Move-Out Cleaning Checklist: How to Clean Your Apartment Before You Leave
You’ve been loving your time in your apartment, but the lease agreement is up and it’s time to move on. Before you head to whatever life has in store for you next, you need to make sure your current rental property is in good shape for the next tenant. Cleaning your rental before you move helps you pass your move-out inspection and makes it more likely that you’ll get your security deposit back from your landlord.
To help, we spoke with Stephanie Howard, a Landing host in Florida, who walked us through a checklist of steps to take when prepping your apartment for move-out and things that you can do to make your move-out cleaning a little bit easier. Here are her tips!
Room by room move-out cleaning checklist
Stephanie says she tells tenants to leave their apartments “broom clean,” but that doesn’t always happen. Since the last thing you want is to lose some of your security deposit because you left some dust bunnies behind for your landlord to deal with, here’s what you can do in each room to leave your rental unit in tip-top shape:
One of the first things to do when cleaning the kitchen before you move out is to pack up or get rid of any food. Lots of tenants tend to leave food behind when they move, according to Stephanie, which can create problems with smells.
After you’ve packed up your pantry, take a few minutes to clean up the fridge. Wipe the shelves inside and the doors. If the refrigerator has a stainless steel finish, an easy way to give it a good clean without having to scrub is to use WD-40. It leaves the surface shiny and gets rid of fingerprints and grease spots. You can use it on any appliance with a stainless steel surface.
Next, clean the oven. You might want to use an oven cleaner to get rid of burnt-on food inside the oven. Wipe down the stovetop burners and your countertop, too.
If you’ve been staying in a furnished apartment that came with glassware and dishes, consider loading up the dishwasher and running it just before you leave. Your landlord will appreciate it!
Next, clean the bathrooms. Wipe the tub and sink surfaces clean and make sure any dust, hair, and other debris are swept up. Also, clean the toilet using a bowl brush. You can make toilet cleaning easier by dropping a tank cleaner into it, which will disinfect and deodorize with each flush.
Two big areas of concern in the bathroom are the drains and mildew build-up, according to Stephanie. She recommends using a drain snake to clear hair out of the drains and keep them running smoothly. As far as mildew goes, a bit of preventative action is best. Use the exhaust fan in the bathroom and open any windows in the room. She also recommends using a squeegee in the shower to dry it after use.
The big thing to focus on in the living room is the couch and other furniture. If the furniture is upholstered, Stephanie recommends vacuuming it before moving out. Pull the cushions out and vacuum behind and underneath them, too.
Once you’ve vacuumed the furniture, focus on cleaning the floor. Vacuum rugs and use a dusting mop to clean any hardwood floors.
Tenants tend to leave a lot of stuff in the bedroom, so double-check the closets to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. If you’ve been staying in a furnished apartment and were storing anything in the closet, bring it back out again before moving. Stephanie says that tenants often put table and floor lamps in the closets and leave them there when they move.
Clean the ceiling fans and overhead light fixtures to remove any dust that might have built up. You can use a microfiber cloth or a duster with an extended handle to clean the fan blades. Another option is to wrap a broom with paper towels and glide that over the surface of the blades.
The easiest way to clean a fabric or upholstered headboard is by vacuuming it. Once you’ve cleaned that, focus on the floors, and don’t forget to check under the bed. The under-bed area is another prime spot for forgotten belongings, like phone chargers and shoes.
If you have an in-unit washer and dryer, be sure to check that you haven’t accidentally left any clothing behind. Clean out the dryer vent to remove any built-up lint. It’s actually a good idea to be in the habit of cleaning that vent every time you use the dryer, Stephanie notes, since lint build-up is a fire risk.
If you have an outdoor area, such as a balcony or patio, sweep up any loose debris before moving out. If there are cushions on the furniture, Stephanie recommends moving them to a covered area so they don’t get damaged by rain before the next tenant moves in.
As cute as they are, pets can be a big problem when it comes to move-out cleaning. Stephanie says a lot of the messy problems she sees come from pets, such as cats scratching upholstered furniture and dogs having accidents on the carpet or chewing the baseboards.
If you are living with your furry friends in a pet-friendly apartment, be extra thorough when cleaning your apartment before moving out. Sprinkle baking soda on the carpets and upholstery to absorb any lingering odors, then vacuum it up.
Cleaning checklist recap
Use the checklist below to make sure you cover your bases before the new tenant moves in:
- Open drawers and check all closets
- Remove food and personal belongings
- Take out the trash
- Wipe down your countertop
- Wipe all surfaces and light switches
- Clean inside the refrigerator
- Clean the toilet
- Vacuum carpeting and upholstery
- Clean the ceiling fan blades
- Clean out the dryer vent
- Vacuum under and behind furniture
- Sweep up outside
- Report any faucet or pipe leaks or damage to your landlord before you vacate the premises
Must-have products for your cleaning checklist
Here are some products that make move-out day cleaning a breeze:
- Swiffer: Swiffer dusting mops and dusters make it easy to clean fan blades, hardwood floors, and other hard surfaces.
- Weiman glass top cleaner: If your stovetop has glass burners, this cleaner removes burnt-on food easily, without scratching.
- Oven cleaner and SOS pads: If anything spills inside your oven, a bit of oven cleaner and an SOS pad make clean-up easy.
- Upholstery cleaners: Upholstery cleaners, such as Resolve or Woolite, make it easy to mop up spills. Just spray, then vacuum.
- Baking soda: Baking soda is an eco-friendly deodorizer. Scatter some on the carpet or upholstery to help absorb odors.
- Magic erasers: These are great for removing scuff marks from walls and baseboards with very little effort.
- Drain snake: A drain snake removes hair and clogs and keeps your drains running clearly.
- WD-40: Skip the pricey stainless steel cleaning solution and use WD-40 and a soft cloth to give appliances a streak-free shine. It’s recommended by the manufacturers.
If you don’t like cleaning (and who does?) there are plenty of things you can do to make your move-out deep cleaning a lot more enjoyable.
The best thing to do is try to keep your apartment as clean as possible while you live there as a tenant. You might hire cleaning services to tidy up weekly, for example. If you don’t have the budget for cleaning services, be proactive about keeping your space neat and clean. Some landlords even include tips for apartment maintenance in your lease.
Stephanie stresses the importance of cleaning messes and spills up immediately. It’s a lot easier to remove a stain before it has time to set. The same is true for pet odors. If you have pets that are accident-prone, consider:
- Putting pet pads down on the carpet and furniture
- Giving your cats a scratching post to keep them from damaging upholstered furniture
- Investing in an air purifier to help keep pet hair and dander from circulating
Lining the oven with aluminum foil means you don’t have to scrub it. Just remove and toss the foil when you move.
Your floors and furniture will stay cleaner if you get in the habit of taking off your shoes when inside your home.
Most importantly, let your landlord or the leasing company know about any issues, no matter how small they seem, when they come up. A leaky drain or faucet might not seem like a big deal, but it can cause considerable damage if left unrepaired. Filing a maintenance request before something becomes a massive problem will help cover you in the event of an issue and help you get your security deposit back.
Living in a Landing apartment takes a lot of the stress and hassle out of moving out. When it’s time to leave our fully furnished apartments, you don’t have to call a moving company or pack up heavy objects. You can focus on tidying up your space while you get ready to move into your next home.