Please make "fragrance-free" a filter

Level 10
Tempe, AZ

Please make "fragrance-free" a filter

There is now a HUGE number of people who are fragrance-sensitive or have MCS. I'm one of them.


The odours of conventional cleaning products, air fresheners, dryer sheets, etc. make me sick. They give me headaches, burning eyes, feelings of tightness and tingling, respiratory irritation, heart palpitations, nausea, dry mouth and many other symptoms. I've had more than one vacation ruined by fragranced bedrooms that were making me ill. Surveys indicate that about one-third of the population in the US and other countries is fragrance-sensitive or has MCS or prefers fragrance-free spaces.


Please AirBnB stop ignoring this incredibly large group of people. You currently have filters for 13 different accessibility features. Could you PLEASE add another one, "fragrance-free"? Fragrance-free properties actually exist, it's just that you can't easily find them, at least not on the airbnb site itself. (Google search can be used as a workaround, but it's far from perfect.) Thanks!

1 Best Answer

I can see why you would think that, because you are probably picturing the people who would use this feature as entitled white ladies who put too much faith in Gwyneth Paltrow's take on medicine. In truth, they are people with conditions like MCAS who need to travel and are grateful for any accomodations that aren't a total assault on their bodies. Because of that, as long as the host makes the accomodations the say they will (e.g., no scented products and cleaning with safer products) they can expect very positive reviews.


For example, the only fragrance free Airbnb I know of is near Sedona, is always booked, and has great ratings.

In my own experience, I have managed to find a number of hosts who were willing to work with my medical issues, and we have always been on good terms because the accommodations I asked for were relatively easy (see above) and even though I wasn't perfectly comfortable, I felt much better then I would have in an ordinary hotel or Airbnb. But a fragrance free filter would have saved me SO MUCH work contacting hosts and explaining my medical needs.


The only time I have ever heard of a person leaving a bad review was when a woman was repeatedly assured by a host that the room used unscented laundry detergent and no scented air fresheners, which turned out to be completely untrue.


As for the other points like the healthy bed (i.e. A bed that doesn't off gas the VOCs that trigger our symptoms), those are things that would make a space even better for many, but I don't think anyone would expect those things just because a place is listed as fragrance free.


I think you are also underestimating the prevalence of these conditions because people with them usually don't mention them. People who report any degree of problems with fragrances are about 20% of the population (mostly headaches and such) and severe sensitivities are about 2%. That means a number of hosts may already be practicing fragrance free cleaning of their properties, but are unable to communicate it with the large numbers of clients who would love to rent such a space. At one rental I checked out in 2021, I spoke to a cleaning lady and asked if she could use mostly vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda to clean. She replied that those were all she used because her son was "sensitive to chemicals."

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183 Replies 183

@Brian450  I know several people with MCS and completely sympathize with your predicament here. Unfortunately, there are two major problems when it comes to Airbnb, that make this an unworkable option for hosts:


1) The "Category" filters promoted by Airbnb in its newest redesign are set by a janky algorithm without any input from the hosts, so the results it delivers are often nonsense.


But more importantly:

2) If a listing advertises an accessibility feature and the guest reports that it wasn't delivered, the Terms of Service require the host to grant a full refund for the stay. If your accessibility feature happens to be a stair-free entrance, that's no problem - your apartment isn't going to suddenly migrate upstairs before a guest arrives. But in the current bonanza of guests scamming for free stays, hosts don't want to set themselves up for a big loss when a guest claims they smelled something. Even hosts like me, who take care not to use any fragranced cleaning products or perfumes, would never promise something like that because I have no control over the environmental factors that might trigger a reaction.


What's also unfortunate is that one of the most frequent complaints deployed by free-stay scammers is bad smells, because they know they can't be asked for evidence. This filter would throw that door wide open for abuse.


I would still encourage hosts to mention in their descriptions which kinds of chemicals and fragrances are used in their cleaning routine, but then again it's very common that hosts outsource their cleaning to housekeeping services that are inconsistent with their methods. So with all this in mind, from a host perspective this filter would be a disaster. What I recommend to you and other people with sensitivities is to use the Contact Host button to discuss your specific needs directly with prospective hosts before booking, to determine whether they can be accommodated. For your own safety, you can't make any assumptions based on what a search filter turns up. 

Here's a compromise: all tile floor (instead of carpet) by itself makes a HUGE difference for indoor air quality, because carpet stores the fragrances, allergens, etc of previous guests, while tile doesn't. If I could have a single new filter from AirBnB, it would be "all tile floor". Currently, there is no good way to find these properties, even with google, because the kind of flooring is almost never in the description. It's only in the pictures.


Whether a property has all tile floor should not create any disagreements over fact or open the door for abuse.


@Brian450  All-tile floor, as in every room in the home has a tiled floor? That doesn't exactly work as an "accessibility" feature, as it doesn't accommodate a specific condition recognized as a disability by, say, the ADA. But flooring types aren't exactly "amenities" either, so it doesn't really have a natural home in the menu. On top of that, a typical property contains multiple types of flooring, so "all" anything is an obvious stumbling block.


Look, I know how when we get used to using other commercial platforms like Amazon, it seems natural that as customers we should be able to filter everything we might want to buy down to our most exacting specifications. And for the most part, I think the more tools we have to find the right fit, the better. But even in the unlikely event that an "all tile floor" filter was added by Airbnb, they don't have any data on what kind of flooring any of the 7 million listings on the platform have, so the option will only appear when individual hosts ticked off a new menu box in an already ridiculously long menu, in an update they probably know nothing about. Some who have no such thing will tick the box anyway, while the majority whose homes actually fit your needs will never know its there. It would be an astonishing coincidence if this approach actually solved your problem.


That's why I say, once again, you're probably going to have to accept that this doesn't work like Amazon - you'll have to either put the extra time in to contact hosts individually and discuss your needs and sensitivities, or accept that Airbnb itself may be too unstandardized and chaotic to fit your requirements.

I feel like we're now talking past each other a bit. To be clear, for many environmentally sensitive people, most conventional properties are a lost cause anyway. There is just too much wrong with them. So it doesn't matter whether their hosts know that new boxes exist or not and care to check them. Asking questions is also mostly pointless, because when you truly unpack what "chemically safe" and "fragrance-free" actually means (it's becomes a fairly long list), 99 out of 100 conventional hosts will just say no. (Believe me, I've tried.) The gap between what they consider normal and who they are marketing to and the needs of the environmentally sensitive is just too big. It's simply not practical for folks like myself to sift through hundreds or thousands of properties and contact hosts directly, only to be told NO by almost all of them.


My request is about permitting the minority of hosts who have properties that cater to the  large niche market of environmentally sensitive to actually properly market them on AirBnB, by making them findable. 


If "Iron" and "hair dryer" can have their own checkboxes as "essentials", then it's only fair to ask that "air I can breathe" be introduced in the same category. 

@Brian450   The thing is, an iron is an iron for everybody, and a hair dryer is a hair dryer for everybody. But each person has a unique profile of which kinds of air they can and can't breathe. It's just not a tenable category.

AirBnB supports host language. That's a pretty vague type of category. Whether someone speaks a language or not can be debatable. Nevertheless, AirBnB offers this information. 


As I have already said, AirBnB could introduce a type of "soft" features that would be offered on a best effort / honor system basis merely to make properties findable, not to create an entitlement backed by a money back guarantee. 



Level 10
London, United Kingdom



When I first started hosting, I selected both English and French as the languages I spoke. I have some basic Spanish, Italian and German as well, but very basic. French, however, I studied to A-level and got an A. I also had a Belgian boyfriend for two years and lived in Brussels. I am by no means fluent, but I can understand and read French fairly well.


Then, early on, I had a French guest who spoke no English at all, although his son understood a bit. I did my best to communicate in French and yet he rated me down on communication and overall because my French was not good enough. I then removed French from the languages on my profile and now only have English (in which I am most certainly fluent) so that no guests can ding me on that.


So, my point is, that while you don't think that many people would find fault if a host tries to be fragrance free, I highly suspect that it is a minefield. We have guests who complain or rate down on things CLEARLY stated on our listings, let along 'grey' areas. I am sorry because I know it must be very difficult for you and others suffering from this to find places to stay, but I would never, ever want to try to offer a fragrance free listing because I feel like it would be opening a can of worms.

"no use of air fresheners"

"unscented linens/towels".


That's extremely specific and takes care of 99% of the problem. It's functionally equivalent to the existing category of whether smoking is permitted or not. 

You could just ask the host to give you unscented bedding though. 

We don't use air freshener since it doesn't really work. We use air purifiers. We do scent the bedding during the cleaning process because it lets people know it's been washed.


But it would be easy for us not to scent the bedding as well. Just ask. 


Even if there was a 'fragfrance free' filter, we probably wouldn't check it though. I'm sure there are varying levels of tolerance. Like the topic creator says he can't tolerate any conventional cleaning products. So that would include bleach etc. And we do use that for cleaning the bathtub and it has a strong smell. 

Maybe there could be category that accommodates both the host and the person with "chemical-free" requirements. Could we have the renter sign a waiver that states they will not have the right to request a refund if the host advertises as chemical free?
I also feel that most MCS sufferers would pay a bit extra for a rental if a host was willing create a scent-free environment. It's sooo difficult to find places. I for one would be willing to pay extra for a place that I wouldn't react to. 

Level 10
London, United Kingdom

@Jane3704 wrote:

Could we have the renter sign a waiver that states they will not have the right to request a refund if the host advertises as chemical free?
I also feel that most MCS sufferers would pay a bit extra for a rental if a host was willing create a scent-free environment. It's sooo difficult to find places. I for one would be willing to pay extra for a place that I wouldn't react to. 

I doubt it. Airbnb CS is for the most part a shambles and I cannot imagine them properly handling this sort of thing if the guest complains. Hosts have received horrible reviews and ratings or even had to refund stays for stuff guests complained about that was clearly stated on the listing and the guest was made aware of before booking. That is despite the fact that, in theory, guests are supposed to agree to the host's house rules when they book.


I am afraid in the current state of affairs that hosts have to really go out of their way to protect themselves. While I totally understand why there would be a need for fragrance free listings, it's almost impossible to prove either way if it was fragrant free or not. There are a lot of guests out there scamming for fee stays. There are numerous websites out there offering advice on how guests can do that. This would be a really obvious and easy way for guests to do that.

how very wise of you...thank you!

Level 10
Tempe, AZ

Potential for abuse is a good point, but that just means that AirBnB needs to amend the rules and create a category of accommodations that are exempt from the money-back rule, because the accommodation is somewhat ill-defined in nature, and whether it was provided cannot objectively be determined. They could be called "soft accommodations".


"Fragrance-free" could be a soft accommodation. 


Soft accommodations would be incredibly helpful even without creating entitlements. Hosts with  properties for the environmentally ill and the extremely sensitive could more easily advertise them, and guests who want them could more easily find them. 


The review system would provide sufficient enforcement. 


Other soft accommodations I would like to see:


- no pesticides used on property

- no chemical disinfectants used on property

- no home/gardening chemicals stored on premises

- indoor paint/furniture/flooring/decorations are low-VOC and/or off gassed

- low noise area

- good air quality area

- low traffic area

- healthy mattress

- low light pollution area

- sleeping area can be made completely dark

- AC is extremely quiet 

- organic food available in vicinity

- low EMF property


@Brian450   OK, I don't know how to put this gently, but hosts do not want to attract "extremely sensitive" guests who see the review system as a way to "enforce" their demands. It's one of the greatest fears. It's not because hosts are bigoted or able-ist, but because people who have a lot of special requirements and are hard to please tend to be exceptionally demanding during their stay. And they often leave bad reviews no matter how much you try to do for them. Airbnb punishes hosts for imperfect reviews - even when you get a 4-star rating, Airbnb sends you a warning that your listing might get suspended. It really freaks people out. 


I look at your list of preferences, and honestly I think most hosts would rather have a vacancy than risk a booking from a guest with any combination of those desires. So many of those things are simply out of a host's control, and even if the guest can't get your money back for finding the AC not-extremely-quiet, the mattress "unhealthy" (WTF?) , or being in town during a lower-air-quality period (you know that fluctuates), no host wants to suffer through a guest who's unhappy because of those things. 


There are definitely travel experiences that can be created around your needs and preferences, but it would not be realistic to demand those from a home-sharing platform. That level of control only exists at a much higher budget.