One of the key concerns for renters is ensuring they get their full security deposit back after moving out. You need to be well organized. A thorough move-out cleaning checklist is essential for this.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through each step of the cleaning process, ensuring no detail is overlooked. From essential cleaning supplies to detailed room-by-room, top to bottom instructions, we’ve got you covered.

By the way, we’re Bellhop Movers, experts at local and long-distance moves. We’d love to help with affordable moves as part of your moving experience. And if you are running short on time (who isn’t?), Bellhop offers packing and unpacking help too. You can book us as part of a move or independently.

Let’s dive in and make sure your move-out process is smooth and stress-free.

Why Move-Out Cleaning Is Essential

When you move out, a spotless residence can make a big difference. Not only does it leave a good impression on your landlord, but it also maximizes your chances of getting your full security deposit back.

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How it Impacts Your Deposit Refund

Most lease agreements have clauses that stipulate the property’s condition when you leave. Failing to meet these requirements can lead to deductions from your deposit. By adhering to a detailed move-out cleaning checklist, you can avoid these penalties and secure your full refund.

Ideally, when you moved in, you walked through the property with the landlord, and both noted any pre-existing damage and grime. And you’ve KEPT the mutually signed document and stored photos available as proof, so you won’t be charged for these when you leave.

Moving Out Cleaning Summary

  • Start early and plan your cleaning
  • Use a checklist for thoroughness
  • Document your efforts
  • Plan to attend the inspection walkthrough so you can negotiate and afterward clean any areas noted.

10 Move Out Cleaning Tips

Review your Renters Agreement 120 Days Before It Expires

Understanding your lease agreement can save you a lot of hassle. Some agreements may have specific cleaning requirements. It’s worth checking and adding any specifics to your cleaning list. For example, if you rented a home, are you responsible for the back yard?

Do You Really Want to Move Out?

Maybe you love the place but hate your roommate. Why go through the hassle just to dump them?

If it’s about the cost, in this economy you should expect a rent increase. If you don’t want to move out, negotiate. Your landlord probably doesn’t want to go through the re-rent hassle either. My daughter negotiated a $50 a month increase in Philly down to $25 because the landlord would have had to repair the bathroom tiles.

Enlist Your Roommates … or Not

If you live with a slacker, don’t expect them to suddenly become useful. Maybe the offer of a refund will help. (In most states the deposit is shared equally between tenants so there may be little you can do to motivate.)

If one does an ‘average’ job, maybe get them to agree to tasks that don’t require a lot of focus, like cleaning doorknobs and door frames. Don’t expect them to attack the mildew or soap scum in the tub. Take out your frustration with them on those cobwebs, doorknobs or stovetop, not on them.

Most likely one of you is a good cleaner. One may have organizing skills that can help declutter or sort personal items in the kitchen. Perhaps they can take over the packing while you clean the ceiling fans.

Getting people to do ordinary things they may not want to do is a valuable life skill. Moving out is a great opportunity to practice. And afterward they will be gone!

Document Your Cleaning Efforts

Take photos of your cleaning efforts as proof of the condition you left the property in. This can be helpful if there are any disputes. I once super-cleaned a rental from a friend in Sun Valley. The owner said he had to pay the cleaning service extra for my family mess. My photos saved the day, got an apology, (and a new cleaning service).

Read Cleaning Supplies Fine Print

Those do-it-all cleaning sprays promise the world. But items with bleach can damage, stain or lighten fabrics on sofas and other surfaces like hardwood. Make sure before.

Consider Using Cleaners with Natural, Earth-Friendly Ingredients

There are plenty of eco-friendly cleaners available. With all the toxic stuff in our lives (microplastics in our bodies?!), using these may help you as much as that countertop. Baking soda and vinegar are useful. There are lots of tips online.

Start from the Top

Clean ceilings, fans, and light fixtures first. Grab all those cobwebs in the corners. Then work your way down to floors. Dust settles. Gravity rules.

The Better Way to Move

Use a Checklist

Having a structured plan ensures no area is forgotten. It helps organize work if your roommates and friends are helping.

Consider Hiring a Professional

Landlords says some of the biggest damage is from hanging that 70” TV, and then trying DIY drywall repairs. Or, maybe you just hate cleaning. Hire a cleaning professional.

Plan to Attend and ‘Stage’ the Inspection Walk Through

Ideally, you’ll be present when the landlord does the inspection walkthrough. Spray a little cleaner with a lingering fragrance in the air to set the mood.  Leave your mop,  brooms and buckets out for viewing.

You can compare your pre-move notes, agree to fine clean any areas they note like the inside of the range hood, haggle, and otherwise be charming. Charm alone may get you back that deposit.

Maybe Schedule the Cleaning for After Your Moveout

This will make it go a lot faster. But then your slacker roommates may be long gone too, so plan this if it is just you, or if you hire a professional cleaning service while you relax in your new home

Be Kind to Yourself

Yes, cleaning this hard can suck. You will be reminded of your cleaning shortcomings, your roommates’ lousy habits (my fave threw his spaghetti on the ceiling to see if it was cooked) and how you’d rather be doing anything else. You will learn about you.

Celebrate the Event

When finished you will see how much you have done. Maybe celebrate with your helpers with delivered pizza and beer. Everyone’s earned it and you can all leave on a positive note.

A clean, empty finished basement

Essential Tools & Supplies for Move Out Cleaning

Before you begin, gather all necessary tools and supplies. This will save trips and keep you focused.

Must-Have Cleaning Supplies for Geneal House Cleaning

  • Microfiber cloths for cleaning glass and mirrors without leaving lint
  • Cleaning sprays
  • Baking soda
  • Vacuum carpet cleaner
  • Mop and bucket
  • Sponges, paper towels
  • Gloves

Specialized Cleaning Tools

For those hard-to-reach places and stubborn stains when house cleaning, you might need:

  • Scrub brushes
  • Grout cleaners (better than old toothbrushes)
  • Glass cleaner for windows and mirrors (diluted white vinegar works too)
  • Dusters for ceiling fans and light fixtures
  • Knee pads are helpful for cleaning along baseboards
  • Paper liner for protecting floors, baseboards, and backsplashes when spot painting touchups.

What’s Included in a Move-Out Cleaning

Understanding what needs to be cleaned is crucial for a successful move-out.

Areas Often Overlooked

Don’t forget areas like baseboards, windowsills, and door frames. These spots are often missed but are essential for a complete clean. Ceiling corners often contain hard-to-see cobwebs.

Checklist for a Thorough Move-Out Clean

Create a detailed move out cleaning checklist to ensure every area is covered, including:

  • All rooms and hallways
  • Inside and outside of appliances
  • Cabinets and drawers
  • Basement, garage, crawl space
  • Outside – If you’ve rented a home, check your lese agreement about backyards, decks, play areas.

Cleaning Bedrooms for a Move-Out

Bedrooms might seem easy, but they require careful attention to detail.

  • Dust and Vacuum. Dust all surfaces, including shelves and furniture. Vacuum carpets thoroughly, and if possible, steam clean them to remove any hidden dirt and allergens.
  • Clean Windows and Blinds. Clean windows with a glass cleaner and wipe down blinds and windowsills. Ensure there are no streaks left behind for a spotless finish. Vinegar is great for this.
  • Address Stains and Odors. Use baking soda on carpets and upholstery to eliminate odors. For stubborn stains, a spot cleaner or professional service might be necessary.

Cleaning Bathrooms for Moving

Bathrooms can be the trickiest rooms to clean due to the build-up of soap scum and mold.

  • Scrub Showers and Bathtubs. Use a strong cleaner or a homemade vinegar solution to scrub showers and bathtubs. Ensure all mold and mildew are removed.
  • Clean Toilets and Sinks. Disinfect toilets and sinks thoroughly. Pay special attention to faucets and fixtures to remove any lime scale or water stains.
  • Remove Mold and Mildew. Check for mold in hidden areas like behind the toilet and under the sink. Use mold remover products to tackle and disinfect these spots.

Cleaning the Kitchen When Moving

The kitchen is often the most used room and requires a deep clean.

  • Deep Clean Appliances. Clean inside and out of all appliances, including the refrigerator, oven, and microwave. Remove all food residues and disinfect surfaces. If you can, wash all pull-out drawers in a dishwasher.
  • Clean Countertops and Backsplashes. Disinfect countertops and backsplashes. Use appropriate cleaners to avoid damaging surfaces.
  • Work on Stovetops and Ovens. Remove grates and burners to clean underneath. Use an oven cleaner for the interior of the oven.
  • Cabinets Require Special Attention. Vacuum, then wipe clean the interiors. Pay attention to the fronts, door and drawer edges. Don’t forget to clean the top of the cabinets too if they have a space above. Just be safe as you do.
  • Vacuum and clean the input grill at the bottom of the refrigerator.
  • Q-Tips are great for cleaning the little grooves on the refrigerator door seals.
  • Now’s a good time to throw out and declutter open food and spice containers.
  • Be careful of household cleaning and pest chemicals. You may have bugs (cockroaches in NYC !) or mice and placed traps and chemicals. Be mindful when cleaning.

Tips for Cleaning Common Areas

Living areas should be welcoming and clean, free from dust and dirt.

  • Dust Furniture and Fixtures. Use dusters or microfiber cloths to clean furniture and fixtures. Don’t forget to dust picture frames, electronics, and shelves. Vacuum the furniture too! You may need to spot clean. Test the cleaners first on areas that don’t show, like cushion bottoms.
  • Vacuum the furniture too. Look underneath for ‘dust bunnies.’ Pull off the sofa cushions and vacuum the liner underneath. Pizza crumbs have a habit of ‘hiding’ in that seam between the top and the arm rests.
  • Vacuum and Mop Floors. Vacuum carpets and rugs. For hardwood or tile floors, mop thoroughly to remove any stains or dirt. Check the cleaner’s use on wood first.
  • Clean Light Fixtures and Fans. Light fixtures and ceiling fans gather dust easily. If you haven’t been cleaning these regularly, they will need a little extra time.
  • Windows and Windowsills. Clean windows with a glass cleaner or vinegar and wipe down blinds and windowsills. Check for streaking. Microfiber cloths are great for this.
  • Pay attention to light switches and electrical outlet plugs.

Cleaning Is Part of the Bigger Moving Story

We prepared this move out cleaning checklist because cleaning is often neglected in the bigger story of a move. Hopefully you’ll get your security deposit back.

 If you need more info to help plan your move, we have plenty of moving tips. Please reach out to your friendly Bellhop Movers to coordinate local moves and long-distance moving services to just about everywhere.

Warren Sly
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