Moving out soon? Cleaning your old place may be the last thing on your mind, but it should be as much a priority as anything else on your apartment moving checklist, especially if you’re expecting (or hoping) to get your deposit back. 

Having done the dirty work myself more times than I care to count,  I’m ready to pass on the nitty-gritty details for what you need to clean, when, where, how, and why. Armed with this handy rental move-out cleaning checklist, you’ll have the best chance of not only getting your security deposit back, but also avoid getting slapped with surprise fees. 

I’ll also answer the most common questions … like whether it’s worth hiring someone, when to start cleaning, and how much you might expect to pay for a professional move-out cleaning. By the end of this blog, you’ll have the know-how to get your apartment in sparkling move-out condition so you can move on to having fun getting settled into your new place.

a woman cleaning the radiator in her apartment before moving out

THE TOP 11 THINGS TO CLEAN IN EVERY ROOM BEFORE YOU MOVE OUT

Getting an apartment or house back to the condition it was in when you rented it is part of a standard lease agreement. Here are 11 steps that will bring your rental up to par. You don’t have to follow them in any specific order, though we recommend doing the floors last for obvious reasons. 

1. Remove all nails from the walls and patch holes.

Decorating your walls is one way to make a space your own, but before you move you’ll need to take out all the nails. You’ll also want to remove any extra fixtures you used to jazz the place up — think towel hooks, hat racks, TV mounts, clocks, furniture anchors, shower caddies, etc. You’ll also need to fill in the holes, and then touch up the paint. 

2. Repaint, if needed.

Most rentals use standardized paint colors in their units, so if you’ve changed the paint, now’s the time to repaint it back to the original color. This is a requirement in most leases in order to get your deposit back. If your landlord says it’s okay to keep the custom colors — get it in writing. 

Pro Tip: If you can’t figure out the original paint color after patching, take a sample to a paint store and have them mix up a small batch of a custom match. 

3. Wipe down all doors.

Doors are another household area that often gets neglected in routine cleans, but, again, wiping down the doors has a big impact on the sparkle factor for your walk-through. 

4. Dust the ceiling fans.

If you’re like me, you avoid dusting ceiling fans as much as possible during your normal cleaning routine, but it’s a must-check area to clean before you move out. 

5. Clean windows and mirrors. 

It’s such a small detail, but spotless windows and mirrors give a totally new vibe to any place. Use newspaper to get a streak-free finish, and don’t forget to dust any blinds and clean the sills. 

6. Clean out all the cupboards and cabinets. 

Empty every single cupboard and cabinet in the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, and closets. Remove any crumbs or gunk and then wipe them down. Don’t forget to remove any roach bait, sticky traps, or air fresheners. 

7. Deep clean any sinks, tubs, showers — and toilets. 

Deep clean the shower and tub, removing as much muck in the grout and drains as possible and scrub down the sinks, including the faucets, until they shine. Toilet bowls should be scrubbed, lids lifted and cleaned, and the outside wiped down. 

8. Make your appliances look like new. 

This is where you’ll need to really kick up the elbow grease — or hire someone else to. It’s no secret that appliances can get a bit grimey over time. Make sure you remove EVERYTHING from the refrigerator. You’ll need to put in the effort to make your stove, oven, microwave, refrigerator, dishwasher, and anything else look practically brand new. 

9. Dust and clean baseboards and trim. 

Run a wet rag or duster along all the baseboards and trim. You’d be surprised how neglected these areas can get – and what a difference a little cleaning can make for the final look.

10. Sweep, vacuum, and mop floors. 

Most cleaning checklists might tell you to leave your floors in “broom clean” condition, which basically means you just sweep and that’s it. I rarely find that this is enough, and it’s best to thoroughly vacuum all carpets and mop up any tile, hardwood, or other floors with a hard surface. If you have a furry friend, be sure to remove all the fur that’s probably accumulated, especially in the corners and under the furniture that’s no longer there. Look for any “accidents” on the carpet and spot-clean to remove the evidence.

11. Take out the trash.

Don’t forget to dispose of all your trash. You’d be surprised at how many people just leave that last bag sitting in the middle of a room. Don’t be that person. 

Pro Tip: Take photos of your apartment after it’s cleaned, preferably during the walk-through with your landlord. This will create a good record of the move-out condition that can be referenced in case there are any issues when it comes time to get your deposit back. 
a woman has her cleaning supplies and is ready to work on her move out cleaning checklist

APARTMENT MOVE-OUT CLEANING Q&A

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Read on to find out whether it’s worth hiring someone else to do the dirty work, what that might cost, and what you can expect them to take care of. 

Should you hire a cleaning company to do your move-out clean or do it yourself? The answer really depends on your budget, schedule, stress level, and degree of disdain for cleaning. Hiring someone to do the work can be helpful, especially if you’re on a tight timeline, and it can be worth its weight in gold at the end of a tiring move. But if you don’t choose a reputable company, you might find yourself cleaning up whatever they missed.

Pro Tip: If you have a tight turnaround between leases, you can use a PODS portable storage container to move and store your belongings to buy extra time or to clean room-by-room as you pack.  Get your free PODS moving quote online now or call for a customized long-distance moving quote at 877-350-7637

What’s included in a move-out clean? All companies are different, but at the very least, a move-out clean should include wiping down cabinets, deep cleaning appliances and bathrooms (major bonus), wiping down windows, baseboards and doors, and a decent vacuum and broom clean for the floors. When vetting a cleaning company, ask for a list of everything they include and the prices for extras. (For example, you’ll save money by removing all items from the refrigerator because cleaning the fridge usually doesn’t cover hauling out all that food.) 

How much does it cost for a move-out cleaning? The truth is the cost of hiring a move-out cleaner varies greatly depending on location, size of the rental, and level of work involved. That said, you can typically count on a median hourly rate of about $50-$75. Here’s a look at base prices, not including extras. 

Unit Size Average cost
Studio$100-$150
One Bedroom$120-$250
Two Bedroom $150-$350
Three Bedroom$300-$500
Pro Tip: Hire a cleaning service with the money you saved on hiring hourly moving help or by scoring free moving boxes

How long does a move-out cleaning take? Moving out cleanings can range from 90 minutes to four hours for small units or jobs that don’t require much deep cleaning or take an entire eight-hour day for large and/or very messy spaces. If you’re hiring someone, you can always do some cleaning yourself to shave off billable time needed by the pros. As you can imagine, moving-out cleaning times can range widely depending on the size of your apartment, how many people are cleaning, and how much work is required. Here’s a general guide on how much time to budget for a full move-out DIY cleaning with two people on the job (professionals will take less time and you can get an estimate from them directly).

Size of apartmentMinimum cleaning time
Studio90 minutes
One Bedroom2.5 hours
Two Bedroom 4 hours
Three Bedroom5 hours

How clean does my apartment need to be when I move out? Check your lease and ask your landlord for any specific cleaning checklists they may use when they inspect the apartment during the walk-through, just to make sure all your bases are covered. Barring that info, it’s a good rule of thumb to bring it up to the condition it was in when you moved in or as clean as you would like to find it if you were moving in, whichever is higher. 

Whether you hire a move-out cleaning service or do it yourself, following this checklist is sure to get your apartment into prime move-out condition. Remember a job well done won’t guarantee a 100% refund (a lot of things factor into how much of your security deposit you’ll get back), but it can help grease the wheels with your landlord. The better job you do on your move-out cleaning means less work and money for them — and more for you. 


Katherine Alex Beaven is a frequent contributor to the PODS blog who has moved 20+ times because she loves to experience new places.