Bekah Steenbock
clean apartment for move out

Moving into a new apartment is a hard but fun and exciting process. However, you still have obligations to your old landlord, the largest of which is cleaning your empty apartment. Landlords want to rent out your old unit as soon as possible, therefore, you need to deep clean the apartment before your move-out inspection. If you don’t, you risk losing your security deposit. You might also risk losing your credibility if you ever need to use your past landlord as a reference. Apartment Guide tells you how to clean for a move-out.

Cleaning list

The landlord will likely have provided you with a list (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 “professionally clean the carpets” and others will simply require you to vacuum. So it’s important to read the list carefully to make sure you don’t miss anything. If you’ve misplaced the list, ask for another copy from your apartment manager. They will be happy to know you intend to comply.

Related Video: How to Transfer Utilities when you Move


What’s typically on the list

The list will typically include fans, fan blades, blinds, baseboards, carpets and many things you don’t clean every day. Knowing what is expected of you makes things much easier and increases your chances of getting your full security deposit back.

Dents and dings

Before you go about deep-cleaning your unit, you’ll also want to repair things like small holes in the wall, broken blinds, burnt out bulbs, and chipped paint.

Related: How to decorate without using nails

How to deep-clean an apartment

Apartment cleaning is not glamorous but it’s worth knowing how to do right. 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. You want to start from the top so you’re only cleaning everything one time.

Hot Tip: Start at the top! If you start with your floors and then work your way up, you’ll end up cleaning your floors twice, because dust will fall while you’re cleaning everything above the floor.


  • What happens if I don’t clean the unit properly?

If you leave your old apartment trashed, you’ll not only lose your security deposit and it will reflect poorly on you. Some people think it doesn’t matter because you’ve already signed a lease at a new place. But what if you need a reference? Most managers will call your last two landlords. That landlord can say the unit was not left in good condition and that may disqualify you from renting another home in the future.

  • What happens if undone repairs and cleaning exceed your security deposit?

If cleaning and repairs exceed the security deposit the landlord will send you an itemized bill stating what you owe. 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, and can possibly hurt a job search. Don’t go down that path.

Cleaning up your apartment for your move-out inspection is not the most glamorous thing in the world. However, it’s very important that you leave your old unit in the same condition as when you first rented it. It takes time, but is fairly simple when you have an itemized list. The last thing you want to do is risk your reputation and security deposit. It’s not worth it.




About The Author

Bekah Steenbock is a freelance writer with a background in real-estate and business growth. She is a native Austinite, but has called Seattle, Mankato, Milwaukee, Las Vegas and Atlanta home. Bekah, her husband, and their three children love exploring the outdoors in their spare time.