My absolute least favorite part of moving out is the move out clean. It seems so pointless. At the end of a brutal day or three of backbreaking cleaning, you end up with a spotless home that you have to leave behind. Why couldn't it have looked like that when you lived there?
Of course, the reason it didn't look like that when you lived there is because you lived there. People are messy. Just maintaining a decent amount of cleanliness is hard enough. Who has time to spit-polish the floors and appliances?
Unfortunately, if you rent, that’s what the landlord expects. If you own, the new owners didn't charge you a security deposit, but it is courteous to leave them a clean home, unless they are renovating.
I promised myself that the next time I move out, I will hire professionals. As with the entire moving process, you have to weigh the value of your time vs. the cost of the service. If you decide to do the cleaning yourself, here are some steps to make it easier, or at least more thorough.
1. Invite a friend. This had better be a close friend because it’s damned hard work, but it will make everything go so much quicker.
2. Once the home is completely empty, except for cleaning supplies and a source of music, vacuum thoroughly. Vacuum the walls and the blinds. Vacuum inside all drawers and cabinets. If the carpet is stained, hire a professional to clean it.
3. Remove nails and screws from the walls and putty them.
4. Clean the baseboards and clean any marks on the wall. If the marks don’t come out, you may need to paint – always use a neutral color, preferably the same color as when you moved in.
5. Clean the windows, both inside and out.
6. Wipe down wall switches, outlets and doorknobs.
7. Dust ceiling fans and wash light fixtures and replace burned out bulbs.
8. Thoroughly scrub inside all cabinets, re-line if necessary.
9. Remove soap scum from bathtub and shower and bleach the grout.
10. Clean the bathroom fixtures, floors and the mirror.
11. Vacuum the fan.
12. Thoroughly scrub inside all cabinets, re-line if necessary.
13. Scrub all appliances inside and out.
Remove all the shelves and drawers from the refrigerator and clean them thoroughly. Wipe down the inside of the refrigerator and freezer.
Run the oven cleaner, if there is an automatic one, but be sure to remove all the ash at the end of the cycle. The oven cleaning is best done before move out day, so it has time to run through the cycle and cool.
If you don’t have an automatic cleaning oven, you’ll have to buy oven cleaner. Be sure to wear a mask when you are spraying. Still, you’ll want to do this before the move out day, since it will need to sit for 24 hours and then you’ll need to thoroughly scrub it out. Remember, the broiler pan is made from the same metal as the oven, so it will withstand both the heat of a cleaning cycle and the oven cleaner in a can.
14. If the sink is not stainless, remove all stains (bleach if necessary).
15. Finish off all surfaces, including counters, chrome faucets, mirrors and sinks, with window cleaner. It will make them shine.
16. Pull out the appliances and sweep under them. Wipe down the sides and the back as they are pulled out.
17. Clean the tile and hardwood floors.
18. Run the vacuum one more time and you are done with the inside.
19. Tidy up the outside, including mowing the lawn and pulling weeds.
20. Sweep and hose down the garage, patio and driveway.
Once you’re done, take a lot of pictures in case your landlord claims you have damaged something or that the place is dirty. Oh, and be sure to empty the trash.