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The Ultimate Guide to Move Out Cleaning: What You Need To Know

The Ultimate Guide to Move Out Cleaning

Cleaning: everyone’s favourite leisurely pastime.

When you’re moving from one apartment, condo, or rental property to another, it’s imperative to clean every last nook and cranny of the space before you lock-up for the last time. Cleaning up before you go is the best way conceivable to both exercise good form as a tenant, and get your safety deposit back from your landlord – aside from being a decent human being.

It’s just got to be done, there’s no way around it. If you’re anticipating a hefty mass of work because of the way you’ve let the property go during your tenure, take a few weeks to pick away at your list of chores. Put those headphones on, throw on some old clothes you don’t care about and get to it.

All joking aside, how well you leave the space can end up saying a lot about who you are as a person, so do your due diligence and do your best to prep the home for its next inhabitants. Imagine how grateful you’d be walking into a fresh, squeaky-clean new home after an emotional move, for example – you’ll never know how much a good old fashioned clean could help somebody’s day, and put some critical money-held-hostage back in your pocket.

In this post, we’ll divulge the best and most comprehensive tips to cleaning your outgoing abode for maximum deposit return possibilities:


scrub brushAs a whole, there’s a plethora of tasks that will need to be done. Before you get started, assess the potential damage and make a run to your local hardware store.

Stock up on a good cleaner that will cut the grime and grit with ease, making sure to invest in a few pairs of good gloves to avoid skin irritation. If you’ve helped the house to incur some – ahem – structural blemishes, consider stocking up on caulking, putty, a drywall patch kit, and paint. In extreme cases, you could be looking at replacing windows, carpet, repairing hardwood floors, etc – but let’s hope not.

First off, tidy up everything. Put as much of your packing and leftover stuff away as possible so you can get a feel for what needs to be done, and where to start. If you haven’t begun to pack, now’s your chance. There’s little point to cleaning without removing your stuff beforehand.

  • Take all the nails, screws and putty off the walls from holding your paintings, portraits, posters, and shelving units. Make sure to putty them over smoothly and paint the repaired surfaces.
  • Dust off all of the ceiling fixtures like ceiling fans and lights. What could be worse than cleaning a room only to flip on the fan and send dust everywhere? Dust all ledges, window sills while you’re at it. Get every last dust-bunny and cobweb.
  • Be sure to clean all the windows – inside and out, if it’s possible. A lot of progress can be made by cleaning windows and allowing some uninterrupted natural light into a room to help it feel fresh and clean.
  • Take a moment to clean all of the doors themselves. Over the months or years doors take a good beating. Scuffs from shoes, pets scratching, etc, can add layers of dirt and grime. Give them a good scrub.
  • Get down on your hands and knees and polish up the baseboard and trim. This may even mean giving them a fresh coat of paint.
  • Vacuum and have your carpets steam-cleaned by a professional if you have any doubt that a homegrown approach won’t do it any justice. At the very least, tackle surface stains with a cleaner that is bleach free so to not cause any additional damage.
  • Fix scuffs to hardwood floors caused by moving furniture, pet claws, or general wear and tear. This can usually be accomplished by a good scuff sand and a coat of matching stain.


Arguably one of the last spaces where substantial damage is likely to occur, the bedrooms deserve a good effort cleaning wise that will probably encompass many of our generalized rules for cleaning the rest of the house.

In some cases, you may need to paint over some damaged areas where wall art has scuffed or stripped the paint, or fill a few tiny holes from hanging pictures and paintings. If you’re looking to cover up some larger damaged wall space, consider painting as an accent wall in a darker colour than the rest of the room to draw attention away from the problem areas.

bedroom cleaning

This is a great way to bring a bit of contemporary style to the room – provided painting is OK with your landlord; always check your lease prior to doing any major painting, or give them a quick phone call to discuss your plans. You may be saving yourself considerable time and money by asking about painting first.

  • Dust, sweep, vacuum and mop those empty rooms to ensure that they’re fresh, clean and ready to accommodate their next occupant.
  • Don’t neglect the closets. They can harbour lots of dust and should be treated just like the remainder of the room. Give them a good once over before closing the door behind you to make sure the room stays clean.


Kitchens can be havens for bacteria, grime, and long forgotten culinary mishaps that can make for some serious cleaning. Take this opportunity to thoroughly inspect and even move the refrigerator and stove out of the way to get in behind these appliances to check for dirt and even mould.

The thing about kitchens is, they’re littered with multiple surface areas that get used for food prep, entertaining and eating. So be sure to go over this heavily populated area of the home with a fine toothed comb.

  • Bleach the grout of backsplashes and kitchen floor tiles for a full clean. A good mop usually won’t take care of the grout in between tiles, so a good scouring pad may be a good choice.
  • Clean out any and all cabinets and drawers of leftover food products, spills, and stains. Be sure to scrub and wash the cabinet doors as well.
  • Disinfect and polish up the entire sink, faucet, and countertops.
  • Empty the fridge and scrub all of the shelves. They’re usually made of glass, making spills and dirt even more apparent. Remove drawers and shelves altogether if necessary to make sure you’ve reached everywhere.
  • Scrub the oven of burnt-on food and spills. Most ovens come equipped with a self-cleaning function, but nothing performs better than getting in there and using some elbow grease.
  • Be sure to clean and empty the food tray of your dishwasher if you have one.
  • Don’t forget to dust any range hood or exhaust fans as well.

Living Room

The heart and soul of the house, the living room is probably the most heavily populated and well-travelled room in your abode – meaning it’s likely to take the brunt of the potential damage and heavy duty cleaning.

  • Get those carpets cleaned as a priority. A good steam clean similar to that of your bedrooms is a great idea to take a big weight off of your shoulders.
  • Touch up drywall and paint from hanging pictures and wall art.
  • Wash and touch up baseboards and trim. Give the electrical outlets and light switches a good clean as well.
  • Scuffed floors should be dealt with up front. There’s little point to trying to hide scuffs and gouges in hardwood or markings on tile floors so be upfront and honest about fixing them properly. If there’s something majorly wrong, like a rotten floorboard or a cracked tile, give your landlord a call and discuss how best they’d like you to go about fixing the issue. Maybe you can strike some kind of a deal.


Perceived as hotbeds of uncleanliness, the bathroom should be cleaned to the point of obsessiveness. Disinfect and bleach any and all applicable surfaces prior to thinking about polishing and making the space smell good.

This means getting in there and putting in a good honest effort to scrub toilet bowls, sinks, showers and tubs.

  • Shower tiles should be bleached and grout should be scrubbed and scoured with a good quality cleaner. Get all of the soap scum off of the tiles and the tub or shower itself.
  • Floors should be swept, mopped and disinfected with bleach. Clean the toilet, sink and countertop in the same fashion.
  • Mirrors can’t be forgotten, either. The bathroom mirror is a staple of the room, so make sure there are no streaks or smudges left in your reflection.
  • If you have to touch up paint due to water damage caused by flooding or steam, invest in a proper melamine paint that’s engineered to take the moisture abuse of a steamy bathroom.
  • If the toilet seat isn’t salvageable, save yourself the hassle and replace it with a new inexpensive one.


Curb appeal is the newest form of real estate currency these days. The look of the home’s yard and landscaping has a profound effect on the people looking at it from the driveway – your landlord included. Starting your move-out inspection off right by being able to show off a manicured lawn is a good way to get your deposit money back.

  • Dog doo – clean it up. If you have pets, cleaning up Rover’s land-mine’s should be task number one when cleaning the lawn.
  • Replace or stain damaged deck or patio boards.
  • Cut the lawn, edge garden beds, and do a bit of mild landscaping like raking up leaves, mulch, and pulling some particularly bad weeds.
  • Remove any and all of your things that could be occupying the yard like hammocks, lawn furniture, bird-feeders, wind-chimes, etc.
  • Empty and sweep the garage, or other outside storage spaces like sheds or gazebos. Leave them empty and free of clutter.

When you’re moving out of a space, remember that it’s part and parcel of being a good tenant. Leaving the place in shambles in no way to treat your landlord, and the people moving in sure won’t appreciate it. Remember that getting that deposit back is only possible if you show the place some love.

Take the time to make sure you treat the space with some respect. It was your home, and leaving it in a condition that will ensure it makes for a great home to somebody new is a great way to give it a proper send-off. Cleaning it doesn’t have to take weeks, and in many cases you’ll have a leg-up from packing and getting ready to move in the first place.

In any situation, whistle while you work and try to enjoy yourself – it’ll be over with soon enough!

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