Panic attack, hidden dirt, need advice

Good morning fellow hosts, I need your guidance, please. I’ve been hosting for years; the first few years I did all the cleaning myself because I didn’t trust anyone to meet my standards. However, I’m not getting any younger and my husband insisted I get cleaners to do the work.
A week ago new guests came to stay at my place. Last night they sent me a series of photos taken of “hidden dirt” in the apartment. They actually moved the refrigerator, removed the front metal “grill” of the refrigerator, and so on, and took photos of everything, it was indeed filthy. I apologized a million times. I actually had a panic attack, and had to take medication, couldn’t sleep all night, blame myself for trusting the cleaners, blame myself for not being more detail-oriented. The guests explained that they were trying to help me and that I should confront my cleaning staff.
I know some of you keep high standards for your properties, and I’m wondering if you can offer any advice. Were the guests being kind or are they up to something? Do you expect your cleaners to move appliances and clean under and behind? Should I confront my cleaners or I shouldn’t expect them to do this kind of work?
Your input will be greatly appreciated, thank you.

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I take a middle approach. Guests who are doing that are freaks and I don’t want to host them. It’s one thing to look under a bed, another to move appliances, remove grills, etc. To help hosts? I’m doubtful. That said, do I expect cleaners to periodically clean under appliances, yes.

My refrigerator rolls out easily. There I find dog hair, dead moths and maybe a mouse dropping. The coils under there operate more efficiently if they are clean-ish. I can clean under the range by removing the bottom drawer. And yes this should be on a cleaning rotation.

Do I expect a cleaner to dust the top of the ceiling fan blades every time. Perhaps not but it needs to be on rotation. Take out the refrigerator drawers and look for spills and crumbs. Is the inside of the microwave clean? Spider webs high in the corners? Do the window sills have dead flies?


Kind, no idea but who moves appliances around in a kitchen in an STR to search for dirt. Have you had the request for a partial refund yet?

That said though, when was the last time you quality checked the cleaners work? When was the last time you had a good look around your listing?

If a guest can access it, then I’d expect it to be clean. It’s one of those jobs that I would schedule periodically, as opposed to after every guest. You should know where dirt builds up in your listing, and how often it should be cleaned.

Maybe you should discuss it with your cleaner, in a nice way, and make sure they know where to check for hidden dirt in future.

Our apartment kitchens are not adorned with multiple units and appliances, and the fridge freezers are free standing so there’s nothing to pull out, so to speak, when cleaning. But behind the fridge freezer gets brushed and every so often mopped.

The areas where there may be hidden dirt, such as behind living room units etc gets done every couple of weeks as they just become a mass of cobwebs full of dead insects if left, all pretty gross! We’ve got tiled floors throughout so it’s easy to move stuff like that.

Calm down! In the grand scheme of things it’s a minor issue, it’s one set of guests and you’re now aware of the issue so it wont happen with future guests.



@JohnF; @KKC thank you for your guidance; I will need to add systematic cleaning of “hidden” areas. Here’s the catch, they asked to extend their stay so I’m wondering if the cleaning issues will come up again in the next couple of days. I have had perfect scores for cleaning thus far (with a couple of exceptions in the past several years), and have been a superhot from the very beginning. In my location, it’s not easy to find reliable cleaners for less than $100 for a 2-hour period.

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Tell them you’ll send the cleaners in on some agreed upon day. No charge for the cleaning of course and no discount or refund. They gave you a chance to fix it and you did. Send a wine and cheese basket to “thank” them for their “help,” if you don’t hear any more nonsense from them.


Ha ha, @KKC you just beat me to it.

Wot she said.


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Oh good grief. I do spring cleaning and fall cleaning. That is when the refrigerator is moved out and the coils vac’d. No other time. What a jerk head she was to send you pics of things inconsequential. Shame on her.


@murphysranch Barbara, I looked at the photos and cringed, I felt so ashamed; here I was thinking I was too much of a clean freak, as I’m always being “accused” by my family, and a guest proved me wrong. Humiliating experience, but, perhaps, necessary.

I’m so sorry she did that to you. No, not necessary. It was hurtful to you.


Here are my twopence.

It appears that you have two separate problems on your hands. The first and more immediate problem is that you have bad guests. What you need to do is to fix the problems with the dirt, send them a bottle of wine and apologize. It’s not exactly your fault however it is your responsibility. If you play your cards well, you can still get a 5* review so not all is lost.

The second problem is that you have bad cleaners. Instead of firing straight away, I would give them another chance. Getting a good cleaner is not easy and most require some sort of training. Cleaning to a domestic standard and cleaning to a hospitality standard is very different and you need to be clear about this. I would spot check the cleaners work over the next few turnovers and see whether you are seeing improvements. If they don’t pick up their game, then fire them. If they do pick up their game, you need to come up with incentives so that they maintain this new level of cleaning. One idea I have seen floated before is every 5* guest rating for cleanliness turns into a $5 bonus for the next clean. Something like that. You need to make the cleaner feel that they have a personal investment in your property.

The bottom line is don’t panic (I know it’s easier said then done) and carefully untangle these two separate issues. It’s a positive learning experience and it will make you a better host. Bon chance.


I would block a day or two after their stay and tell them sorry you are booked and cannot extend their stay. The are angling for a free or reduced stay, cut your losses and get rid of them

Do not sweat the review, with all your sparkling cleans it will clearly look worse for them than you. If you have years of hosting and mostly 5 stars you can weather a bad review.



When it comes to our listings, I am too.

However, and it’s a big however, when it comes to our place, I’m an absolute slob. Drives my OH up the wall!



I can’t imagine pulling out the fridge if i were a guest somewhere to check for “hidden dirt” and taking photos of it. These guests obviously have way too much time on their hands.
However, as others have said, your cleaners need to up their game, apparently. I wouldn’t say the fridge needs to be pulled out and cleaned under and behind every turn-over, but certainly on some schedule.
I think some hosts may expect their cleaners to get too much done in the allotted time, though. If you don’t want to pay for more cleaning time, perhaps you could get your cleaners to do the heavy-duty stuff and then you follow up with the lighter stuff.


To be honest, my gut tells me they’re looking for a free stay. I would never move a refrigerator in a short term rental. They went out of their way to look for “hidden dirt.” If I were you, I would play the guilt card and tell them “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. It is unacceptable and I have fired the cleaning lady. As a thank you I would like to give you a 20% discount on your stay.” Make them feel guilty for “firing” someone and by giving them a discount, they will feel they got something out of it BUT please don’t fire the cleaning lady.


Please tell the OH that she, is at the very least, fortunate that you take such care of your listings, despite being an absolute slob in your own place

Mr Joan is an absolute slob, nor does he help with any of the guest bedrooms or bathrooms; I am on my own there, plus having to clean/clear up after him, particularly when we have people staying.

Whilst we’ve been shut, he’s been even worse, so I quietly went on strike for a week. He didn’t notice, not even that he had no clean underwear left… I eventually cleaned up as I couldn’t stand it any longer, but the house is no longer as pristine as it was before lock down. I will get a deep, deep clean done, as soon as I can.


Let’s face it, the guests were weird. But we all get weird guests from time to time, that’s the nature of our business. If they start asking for discounts or whatever, cross that bridge when you come to it and forget about them until then.

I’ve employed cleaners only rarely but yes, I expect them to clean properly and thoroughly. The rental shouldn’t just be cleaned to ‘normal standards’ but way above.

The reasoning is that when a guest stays in any sort of rental, they know (even if only subconsciously) that someone else was sleeping in that bed, sitting on the sofa, using that cooker etc., just last night. And that dozens if not hundreds of people have done that in the last few months.

So cleaning has to be exceptional to reassure them that all traces of the previous guests are gone and that the place is 100% clean and hygienic.

For years people have been having sex on that bed, sleeping or sitting naked on the sofa, slopping food, walking in with dirty shoes, splashing when peeing, throwing up, sweating, picking their noses, cutting their toenails… this is too gross to continue writing. :roll_eyes:

So the place must be immaculate to give the impression that no one has ever been there before, or if they have that the place has been miraculously super-cleaned. Even finding a single hair can destroy this illusion. And if a guest finds a pubic hair…

For the short time that I’ve employed cleaners I’ve always inspected carefully afterwards and always found that some jobs hadn’t been done or had been very sloppily done. Because it’s such an important part of our business, I clean (or thoroughly inspect) the rentals myself. If a host can’t do the inspection themselves then they need a trusted person.


Yup. This is a very good summary. That’s also why we rather clean the place ourselves even if it’s absolute pain. Out of about five cleaners, only one was at the standard that we were happy with. It was more work to manage cleaners than to do it ourselves in the end.


Hard to say. Maybe they dropped something and it slid under the refrigerator and then they discovered the dirt. I had a refrigerator where that front grill just snapped on and would occasionally fall off if you bumped it just right with your toe.

I guess you’ll know if they ask for any kind of refund. Asking to extend the stay is a little perplexing. Hopefully, you impressed them with your responsiveness vs they are planning something underhanded.

Does that mean that you also never cleaned these things or that you just didn’t inspect the cleaner’s work?

I personally don’t know what cleaner would pull out the appliances to clean unless specifically asked to do so, I am doubtful that cleaners would have the right tools to clean behind the front grill of the refrigerator (all require a specialized brush for cleaning the condenser coils and doing a good job of it). You can argue that experienced STR cleaners should know this, but I never found any experienced STR cleaners.

I moved both the refrigerator and the range in my listing about once every 2-3 months to clean under/behind/beside them. I clean out the refrigerator’s condenser coils once per year to keep the refrigerator running efficiently. I never pulled out the dishwasher because it requires a lot of time and it has rubber seals around it to keep food and dirt from getting under and behind it. As others said, these are all periodic cleaning tasks. Only you would know how frequently you need to do them, just like the ceiling fans, HVAC vents, bathroom exhaust vents, window tracks, high shelves and cabinets, under-sink cabinets, etc. I just added one of these periodic items to every turnover so that my cleaning time was always about the same.

You should ask them to add it to their cleaning routine periodically, and you should do a very thorough inspection to find other things they might be missing and add those, too.


I’m appalled that your guests moved your appliances and dismantled them in order to find “hidden dirt.” That’s creepy. That being said, for the health of your appliances, they should be pulled out and cleaned 2-3 times a year, depending upon where you live.


That was my next question.


It should be humiliating for the guest to be that nosy, which I would reflect in the review.

Kindred spirit!!

Never discount unless they ask first and even then, think about it first. Do NOT extend their stay. Tell them you’ve fired the cleaning lady (don’t) and need the extra time between them and your next guests to make sure to clean to their standards. :wink:


Wackos. They do this to feel superior and fill some deep dark unfillable hole in their souls.
Hope you did not “apologize a million times” on platform to bolster their case should they complain to Airbnb for a refund. Any normal person would have said, “Hey something rolled under the fridge and I noticed a lot of dust bunnies under there. You may want to take care of that.”
Next time, just reply, “We really appreciated hearing your feedback. We always strive to improve our guests’ experience and would be happy to schedule an extra cleaning at your convenience.” Note there is no admission there that anything was amiss.
As suggested by others, I would send in a cleaning crew, no charge. Pay them a little extra and instruct them to make a big deal with dragging the furniture about and vigorously sweeping, ostentatiously spraying cleaner on the baseboards, etc. in case the neat freaks get further jollies by hanging around and watching.
Don’t extend their stay, just say gosh, would love to accommodate you but sorry, it’s just not possible. I wouldn’t mention closing for cleaning as they might say “That’s OK, we don’t mind” and offer to supervise or critique it for you. Then you have to make up more excuses that you’re repainting the entire place, or whatever. Also you don’t want them to feel “punished” (no, you can’t extend and you brought this on yourselves) for what they may feel was a good deed (if not a refund ploy.)
I find I have to make a schedule for monthly tackling of obscure cleaning chores, defrosting the little fridge freezer, unscrewing the ceiling fixtures for deceased insect removal, etc. or I never remember to do it.