Moving to a new home can be an exciting and stressful experience. Between packing, decluttering, and lifting heavy boxes, it’s easy to forget about cleaning your old house before handing over the keys. But leaving a clean and tidy space is essential for the incoming occupants, and if you’re a tenant, it can also help secure the return of your security deposit. That’s why we’ve assembled an expert-approved move-out cleaning checklist for anyone leaving their home or apartment. So whether you’re moving out of your house in Albany, NY, or your apartment in Birmingham, AL, our cleaning checklist will help you tackle every inch of your old space to leave it looking as good as new.
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1. Focus on the main areas
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Moving is a headache in and of itself. When you add the hassle of having to clean up your home or apartment, it can get even more stressful. Carl Christian from Atlanta Green Maids shared, “I advise homeowners to focus on the main areas the new tenant will likely notice. Rather than dedicating precious time to scrubbing baseboards and windows, concentrate on ensuring that the interiors of appliances and cabinets are immaculate. No one likes being in the process of moving in, only to discover dirt or belongings from the previous occupant.”
2. Pay attention to your carpet
When it comes to cleaning the carpets during a move-out, it’s best to hire a professional cleaning service to ensure that the carpets are thoroughly cleaned and any stubborn stains are removed. However, if you prefer to do it yourself, start by vacuuming the carpets to remove any loose dirt and debris. Then, use a carpet cleaning machine with a cleaning solution to deep clean the carpets. Make sure to spot-treat any stains before running the machine, and allow plenty of time for the carpets to dry completely before moving any furniture back in.
On Time Steam Cleaning has a tip for what to look for in carpet when moving to your next place. “If you notice a black line along the wall, corners of the carpet, or where the carpet ends, this can help to indicate a few things. A black line present along the carpet means the air is not sufficiently moving throughout the property, which can cause soot to build up. If this is the case, the air ducts are likely due for a cleaning.”
3. Sort through your clothes
Josh from Morris Cleaners recommends focusing on your clothing.” Start by organizing clothing by season and family member, then donate or sell any dress you don’t wear anymore. To conserve space, vacuum seal your packed clothing in your suitcase, and to protect your clothes, opt for poly bags or garment bags from your local dry cleaners.”
4. Clean your windows inside and out
“Crystal clear windows make a huge difference and will make everything look cleaner inside the home, not to mention it lets in a lot more natural light,” says Geek Window Cleaning. “
To clean your windows effectively, start by dusting or vacuuming the window frame and sill to remove any loose dirt and debris. Then, apply a window cleaning solution and use a squeegee to remove the cleaning solution and any dirt or grime from the window surface. Finish by using a microfiber cloth or newspaper to buff the window and remove any remaining streaks or water spots. Don’t forget to clean the window frames and sills too, as they can accumulate dirt and grime over time.
Photo courtesy of Pacific Exterior
5. Consider having your roof professionally cleaned
If you’re selling your home, Pacific Exterior suggests getting the roof professionally cleaned before putting it on the market. “Since your roof is a major aspect of what potential homebuyers first see, roof cleaning can optimize their first impression. The results are stunning and last for years.”
6. Clean your home’s exterior
“Pressure washing the exterior of your home is a crucial step in move-out cleaning,” says Mark Dye from M&D Power Washing. “Not only does it remove dirt, grime, and other debris that may have built up over time, but it also helps to restore the original shine and color of your property’s exterior surfaces. Make sure to focus on high-traffic areas like walkways and driveways, as well as any mold or mildew growth that may be present. A clean exterior can make a huge difference in the overall appearance and value of your home.”
7. Give yourself ample time to plan your move out cleaning checklist
“Designate more time than you expect,” says Clean Arrival. “You may think move-out cleaning is more straightforward than regular maintenance cleaning because you’ve already moved out all your furniture and belongings and don’t need to work around them. However, you’ve now exposed all the previously hidden surface areas, and believe us, walls and ceilings get dirty.”
8. Scan your room right to left
Daniel Olin from Easyway Maid Service says, “Go around your home and look at everything from right to left. Most people naturally scan rooms from left to right, which causes your brain to stop recognizing some objects because they become “part of the background.” When you scan in the opposite direction from what you’re used to, things like light switches, dirty blinds, and other small details will pop out at you, making it easier to jot down what needs to be cleaned.”
9. Start with your larger items
“Cleaning can be a bit discouraging when you have to do the whole house, especially if you must be super detailed and meticulous about it,” says Rosario Ortega, Jr. from Oasis Natural Cleaning. “That’s where a bit of psychology comes into play. Start with something big, like the windows or the tiles – once those have been accomplished, you will have renewed vigor to do the rest.”
10. Don’t forget your fridge
“Make sure your fridge is included in your move-out cleaning checklist,” says Alessandra Mendes from Cleaning Glow. “One of the most commonly missed areas is large kitchen appliances, such as behind or under the fridge. Dust and grime can also collect on the top of the fridge over time, and it’s an easily missed spot – especially if you have a tall fridge.”
To make your fridge look brand new, remove all food and discard any expired or unnecessary items. Use warm water and mild detergent to wipe down the shelves, drawers, and interior of the fridge, and pay special attention to areas where food is stored. Then, wipe down the exterior with a clean, damp cloth.
11. Clean your dishwasher inside and out
“This is important because food, grease, and dishwasher soap can cling and form deposits inside” says Busy Bee Cleaning Company. “Check the drain trap to make sure there is nothing left behind that can leave a bad smell.”
To clean your dishwasher, remove any debris or food particles from the bottom of the dishwasher and the drain. Then, run a cycle of the dishwasher with a cup of white vinegar in the top rack to eliminate any residue or odors. Sprinkle a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher and run another cycle to remove any remaining residue and refresh the dishwasher’s scent. Finally, wipe down the dishwasher door and controls with a damp cloth or sponge.
12. Don’t overlook your baseboards
“Baseboards are usually one of the most overlooked areas in a home,” says Tiger Cleaning Services. “Although cleaning your baseboards may not be the most exciting task, it will leave your home looking and feeling better. When prospective buyers walk through your home, you want a positive impression of the home that sells, not a dirty one.”
A quick tip for cleaning your baseboards is to use a soft-bristled brush, such as a clean paintbrush, to loosen any dust or dirt from the crevices. Then, use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe down the baseboards, making sure to clean any stubborn stains. To finish, use a dry cloth to remove any remaining moisture and leave your baseboards looking clean and tidy.
13. Clean your cabinets thoroughly
“The inside of kitchen and bathroom cabinets are often missed during move-out cleanings,” says Maid Bright. “These areas can collect remnants of used toiletries or food particles. Vacuum inside cabinets and drawers with a brush attachment and thoroughly wipe with a damp microfiber cloth to clean them of leftover debris, dust, and grime.”
14. Remove hard water stains in your bathroom
“Use an acidic cleaning solution, like Gel Scrub, to remove those persnickety hard water stains,” says Eloise’s Cleaning Service. “Apply the solution, agitate it with a hard-bristled brush, let it sit for 15 minutes, and then rinse. Beware – your glass door might look invisible, and you risk walking face-first into your glass shower door.”
15. Clean every nook and cranny of your home
Spekless shares, “Don’t forget the hard-to-reach and high touch point areas in your move-out cleaning checklist,” recommends Spekless “The saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ doesn’t apply during a move-out cleaning. It’s important to clean every nook and cranny to ensure you get your security deposit back or help establish your house’s market readiness. Ensure window panels, blinds, sliding tracks, trim and ledges, ceiling fixtures and fan blades, light switches, behind and under appliances, inside and top of cabinets, and even your HVAC system are cleaned before you leave.”
16. Sanitize high touch areas
“Don’t omit the high touch points areas such as doorknobs, light switches, faucets, cabinet handles, stair railing, and alarm buttons during a move-out cleaning,” says Carolina Rodriguez from Ecoverde Maids. “We check on these areas after every cleaning we deliver, and it’s essential to ensure that they’re correctly sanitized during these times to reduce and mitigate any risk.”
17. Call the pros if you need extra help
Ultimately, you may need to call professional cleaners to help. “Hiring professional cleaners for your move-out cleaning service is a thoughtful way to hand over the keys, ensuring the new residents can move in easily,” says Jennifer L. Troyer from Seattle Green Cleaner. “It takes a lot off your plate and makes refunding your full security deposit more likely. A move-out cleaning assumes the home is empty. Start by removing all furniture, décor, and personal items from home. Also, ensure closets, cabinets, and drawers are empty, and nothing is left in the refrigerator or freezer.”