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Saying “No” to Airbnb’s Cleaning Badge

In mid-June, Airbnb launched its new cleaning protocol. The program is designed to 1) protect guests from the dangers presented by COVID-19, and to 2) reward hosts who make the effort to follow a rigorous cleaning program. In theory, the program has merit. But the actual protocol is rife with big problems. We are politely saying, “No,” to Airbnb’s cleaning badge. Here’s why.

Is simply too big and cumbersome to implement.

The protocol gives hosts the option to 1) allow 72 hours between bookings or 2) read and be quizzed over 43 pages of detailed information about cleaners, cleaning methods and protective gear. The protocol stipulates the types of cleansers that are acceptable. It requires the cleaning person to don the equivalent of a HazMat suit before he or she starts cleaning.

Goes way beyond what is necessary, and even beyond what is reasonable.

Hosts choosing option 1 could feasibly lose 50% or more of their income, especially if most of their guests stay only a night or two. This option really isn’t an option for hosts who earn a majority of their income from vacation rentals.

Hosts should be allowed to implement and advertise any special cleaning procedures they’ve decided are practical. Prospective guests can make informed decisions based on the information in the listing and on feedback left by other guests. If they need more information, guests can contact the hosts directly before they book. We routinely field questions about our cleaning procedures. There’s really no purpose—other than grandstanding on the part of Airbnb—to put this burden on hosts.

Penalizes hosts with a strong record for cleanliness.

Hosts who earn lots of 5’s for cleaning are consistently and carefully cleaning their listings, or making sure someone else does. They may not follow the 5 basic steps of the Airbnb protocol—prepare, clean, sanitize, check, and reset—exactly, but their feedback indicates a track record of doing things well. There’s no good reason for Airbnb to impose an arbitrary and onerous cleaning program on them.

Dramatically increases the host’s cleaning cost.

Hosts who clean their own places will have to invest in copious amounts of cleansers and equipment. (Toilet brushes must be replaced or sanitized EVERY time. Gloves are to be changed each time you begin cleaning a new room or common area, and on, and on.) Hosts or hired cleaners will spend a great deal of time “checking the checklist” that’s provided for each room and common area to make sure they have covered everything.

Hosts who hire cleaning services will have to pay more. No cleaning service will be able to take on the additional procedures without charging more.

Will be expensive to guests.

Hosts will either have to 1) accept drastically reduced margins, or 2) pass the extra cost on the guests. When Airbnb introduced the protocol, they acknowledged that cleaning costs would increase. Their answer was simple—pass the increase on to guests. They overlooked or ignored the fact that doing so would effectively price some folks out of the market.

Sets a totally arbitrary standard for earning the badge.

In order to earn the banner, hosts must read the material, agree to follow the protocol, and then pass a quiz over what they have read. No actual “cleaning test" is done. No one from Airbnb comes to inspect the home or apartment. Hosts with only 4-star average ratings for cleanliness can earn the badge immediately upon reading the material, passing the quiz and signing a commitment form.

Excludes some listings.

At this point, listings that aren’t separate spaces can’t earn the cleaning badge. While that may seem like a disadvantage, it actually isn’t. The playing field is level for all listings that aren’t separate units. Prospective guests can peruse listings, read feedback and contact hosts to ask questions about their cleaning methods. The guidelines for everyone are the same.

Encourages dishonesty, especially among hosts who don’t get excellent ratings for cleanliness.

Hosts with good—but not excellent—cleaning records can, in a day or 2, earn a cleaning protocol badge without improving their actual cleaning methods. As long as they maintain a 4-star rating for cleanliness, their listing will display the cleaning badge. Unscrupulous hosts are apt to read the protocol, take a quiz, and sign a commitment very quickly.

Our Perspective

We have a cleaning rating that’s close to 5, and many comments about how clean our units are, but we’re saying “No” to Airbnb’s cleaning badge. Now you know why. Readers, I would appreciate your perspective on this. Contact me, please, with your feedback.


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