How to Clean an Apartment Before Moving Out

Moving out can be hard enough on its own, but to top it off, you might not get your deposit back if you leave it a mess. It's important to learn how to prepare for a move-out inspection so that you can get your deposit back and walk away without damage fees.


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    Contact the utility companies and set the date to turn off the utilities in your name. (I.e.: Water, electricity, etc.)
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    Remove all staples and nails you have stuck into the walls, ceilings, or doors of the apartment. Using the magic eraser, go through each room and remove any scuff marks on the walls, floors, or doors. (Warning: Test the magic eraser first, as it can clean some paints right off the wall.)
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    Clean the kitchen. Fill the sink with warm water and add dish detergent to the water.
    • The refrigerator - Remove all of the shelves and drawers from the refrigerator and freezer and place them in the dishwasher or wash them by hand. Dip a sponge into the dishwater and wipe down the interior of the refrigerator and freezer, being certain to remove any food build-up. Don't forget the little compartments where you kept the butter and eggs! Then wipe down all of the shelves, dry the shelves, and place them back in the refrigerator.
    • The oven- One way would be to use one to two cans (depending on whether you EVER cleaned the oven while you lived in the apartment) of oven cleaner to get the oven really clean. Read the safety directions carefully, many oven cleaners require protective equipment (gloves & goggles) and strong ventilation. Do not ignore the directions on the can. Place newspaper in front of the oven, slightly underneath the door or drawer and extended out to protect your floor from dripping cleaner. Evenly apply both cans to the inside of the oven, the grates, the broiler sheets, etc. Throw the drip pans from the stove in there and coat them too. Let sit for 24 hours. Do not turn on oven! Using a sponge and paper towels, wipe down all surfaces. Rinse with clean water. Clean the vent above the stove and be certain that the light bulb in the overhead hood is in working condition. Alternatively, if you want to avoid the chemicals in oven cleaners, you can use a dilution of 100g baking soda in 1 liter (0.3 US gal) of water and spray onto the surfaces and leave for at least 1 hour. For a dirtier oven, increase the amount of baking soda so that the solution is more of a paste than a liquid. After one hour use an ice scraper to remove the burnt carbon, and spray any remaining in the oven. Repeat the process until the oven is completely clean.
    • The cabinets - Using a multi-purpose cleaner that is safe to use on your cabinets, wipe down the interior and the exterior of the cabinets.
    • The light fixtures - You should then check to make sure the light fixtures are clean and do not have any dead insects in them. If there are glass fixture covers, give them a wipe. Think twice before throwing them into the dishwasher, because thermal stresses and harsh detergents may damage the glass.
    • The surfaces - Make sure you wipe down the exterior of the refrigerator, the stove range (including underneath the drip bowls), and all of the counter tops. Also, wipe down the exterior and interior of the dishwasher, microwave, and any other appliance provided by your apartment complex (including the surface of any washer or dryer).
    • The sink - Drain the water from the sink and clean the sink and wipe down the faucet. If the sink is stainless steel or porcelain, a powdered cleanser works great! An old toothbrush or other small brush can be very useful for scrubbing around the edges of fixtures and the sink.
    • The floor - Sweep and then mop the floor. To do a really good job, you should pull out the stove and refrigerator and clean that part of the floor too. Be extra careful when pulling these appliances as they can scratch wooden floors, damage linoleum or break tile. You will also find all kinds of gross stuff on the sides of the appliances and cabinets when you do that. Oh, and those little things that you have been looking for that you lost eight months ago that rolled underneath the stove or refrigerator.
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    Clean the bathrooms.
    • Thoroughly clean the sink, tub, toilet and shower. Make sure you have removed any buildup and wiped down the fixtures.
    • Clean the mirrors, medicine cabinet and any vents or light fixtures in the bathroom. Make sure you don't use mirror cleaner with ammonia in it. Check to make sure the light fixtures are clean and that the light bulbs work. Again, throw those glass light fixture covers in the dishwasher.
    • Sweep and mop the bathroom floor. Be especially careful around the toilet.
    • Repeat for each bathroom.
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    Clean the bedrooms. Wipe down any closet shelves provided and clean any mirrors. If you have carpet, you should treat any spots and then vacuum the carpet. If you do not have carpets, you should mop. If floors are wooden, use an oil soap. Repeat for each bedroom.
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    Turn your attention to the living room, den, and dining room. Clean the windows and wash the blinds. Clean the blades of the ceiling fan and/or any light fixtures in the room. Replace all burnt out light bulbs, and if the place still looks dark and dingy, upgrade to brighter bulbs. Spot treat any spots on the carpet. Vacuum or mop the floors.
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    Sweep and clean the exterior (including any balcony, patio, and doors) and remove any remaining garbage bags from the apartment. Be sure that outside lights are working. Put garbage cans on curb, if appropriate, for pickup.
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    Get measurements and replace broken blinds.
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    Take pictures of the apartment and keep for your records in case the apartment complex says you damaged the place. Send the photos and a written description to the landlord or property manager and ask them to sign off on it. Send one to yourself at the same time and leave the package unopened. If the landlord or property manager won't sign off, the postmark on the envelope may help prove the date of the cleanliness of the apartment upon leaving.
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    Go to your move-out inspection. Be sure to get a copy of the move-out inspection for your records.
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    Return your keys.


  • It's a good idea to get a list from your landlord or apartment complex stating what the estimated costs are for repairing certain items and use this as a guide to how strenuously you are going to clean your apartment.
  • Send your new address to the landlord, so they know where to mail your security deposit.
  • If viable, begin cleaning in the room farthest from the front door, working your way towards the door. This prevents you from cleaning yourself into a corner.
  • Make sure you have all the items you need before you begin cleaning. Otherwise, you'll lose time stopping to go to the store.
  • Find out whether your landlord or apartment complex automatically cleans the carpet, without charge to you, when you move out or whether they require you to have stayed in the apartment a certain number of years before they will waive the carpet cleaning. Spot clean tough stains with a spray-on carpet cleaner first.
  • Bring a radio to listen to while you clean.
  • Hold on tight to the various records associated with your stay, such as:
    • apartment lease or rental agreement
    • rent receipts or checks
    • a copy of all agreements regarding damages between you and the landlord
    • a copy of the letter sent to your landlord with your forwarding address
  • Have family or friends help you with the cleaning in exchange for a free meal at your new place.
  • Some apartment complexes only require that the walls be primed upon your move-out, check with your apartment complex before buying paint to be sure.
  • Some apartments have "clean sweep option" where apartment will do clean up on your behalf for flat charge using professional cleaners. Usually apartment owners have good deals worked with professional cleaners and this may help you avoid all the effort of cleaning during stressful period of moving to new place. It may help to check with your apartment if they have this option and then decide if its worth to clean or pay the flat charge and move on.
  • Don't forget to budget time to clean the oven.


  • Heed the safety warnings on your cleaning products and keep any nasty chemicals off your skin with a pair of rubber gloves.
  • Use products that are safe for the type of material you are cleaning.
  • If possible, you should clean your apartment after all of your items are out of the apartment and on a day other than your move-out day or move-out inspection day.
  • If you need to patch holes in the carpet or flooring, either leave the holes or consider having a professional do it rather than possibly making the problem worse.

Things You'll Need

  • paper towels
  • rubber gloves
  • dish detergent
  • light bulbs
  • scrubbing brush (old toothbrush)
  • sponges
  • powdered cleanser
  • bathroom cleanser
  • oil soap for wood floors
  • 2 cans of oven cleaner
  • Glue
  • sandpaper
  • bathroom cleaner
  • kitchen surface cleaner
  • window cleaner
  • floor cleaner
  • mop and bucket
  • broom
  • vacuum
  • magic eraser for the walls and doors
  • spot remover for the carpet
  • bucket (to wipe down the cabinets and appliances)
  • duster (for the blinds)
  • toilet brush
  • toilet cleaner
  • garbage bags
  • curtains
  • washcloths
  • shower curtains
  • soap
  • iron
  • ironing board

Article Info

Categories: Moving House and Packing