Move Out Cleaning: Steps and Tips for Cleaning Your Rental Before Vacating

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You’ve got the keys to your new apartment and you’re ready to close the door on the previous rental. You’re moving out! But not before you’ve completed your move-out cleaning. Most leases stipulate that before handing over your keys on move-out day, you need to clean your apartment or risk losing a portion of your security deposit. So before you say goodbye to your old place, here’s a guide to help you prioritize your apartment move-out cleaning needs.

Step 1: Refer to your lease

The best way to get started is to reference your lease document and locate the portions that involve any move-out cleaning information. There may already be language in your lease that stipulates exactly what you will be responsible for having to pay or clean before moving out. 

For example, it’s not uncommon for a landlord of a large multi-unit complex to automatically charge tenants for carpet cleaning, blinds cleaning, and in some cases, even carpet replacement when moving out. Some leases have the exact amount specified in the lease, while others will vary depending on which company the landlord uses for this service.

Here are some examples of common charges for uncleaned areas when moving out of an apartment:

  • Carpet not vacuumed – $15 per room
  • Floors not washed – $15 per room
  • Trash removal- $10 per bag
  • Stovetop cleaning- $25
  • Oven cleaning – $30
  • Counters – $10 each
  • Cabinets – $5 each
  • Sink- $5
  • Toilet- $20
  • Bathtub- $20
  • Shower wall tile- $25
  • Baseboards- $20
  • Windows – $10 each

Step 2: Speak to your landlord 

If you have any questions at all that your lease doesn’t cover, you should speak to your landlord directly and clarify how thorough your apartment clean-out needs to be. Getting an idea of their cleaning expectations will help you better prioritize tasks on your moving out checklist.

In most cases, you will be responsible for the move-out cleaning. Do a detailed clean and leave everything as it was when you moved in and you’ll have a better chance of getting your security deposit back. If you do a sub-par job, the landlord may be legally allowed to hire a cleaning crew and charge you for the cost. 

Talk to your landlord about their expectations, and know ahead of time if you’re responsible for the move-out cleaning or if they’ll be hiring cleaners regardless. If they will be hiring a cleaning service, get an estimate in writing of how much it will cost you.

Step 3: Start cleaning

Most landlords define “clean” as sparkling, brand-new, and barely able to tell the unit was recently inhabited. This means that if you’re cleaning it yourself, you’ll need to be thorough in your cleaning.

This goes beyond just scrubbing out the toilet and wiping off the counters, although those are important, too. Many property managers will provide you with a cleaning checklist of areas and appliances they expect to be cleaned. The following areas will likely need to be prioritized:


  • Tops of cabinets & the fridge
  • Windowsills
  • Crown molding
  • Cabinet shelves & inside drawers
  • Fridge shelves & freezer
  • Oven (should be scraped out and self-cleaned)
  • Drip pans
  • Tile grout


  • All parts of the toilet (including the back)
  • Shower doors and tub
  • Mirror
  • Under-sink storage area

Living Room/Bedrooms

  • Floors
  • Carpet stains
  • Windows
  • Closet 
  • Baseboards 

Extra Space

  • Patio
  • Backyard
  • Front yard
  • Porch

All of these are important places to sweep, dust, or scrub. Do a thorough job and you’ll have a better chance at getting your security deposit back in full.

Step 4: Donate or sell any unwanted items

There’s no sense in dragging clutter from your old place to your new one, so now is a great time to clean house and purge any items you no longer need. As you’re packing your belongings, ask yourself if you really want to take the time to pack and move everything you currently own all the way to your new place. If your answer is no, you can throw it out or donate it. The move out cleaning will be a lot easier once you have everything organized and boxed up.

Step 5: Don’t leave anything behind

Keep in mind that if you leave any furniture, kitchen appliances, or other apartment items behind, your landlord is (usually) allowed to charge you for a removal service to pick those items up. Instead, use a site like Dolly or 1-800-Junk to get any unwanted items out of your old apartment. You don’t want to be surprised by a bill for left belongings once you’re all settled into your new place.

Step 6: Repair any damages

In addition to pulling money out of your security deposit for cleaning, your landlord will deduct for anything out of place they happen to notice, whether it’s a scratch on the hardwood floor or a cracked outlet cover.

So how do you avoid this? Take care of the repairs yourself. Simple fixes, like filling holes in the wall and removing stains from the carpet, can save you quite a bit of money – money that you can put towards furnishing your new place. Often replacing these items yourself will cost less than what your landlord or property manager will charge.

Here are some examples of common charges for damages or repairs when moving out of an apartment:

  • Oven rack – $15
  • Drip pan- $10 each
  • Door key – $30
  • Mailbox key – $20
  • Bathtub resurface- $250
  • Towel bar – $30
  • Toilet seat – $20
  • Window blinds replacement – $50

Remember, you’re cleaning this apartment for the next tenant. Make sure it’s as clean as it was when you moved in or accept that your landlord may charge you for a cleaning service to get it back to that condition.

Think you’re ready to tackle your move-out cleaning? Make sure you’ve found your next apartment before you start; search thousands of homes and apartments for rent on Zumper and get ready for a new place. 

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The post Move Out Cleaning: Steps and Tips for Cleaning Your Rental Before Vacating appeared first on The Zumper Blog.

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