How to Properly Clean an Apartment Before the Big Move


Maria DeSouza

| Published September 20, 2023

Have you ever carefully anticipated a move only to see a greasy sink upon arrival? It’s crucial to clean your apartment before the big move, especially if the previous tenants left a mess.

Cleaning doesn’t have to be a hassle. You can start fresh with a simple step-by-step process.

With this mindset, even big messes can improve bit by bit. We’ve written this expert guide to make cleaning quick and simple!

Why Clean Before Moving In?

Occasionally, former tenants skip deep cleaning, and vacant apartments can accumulate dust over time.

Some new house or apartment contracts require basic cleaning, while others require a deep clean.

Although this is not always the case, sanitizing your new apartment before moving in is necessary for a smooth and comfortable transition.

Starting fresh eliminates accumulated dirt, allergens, and germs.

Plus, disinfecting high-touch surfaces ensures a safer environment, particularly in older apartments with many high-touched areas (like light switches, doors, cabinet pulls, etc.).

It is a proactive step in setting the foundation for a positive and hygienic home.

The Importance of a Clean Home

Cleaning before moving in can help you familiarize yourself with your new space and decide what to keep or get rid of, what needs fixing, and which areas are prone to dirt, pests, and hazards.

But a clean home goes beyond aesthetics — it promotes physical health and mental well-being.

There are many benefits to maintaining a clean home, like:

  1. Improved Physical Health: It reduces respiratory risks by minimizing germ and allergen exposure.
  2. Enhanced Mental Health: A clean and organized apartment reduces stress and anxiety.
  3. Better Sleep Quality: A tidy bedroom fosters relaxation, improving sleep quality.
  4. Increased Productivity: An organized area boosts focus and efficiency for quicker task achievement.
  5. Long-Term Savings: Regular dusting prolongs furniture, appliance, and textile lifespan, saving costs.
  6. Initiate a Good Deep Clean: When you deep clean an apartment, it refreshes the new home’s atmosphere, removes debris, and ensures you’re breathing in fresh air.
  7. Have a Fresh Start: It saves you time and energy for unpacking and settling in.

The Need for a Checklist

A move-in cleaning checklist helps you focus on one task at a time.

A checklist is like your roadmap. By referencing it, you can guarantee that no crack or crevice goes uncleaned.

Aside from saving time and energy, a checklist can also help you assess whether you can do it yourself or need a professional service cleaner.

Moving can be overwhelming, but having a structured list simplifies the process.

Essentials for Cleaning Your Apartment

Maintaining a tidy and comfortable apartment requires the proper supplies and safety gear.

It’s vital to have the necessary supplies, like:

  • Broom and dustpan
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Mop and bucket
  • Sponges
  • Rubber gloves
  • Trash bags
a cleaning lady wearing gloves, holding a mop and a feather duster, with a bucket and disinfectant liquid next to her

Protective gear safeguards against harmful substances, while supplies tackle specific mold, stains, and surfaces.

Cleaning Supplies

We recommend stocking up on supplies like the ones below.

Depending on your apartment’s surfaces, you may need specialty products for your surfaces like wood polish or stainless steel cleaner.

They are helpful not just for move-in chores but also in regularly maintaining your apartment.

  1. All-purpose cleaner: Versatile, and can be used on various surfaces.
  2. Baking soda (Sodium bicarbonate): Multipurpose for scrubbing, odor absorption, and more.
  3. Glass cleaner: Helps avoid streaks and clean windows and mirrors.
  4. Disinfectant wipes or spray: Sanitizes high-touch areas for a hygienic new space.
  5. Towel or microfiber cloths: Lint-free wiping, dusting, and polishing your apartment’s stuff.
  6. Broom and dustpan: Quick debris removal and touch-ups.
  7. Vacuum cleaner: Deep cleans carpet rugs, floors, and rugs.
  8. Mop and bucket: Maintains sparkling hard floors on your new rental house.
  9. Sponges: Versatile scrubbing and wiping tools.
  10. Scrubbing brush: To scrub hard floors or surfaces (like toilet area and shower soap scum)
  11. Dust wand: Reaches and removes dust and cobwebs from high, hard-to-reach places.
  12. Trash bags: Keeps the new space clutter-free.

Protective Gear

On top of having the right supplies, remember to always wear protective gear when tidying your apartment.

Safeguarding yourself against potential exposure to chemicals and allergens is vital.

Regular tidying can be done with gloves and a mask, but use this list before attempting a deep clean (especially when cleaning agents are used).

  1. Rubber gloves: Shields hands from chemicals and germs.
  2. Face mask: Filters dust, allergens, stale air, and airborne particles.
  3. Safety goggles: Protects eyes from chemicals and debris.
  4. Apron: Guards clothing from splashes and spills.
  5. Closed-toe shoes: Prevents injury from sharp objects or spills.

Step-by-Step Guide: Cleaning an Apartment Before Moving In

Once your supplies and gear are prepared, you’ll need a comprehensive checklist for moving in before you can start cleaning.

We’ll cover everything from the preparation stage to the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living room cleaning.

You can walk through this checklist to ensure an intensive tidying process from start to finish (and beyond).

Preparation Stage

First, you’ll need to complete several key tasks to prepare the apartment for a deep clean, like the following:

  • Set Your Schedule: Plan your tasks to optimize your time and energy.
  • Gather Supplies and Gear: Get essential items and protective gear.
  • Declutter: Remove leftover items or clutter from previous occupants.
  • Move Furniture: If possible, shift large furniture to clean under and behind it.
  • Inspect Surfaces: Examine surfaces, walls, and floors for extra attention or repairs.
  • Check for Repairs: List broken fixtures, leaks, or damages.
  • Open Windows: Promote ventilation by opening windows to let in fresh air.
  • Strategize: Prioritize super dirty areas and decide on a room-by-room or specific order strategy.

Kitchen Cleaning

Kitchens are often heavily used and can be challenging to clean.

It’s important to give your kitchen a good, deep clean upon move-in, especially the appliances and any surfaces that come into contact with food.

Kitchen cleaning steps:

  1. Dust the high cabinets, walls, ceiling fans, countertops, top rack, and tables.
  2. Wipe down cabinets with a water-vinegar solution, and use a paste of baking soda and mildly hot water to remove stubborn grease, soap scum, and food stains.
  3. Use dish soap and hot water for stone or laminate countertops and a multipurpose wood or stainless steel cleaner.
  4. Sprinkle baking soda in the sink and scrub with dish soap to remove grease.
  5. Clean the interior of appliances (microwave, oven racks, dishwasher, fridge, etc.).
  6. Save mopping the floors for last, as the dust from other areas tends to settle there.

TIP: Use a mixture of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and dish soap to remove the worst grease stains.

Bathroom Cleaning

While your landlord may have cleaned the bathroom, it’s best to give it a thorough once-over to ensure all the grime and gunk in the toilet from the previous tenant is gone.

Bathroom cleaning tips:

  1. Dust from top to bottom, focusing on light fixtures, shower walls, and medicine cabinets.
  2. Replace the toilet seat and sanitize high-touch areas: light switches, door handles, and faucets.
  3. Clean the toilet bowl using a commercial cleaner or water-hydrogen peroxide-baking soda mix.
  4. Deep-clean the shower, toilet, and tub. Use lemon or salt to tackle soap scum and stains on walls.
  5. Quick wipe the bathroom mirror with a water-vinegar solution. Wipe smears or stains with alcohol and cloth.
  6. Deep clean tile grout with a baking soda-hydrogen peroxide-dish soap mixture with a toothbrush. Wait an hour before washing the mixture away.

Bedroom Cleaning

A tidy bedroom translates to better sleep! Now it’s time to shift your attention to the bedroom.

Of course, always start with wiping down the windows and walls, dusting, then continue with the following steps:

  • Start by decluttering and organizing items.
  • Empty and clean drawers, closets, and shelves.
  • Change bed linens and pillowcases.
  • Clean the curtains, carpet rugs, and blinds.
  • Check and clean light fixtures, switches, and outlets.
  • Sweep or vacuum the floors.

Living Room Cleaning

A clean living room during move-in is essential to leave a positive impression on anyone visiting your new apartment.

Here’s how to clean the living room:

  1. Dust or clear cobwebs on the ceiling, walls, cabinets, and furniture with a feather duster or a vacuum cleaner with a dusting attachment.
  2. Wipe the windows, walls, and mirrors with a glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth.
  3. Wipe down electronics like the TV screen, remote control, ceiling fan, and speakers with a clean microfiber cloth.
  4. Vacuum couches, armchairs, and other chairs with a vacuum cleaner.
  5. Change the throw pillows or put on some pillowcases to avoid dust.
  6. Sweep or vacuum the floors and carpet.
  7. Take out the trash.

Deep Cleaning Tips

Deep cleaning ensures all areas in your new apartment are spotless for move-in.

Before rushing to hire professional services, check if the dirt is manageable.

Start cleaning by clearing the area of movable items, then follow these expert tips and DIY solutions for cost-effective results.

Experts’ Cleaning Tips

Entering a new apartment means a fresh start. It’s like having a clean slate that enhances health, wards off pests, and impresses guests.

As an expert cleaning service, we understand that dedicating time to clean is a wise investment.

Here are some expert tips to get your new apartment clean and fresh:

  1. Prioritize safety by inspecting your new apartment thoroughly.
  2. Gather the necessary tools, gear, and make a cleaning checklist.
  3. Begin cleaning by dusting the walls and ceilings, especially ceiling fans.
  4. Clean appliances, including high cabinets and closets.
  5. Continue with the rest of the kitchen.
  6. Ensure your toilet and shower area are sparkling clean.
  7. Move on to the bedroom.
  8. Save the living room for the last step.
  9. Disinfect all areas, including floors, walls, doors, etc.
  10. Conclude with a thorough floor and carpet vacuuming.

Don’t forget to take breaks, ask for help if needed, and reward yourself once you’re finished.

DIY Cleaning Solutions

Non-toxic, natural cleaners benefit your family’s health and the environment. It’s cost-effective, space-efficient, and simple.

Try these 5 DIY cleaning solutions made with kitchen ingredients.

1. Baking Soda Solutions

  • Surface Cleaner: Mix one part baking soda with two parts water for a versatile cleaner that works on countertops, sinks, and surfaces.
  • Sink Cleaner: Clear clogged drains by pouring baking soda followed by vinegar, then flush it out with hot water.
  • Carpet Stain Remover: Sprinkle a mixture of baking soda, water, and vinegar on a carpet stain, wait 15 minutes, or leave it to sit overnight, then vacuum.
  • Polisher: Restore shine by making a paste with baking soda and water, apply to tiles, scrub, and rinse.

2. Vinegar Solutions

  • All-purpose mixture: Mix water and white vinegar equally for a versatile cleaner.
  • Stove cleaner: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle to clean your stovetop.
  • Disinfectant spray bottle: Mix 1 part water and 1 part white vinegar to create a disinfectant solution.
  • Lime and mineral deposit remover: Soak faucets, showerheads, and other fixtures in undiluted white vinegar to remove limescale.

3. Salt

  • Coffee and tea stain remover: Mix salt and water for a stain remover for cups and pots.
  • Kitchen scrub: Polish copper and brass with a salt-vinegar-and-flour mixture.
  • Grout cleaner: Make a paste with salt, ammonia, and water to clean and scrub grout.
  • Fridge deodorizer: Place salt in an open container in the refrigerator to absorb odors.
  • Stain remover: Mix salt and lemon juice to clean floors, walls, and carpet stains.

4. Hydrogen Peroxide

  • Glass Cleaner: Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water, then wipe glass surfaces for a streak-free shine.
  • Disinfectant: Mix 3 parts water with 1 part hydrogen peroxide, spray, wait 10 minutes, then wipe to disinfect surfaces.
  • Bleaching: This can remove carpet stains, but test it first. Wipe a small dirty area and check for reactions to avoid damage.

5. Lemon Juice

  • All-purpose cleaner: Mix lemon juice and mildly hot water for a cleaner that can freshen your house.
  • Degreaser: Combine lemon juice with vinegar or baking soda for a natural degreaser.
  • Air freshener: Mix lemon juice, mildly hot water, and a few drops of your favorite essential oil in a spray bottle.
  • Microwave cleaner: Microwave lemon slices in warm water to loosen grime in oven racks and for easy wiping.
  • Cutting board deodorizer: Scrub a lemon half on cutting boards to remove food odors and sanitize.

Essential Steps for Disinfection

In addition to normal tidying-up, disinfecting your house before moving in is crucial to eliminate germs and bacteria.

You can do this using dish soap and warm water solution, special disinfectant products, or a bleach-water mix.

If you use commercial disinfectants, remember to follow the instructions on the product labels closely.

What to Disinfect?

In every apartment, crucial high-touch and frequently exposed areas often get overlooked.

For effective disinfection, ensure the surface remains wet for a sufficient time per the disinfectant’s instructions. Some solutions require air drying without having to wipe a damp cloth.

When you are disinfecting, remember to get all of these!

  • Kitchen sink: Crucial to clean as it’s used for washing dishes.
  • Fixed toothbrush holder: Accumulates respiratory particles.
  • Food-contact surfaces: Countertops, appliances, dishwasher/s, and utensils should be disinfected after each use to prevent foodborne illness.
  • High-traffic areas: Frequently touched spots like doors, light switches, countertops, and faucets can easily spread germs.
  • Toilet handle: Your toilet is where germs can grow easily and is often overlooked.
  • Air vents: Attract various microbes as they continuously intake stale air and particles.
  • Remote Controls: Regularly disinfect TV remotes and gaming controllers, commonly handled by multiple people.
  • Keys and Keyboards: Apartment keys and computer keyboards can harbor germs, so wipe them down.
  • Trash Bins: Disinfect the exterior of trash and recycle bins since they are touched when disposing of items.
  • Pet areas: If you have pets, disinfect their frequently used spaces to prevent germ spread.

How to Properly Disinfect?

In addition to following the step-by-step process mentioned earlier, here’s a straightforward way to disinfect your apartment in 3 steps:

  1. Clean – Make sure all surfaces are clean of dirt and debris before disinfecting. Use dish soap and water to remove visible contaminants.
  2. Apply disinfectant Use an appropriate disinfectant product, such as a disinfectant spray or wipes. Follow the instructions on the label to apply the disinfectant evenly on the surface.
  3. Wait Allow the disinfectant to remain on the surface for the recommended time specified on the product label. This ensures it effectively kills germs.

Opt for specific disinfectants for wood, metal, enamel, and stone surfaces, and remember to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for proper usage and safety precautions when using disinfectants.

How to Maintain a Clean Apartment

A lot of effort goes into maintaining a clean new home, and it goes beyond occasional cleaning sessions — it’s about creating a consistent routine that keeps your new space tidy and organized.

With the help of a consistent schedule and simple maintenance tips, you can maintain a clutter-free and inviting house.

Regular Cleaning Schedule

To maintain a sparkling clean apartment, set a regular schedule and tackle small tasks consistently.

Create a manageable schedule that includes vacuuming and dusting on specific days to prevent dirt accumulation.

Here’s how you can establish a regular schedule:

  1. Plan Your Routine: Outline a schedule for your tasks.
  2. Targeted Areas: List rooms that need regular tidying.
  3. Identify Tasks: Specify tasks for each space, from walls to cabinets to shower curtains.
  4. Enhance Your List: Add comprehensive tasks.
  5. Frequency: Decide how often to clean each area.
  6. Choose Your Style: Opt for daily, timed, or room-by-room sweeping.
  7. Stay Organized: Keep a task list and set reminders.
  8. Evaluate and Adjust: Fine-tune as you go.
  9. Build Habits: Use a cleaning caddy and spot clean regularly.
  10. Declutter: Regularly tidy up for an easier clean.

Quick Tips for Maintaining Cleanliness

In the earlier sections, we’ve highlighted the benefits of having a complete move-in cleaning checklist for your physical and mental health.

Here are some extra quick tips to complete your move-in checklist.

Here are the key ones:

  • Clean regularly: Aim to clean up each room weekly.
  • Declutter daily: Keep surfaces tidy and organized (especially cabinets and closets).
  • Spot clean immediately: Address spills and messes promptly.
  • Organize supplies: Keep them accessible and in order.
  • Choose suitable products: Opt for effective and safe solutions.
  • Seek help if needed: Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance when maintaining cleanliness becomes challenging.

Frequently Asked Questions

For additional information, here are answers to common queries about cleaning an apartment before moving in.

What Are the Best Cleaning Supplies for a Pre-Move Clean?

The best supplies for a pre-move clean are an all-purpose cleaner, degreaser, glass cleaner, disinfectant, baking soda, vinegar, scrub brushes, microfiber cloths, trash bags, and a vacuum cleaner.

You can either try DIY solutions or buy these products.

One highly recommended product is a multipurpose cleaner. It can be applied to various surfaces (but only when the directions are carefully followed).

How Long Should a Pre-Move Clean Take?

The duration of a pre-move clean varies based on factors such as home size, past cleaning frequency, and the presence of pets.

A full move-in cleaning session may take hours or even days due to the detailed work involved.

Consider these factors and allocate sufficient time or opt for professional cleaners for a thorough deep clean.

Are There Special Considerations for a Pre-Move Clean Due to COVID-19?

COVID-19 brings special considerations for a pre-move clean.

It is important to take extra steps to disinfect high-touch surfaces, use EPA-approved disinfectants, wear the appropriate PPE, and ventilate the space to move the stale air out and get fresh air circulating within.

Remember to ensure that your professional cleaners and homeowners or landlords undergo antigen testing and adhere to local guidelines.

Do I Need to Clean Areas Not Usually Noticed (Like Inside Cupboards, Under the Fridge, or Behind Furniture)?

Yes, it is important to clean often-overlooked areas to achieve a thorough clean and avoid potential issues. These areas can still gather dust, dirt, and debris over time.

While daily sanitizing isn’t required, tending to them every three months is sufficient. Above all, remember these dirty areas when moving in or out to maintain a clean slate.

Should I Hire Professional Cleaners or Do It Myself?

Hiring professional cleaners versus doing it yourself depends on your priorities, budget, and apartment condition.

Professional cleaners are more convenient if you’re pressed for time, while doing it yourself can yield satisfactory results.

Get free quotes from multiple cleaners to compare prices and services before deciding.


Having reviewed the essentials and readied your tools and checklists, the only thing left is to get started.

Embrace the “small yet constant” approach to maintain a clean and organized living space.

With our guide in hand, rest assured your new apartment will gleam and await your arrival. 

Alternatively, you can hire professional cleaning services if you don’t have enough time to clean or want to ensure your new apartment is thoroughly cleaned.

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