It’s the end of the month, and if your lease is up and you haven’t renewed, that means it’s time to move! When relocating to a new apartment, you likely have a million things on your to-do list. Between trying to secure a rental truck on the same weekend everyone else is, and sweet-talking your friends so they’ll help you haul all your stuff, the last thing you want to think about is cleaning. However, you don’t want to forget about your precious security deposit! Your old digs needs to be spick and span if you want to get back every cent of your deposit. Read on for the common areas that are often overlooked or under-cleaned when renters are doing their final move out cleaning.
THE MOVE OUT CLEANING CHECKLIST
INSIDE THE OVEN: Maybe you’ve never cleaned the inside of your oven while you were living in your rental, but you need to at least wipe it out before you leave. Oven cleaners in a can are time consuming and smell terrible. To clean your oven in a less-invasive way, I recommend using this tip from Quick and Dirty Tips, since all it requires is vinegar and baking soda:
To clean your oven, first scrape out any loose icky burnt stuff and then sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over all the other gooey, burned spots. Next, put some plain white vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz it over the baking soda. Let this bubble for a while; maybe 30 minutes or so. Then take a tough scrubby sponge or wired scrubber and start working away at the stubborn spots. Once all the stuck-on stuff is loosened, rinse with a cloth and warm water.
TOP OF THE OVEN: Get rid of splatter spots and baked on food remnants using the same vinegar and baking soda mixture you used inside your oven. If you have an electric stovetop with drip pans, unplug each burner on the stovetop and clean out the drip pan (if you’ve never removed the burners on your stove top, this video will show you how). Soak your drip pans in hot water and dish soap if they’re very dirty.
OUTSIDE THE OVEN: Don’t forget to wipe down the front and sides, too. And if you have a cabinet that butts up against your oven, don’t forget to take a peek down the side, too, just to see if anything nasty has fallen down there. A flashlight will help.
WALLS: If your walls were painted with glossy paint, you can give them a quick wipe with an all-purpose cleaner. You don’t need to do every wall, but you should examine the walls in your kitchen, near the entrance, and in the bathroom. Keep an eye up for cobwebs, too!
Did you paint any walls that you promised to return to their original color? Before doing so, don’t forget to patch any nail holes you created while living in your rental. To quickly fill nail holes, Unpackt Blog suggests this quick method:
Buy a small tube of wall putty. Dab a tiny amount on an old knife or the end of your finger and push the putty into the hole. You only need a dab. If you get some on the surrounding area (most people do), just use an old damp cleaning rag to wipe it away. When it is dry… brush a little paint over the hole.
BASEBOARDS: After you’ve done any painting and hole-filling that needs to happen, don’t forget about the baseboards! Give them a quick vacuum with your crevice attachment, and wipe them down with a 1-to-1 mixture of water and vinegar.
DOORS: It’s often overlooked when you’re doing your move out cleaning, but the area around your doorknob is probably very dirty. While you might not see it, it’s the first thing your landlord is going to notice when they reach to open the front door.
When doing your move out cleaning, be thorough about your cupboards. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve thought I had cleaned every cupboard in my rental kitchen, only to have my roommate find something tucked away in the back during their final walkthrough. Remove everything, including any shelf liner, and wipe out any crumbs and dirt. Don’t forget about the outside of your cupboard, too. Make sure to give the area under and around the knobs a good scrub.
P.S., apply this same logic to linen cabinets and closets!
INSIDE THE FRIDGE: Your refrigerator should be one of the last things you scrub, as moving all your food out first will make it much easier to clean. Start with the top shelves and work your way down (if you start at the bottom, you could accidentally knock dirt onto an already clean surface). Remove the shelves if you can – they’ll be easier to clean that way. Don’t forget to remove the produce drawers and wipe behind them as well.
OUTSIDE THE FRIDGE: Stubborn stains? Use a Magic Eraser sponge.
UNDER THE FRIDGE: Ah yes, you should also take a peek into the great abyss. If you can move your fridge, great! Vacuum and wipe up all the dirt and random old Cheerios. Can’t move it? Take a flashlight and have a look. Wrap a damp rag around a ruler or other long object, and cleanup what you can.
The Light Fixtures
CEILING FANS: You’ve walked around your entire rental property, and it looks like you’ve marked off everything on your move out cleaning checklist. Then you look up – ah, yes. The dusty, dusty ceiling fan. Actually, this is something you should clean first, and definitely before you vacuum, since once you disturb the dust collected on the fan blades, it’ll be snowing yuck.
While there isn’t a wrong way to clean ceiling fan blades, there certainly is a better way. Quick and Dirty Tips recommends using a pillowcase for the quickest and most hassle-free results:
Climb [a] ladder until you can reach one blade without overextending yourself. Take your pillowcase and put it around the blade (just like you would a pillow). Then, as you pull the pillowcase off the blade, wipe all the dust from the top so it falls into the pillowcase. Turn the fan and repeat on each blade. Once you have the bulk of the dust off, use your rag to wipe each blade and remove any residual dust.
LIGHT FIXTURES: In addition to the blades, you’ll also have to clean the light fixtures themselves. Make sure your lights are off and cool to the touch, then set up a steady ladder underneath. Use a feather duster or a dry microfiber cloth to remove dust. If any stubborn dust remains, a slightly damp cloth should do the trick.
While you’re up there, don’t forget to replace any burnt out bulbs.
LIGHT SWITCHES: Just like your front door knob, your light switch plates and the wall space around them are tainted by the oils and dirt of constant contact. Give ’em a scrub using a Magic Eraser.
Most landlords will have the mini blinds replaced regardless of their condition, but to make a good impression, you should at least give them a dusting. Unfurl all of your blinds, and using the dusting attachment on your vacuum, give them a quick clean. If your blinds are too dirty to save, or if they’ve been damaged (shout out to pet owners whose animals just can’t stay out of the windows), you can replace them quite affordably. Just don’t forget to measure your blinds before you head to the home improvement store.
Remember, First Impressions Matter
Before we close on this move out cleaning checklist, here’s a reminder that first impressions matter, especially when it comes to your landlord. If you’re limited on cleaning time, start with the front of the house and work your way back. This ensures that you’re putting your apartment’s best face forward. If there aren’t any glaring issues right when they walk through the door, then you’ve built trust with your landlord, and the rest of the walkthrough will go more smoothly. I can’t make any guarantees, but I’ve actually done walkthroughs where the front of my apartment looked so clean, the landlords didn’t even check the rest of the house!
Don’t forget that that first impression starts not with your entry or foyer, but with the outside of the unit. Start your move out cleaning there. Mow the grass, take out the trash, rake up leaves, and don’t leave anything lying around on the front porch.
These are just a few ideas on ways to get your security deposit back. Of course, don’t forget to fix anything that was broken while you resided in your apartment, and do a general sweep, vacuum, and mop.