How to Clean an Apartment When Moving Out

The thrill of moving into a new place can quickly dissipate when you realize you have to clean out your former apartment. Apartment move out cleaning may not be fun but it’s something you want to plan for and take seriously since, not only is your security deposit on the line but your credit score, as well as a positive landlord reference for future homes, too.

Apartment move out cleaning doesn’t need to be hard if you plan ahead with a smart, deep cleaning checklist.

1. Follow an apartment move out cleaning inspection sheet

Checking items off a to-do listChecking items off a to-do list

Most landlords provide tenants with an in-and-out inspection sheet (in writing) of exactly what you need to clean in order to get your security deposit back. Every lease is different regarding expectations. Some will say ‚Äúprofessionally clean the carpets” and others will simply require you to vacuum.

Hopefully, before you moved in, you noted any dents and dings in the unit and made sure your landlord knew you wouldn’t be responsible for cleaning or taking care of those issues when you moved out.

Read the list carefully, and use it as your starting point. If you don’t have the list anymore, ask for another copy from your apartment manager. They’ll be happy to know you intend to comply. If you don’t have a list from your landlord, start one yourself so you make sure you don’t miss anything as you go through the process.

2. Repair anything you damaged

Power drill fixing door hardwarePower drill fixing door hardware

Before you start your deep cleaning process, take the time to repair things like small holes in the wall, broken blinds, burned out bulbs and chipped paint. It’ll make your job a lot easier as you begin to clean when these details are taken care of in advance.

Pro Tip: If you’re not qualified or have the equipment to do the task, consider hiring someone using a service like TaskRabbit or Angie’s List.

3. Clean things you normally don’t clean

Woman cleaning her windows and blindsWoman cleaning her windows and blinds

In addition to things you likely regularly clean, you’ll want to clean areas you typically don’t clean on a regular basis, such as fans, fan blades, blinds, windows, light fixtures, baseboards and carpets.

Pro Tip: If you don’t have some of the cleaning supplies to do these tasks, pick up some Swiffer disposable cleaning dusters for the blinds and some microfiber cleansing cloths for baseboards. Mr. Clean Magic Erasers are a powerhouse when it comes to a lot of cleaning tasks, including erasing marks from baseboards, light switches and other spots around your home.

4. Start from the top

Living room with ceiling fanLiving room with ceiling fan

As you eyeball what needs to get cleaned, starting from the top means dust or debris will settle below. Since you’re going to be cleaning the entire place, you’ll get there in no time, and you won’t have to do double duty otherwise.

So, start at the top of the room with your ceiling, fan and fan blades. From there, move onto the walls, shelving, windows, blinds and baseboards. End with the flooring.

5. Request a final walk-through

Vacuum on carpetVacuum on carpet

Finally, once you’ve completed your deep cleaning and you’re ready to hand over the keys, ask for an exit walk-through with the landlord. This will allow the landlord to address any outstanding issues or sign off that you’ve left your apartment in a clean state, so you can receive your security deposit.

If this isn’t an option, take photos of every room as you’re leaving it, and send them to the landlord. Doing so shows you’ve been conscientious with your cleaning, as well as provides proof that it was done.

Why an apartment move out cleaning is important

If you’re concerned that you’ve not been able to completely clean the place yourself, you may want to consider hiring a service to do a deep cleaning for you and use the receipt as evidence that it was completed. Whether you do the job or hire it out, leaving an apartment clean is important because your landlord will want to rent your former home to someone else immediately.

If the landlord needs to clean it, you’ll not only lose your security deposit but it will reflect poorly on you. While some people believe it doesn’t matter because you’ve already signed a lease at a new place, a good reference can mean the difference between getting another apartment in the future or securing other loans, such as a car loan.

If you’ve done what you could but left incomplete some repairs or cleaning, you might not see your (full) security deposit. If the repair fees exceed your security deposit, your landlord might send you an itemized bill stating what you owe.

Don’t avoid paying this bill. If you choose not to pay the bill, it will be sent to collections. This will lower your credit score and make it more difficult to rent another unit, obtain a loan, such as a car loan, and can possibly hurt a job search.

The importance of apartment move out cleaning

For most people, cleaning up your apartment for your move-out inspection is not a fun part of the process, but it’s very important that you leave your old unit in the same condition as when you first rented it. It does takes time and likely some money, but having a checklist in place helps make the process faster and easier.

Avoiding an apartment move out cleaning puts your reputation and security deposit at risk. It’s not worth it.