fee into their decision-making,” they added.

As far as establishing said fee goes, Airbnb’s in-house guide encourages hosts to consider their options first. They can, for example, add one flat-rate cleaning fee for all guests, regardless of their length of stay or add a lower cleaning fee for short stays of only one or two nights and keep a flat-rate fee for all other stays.

They also urge hosts to use the fee to cover the expense of cleaning — not to make additional money — and for new hosts to wait to tack on a cleaning fee at all, in an effort to attract bookings. In other words: be cognizant of too-high cleaning fees, as it can be off-putting to potential guests.

“We decided $25 was plenty since [we have] a small place and it doesn’t take too long to clean,” Bisby says. 

“Besides, it always bothered me — before I was a host — the amount of cleaning fee I was expected to pay. It felt like bait and switch. I’d find a place I wanted to reserve and then I would be faced with an exorbitant fee to clean. Hosts shouldn’t make money on cleaning fees,” she adds.

What does the Airbnb cleaning fee cover?

Bisby’s cleaning fee is set to cover the cost of laundry and cleaning supplies, as well as a very small amount to actually clean — the process of which usually takes somewhere between one and a half to two hours. COVID has lengthened that process, as now she also spends additional time disinfecting, though she still doesn’t ask anything of her guests prior to check-out.

“Cleaning fees are to be used to get the home clean and ready for the next guest — floors, counters, toilets, sheets, blankets and towels,” Bisby says. That said, there are some things — stripping the bed, consolidating trash, piling towels in one spot, etc. — that are inherent to being a good guest.

“Cleaning fees are not intended to empty out refrigerators, pick up garbage inside and out, do dirty dishes,” she continues.

Of course, other factors like the size of the property, and the proximity of the hosts to the property (in that they may need to hire a third party to come in and clean), will also affect the fee. If you are, for example, renting a ranch in Scottsdale with 10 beds hosted by a company specializing in short-term rentals like AvantStay — you can expect a premium cleaning fee.

(It also bears noting that cleaning fees are non-negotiable and the terms are always agreed upon at the time of booking, so if a cleaning fee feels suspiciously high, perhaps consider another listing.)

What should you feel responsible for cleaning during your Airbnb say?

What’s important to remember when it comes to Airbnb is that, more often than not, you are staying in someone else’s home, which intrinsically warrants a certain level of respect. Should you be charged with starting the laundry? According to Bisby, no. Should you, at the very least, perform basic tasks like picking up your trash? Unequivocally, yes.

“I don’t think guests should have to take out their trash, start laundry, etc. As a guest, that really annoys me and I don’t stay in places that have a long list of check-out chores,” Bisby says. “If guests and hosts use common sense, it would eliminate most of the issues. Strip the bed (I do in a hotel), put all your trash in one can, pile towels in one spot … that’s enough for the guest to do.”

That said, it is also totally within your jurisdiction as a guest, particularly if the cleaning fee is sizable, to ask a host what is expected of you at check-out ahead of your stay. At the end of the day, every host on the platform is working as diligently to avoid an unpleasant stay — one that might impact their overall rating and subsequent ability to secure bookings — as you are.

For Bisby’s part, she hopes that the cleaning fee is eventually eliminated, and instead rolled into the nightly rate. 

“If someone is staying a week, the nightly rate should be adjusted, and would be different from someone that is staying one night. So regardless of how long someone stays, that fee is absorbed into the nightly rate,” she says.

Until then … the more you know.


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