The ultimate guide to cleaning your rental for a move-out

You’re moving. YAY! The date is set, you have plenty of boxes ready to be filled and your new place is just waiting for you to move in and call it home. You have just one small thing to get done before you finally get out of your rental:

Clean it.

Ugh, right?

But here’s how I always looked at it. Wouldn’t I want to move into a new apartment or house that looks, feels and smells clean? I mean, who wants to spend time before the boxes and furniture even get there cleaning up someone else’s mess? Gross.

The truth is, part of living in a rental, or even a house you own, is maintaining it and cleaning it up so the next person can enjoy the same comforts of the home. Of course, as a mother, the whole job can seem exponentially more stressful as you also have to worry about keeping small humans alive while you deep clean during your move-out. Let's make it a little easier.

Start by getting a list from the building or landlord.

Your landlord or building manager should be able to provide you with a list of things they expect done upon your move-out. This list usually includes things like “Wipe down windows” and “remove all garbage.” If they don't have a dedicated list printed up, ask for clear clarification about what is expected of you before leaving. 

Ask great questions before moving out

Things like, "Will the walls be painted? Do I need to do any painting? Do we need to fill nail holes? Does the carpet need to be professionally cleaned, or cleaned at all?"

Consider hiring a cleaning company

This was one of the largest parts of my business when I ran my cleaning company. I did a tremendous amount of move-out cleanings and honestly, I loved it. When someone hired me, they knew that they could pass off the work to someone else and spare themselves the time and labor of doing it themselves. Be sure to inquire about pricing and get an in-person estimate whenever possible. If you have a list from your landlord, provide the company or cleaner with that list. If you live in a complex, ask the management for referrals. Many times they can provide you a list of names of reputable cleaning companies that they know have done a stellar job in the past. Check out my post on how to hire a professional house cleaner here.



Ready to jump in and get your security deposit back, but not sure you know how to properly clean everything? Download your easy-to-follow How to Clean Dang Near Everything PDF and audio lesson. Quickly learn how to clean everything in your home. The best part? It’s only $10.

If you plan to go at it alone, here are some tips to help streamline the process:

  • Start from the top and work your way down. It's always best to push the dirt out and down. It also keeps you from forgetting or missing areas.
  • Do as much, if not all, after everything is moved out. While I am usually an advocate for cleaning as you go, it can be pretty difficult to get your house or apartment the deep cleaning attention is deserves with boxes, furniture and kiddos under foot. Maintain the house as best you can the weeks leading up to your move, but plan the majorly deep parts for when everything is out and you can blast some 90's tunes.
  • Delegate your little heart out. This is no time to take everything on yourself. If you aren't in a position to hire a cleaner, delegate what you can to your spouse, your children, a helpful friend, or family. Offer up some pizza and beer as a incentive and ask for help cleaning up after the move is over. Many hands make light work, and a much less stressed mama.
  • Take a final trip around with your checklist. Always check things twice. If it's good enough for Santa, it's good enough for you. The best way to ensure you get your security deposit back is to double check your work to be sure everything is done. 
  • While it doesn't really serve you as a tip now since you're moving out, always be sure to take photos when you move into a new rental, especially if there is any damage, stains or discoloration to keep for proof when you move out. 

Whether you’re given a basic list or are left to fend for yourself, here is a general outline of what most rental clean-outs require.


  • Scrub tub/shower from top to bottom
  • Polish shower fixtures
  • Clean inside and outside of toilet
  • Clean sink and vanity area
  • Polish sink fixtures
  • Clean out cabinets and drawers
  • Wipe down outside of cabinets and drawers
  • Spot clean walls
  • Remove cobwebs
  • Clean baseboards and molding
  • Clean the floors
  • Clean doors
  • Wipe down light switches
  • Dust light fixtures


  • Clean all food from refrigerator
  • Scrub the inside of the refrigerator, including all shelves and drawers
  • Clean the outside of the refrigerator
  • Clean behind refrigerator (if possible)
  • Clean out food and containers from cabinets
  • Vacuum/wipe down cabinets and drawers
  • Wash the front of cabinets, taking special care near the fixtures and areas touched often
  • Self-clean the oven, if possible, or scrub the inside.
  • Clean broiler drawer
  • Scrub stove top
  • Scrub and wipe down range hood, including underneath (very greasy)
  • Soak and wipe down hood fan filter (if applicable)
  • Clean inside and outside of microwave
  • Scrub sink
  • Wipe down sink fixtures
  • Wipe down molding/baseboards
  • Wipe down any doors
  • Sweep/vacuum/wet mop floors
  • Clean out dishwasher, if applicable


  • Clean windows, inside and out if applicable
  • Clean window tracks
  • Wipe down window sills
  • Wipe down molding
  • Remove cobwebs
  • Vacuum rugs and/or clean floors
  • Wipe down doors

All rooms

  • Clean windows, inside and out if applicable
  • Clean window tracks
  • Wipe down window sills
  • Wipe down baseboards and molding
  • Remove cobwebs
  • Vacuum all carpets
  • Sweep and mop all floors
  • Wipe down all doors
  • Clean all glass sliding doors and storm doors
  • Wipe down light switches and outlet covers
  • Vacuum/clean stairs and stair molding, if applicable
  • Wipe down handrails and stair railing, if applicable


  • Weed any garden/ flower bed areas
  • Sweep front walk
  • Remove any signage or decor
  • Sweep garage or carport, if applicable 

Now that you're in your new home (YAY!), what is the best way to keep it clean? Where do you even start? House cleaning is usually a nagging chore for most moms, which is why I created the Everything and the Kitchen Sink cleaning list. Sign up for the vault to receive your free house cleaning list and much more. This list is broken down by room and by frequency of the tasks so there's no more guesswork. Print it out, keep it in a binder, hang it on the wall and use it to create your cleaning schedule. Or just use it as a guide for #allthethings that need to be cleaned in your home. Own your schedule so it doesn't own you, mama.