Unfair review for cleanliness

I have been an air bnb host for 4 years and generally a superhost or 5 star. Sometimes dropping to 4.75. I have recently started hosting on my own without an agent so reviews are as if I was new. Everyone since has given me 5 stars but one guest has generally marked me down including giving 3 stars for cleanliness.
We can only think it was because she commented that she felt one room smelt a bit damp which might have been true because the room had been empty for 2 weeks and maybe the cleaners didnt air it but nothing very much. 3 will really effect my rating for ages. Air bnb will do nothing to help with this. What does everyone think? This is a 3 bedroom house with lounge, dining and conservatory. We pride ourselves on cleaning everything spotlessly

I think that’s a low average for a place that’s “cleaned spotlessly.” I’ve never stayed in a place with that low of a rating and am wondering what’s causing it.


What do you expect Airbnb to do about the fact your guest gave you a three star rating. @Christine1

One three star rating for cleanliness won’t ‘really affect your rating for ages’

If you want politely ask the guest for feedback on the rating to help you improve going forward.

Apart from perhaps responding to the review publicly - professionally and politely I would just move on.


Make sure in the future you use this information to make sure your place does not smell. You will then no longer get poor ratings due to smells…

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It’s disappointing when you believe it’s undeserved but these ratings are the “eye of the beholder” so there’s no way to change it. As others said learn from it and move on. I wish one of my last hosts had asked me why I gave her place a 4 on cleanliness…I haven’t done that in over dozens of stays but the dog hair everywhere was just too much for a small garage apartment. It caked on the mirror, on the light bulbs in the open top fixtures (note – don’t ever use those kind unless you want to clean lightbulbs!) and little tufts in the corners. If you are really perplexed, give it your best clean and invite a friend over and beg for the truth.


Always review honestly.

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Yep. I do review honestly, always…sucks to do it to another host but my thought is they should know better. My comment was to help the OP feel positive about asking the guest for specific feedback about why cleanliness was an issue. If it’s done from a true “help me improve” perspective then it’s a good question to ask.

Do you or your co-host check every time when a guest is due? The walkthrough is to ensure that everything is perfect.

As others have said, move on. Like @helsi I don’t know what on earth you expect Airbnb to do?

I’d be worrying about my procedures and my cleaners rather than fretting over a single review.


Why should the host have to tell you. Why didn’t you advise the host on check in so the host could rectify it. @Atlnative

I think if i had been given a 4 i would take it on the chin but 3 is very low and as i usually get 5* i know my cleaner is good. Thats why i feel a 3* is unacceptable.

Acceptable or not, it’s the guest’s opinion. It’s happened. Unfortunately, we have to accept that things we don’t like will happen.

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Why would it smell damp? I don’t understand. I could leave my apartments empty for a year and they wouldn’t smell damp. Do you have a water leak or something? “Damp” is a sign of a larger issue. If I got that review, 100% of my effort would go into figuring out why the room smells damp, not bemoaning the review.

But why do you feel the room smelled damp merely because it was empty for 2 weeks???


It depends on the climate- in humid areas, leaving a place closed up for 2 weeks with no fresh, moving air would result in it smelling damp or musty.

@Christine1 If you get marked down on something, don’t be immediately defensive, as if it must be unfair. We often have something we could improve on. Just because you have gotten 5* s on cleanliness before doesn’t mean it’s always been spotlessly clean, if you don’t check on the cleaning, you don’t know that. Not all guests are that detail oriented- I’m sure some places that aren’t as clean as others and still get 5* ratings.

It could be something as simple and ridiculous as some little piece of paper or a hair tie left on a shelf. A friend who hosts had a guest mark her down, mentioning “dust”. As the guest had just checked out the day before and the suite was empty, she looked high and low for where the guest found this dust (the host cleans herself) and finally found a tiny triangle of dust in the back corner of the bookshelf headboard.

Some guests are just nuts and there’s nothing you can do about that.


Airbnb will not remove a review easily unless you can prove that it violates their T&Cs somehow.

Your further course of action depends on how many reviews you have now. If you only have a single digit number of reviews, it might make sense to make a new listing and shut down this listing. Existing bookings can also be transferred to the new listing (using a reservation change request) .

If you have more than a dozen reviews, you need to see how much it has taken down your overall and cleanliness rating. If the guest did not write anything negative in the text of the review, then it won’t make much of a difference if you have a lot of other five star reviews.

Airbnb knows there are nutty people out there, and they have left open a few ways to deal with them.

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I’ve lived in very humid areas but wouldn’t describe that as a “damp” smell. I understand the difference. It’s unlikely someone would describe it as a damp smell if it all needs is an airing out or a dehumidifier (both things that are the responsibility of the host).

That’s definitely true, lots of people are nuts, but to be fair, I’ve had to do a lot of cleaning before unpacking at the last couple of places I’ve stayed at. Dust doesn’t bother me, I wouldn’t even notice it but people with respiratory issues probably do. And dust is a visible lack of cleanliness that may make a guest worry about the general level of cleanliness. It’s entirely possible that the guest dusted off the headboard themself so you can’t assume that the small bit left was the original issue.

As a host, I would have to consider that scenario at least. My SO and I clean meticulously and then we check each other’s work and I’ve been surprised more than once at what was missed, but thankfully found it before the guest arrived. A lot of hosts don’t put in that much effort. I constantly see hosts blame things on their cleaners or on being in a rush. But the fact is that humans are fallible so unless it comes across as a refund-grab a host should give the benefit of the doubt to a cleanliness complaint.


In that case, I wasn’t assuming anything- the host is a good friend, I have stayed with her before and she’s a total clean freak. She wouldn’t miss a dusty headboard.

But sure, in some cases where the host has a cleaner and doesn’t check it over before the guest arrives, I wouldn’t just assume that it was spotless.

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I’ve often seen that given as an ‘excuse’ too and it’s no excuse.

I am, ahem, no youngster, prepare the apartments myself and some weeks get double same-day turnovers; cleaning two apartments between check-out time and check-in time,

All that’s needed is organisation. True, I have to miss out on cleaning the windows etc, but I can still present the arriving guests with lovely clean spaces.

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There’s a gal who comes to clean my house once every 2 weeks for 4 hours. She’s a lovely person and does an adequate job. If I don’t have my guest room/bathroom rented, I’ll sometimes have her clean in there just to keep the dust and dead bugs and spider webs at bay, do the windows and the ceiling fan.

But if I have a guest arriving, I do the guest space cleaning myself, because there’s no way she would be as thorough and detailed as I am. I could probably train her to be, but that’s not something I care to do, and she wouldn’t be able to come every time I had a guest arriving anyway.
If I do the cleaning, I would be well-aware if a guest made a false accusation as to whether they found something not cleaned. And I’ve never gotten less than 5 stars on cleanliness.

And I leave a night between bookings, because I never want to find myself “in a rush”.

A person I met in town was staying at a local listing and he was riding a cool motorcycle that I would have loved to own myself, and we got to talking. He showed us the place he was renting and we took him to our listing which was not rented at the time. He explained that he stays in a lot of STRs and wipes the tops of doors and high shelves to see exactly how clean they keep their place. We started dusting the tops of doors and stuff after that. Not every day, but once a week at least to prevent build-up.


I once read a magazine article written by a woman who was a giant, like almost 8 feet tall. She was married to another giant, 8 and a half feet tall. She said, “You wouldn’t believe what a dirty world it is up here- we have a full and constant view of all the things people never clean.”