The Ultimate Move-Out Cleaning Checklist – How to Get Your Security Deposit Back

Moving out of a rental unit or leaving your home before selling can be extremely stressful. The last thing you need is to lose part of your security deposit or have your home devalued because of overlooked cleaning tasks. That’s why having a detailed move-out cleaning checklist is so important when vacating any piece of real estate.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll provide tips from professional cleaners along with a customizable checklist you can use to make sure you thoroughly clean a property before moving out. Completing these cleaning assignments results in a pristine space and better chances of recouping 100% of your deposit.

Table of Contents

Why You Need a Move-Out Cleaning Checklist

You’re probably aware that you should clean before you vacate and hand over the keys. But using a specific move-out cleaning checklist is valuable for a few key reasons:

Thoroughness – A checklist ensures every area gets addressed. It’s easy to forget tasks without a room-by-room breakdown. You don’t want to miss something obvious that costs you money down the road.

  1. Efficiency – Checklists prevent redundant efforts and backtracking. You save time by designating tasks by location and crossing them off as areas are fully cleaned.
  2. Accountability – Landlords and home buyers use detailed cleaning checklists when inspecting properties. Having your checklist provides proof that every space was cleaned properly before you moved out.
  3. Deposit Return – Meeting all cleaning expectations lays the groundwork for a full security deposit refund. The checklist gives you confidence you handled your cleaning responsibilities.

Preparing to Clean with a Checklist

Nobody wants to scrub for hours on end, especially when moving out. The key is preparing adequately in advance:

  • Start early – Don’t wait until the move-out day! Begin working methodically through your checklist at least 2 weeks before vacating the property. This prevents a giant last-minute scramble.
  • Set daily goals – Break bigger cleaning projects into smaller daily tasks so everything gets finished. Assign daily checkpoint deadlines for each room’s cleaning list.
  • Gather supplies – Stock up on cleaning products, tools, rags, trash bags, etc. Having what you need on hand facilitates faster and easier cleaning. Buy plenty of magic erasers!
  • Enlist help – Ask the family to pitch in or hire a cleaning service for heavy-duty jobs. Many hands make for lighter work. Just be sure to give helpers a copy of your master cleaning checklist so they know what needs to be done in each room.

Thorough Cleaning From Top to Bottom

Before we get into the room-by-room move-out cleaning checklist details, start by giving the entire space a deep scrub from ceiling to floor:

  • Dust all surfaces and fixtures – Use microfiber cloths and dusters designed to attract and trap dust so it doesn’t resettle right away. Pay special attention to ceiling fans, light fixtures, vents, baseboards, window treatments, etc.
  • Clean all walls and trim – Spot clean walls as you move through rooms. Use magic eraser sponges to remove scuffs. Re-caulk trim if cracked or peeling.
  • Wash all windows properly – Dip newspaper in vinegar and water to clean glass inside and out. Clean sills, screens, and window wells too. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Steam clean carpets – Rent a carpet cleaner from a home improvement store and work in sections. Let carpets fully dry before doing a final vacuum.
  • Mop and sanitize all floors – Swap out cleaning water frequently as you thoroughly mop vinyl, tile, laminate, etc. Let floors air dry completely before moving out.

For general cleaning tips, refer to this move-out cleaning guide from Maid Brigade, a professional cleaning service company. Their step-by-step instructions ensure nothing gets missed.

Room-By-Room Move Out Cleaning Checklist

When tackling individual rooms, work systematically from top to bottom. Here are professional cleaner recommended tasks for each area:

Kitchen Cleaning

According to cleaning expert Melissa Maker, these are must-do kitchen cleaning tasks:

  • Clean inside all appliances thoroughly – Refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, microwave all included. Don’t forget the vent hood! -Scour and disinfect sinks, countertops, cabinet exteriors -Detail clean inside cabinets and drawers
    -Remove all food items and trash
  • Sweep, mop, and sanitize flooring
  • Wash windows, clean sills, dust lighting fixtures
  • Check walls/ceilings for grease splatter or food stains

For even more kitchen cleaning tips, refer to this detailed checklist from Molly Maid cleaning service. They include specialty tasks like descaling the coffee maker.

Bathroom Cleaning

Bathrooms require heavy-duty scrubbing. Here is a thorough bathroom move-out cleaning checklist from, an in-home care services company:

  • Clean all surfaces with disinfectant – sinks, counters, shower walls, tile, grout, tub, toilets (inside and out), etc.
  • Remove all personal items from cabinets, drawers, shower, etc.
  • Clean mirrors throughout and exhaust fan cover
  • Dust light fixtures and wipe down walls/trim
  • Take out trash and spot clean floors
  • Fully mop, sanitize, and allow floors to dry before moving out
  • Check walls/ceilings for mildew and touch up caulk

Don’t forget…the bathroom deserves the most attention on any move-out cleaning checklist!

Bedroom and Living Space Cleaning

These areas mainly require diligent dust removal and furniture/floor care:

  • Dust all surfaces – windows, sills, lighting, baseboards, vents, ceiling fans, shelving, etc.
  • Clean mirrors, artwork, electronics
  • Vacuum and sanitize all upholstered furniture
  • Steam clean carpets and rugs
  • Sweep then thoroughly mop hard flooring
  • Wipe down doors/walls and touch up paint as needed
  • Remove personal belongings from closets and storage areas

For more bedroom and living room cleaning tips, check out this checklist from Maid Brigade. They include specialty tasks like cleaning mattresses and washing bedding/linens.

Outdoor and Garage Cleaning

Don’t neglect exterior areas when moving out. The National Association of Residential Property Managers recommends:

  • Sweep outdoor walkways and porches
  • Clear any cobwebs around exterior doors and eaves
  • Clean outdoor furniture/decor items and store properly
  • Remove all garbage and personal items from the yard/porch/balconies
  • Sweep out the garage, clean floor stain marks, and remove items

Taking time to properly clean outdoor areas and the garage keeps your deposit safer. Review this detailed garage cleaning checklist from Cinch Home Services for more thorough guidance.

Final Touches Before Move-Out

After thoroughly cleaning from top to bottom plus finishing outdoors, do a full property walkthrough using your checklist master list. Look for any last-minute touch-ups needed inside and out. Address scuffs, stains, and damage repairs now before the final move-out inspection.

According to Cleaning Business Academy, these last move-out tasks also deserve attention:

  • Replace burnt-out light bulbs in fixtures
  • Patch holes in walls from removed hardware
  • Touch-up paint on walls and trim work
  • Clean HVAC vents and replace air filters
  • Test functionality of appliances, fans, and garage doors
  • Ensure all cleaned areas are completely dry

With your entire move-out cleaning checklist fully addressed room-by-room, you can confidently turn over your rental or home sale property knowing it meets top cleaning standards. Be sure to keep a copy of your completed checklist as proof of your cleaning efforts!

Using comprehensive checklists combined with proper cleaning techniques and supplies makes move-out cleaning much more manageable. Develop your custom checklist and stick to it to effortlessly gain your full security deposit back!