Moving is a huge time-consuming and stress-inducing chore, but there’s no other way about it. You have to spend weeks sorting and packing stuff you’ve accumulated over the past few years, talk to the movers, arrange for utilities to be transferred, unpack and put things away in your new home…the list just goes on.
With all this occupying your mind day and night, it’s only natural that you’ve forgotten one essential part of moving – that’s right, move-out cleaning! This house has been your home for the past many years; don’t you owe it a good cleanup before you leave? Okay, you are not that sentimental about the house, but do you think you have a good chance of getting the deposit back intact if you leave the house in the condition it is in right now?
To make things easier on you and help you avoid leaving a huge mess behind when you move, we have put together a handy list of things that you need to do before closing the door of your old home one last time. Happy moving!
What you will need:
- A pair of rubber gloves
- A vacuum cleaner
- A mop
- A broom and a dustpan
- A squeegee
- A spray bottle
- Scrubbing sponges
- Dish detergent
- Baking soda
- Magic erasers
- Toilet cleaner and brush
- All-purpose cleaner
- An old toothbrush for tough-to-clean stains
- Old newspapers
- Cleaning rags
- Trash bags
Tip: Remember to keep the above items separate from your packing boxes so that they don’t get shipped out to your new home before you are done cleaning!
In all the rooms:
Spray all windows with a mix of 50% distilled water and 50% tap water and wipe clean with a squeegee or a scrunched-up newspaper. If you had not washed your windows for a long time and they are particularly dirty, you may want to wash them with soapy water first. Clean the ledges.
Dirty window blinds? Simply put on an old cotton sock, dip your hand in the vinegar mix, and run your hands over each of the blinds. And there you go, good as new!
Take out all nails and hooks you have put into the walls and doors and fill them with putty. Use a magic eraser to remove scuffmarks, but take care to first test the eraser on a small surface. Harsh erasers can take the paint right off the walls and make your job twice as hard!
Bright lights are magnets for insects. Make sure to check for dead insects when you dust and clean the lighting fixtures and fans.
Wipe the closet shelves and check if the walls are clean. Remove cobwebs from the ceiling, vacuum the floor, and mop the hardwood and tile surfaces.
Tip: Always clean from top to bottom to avoid having to clean the same spot twice!
In the kitchen:
Empty cabinets and remove liners. Wipe the insides and the front surfaces clean with a damp cloth.
Remove refrigerator shelves and soak them in the sink while you scrub the inside clean with a scrubbing sponge and dish wash soap. Wipe the inside dry with a cleaning rag, wash the shelves, dry them, and put them back in. While you are at it, clean the sides, back and top of the refrigerator and also sweep below the refrigerator. If you have a dishwasher, clean it thoroughly.
Clean the oven, microwave and stove next and make sure that you remove all traces of grease and burnt food. While cleaning the stove, make sure you clean below the drip pans too. Scrub the kitchen counter top, sink and plumbing fixtures and you are good to go!
Tip: For the oven, use a paste made of baking soda and water to remove stubborn grease and grime without the harsh odors associated with heavy-duty oven cleaners.
In the bathrooms:
Empty the bathroom cupboards and take out the liners. Scrub clean the shower walls, tub, sink and counter with an all-purpose cleaning agent. Use the toothbrush for attacking the grout. Clean the toilet thoroughly from top to bottom. Spray the mirror with the vinegar solution you used on the windows and wipe clean. Dust the exhaust fan. Mop the floor.
Tip: Remember to keep at least one bathroom for the last or you may have to clean it again before you leave!
Don’t forget the outside areas
If you were using any outside storage facilities in the building, such as garage lockers, clean out those spaces. Dust and clean the outside lighting fixtures. Check your mailbox. Sweep the porch and patio.
One last time
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you say goodbye to your old home for the last time.
- Are all the closets and cabinets empty?
- Are all the electrical appliances/lights/fans in working condition?
- Have you taken the trash out?
- Do you have time-stamped photographs to document the condition of the house at the time of your move-out? These may be necessary if the landlord comes up with false damage charges later.
- Do you have all the keys to return to the landlord?
- Have you informed your neighbors you are moving?
A thorough move-out cleaning, especially if you have not been very particular about keeping the house in great shape all these days, can take a lot of time. If you have friends who are willing to pitch in, don’t hesitate to ask for their help. You should ideally start a few days in advance so that you are not left elbow deep in soapsuds and detergents even on the last day.
If you hate getting your hands dirty and don’t mind spending the extra dollars, you can always consider hiring a professional cleaning service to spruce up the home before you leave. But whatever you decide, don’t forget that move-out cleaning is essential to ensuring that you get your security deposit back from your landlord without a major deduction. In most cases, a happy landlord means a full refund. Here’s hoping that your moving happens as smoothly and easily as possible. All the best!
Kurt Jacobson is a writer and vacation rental manager. Knowing what it takes to maintain pristine appearances for customers, he thrives on sharing what he’s learned from his experience. When he’s not managing a property, he writes about home cleaning for the Professional Home Cleaning Inc website.