Refinished wood floors, guest complains about smell

Hi everyone, I just airbnb’d a second apartment, and the first guest arrived yesterday. She booked for 13 nights. In the middle of the night, she complained to airbnb that the smell from the newly refinished floors was bothering her, and she’s leaving. Airbnb is offering to just pay me for one night. I’m not even sure I had included a cleaning fee when I posted it; I was starting out with a low rate, and she booked it right away, before I realized I had forgotten to include a cleaning fee. I’m thinking of telling them that I expect to be paid for 2 nights.
Regarding the floors: they were refinished in April with an oil based varnish. The final coat was applied on April 16, so more than 2 weeks ago.
Any advice?

Gosh we read so many stories of people who seemingly take advantage of new listings. But it seems you are SOL.

I doesn’t matter when it was done; all that matters is if it still smells. I’d advise having someone go in who isn’t nose blind to the smell. If it really does still smell you need to air out the place until it doesn’t smell anymore. I don’t see what you can do until the chemical is done off gassing.

I’d leave and want a refund too. I don’t have allergies and I’m not particularly sensitive to chemical smells but I wouldn’t want to put up with 13 days and nights of floor stain/lacquer smell.

Two weeks doesn’t seem long enough for the smell to have gone away but nevertheless I’d get in touch with the contractor who did the work and ask for his/her advice.

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If this had been me, I would have to leave due to allergies. Not making this up. Many folks won’t notice but if will probably take about 6 months to fade.

It turns out the cleaning fee was included, so I’m happy to have her get the refund and they’re helping her find another place. I’m going to put a note in the listing. I don’t know how long the smell will last, though.

Did you contact the contractor to ask?

I’ll call the contractor on Monday and see what they say. In the meantime, I’ve put a note in the listing about it, and sent messages to the two guests who have already booked. They’re coming 2 and 3 weeks from now.

Some people are hyper-sensitive to odors. Can you smell it, or anyone else in your household? I would survey a few people to gauge the severity of the issue before “warning” anymore guests.

We have had a few people complain about the smell of cleaning products and had one check-out as a result. That is a few…out of over 900 guests. So make sure you are not unnecessarily alarming your future guests before ascertaining if the odor was problematic for just one person.

You may also want to consider limiting the max number of nights guests can book in your new listing, if it’s feasible for you, to avoid losing any money for cancellations on long reservations, and also to garner more reviews as you start out. Our experience has been that the first batch reviews can be bumpy, (or not), but after dozens and dozens of positive reviews…guests begin to parrot each other, as well as trust that the listing is excellent.


That is a good idea about limiting the number of nights. I know what you mean about different smells bothering different people. I can definitely smell it, but it just smells like linseed oil to me.

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Wash the floors with water and some white vinegar. I too have wood floors and found that the vinegar helps get rid of the chemical smell. Don’t use too much because it will tone down the glossiness of the finish. Also use window fans in reverse to pull out the odor.

Thank you! I will try that. In fact, these are the instructions the floor people gave me, I just hadn’t needed to clean the floor yet:
“Floors can be damped mopped with plain water with 1 cup of white vinegar per half gallon of water; rag dry after mopping.”

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