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McCormick & Lusk Group

Moving out: House cleaning for rental properties

by Daniel Lusk 07/09/2024

Thorough move out cleaning is the only thing standing between you and your security deposit. While many rental companies and landlords might provide a checklist for house cleaning at move out, it's still easy to miss important details. Unfortunately, some of these details can be costly.

Moving is high on the list of life's most stressful events, and a top-to-bottom cleaning of your property might seem overwhelming. However, the more money you can get back from your landlord, the better start you'll have in your new home.

To help you get that full security deposit back, here is an in-depth guide to deep house cleaning before moving out of a rental property:


Deep cleaning even the smallest apartment kitchens can take time and effort. Consider beginning with the kitchen when planning your move out cleaning. Among the major appliances, the most important parts of the kitchen to clean will be the refrigerator and the stove.

If you have not already removed all food items from the fridge, now's the time to do so. In fact, now is the time to remove everything from the inside of the refrigerator that can be detached. This includes all shelves, drawers and dividers. Wash each individual piece separately using warm soapy water and a rag or sponge. Beware old, sticky spills you might have forgotten about and get ready to scrub. If your dishwasher can accommodate refrigerator shelves, save time by letting the machine do some cleaning for you.

With the removable pieces out of the way, you can deep clean the inside surfaces of the fridge. Wait until the shelves and drawers are completely dry before putting them back in to avoid any chance of mold growth. Give the outside surfaces of your fridge a wipe-down as well - removing even subtle smudges and stains can make it sparkle.

To clean the oven and stove, it's crucial to have the right materials. Use an oven-approved cleaning solution and make sure to follow all safety precautions like eye protection, gloves and proper ventilation. Use this same cleaner on the grates and broiler sheets. If the inside of the oven is especially dirty, create a dilution of water and baking soda to spread evenly on the inside. Leave it for an hour, and you'll be able to easily scrape away the burnt carbon and other gunk.

The stove top can be deep cleaned using the same methods, but hopefully won't require as harsh of chemicals. Scrub stubborn or sticky spots with a rough sponge or cleaning brush. Remove the burner pans and grates to wash individually, replacing when they're completely dry.

To wash the sink and countertops, use warm water and a gentle soap or all-purpose cleaner. Disinfect your dishwasher with vinegar and baking soda and run it on the hottest water setting. This will give the interior a fresh start with less dirty work on your part.


Next on your cleaning checklist are bathrooms. While luckily smaller than the kitchen, it can still take time and effort to complete a detail oriented cleaning job. Use all-purpose cleaners for sanitizing countertops and exterior toilet fixtures. Clean sinks with the same, using a coarse bristled brush to scrape the surface clean.

For the bathtub and shower, make sure you choose the right tools for the job. For example, if you have tile in your bath or shower, use a toothbrush to scrub the grout. For a porcelain or enameled tub, hot water and grease-fighting dish soap should do the trick. If you encounter tough mold stains, use a bleach solution to remove them - just be careful to keep the area well-ventilated and to use proper equipment.

One thing tenants moving out of a rental forget to clean is the metal bathroom fixtures, like drains. In addition to scrubbing the surfaces, you should also use a drain claw, chemical drain cleaner or cleaning enzyme to handle any clogs. While not a guarantee, clogged drains can lead to money taken from your deposit.

Don't forget to spritz and wipe the bathroom mirrors with glass cleaner, too. Smudges and splashes


When it comes to cleaning the floors, the best approach is to use a combination of tools. First, start with a broom to sweep up the larger portions of dust, dirt, pet hair and other debris accumulated in corners and elsewhere on your smooth surfaces. Then, using a wet-dry mop, scrub the stubborn spots to leave the surface pristine.

For carpeted properties, cleaning might seem as simple as running the vacuum. However, using a vacuum cleaner with a small hose attachment will be extremely helpful for getting into tight corners and baseboards. Do multiple, thorough sweeps of all carpeted areas with the vacuum, taking care to clean out the brush and empty the bag in between rounds. This will lead to stronger suction and better chance of grabbing every last spec of dirt.

For carpet stains, you can start with DIY options. A simple combination of baking soda and vinegar solution can pull out plenty of stains and odors from carpeting, as can store bought spray cleaners. However, there are some stains you might need extra help with. For a simple and inexpensive solution, rent a small steam cleaner from your local hardware store or other retailer. When used correctly, a steam cleaner can do a fantastic job in making even the most stubborn stains disappear.

For your rental company, the carpet is one of the most expensive things on your move-out checklist. Deep stains like pet urine often require removal and replacement of the pad beneath, as well as the carpet itself. Keep this in mind when choosing your cleaning products and make sure to give the carpets a little extra care during your deep cleaning.


While kitchen, bathroom and floor cleaning are three of the major portions of your move out cleaning, there are many small and easily-forgotten details you should be aware of. Some of these seemingly insignificant cleaning tasks can also add up against your deposit return.

One key example is windows. All interior parts of the window should be cleaned, including panes, sills, blinds and window frames. Horizontal mini blinds are notorious for holding onto dust, so take the time to do a careful inspection in every window to clean them thoroughly.

If time is on your side, one cleaning hack is to remove the blinds completely and soak them in warm water with a few drops of dish soap. Allow them to soak for about twenty minutes, then rise carefully with clean water and hang them to dry. This will save you the effort of cleaning the blinds by hand, but is only recommended for renters familiar with installing and taking down blinds in the first place. Even perfectly clean blinds can be charge to your account if they’re not attached to the window!

Regular glass cleaner should work on the insides of window panes, and you can use the hose attachment of your vacuum cleaner to suck up the extra dust and debris caught in the tiny corners of sliding window frames.

Dusting & more

To do a phenomenal job cleaning your home or apartment before move out, there are some other finishing touches to consider. Remember to remove all nails, thumb tacks, hooks or other wall attachments and fill in the holes as needed. Clean out ceiling and wall light fixtures, and replace the light bulbs for extra peace of mind.

Depending on the terms of your lease, you may also have exterior portions of the property to prepare for new tenants to move in. Unfortunately, even if things like landscaping or lawn care are included on the checklist provided, following vague instructions can lead to lost money from your deposit.

As best practice, some of the best things to do for the exterior of your home when moving out are to mow the lawn, trim edges and weeds, sweep up leaves and other debris from pathways and driveways and clean your front door.

Whether you live in a new home or an old place, taking the time to spruce up the exterior can make a huge difference and help you worry less about your deposit.

When to hire a professional cleaning service

Sometimes, the cleaning is just too much for you to do on your own in the time allowed. Luckily, there are myriad choices of professional cleaning services in your local area, some of which likely specialize in move out cleaning. If you are stressed about running out of time before the end of your lease, it might be worth it to call a professional.

Even having a cleaning professional handle one or two rooms can be an enormous advantage to you and your moving process. For example, hire a cleaning company to take care of the bathroom and kitchen while you tackle the rest of the property. If your landscaping is completely out of control, it’s safer and quicker to call a gardener or arborist for help.

Another situation that might necessitate hiring professional cleaners is significant carpet stains. While DIY methods and rented steamers can do the trick, sometimes professional expertise and equipment can make the difference between you getting that money from your security deposit back.

Move out cleaning services can give you peace of mind by doing an amazing job in a short amount of time. Many specially trained cleaning pros can offer a free estimate based on your home or apartment square footage alone, and in many cases can complete the job within several hours.

Regardless of whether you take the pure DIY approach or hire the services of cleaning professionals, move out cleaning is a significant process. Moving is a stressful experience, and house cleaning can make it even more stressful - but it doesn’t have to. If you focus on these tips, not only will you leave a perfectly clean home behind to impress new tenants who move in, but you’ll have a better chance of getting the highest possible return on your deposit.