Please make "fragrance-free" a filter

Answered!
Brian450
Level 9
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 odors 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
Marc9427
Level 3
Philadelphia, PA

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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131 Replies 131
Lauren487
Level 2
Boulder, CO

You would simply write a disclaimer. We understand. As a fragrance free person I tend to book more expensive places that have extra bedrooms so I can sleep in the least scented one. 

Lana913
Level 2
Frederick, MD

It’s still better than also dealing with those residual on top of the scented products. I wouldn’t complain about that. But maybe we should get refunded in that occasion. I stay in hotels a lot and that has happen only a couple of times. No one should be vaping inside right? Unless you don’t mind that as a host. Maybe you can put in your profile to please only spray perfume/cologne outside the home for future guests that might be affected by scents. 

Brian450
Level 9
Tempe, AZ

This is a indeed a problem for fragrance free short-term rentals, and something that hosts who run fragrance-free B&Bs often complain about. There is no easy answer while the larger culture still lacks awareness of the problem.

 

I think it starts with clear communication - guests who book such a property need to be told repeatedly, not just by the host but also by the booking site that there is an expectation that they arrive fragrance-free and don't bring any of the products you mentioned. There could be a separate page in the booking process where guests are required to check a box that asks for a commitment not to bring fragrance into the space.

 

To make this easier, the host should offer fragrance-free body care products to guests.

 

The page would also make it clear that if the guest contaminates the space with perfume, they will be charged a substantial cleaning fees to get the smell out. This should not be perceived as unusually harsh or impractical. It's the same policy hotels already have for people who smoke in non-smoking rooms. The hotel will charge them several hundred dollars for the required deep cleaning to get the smoke smell out of the room.

 

Materials are an important. A viable fragrance-free short-term rental should have tile floors and no carpet. 

Branka-and-Silvia0
Level 10
Zagreb, Croatia

@Brian450there is no way any host would be able to charge a deep cleaning fee in case the guest uses perfume or else. Airbnb would not enforce it, believe me, they don't do that for the smoking smell when the host had to rent an ionization machine

 

And besides, hosts can not decline so many ordinary guests, Airbnb is threatening hosts who decline 3 requests in a row so we are using it for guests with bad reviews, unresponsive, demanding, rude, guests who require something we don't offer like early check-in or late checkout, who ask for 2 nights even we have 3 nights min, want to bring pet or kids in pet/kids non-friendly properties etc...

Lauren487
Level 2
Boulder, CO

I would pay for an ionization before my arrival if I could if it were a cologne drenched person but i would absolutely not expect any previous guests to be unscented. 

Andrew0
Level 10
Berlin, Germany

@Brian450   This is sounding less and less like a viable business strategy.

 

It's one thing for a host whose property happens to have the correct flooring to use the necessary products to try and accommodate a guest with your condition. That is something that many hosts would be happy to do for their guests in the name of great hospitality. It's quite another thing to make special demands of guests without your condition in order to accommodate it, especially to the extent of punishing them with fines for using their own toiletries. That is absolutely not tenable unless you're catering exclusively to clientele with MCS.

 

Perhaps you've inadvertently made a great argument for a niche travel platform by and for people with MCS as an alternative to Airbnb. I don't know, maybe something like this already exists on social media. There are plenty of other niche listing sites with specific clientele (e.g. LGBT, nudists, senior citizens) as well as listing sites for needs beyond general accommodation (events, retreats, etc) that are able to better fit their users' needs by specializing. It seems to work a lot better than asking hosts to accommodate needs they have no way to truly understand.

Lana913
Level 2
Frederick, MD

@Brian450 I don’t think there’s a site already like that. Otherwise we would already know about it. What do you mean by they don’t understand it? It’s simply not using fragrance products 

Brian450
Level 9
Tempe, AZ

And yet, we have the same system that you are dismissing as impractical for smoking. We have non-smoking accommodations, and no one thinks that when you book such a room and are expected not to smoke in it, you're being punished "for using your own cigarettes". That the cigarettes are your property is neither here nor there. Everyone gets that you can't smoke in a non-smoking room. 

 

It's a cultural thing, and change takes getting used to. If a big player like AirBnB makes it "a thing" for travel, which is what I am asking, there will be growing pains, but people will adjust.

 

Fragrance-free is not a special need. It's actually a human need. Modern consumer fragrances are harmful to everyone's health, just like cigarette smoke, and large percentages of the population are acutely and chronically sickened by them. Many just don't realize that their "stuff" is harming them, and that it's causing their chronic headaches, their migraines, their skin problems, their asthma, etc.

 

Once fragrance-free breaks through into mainstream awareness, it will rapidly gain in popularity. People will try it, and be surprised how much better they feel.

 

Travelers who book fragrance-free accommodations and abide by the rules will be amazed how well they sleep and how much more rested they feel when they wake up. Some will find that their asthma is suddenly better, or that they're not having their usual headaches. Resistance will give way to enthusiastic acceptance.

 

Big changes for the better are never easy, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't make them.

Alessandra1089
Level 2
Genoa, Italy

I totally agree with you, and I really hope that Airbnb will add this filter. I’ve got a condition called Mastcell activation syndrome and I’m also allergic to a wide number of fragrance allergens, so that finding a suitable accommodation is quite difficult for me, and this filter would make my life easier, because it's literally a matter of life and death for me . Also, nowadays there is more attention to the environment, and considering that fragrances and nasty cleaning products have a big role in pollution (especially they have a big bad impact on indoor air quality) it could make sense also for people who care about the planet to allow them to choose the accommodation that is more aligned with their values.

Cheryll7
Level 2
Bend, OR

People need to be allowed to search based on healthy (and/or allergy) choices. I would love to be able to search for a certified organic mattress, no perfumes/fragrances, low emfs/no wifi, and no pets. Why is this so difficult? I've asked them to add these features on their search engine, to no avail. There are travel sites where one can search hotels based on these details so why don't they all do it? As Brian states, one can search for non-smoking spaces, how is that so different? Thanks Brian, for starting this post, I hope it forces change, as I do really enjoy this as a travel option.

Pam1839
Level 1
Wallington, Australia

Yes, I agree.  In my B&B I ask people not to apply fumes, wear any applied tanning products in the spa bath, and not be smokers.  Very hard on my business, all of them, but essential for the future.  Someone has to stand up and once more people do, it will become an option for chemically sensitive people to consider travel. 

This is an absolutely great idea! I dread going away because of my “Multiple Chemical Sensitivity”. I actually avoid traveling because the location will be uninhabitable for me if they use fragrance or toxic cleaning supplies. There are thousands of people like me with the same problem.  I went to an allergist recently and he told me that he feels bad for people like me because there’s nothing he can do to help except refer to an Environmental Medicine Doctor. I asked him how many patients come in like me? He said about 30 percent! It’s only growing and growing. The more people I open up to about it, the more I realize what a problem it is. 

Cheryl877
Level 1
Southborough, MA

As a pre-covid frequent traveler and short-term rental customer, I can attest to the fact that these properties are often over-using super toxic things like plug-in air fresheners and overly scented laundry detergents.  There have been a number of trips ruined by migraines from these things.  It's an awful feeling to be 'trapped' in a rental that is making you sick.  I have begun to scour reviews and 'word search' for things like 'scent, smell, fragrance' and I also obsessively look at photos.  If I spy a plug-in, I won't go there.   I agree with previous comments: You can't make a host legally responsible for 'smells' but a host can be up front about their commitment to a non toxic environment via their cleaning and laundry practices.  You will gain lots of new guests with this new practice, I promise you.  PS HOSTS: Pure Baking Soda is a POWER HOUSE laundry soap and costs much less than commercial crap.  Esp if you buy in bulk.  CLEAN SMELLS LIKE NO SMELLS 🙂 

 

Carrie455
Level 2
Portland, OR

Of course there is only so much control in a space but I think if it could say things like “FF non-toxic laundry, no air fresheners, eco products provided and must be used”. 
Ive stayed in a place and it smelled like toxic laundry from the residue on guests clothing, but I could add my own bedding and it was ok. 
Much better than if they used those products on the bedding.  

Carrie455
Level 2
Portland, OR

Many people don’t tolerate fragranced laundry, perfumes, air fresheners etc. (asthma, migraines, autoimmune, neurological conditions) and are looking for better options. They may be able to better tolerate a stay in fragrance than someone with MCS, but they may feel better without. And many hosts don’t necessarily like catering to fragranced people then having to wash the fragrance out, or try to.  

with so many families and individuals needing a break from these toxic products air bnb absolutely should be linking people up. It would be a good service not a hinderance.  

Jane3704
Level 1
Berwyn, PA

I join the request for a fragrance-free filter on your site. So many of us would find this valuable! This would actually increase the traffic to your site once word got out. 

Brian450
Level 9
Tempe, AZ

That's the irony. We're basically asking AirBnB to stop ignoring that gigantic pile of cash that is just waiting to be grabbed by serving the demand (and facilitating the supply) for less toxic lodging.

 

40% of Americans (Pew Research, 2016) eat "most" or "some" organic. 

 

Over 50% (Steinemann, 2016) would prefer public accommodations to be fragrance-free.

 

This illustrates the size of the market that would potentially be drawn towards less toxic lodging options.

Huma0
Level 10
London, United Kingdom

@Brian450

 

Interesting figures. 

 

I can't speak to the whole of America, let alone the world, but I have now hosted hundreds of Airbnb guests, including many Americans, and not a single one, literally not a single one, has ever requested I don't use fragrances in the house. The only guests who have ever mentioned fragrance has done so in a positive way, i.e. to say that they like it. I've also never had a guest have any kind of allergic or otherwise negative reaction to it. 

 

Now, I am not saying that there aren't a lot of people who are adverse to fragrances or even severely allergic to them, but those numbers sound out of whack according not only to my hosting experience but to the people I know and meet and work with.

 

As for organic food. Well, I can only think of a couple of American guests out of many that bought SOME organic food, even though it is widely available here. Those were only people that had lived in California. I am not joking.

 

Sorry, I know it's not very PC to say, but I suspect that a lot of people simply do not tell the truth when filling out surveys or participating in research and the surveys themselves skew questions to get the answers they want. As a journalist, I get sent loads of emails every day with research results and most of them appear to be extremely biased in favour of whatever outcome the researchers would like to achieve.

Lana913
Level 2
Frederick, MD

@Huma0 You probably haven’t had any because they might have it mild (I did for years), some might not know they have MCS, I didn’t know it for years. I though it was just a symptom, not a health condition on its own.  The ones with severe mcs try not to travel unless they have to. And even if they have too, they might not. I know a lady that avoided going to her mom’s funeral because she couldn’t fly in. Most of us are broke, so we won’t have much money to travel for fun. We usually have to see naturopaths (don’t take health insurance), but supplements (that aren’t covered by health insurance) have to drive far to see a doctor, etc. BUT for those that have a little money to travel might actually travel if there were FF Airbnb’s! Also I don’t see many people with food allergies either. Like 3 in 16yrs, but we all know about them, right?! MCS is going up 300-300% per decade! So I bet you will hear from one soon!

Huma0
Level 10
London, United Kingdom

@Lana913 

 

Yes, it's quite possible that I will hear from one soon and also quite possible that have have hosted someone with milder conditions who wasn't aware of it. I am just surprised that no one at all has mentioned it, neither any of the hundreds of guests I've hosted over the years nor friends, families, colleagues or acquaintances. Perhaps there is less awareness of it here in the UK. Then again, I've hosted many guests from the US and around the world and, as I host in my own home, people do tell me about their allergies, to pets, dust, pollen, certain foods etc. but no one has ever mentioned fragrance.

 

Don't get me wrong. I do sympathise with people with allergies. I was diagnosed with a chronic one in my 30s but the doctors couldn't figure out the cause. While I was suffering from this, my life was hell, I was frequently in tears and it was a big factor in me leaving my job. This allergic reaction initially only flared up when I was in my workplace so I naturally assumed there was something there that was setting it off, but I was met with hostility when I brought it up to my manager or to HR. One colleague even told me she had thought that I was being a drama queen and making it up until she witnessed me having a very severe reaction.

 

The problem is, it's often very difficult to diagnose the cause of an allergic reaction. I feel like hosts would be opening themselves up to all sorts of liabilities by offering a fragrance free listing, but each to their own. If a host is willing to take that risk, it is of course their choice.

 

 

Morgan559
Level 2
Los Angeles, CA

fragrance is disgusting.  Even if you do NOT have MCS, these are very toxic chemicals that people just accept as normal, but they are FAR from normal (or healthy).  I think this is a very reasonable request, and not just for people with MCS, far from it!  a LOT of people are sick of stinky chemicals taking residence in their nostrils...it's a huge issue, not a small issue.  It's important to provide this filter option, and really ask people.  The people who are aware will know about his issue, the people who are profoundly ignorant will not even understand why the question is being asked.  You might have a dropdown with these options. 
1-we do NOT use air fresheners or fragrances in this space, this is a fragrance free home.
2-we DO use air fresheners and fragrance
3-we don't understand the question,  huh? we spray fabreze all over everything is that bad?

 

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