The essential move-out cleaning checklist.


By Nicki Escudero

If you’re moving out of a rented home, a landlord may inspect your empty place to check for damage. They may also check to ensure it's clean and tidy before they give you your security deposit back.

But, what happens if you don’t clean your home when you move out? When the apartment or house you’re moving out of is dirty or damaged, your landlord may keep your deposit and use it to cover cleaning or repairs.

Cleaning an empty space takes some time, but getting your empty apartment or formerly rented home in good-as-new shape is pretty simple. Here’s all you need to know for cleaning your old home before you officially move out.

What is a move-out cleaning?

A move-out cleaning is typically necessary when you move out of a rented home. Many landlords will include a “cleaning clause” in a contract. Typically, this clause means it's up to the tenant to keep the rented space in a clean, habitable condition. A contract may also explain what the home should look like upon moving out in order for you to get a deposit back. It’s usually the same state the space was in when the renter moved in.

So, how clean should your house be when you move out? Look at your contractual agreement to see if there’s specific language regarding cleaning before moving out. In some cases, the landlord may hire professional cleaning services to clean the home after you move out. Or perhaps your lease specifies that it’s your responsibility to return the space in a clean condition.

If you cannot achieve the desired result on your own, it may be worth paying for professional cleaners to get your full deposit back.

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Preparation for move-out cleaning.

If you’ve decided to tackle the job of cleaning your old place yourself before moving out, take the following steps.

Step 1: Notify your landlord or property manager. Coordinate a move-out date and final inspection with your landlord or property manager. This gives you an idea of how much time you have to clean so you can plan your schedule.

Step 2: Create a cleaning schedule. Cleaning your whole old home could take several hours. Make sure to schedule time to clean before your move-out date so you can tackle cleaning every part of your former home.

Step 3: Gather cleaning supplies. These will likely include:

  • Rags
  • Dusters
  • Glass cleaner
  • Lint-free cloths
  • Carpet cleaning substance
  • Kitchen cleaner
  • Vacuum
  • Vinegar and baking soda
  • Household cleaner
  • Sponge
  • Glass cleaner
  • Sanitizing wipes
  • Toilet cleaner
  • Toilet brush
  • Mop
  • Broom

Once you have a schedule and your supplies, you can clear out and clean different parts of your home. Keep reading to see what should be on your move-out cleaning list.

Related: 20 items you should always have on your cleaning supplies list.

Cleaning bedrooms.

empty clean bedroom packed up for moving outIn bedrooms, do the following:

  • Dust and wipe surfaces, including your walls, doors, baseboards, and door frames. You can use a long duster to dust them from top to bottom. Then, get a ladder to reach up to the ceiling and use a damp rag to wipe them down. Or, use a mop with a long handle and minimal water to wipe off the walls.
  • Clean windows and mirrors. Use lint-free cloths and glass cleaner to clean any mirrors and windows.
  • Vacuum and/or mop the floors. Suck up any dust with the vacuum. For hard floors, mop using a mop and sanitizing solution.

Tip: In every area of your home that you clean, it’s best to work from top to bottom. That way, dust will fall as you clean, so you’ll only have to sweep, vacuum, and/or mop once instead of repeatedly doing so.

Cleaning bathrooms.

empty clean bathroom ready for move outIn your bathrooms, do the following before moving out:

  • Dust and wipe surfaces. Clean the bathroom walls by dusting and then wiping them down. Clean all bathroom baseboards.
  • Clean mirrors and countertops. Spray mirrors with glass cleaner, then wipe them down with lint-free cloths. Use disinfecting wipes to wipe down all countertops.
  • Disinfect and scrub toilets, sinks, and showers. Use bathroom cleaning solutions on toilets, sinks, and showers/tubs. Use disinfecting wipes to wipe down all surfaces. Dry with lint-free cloths.
  • Vacuum and mop bathroom floors. Vacuum up dust and hair. Mop bathroom floors with floor cleaner.
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Cleaning the kitchen.

move out cleaning the kitchenHere's your move-out cleaning checklist for your kitchen:

  • Dust and wipe walls. Wipe down kitchen walls. Dust and clean baseboards.
  • Wipe down countertops and cabinets. Use kitchen cleaner and lint-free cloths to clean all surfaces, inside and out.
  • Clean inside and outside of appliances. For example, use a vinegar and baking soda solution to clean the inside of your refrigerator. Wipe down the outside of the refrigerator, freezer, sink, and other appliances with kitchen cleaner and a lint-free cloth.
  • Remove grease and grime from the stove and oven. Use stove and oven cleaners and a sponge to remove grime from the oven and stove.

Cleaning the living room and basement.

empty living room for move out cleaningIn your living room and basement, be sure to clean the following areas:

  • Dust and wipe all walls and hanging fixtures. Use a duster on light fixtures and fans. Clean all walls and baseboards.
  • Clean windows and blinds. Use a glass cleaner and lint-free cloth to clean all windows. Use a duster to dust off blinds, shutters, etc. You can also use a handheld fixture on a vacuum to suck up dust off window treatments.
  • Dust and vacuum furniture if you’re leaving it behind. Use a glass cleaner to clean glass tables. Use a handheld attachment on a vacuum to vacuum fabric furniture. If you have leather furniture, use a leather cleaner and a microfiber cloth.
  • Vacuum and/or mop floors. Use a vacuum to suck up dust. Mop hard floors.

Cleaning outdoor areas. empty and clean outdoor backyard patio before moving out

If your rental place has an outdoor area like a patio, you’ll also want to ensure that it’s in the same condition it was when you moved in.

  • Pack up outdoor furniture, toys, equipment, etc. Start with a clear space before you clean.
  • Wipe down railings. Use a damp cloth to clean off railings and/or balconies.
  • Clean the outside of windows and glass doors. Use a glass cleaner and cloth to clean the exterior of windows and doors.
  • Spray off the patio/deck. Use a hose with an attachment to spray off the dust from the ground or pour soapy water over the ground.
  • Clean the pool. If your former home had a pool, check to see what your cleaning requirements are. You may need to skim the pool to get rid of surface debris, or you may want to hire a swimming pool maintenance technician if you need a deeper cleaning.

Related: How to pack every room for an easier move.

Should you hire a cleaning service?

If you have the time and supplies, and you’re comfortable using a ladder to get to hard-to-reach places, you may be able to clean your old home yourself effectively. But if you don't have the time, consider hiring a pro for this task.

A professional cleaning service will help ensure your former home gets a deep clean. If you’re short on time (or just don't feel like cleaning), hire a cleaning service. It can be a good investment if it helps you get your deposit back and saves you time. You can use your time to pack and focus on moving instead.

Compare prices from house cleaners near you.

How much does it cost to hire a move-out cleaning service?

The cost to book move-out cleaning services depends on factors like the size and condition of your home. Look at Thumbtack’s house cleaning cost guide, and reach out to cleaning professionals for free quotes to compare.

Schedule move-out cleaning services on Thumbtack.

If you want to make sure you get your entire deposit back, it’s safest to hire professional move-out cleaning services. Download the Thumbtack app to find top-rated professionals near you.

*A note about project costs featured in this article: Figures represent national average cost estimates using data provided by Thumbtack pros and additional research. These figures are provided for educational purposes only and are subject to change at any time due to various factors. Details about your specific project and local rates can impact costs.

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