Press "Enter" to skip to content

Essential Move-Out Cleaning Projects

Think of the cleaning projects that are essential before you move out as spring (or fall) cleaning on steroids. While there may not be financial repercussions from not completing move-out cleaning when you sell a home in the same way there are when you’re a renter, it’s the right thing to do. 

A renter may lose their security deposit if move-out cleaning isn’t up to snuff, although unmet cleaning provisions in sales agreements aren’t usually considered enough to halt a sale or get you a retroactive price reduction.

Still, what goes around comes around, so the best advice is to leave your old home as clean as you hope your new one will be. These tips to sell your home are just as important as setting the right listing price or choosing a good real estate agent.

Cleaning Includes Repairs

Of course, you’re not just cleaning, you’re also doing minor repairs. That includes removing all the picture nails and screws you’ve installed and filling them in. Bonus points if you touch up damaged paint as well. While you’re making the rounds of a room, use an extender pole to mop ceiling corners where spiderwebs can hide. They can appear overnight, so even if you did this before listing your home, it’s best to do it again. 

Hopefully prior to putting your home on the market you took down all your ceiling light fixtures, cleaned the globes, and replaced the bulbs with long-life, energy-efficient LEDs. If so, your ceiling fixtures should only need dusting by move-out time. If washing the ceiling fixtures was something you forgot, add it to the move-out cleaning list.

Windows, Baseboards, and Door Frames

Even if you washed all your window ledges prior to listing, you’re going to need to give them another quick swipe, along with light switchplates and door handles. In fact, trim around the house will probably need another quick wipedown, including baseboards and door frames. 

Any blinds you’re leaving behind will need cleaning, too. If you took them down and washed them thoroughly before listing, you may be able to get away with a quick vacuuming. If not, fill your bathtub with warm water, add some laundry detergent, and immerse your vinyl blinds in the tub. Let them soak for half an hour or so and they should be clean.

Carpet Cleaning Basics

If you had your carpets cleaned prior to listing, vacuuming and spot treatment of any new spots is all that should be necessary. If you want to get depression marks out of the carpet where furniture has been positioned, use a steam iron to raise the carpet pile. Hold the iron six inches or so above the carpet while gently brushing the fibers. A hair pick works well on higher-pile carpets.

Kitchen and Bathroom Cleaning

The kitchen and bathroom will still take most of your cleaning energy. Wipe the fronts, insides, and cupboard shelves with a disinfectant cleanser and remove all shelf paper. Wipe down all drawers as well in both rooms.

In the bathroom, don’t forget to clean the mirror and the inside of the medicine cabinet, as well as the entire tub surround. Vacuum the exhaust fan, too.

All three major kitchen appliances will need cleaning again, but hopefully the oven, stove, and dishwasher have all been recently cleaned, so these won’t be major tasks. Still, you should pull both the fridge and the stove out from the wall and clean behind them, as well. Vacuum the exhaust fan and replace the filter if it’s really greasy.

Bedrooms and Common Spaces

Bedrooms and your living room, dining room, and family room should only need to be dusted, swept, or vacuumed. If applicable, you can also mop the floors. Don’t miss the baseboard and trim cleaning here, either.

Exterior Cleaning Projects

Don’t forget to clear out everything from the garage, wipe down any shelving units you’re leaving behind, and sweep the floor.

Depending on the season, exterior moving-out cleaning projects will include grass cutting, weed pulling, and removal of decorative objects like wind chimes and whimsical garden features you’ve accumulated over the years. 

Don’t forget to sweep and, if possible, pressure-wash the porch. If you have vinyl siding, you might want to give it a quick once-over with the pressure washer, or even just a hose, as well. 

Cleaning Approach

There are two ways to approach a massive cleaning project like this: room by room or in a task-oriented method. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Cleaning on a room-by-room basis may give you a greater sense of satisfaction as you close the door behind a spotless room. It may be more efficient to wash all the windows from top to bottom in one continuous cycle, moving from room to room. Repeat for dusting and vacuuming.

Whichever method you prefer, make sure you’re cleaning from top to bottom and back to front so you can easily get out of the house.