When guests give you 4 starts for clean -- ideas to try

Continuing the discussion from Sick of getting 4 stars for cleanliness:

Definitely! Great suggestion.

I think you might have a perception problem rather than a cleanliness problem. I used to be a real estate agent in NYC and this is something we had to be sensitive to when showing apartments for sale.

  1. Odor. Most of us can no longer smell the particular smell of our homes, our noses get so used to it. I use carpet deodorizer between rug shampoos. My overwhelming favorite is: Aunt Fannie’s Carpet Refresher in bright lemon. Stale smells will suggest uncleanliness to some. I use a Frebreez plug in between guests if the guests cooked cabbage or something, that kills the order, then I remove the plug in before new guests arrive.

A pantry cabinet tended to smell musty/stale for whatever reason, so I took a small jar and filled it with whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, all spice, etc., and pushed it to the back of the pantry. Problem solved.

  1. Food. Add snacks, chocolate, interesting soft drinks, etc. Most guests do not eat anything so you will not even notice the cost. But funny thing, almost all my reviews mention that there were snacks even though they were untouched. This I will never understand!

  2. Fresh flowers. Most places have inexpensive sources for these but it depends where you live. A small orchid lasts many weeks if fresh cut is out of your budget.

  3. White linens. My first housekeeping company told me they would not clean my place unless I used only white sheets and white towels, which I was already doing. I wash everything in a peroxide creating detergent (Powerizer) so I do not have yellowing at all.

As a guest I’m to the point that I won’t book an AirBnB that uses colored linens. Call me what you will.

Hotels use white for a reason.


We have LOTS of tile with light-colored grout. Sweeping and mopping leaves lots of dirt in the grout lines, making the floor look dirty (well, because the grout lines are dirty).

I have a floor vacuum/scrubber that I swear by. It’s the Bissell CrossWave (Amazon.com)

After dry vacuuming the floor, I use a mop to spread water on the floor. Wearing rubber-soled shoes for safety, I then use the CrossWave to scrub and vacuum up the water. It’s amazing how dirty the water is even after vacuuming! The CrossWave has a water bottle that you can use to distribute the water instead of putting it down with a mop, but the reviews complain mostly that the water distribution system fails, so I don’t bother with it.

If the floor is really dirty, I’ll use a little Fabuloso in the water, then come back and repeat the process but with clean water.


I won’t call you any nasty names, but I will say I like and use colored linens and my guests specifically mention how much they like the bed. One guest called it “divine” in her review. Doubting that something is clean because it isn’t white is so weird to me. Clean bedding looks and smells clean regardless of what color it is.

Fresh flowers: it doesn’t even have to be flowers. Different color foliage can make a lovely bouquet and costs nothing to walk around and gather. Every Thangsgiving when my kids were young I would send them out to gather colorful leaves, rosehips, etc. for the table centerpiece.


I’ve stayed in many Airbnbs that weren’t as clean or well maintained as mine. It’s a hard standard to match and I don’t deduct stars. These rentals are almost always a good value but if it were higher priced or had what I considered to be a high cleaning fee, I might feel differently. I stayed in one recently that had a 2.5 gal water jug. Water dripped on the wood floor (they need a rubber mat under that shelf) and I grabbed a kleenex to wipe it up. I got dirt and a dark long hair that’s definitely not mine. That would get some hosts 4 stars.

Some of my ideas:

I’m always amazed at things like black or orange mildew in showers that can be removed with vinegar or bleach. Do the hosts not see it or do they not know how to clean it?

I’ve sat on many a toilet and stared at the tops of baseboards that would look new with swipe of a magic eraser with some ammonia, or perhaps it needs a paint touch up or some caulk.

I use a robot vacuum in my home and Airbnb room and I like that it goes under the bed so no one is going to get on their hands and knees and see dust bunnies under there.

Always use a lint roller on your sheets and pillowcases after laundering and look closely at the towels as you fold them to make sure there’s no hair. Curly hairs in particular will get caught in towel loops. I also favor white linens but have stayed in places with colored linens that I would stay in again.

My blacklight and headlamp have been mocked but I have 5 stars for cleanliness, 4.98 overall and well over 600 reviews. Most people are not going to like what they see with a headlamp and their reading glasses. If you are under 40 with good eyesight and a brightly lit room, maybe you can skip this tip.

One last thing, now that I’m old and don’t see so well in the dark I’ve become quite aware of the tripping hazards and poor lighting in other people’s homes and rentals. There’s a place in Phoenix that I like but between those issues and the homeless encampment just outside his property (which he can’t control of course), I don’t think I’ll be staying there a third time.


If it’s anything like a lot of the tilework in Mexico, they tend to get the grout too low, which makes it hard to get clean when mopping. I did all the tiling in my place myself- the grout is level with the tiles.
I used sand-colored grout so it doesn’t show dirt and looks nice with the saltillo tiles. I also reseal the tiles and grout when it needs it.

Even if your tiles are hard and shiny and don’t require sealer, it sounds like you need to seal your grout.

We use the the Tineco iFloor 3 vacuum, which is very similar to the Bissell CrossWave. Both are GREAT products. The Tineco does put water out and that feature works very well.

BTW in one home we just used a dark grout since the white grout inevitably got dirty and we were never able to get it really white.

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I made this mistake when I had my entire home tiled. It’s not a large home so I thought light tile and grout would make it seem larger and brighter. But if I can ever afford to re-do it I’ll have it done in the style of the two rooms that have a wood look tile with tiny dark grout lines.

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We did dark grout with white tiles in our stand-up shower and it turned out really well. Of course the soap scum is accentuated but nothing the scrubbing doesn’t take care of anyway.

It’s also helped to reseal the grout about once a year.

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I think here the hard water would be a bigger problem in a shower. My light grout in the showers is okay.

I wanted the look of a solid floor. If I could afford terrazo, I’d like that. I knew light grout gets dirty and I did seal it. The problem for me is the dog biz.

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I have to admit that I didn’t know about resealing the grout. But my cousin’s husband does tilework and did our shower for us. He said we should ideally reseal it every 6 months. No time for that and it’s not in constant use but he comes about once a year and reseals it for us.

I’ve only resealed mine once in 5 years. It’s a big job with the dogs and not worth the effort. Magic eraser and a commercial grout cleaner at least makes the cleaning fairly painless.


When it comes to paint, grout, and fabric colors, mid-range colors hide dirt and stains the best. Think grey, khaki, fern, sand, teak, etc. Both very light and very dark colors show dirt more easily.

Hotels use white because it’s easier to mix and match standard towels and linens when they do multiple washing loads and they can bleach easily. @SleepingCoyote We are not a hotel offer.

I wouldn’t work with a supplier that dictated to me what products I have in my STR.

I have grey and duck egg blue towels and my guests love them. Some grey bed sheets. Some White. Six years hosting and cohosting various listings. Six years with five star for cleanliness and SH status. I am between 4.96 and 4.98 and hundreds of guests, so must be doing something right :slight_smile:

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I love coloured grouts and got a lovely greeny/blue one to go with my newly fitted out bathrroom

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Part of the aesthetics of tiling is that the tiles and grout look best when they are not the same color- a contrasting grout, even if it’s just a noticeably different shade of the same color, is what makes tiling really stand out.

I must have some kind of special talent. This last one had a $350 cleaning fee :slightly_frowning_face: We did several loads of laundry the morning of checkout to cover up for using all the extra sheets in the linen cabinet…to cover a bunch of the sticky, stained furniture so we could sit on it. It all had slipcovers for the love of g-d, there was no excuse. Wished I’d had my bacout and oxy with me :joy:

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LOL. Maybe it’s trying to rent entire homes. I rarely do that and when I do, I’m in the upper price ranges because I’m splitting the cost with others. Also, as I’ve said before, nothing below 4.85 is considered and I’m usually in the 4.9+ range.

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It absolutely should. And $8000 for a week is upper price. I don’t have the answer.

I keep thinking my luck, both as guest and host, is going to run out.

White towels/white sheets are so damn boring. I use bright colors. Washing in the machine using non-fragrance laundry soap then hang them outside.


I get so many comments from guests about how immaculate their space was that I guess it must not be the norm. I can’t quite understand what’s so hard about cleaning thoroughly.