This is the dirty truth about cleaning fees on vacation

Vacation rental cleaning fees out of control

If you hate paying cleaning fees on top of a hotel or vacation rental rate, then you have a lot in common with Laurel Barton.

Cleaning fees are Barton’s pet peeve. “Nothing annoys me more,” she says.

She recently had to pay a $150 cleaning fee for a seven-night stay in a one-bedroom apartment in the mountain village of Pontresina, Switzerland, in addition to the $1,230 rental fee.

“I pay very little more than that amount to have my 2,100-square-foot house with three bathrooms cleaned,” says Barton, a travel guidebook author who lives in Portland, Oregon.

Surprise cleaning fees

I’m also irritated by cleaning fees. When I rented a home in Sedona, Arizona, last summer, the real estate agency added a surprise $375 cleaning fee after it quoted my monthly rate.

Here’s what I’ve discovered about cleaning fees: While they can vary, the actual cost to the hotel or vacation rental owner is usually low. The difference can add up to a tidy profit, but you can also negotiate your way out of some cleaning fees.

Why are cleaning fees an issue now? Because more hotels and vacation rentals are breaking out these expenses from their initial price quote. Doing that makes the property look more affordable, at least at first. Quoting a room rate minus a mandatory cleaning fee is a severe irritation to travelers, although it can make a property more profitable – at least in the short term.

How much does it cost to clean a room or vacation rental?

Cleaning a room isn’t that expensive. Hotels spend about $10 per room for cleaning, according to Emma Atanasoska, a former hotel manager who publishes the industry blog That includes the cost of hiring a housekeeper and the equipment and supplies.

“It really doesn’t matter what kind of property you manage,” she says. “The math and the expenses will always be the same.”

For vacation rentals, which are larger, the cleaning cost is also surprisingly low. Mashvisor, a real estate data analytics company, crunched the numbers and found that it costs about $50 per stay.

“Of course, cleaning costs will vary depending on your location and the size of your property,” says Daniela Andreevska, a spokeswoman for Mashvisor.

That makes you wonder why people are paying $150 or, ahem, $375 in cleaning fees for their homes. The actual cost appears to be dramatically lower.

A tidy profit?

The lodging industry denies it’s trying to profit from cleaning fees. Veronica Hanson, who runs an Airbnb rental out of her primary home in Lake Oswego, Oregon, charges $300 for a cleaning fee.

“We pay $150 of that directly to the house cleaning service, and the other $150 goes to a professional laundry service who takes care of bedding and towels,” she says. “Sometimes the laundry service is a little more and sometimes a little less, depending on the weight of the linens upon pickup.”

Can someone profit from a cleaning fee?

“From my experience, no,” says Greg Shepard, a landlord and an owner of Dallas Maids home cleaning company. “If anything, short-term leases are more apt to take a loss from cleaning costs unless they have hired their own housekeepers.”

Others say cleaning fees can be profitable. Sandra Bennett owned an ocean-view, two-bedroom condo in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for the past six years. Her cleaners charged her $50. “In turn, I charged renters a $75 cleaning fee,” she says. But, she hastens to add, her rental rates were considerably lower than the standard for the area.

Telling you about the cleaning fee

Disclosure of cleaning fees varies. Airbnb, for example, displays a low “nightly” rate initially but then adds taxes and cleaning fees. For example, a condo advertised at $66 a night on the first screen of your reservation will later display as $97 a night, after adding cleaning fees and taxes. VRBO operates in much the same way. Guests don’t like those kinds of price quotes.

“Of course the property has to be cleaned,” says frequent renter Anne Woodyard. “So why not include that in your rates? I detest finding out, after choosing a rental property, that there are more fees beyond the rental price. It’s ridiculous.”

Ridiculous, but alas, the way of the industry. It shouldn’t be. In Australia, businesses have to “clearly” disclose a full price at the beginning of the online purchasing process. Consumers can report violations to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the country’s consumer-protection and competition agency, which can lead to enforcement action. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission could require an all-in price, but so far it hasn’t.

It’s only a matter of time before a hotel or vacation rental comes up with a clever $100-per-night “cleaning” fee to pad its profits. And then there are the vacation owners who are blatantly trying to rip off their “guests” with excessive cleaning fees. 

How to handle a cleaning fee

  • Click to find it. If you’re booking online, don’t pay attention to the “per night” charge. Instead, scroll down to the “total.” That’s the amount you actually will pay. Now, look up. If there’s a cleaning fee, you’ll see it there. If you’re booking by phone, always ask about the cleaning fee – and never assume there isn’t one.
  • You can negotiate a cleaning fee. I spoke with several owners and guests who said that cleaning fees are negotiable, particularly for extended stays. If the host balks, you can at least ask for a cleaning halfway through your stay. (On stays of longer than two weeks, a cleaning halfway through your stay is fairly standard.)
  • If it isn’t disclosed, dispute it. Save your screenshots and confirmations, because if the cleaning fee isn’t disclosed – and if you paid by credit card – you may be able to dispute it with your credit card company. But that’s a last resort. Try asking politely to remove the fee. Remember, all cleaning fees should be included in the initial room rate. Anything else is deceptive.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at,,, and

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.