Running a Rental Business

Airbnb vs. Hotel: A Cleanliness Showdown

Cleanliness is more than meets the eye. To understand Airbnb vs Hotel cleanliness STR operators should weigh guest expectations, dissect the unseen, evaluate their cleaning processes, and prioritize immaculate stays.

By The Turno Team

Last updated: January 20, 2024

Are Hotels or Airbnbs Cleaner?

As a short-term rental operator, you know that the cleanliness of your property is a significant factor in your success. When it comes to booking accommodation for a trip, cleanliness is a crucial factor that guests consider. And today, travelers have more choices than ever. 

What are the considerations guests might make when choosing where to stay? How does the cleanliness of an Airbnb compare to that of a traditional hotel? And what actions can STR hosts take to ensure their properties meet guest expectations at every booking? Let’s dive in.

Guest Expectations Raise the Bar for Vacation Rentals

Guests have high expectations when it comes to the hygiene and overall neatness of their accommodations, often comparing short-term rentals to the standards of traditional hotels. Today’s STR guests expect nothing less from an Airbnb than of a nice hotel. 

These expectations for cleanliness are rooted in past experiences. Traditionally, hotels have been associated with demonstrated levels of cleanliness and guest accommodations. Guests are accustomed to daily housekeeping services, fresh linens, and spotless bathrooms – high standards they carry over to your Airbnb. 

Many guests choose a vacation rental because they prefer the homey feel, privacy, and personal touch these properties offer, but that choice does not negate their requirement for professional-level cleanliness. In booking with you, they acknowledge there is no daily housekeeping or delivery of fresh linens. Yet despite your property being a private home, guests expect an environment that is clean and sanitary. 

Plant decor in a vacation rental bedroom

Guest Considerations When Booking an Airbnb vs Hotel 

When deciding where to stay, guests likely consider several factors related to cleanliness. For instance, they might think about who is responsible for cleaning the property. In a hotel, there’s professional housekeeping staff that guests assume are trained, evaluated, and managed by a cleaning supervisor. 

In an Airbnb, however, the cleaning personnel could be the host, a cleaning service, or even previous guests (in the case of ‘clean up after yourself’ properties). As such, potential guests might be more inclined to scrutinize the details of a vacation rental’s cleanliness. After all, other guests recently shared the space, using everything from kitchen utensils and bed linens to throw pillows and remote controls. 

Reviews also play a critical role. Both hotels and STR properties have published reviews that give potential guests an idea of what to expect. As an Airbnb host, your cleanliness rating has a direct impact on your overall rating and listing visibility, and consequently, your ability to attract new bookings. Any lack of transparency or uncertainty about your cleaning standards might be enough to push travelers toward the recognizable ‘comfort’ of a hotel. 

Potential bonus: because Airbnb hosts review their guests as well, there might be an added incentive for guests to keep the property clean during their stays. 

Why Cleanliness Matters More Than Ever

Both hotels and STRs have unique strengths and challenges when it comes to cleanliness. For guests, their booking choice depends on a combination of personal preferences, past experiences, and the specific circumstances of their trip. For everyone, cleanliness is not just about aesthetics; it’s also about health, safety, and the overall experience.

In the post-pandemic era, cleanliness has remained a key focus. Guests prioritize properties that can assure them of a safe and hygienic stay. Recognizing this, Airbnb implemented an enhanced cleaning initiative for hosts during the height of COVID-19. Their recommendations include guidelines on how to sanitize every room in a home and what to pay attention to while cleaning. While the world is no longer under the grips of COVID-19, travelers’ attention to cleanliness and sanitation remains high.

As a host, understanding these practices and adhering to the highest standards of cleanliness not only ensures guest safety but also enhances your property’s appeal in a competitive hospitality market.

gloved hand washing rim of bathroom sink

What the Data Reveal: Dirtiest Areas of an Airbnb or Hotel 

There is no clear-cut answer to which is cleaner, hotels or Airbnbs? As with most things in life, it depends on the specifics. Even the most luxurious hotels have incredibly germy surfaces, especially in the bathroom and other high-traffic areas – and yes, even with daily housekeeping. 

What’s important to recognize is that cleanliness extends beyond mere appearances. For short-term rental operators and their Airbnb cleaning teams, it’s about arming themselves with the right information and placing hygiene at the forefront to guarantee each stay is not only enjoyable but also safe. 

A 2023 study published by Water Filter Guru shed light on the hygiene levels of both hotel and STR bathrooms, revealing some startling differences and underscoring the importance of cleanliness. The report makes for a great read (they use the term “home-sharing”), and here are a few highlights:

  • Hotspots for Germs: The study found that sink faucets and showerheads were the germiest places in any bathroom, hotel or Airbnb.
  • Airbnb vs Hotel Bathrooms: Overall, rental property bathrooms had three times more bacteria than hotel bathrooms. This is an opportunity for STR operators to up their bathroom cleaning game.
  • Comparing Specific Areas: Home-sharing sink faucets had 250,000 times more bacteria than their hotel counterparts, and tubs had 1,500 times more bacteria than hotel tubs. Interestingly, hotel shower handles were cleaner than toilet seats, while rental shower handles had nearly 10 times more bacteria than toilet seats.

There’s a difference between cleaning and disinfecting. These findings underscore the need for STR operators of all sizes to maintain high standards of both cleanliness and disinfection practices. A sanitized environment not only protects the health and safety of guests but also enhances the overall guest experience and bolsters your reputation in the market.

running shower head in a vacation rental

Actionable Tips to Ensure Excellence in Cleanliness 

To achieve a 5-star rating from today’s travelers, it’s essential that hosts consistently meet or exceed the cleanliness standards typically associated with hotels. Here are some actionable tips for STR hosts and property managers:

  • Follow a thorough cleaning process: This includes preparation, cleaning, sanitizing, checking, and resetting. By following an operational turnover process, you and your cleaning team can ensure a thorough cleaning of the property before each guest arrives.
  • Create a detailed turnover checklist: Developing a room-by-room checklist will ensure your cleaner covers all areas that need cleaning. From kitchen counters to bathroom floors and every spot in between, checklists help ensure nothing gets missed.
  • Keep a supply of quality cleaning products: Make sure you have enough cleaning supplies readily available for guest use. Help your guests help you by providing items like disinfectant sprays, detergents, and paper towels. 
  • Encourage guest feedback on cleanliness: This will allow you to improve your cleaning practices based on actual guest experiences. Utilize guest feedback tools like Turno’s Guest Checkout feature to solicit direct, private feedback from guests upon checkout. 
  • Conduct post-stay cleanup and damage inspection: After each guest’s stay and during the turnover process, ensure a thorough cleaning and sanitization of the property. Also, cleaners should inspect for and report any problems that need to be addressed before the next guest arrives.

Communicating Your Cleanliness Practices and Expectations

Transparency is key when it comes to reassuring your guests about your cleaning practices. Guests who are well-educated about their accommodation choices are more likely to be satisfied with their decision, leading them to choose an Airbnb over a hotel in the future. 

Here’s how you can effectively communicate your efforts:

  • Include cleaning details in your listing description: Give potential guests a thorough idea of your cleaning process and the steps you take to maintain cleanliness. Let guests know that you’re committed to providing a sanitary environment.
  • Respond to reviews: If a guest mentions cleanliness in their review, respond positively and constructively. This shows future guests that you value feedback and are committed to maintaining high standards.
  • Communicate directly with guests: After booking, send your guests a message detailing your cleaning protocols. This can help further set expectations and reassure them of a clean and safe stay.

By implementing these tips, you can ensure that your Airbnb property is as clean, if not more clean, than traditional hotel rooms. This not only enhances the guest experience but also boosts your reputation and your ratings, leading to more bookings and better reviews in the future.

The Turno Team Avatar
The Turno Team , The Turno Team researches and publishes articles designed to provide short-term rental Hosts, Property Managers, and Airbnb Cleaners with insightful, useful resources. Articles written by the Turno Team cover a wide range of STR interests, from the latest industry data and best practices to real-world, practical advice on running efficient, revenue-generating vacation rental businesses in an ever-changing market.