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Move out Cleaning Checklist: Get Your Deposit Back

Posted: October 24, 2023
A Moving Helper cleans a bathroom for a customer after moving their belongings out of their house.

Your move out day is arriving quickly, and you’re on track to get your belongings packed and move. One of the last major steps is the move out cleaning process. When you leave a home or end a lease at an apartment complex, you’re expected to leave your place clean to receive your cleaning deposit or security deposit.

While most places only require a “broom-swept” cleaning, it’s best to go above and beyond to earn every penny from your deposit. With the Moving Help® move out cleaning checklist, you’ll be sure nothing is missed when cleaning your place.

Don’t have the time to clean or don’t want to clean yourself? You can hire professional moving labor cleaners from the Moving Help Marketplace. Now, let’s dive into our checklist for everything you need to be prepared for your move out cleaning task.

Don’t have time to read the article? Download our printable move out cleaning checklist now.

Getting Started With Cleaning

As you embark on your move-out cleaning journey, it’s important to start on the right foot. Proper preparation and a systematic plan will help make your process more efficient without missing any critical steps. We’ll guide through some basics you should know about prior to starting.

Clearing Your Home

You want to clear out your entire home before diving into your cleaning tasks. You might feel the urge to clean prior to moving day but don’t do it. Your apartment or house will receive plenty of foot traffic on moving day, which will accumulate dust and debris.

Additionally, when everything is out of the way, you can clean every nook and cranny of your home without needing to move any heavy items.

Starting From Top to Bottom

With your apartment empty, your first strategy to deploy is the top-down strategy. Why start from the top? Dust and dirt tend to settle on higher surfaces and gradually make their way down.

By starting at the top, you avoid any dust particles or debris landing on surfaces you’ve already cleaned.

For example, if you clean your bathroom floors first, and then you clean your bathroom shelf, you leave potential dust and debris from that shelf to land on the floor.

This will require you to clean your floor a second time. Nobody wants to finish a deep clean twice.

A Service Provider cleans a kitchen for a customer.

Typical Cleaning Basics for Every Room

Most rooms in any home will typically have the basics that you need to make sure you clean regardless of the specific room you clean. Let’s dig into the five basics you’ll need to clean in almost every room.

  • Ceilings: This is the first place you’ll want to start in any room. You’ll want to dust or vacuum your ceilings any cobwebs or dust. Watch out for corners and light fixtures.
  • Fixtures: You’ll want to clean any light fixtures, ceiling fans, and any permanent hanging decorations. Ceiling fans have plenty of grooves for dust to hide so make sure you carefully clean every inch of it.
  • Walls: After the fixtures, you’ll work on your walls next. Go around the room finishing each wall one wall at a time. Wipe down any stains, marks, or scruffs with the appropriate cleaning solution. You won’t want to forget those light switches or outlets either.
  • Windows and sills: Next are the windows and stills. You’ll want to wipe the inside and outside, if possible, areas of your windows. Make sure you wipe the frames and window still as they’re often forgotten about and can accumulate plenty of grime.
  • Trim and molding: Take extra time with your baseboards, trim, and molding. Sometimes these areas require extra attention from you.

By following the top-down approach, you won’t accidentally dirty surfaces you’ve already cleaned. This will help avoid cleaning the same area twice. This process will set the stage for a more thorough move out cleaning process, increasing the likelihood of earning your cleaning deposit or security deposit back.

In the next section, we’ll plunge deeper into the specific cleaning tasks for each room in your apartment or house.

Apartment or Home Cleaning Checklist by Room

Don’t have time to read room by room, download our printable move out cleaning checklist now.


Every bedroom is different, but you’ll be covered in securing your cleaning deposit by following these 10 tasks for your bedroom.

  1. Dust all surfaces
  1. Vacuum all surfaces (carpet, wood, laminate floors, etc.)
  1. Mop all floors (if applicable)
  1. Clean marks on walls
  1. Clean light switches and outlets
  1. Clean doors, door frames, and doorknobs
  1. Clean baseboards, trim, and molding
  1. Clean windows, window stills, and blinds
  1. Clean lights and ceiling fan
  1. Remove any garbage


If not maintained properly, a bathroom can be a filthy room. With a little bit of elbow grease, your bathroom can get shining clean by following these 16 tasks for you to earn your security deposit back.

  1. Wipe and scrub the bathtub, shower walls, and glass doors
  1. Wipe and scrub the interior and exterior of the toilet
  1. Wipe down sink
  1. Wipe countertops
  1. Wipe down mirrors
  1. Clean lights
  1. Clean and wipe shelves
  1. Clean inside and outside of cabinets
  1. Clean doors, door frames, and doorknobs
  1. Clean baseboards, trim, and molding
  1. Dust all surfaces
  1. Vacuum all surfaces (wood, laminate floors, etc.)
  1. Mop all floors (if applicable)
  1. Clean marks on walls
  1. Clean light switches and outlets
  1. Remove any garbage


A kitchen can be a challenging time because you have heavy appliances, shelves, cabinets, and plenty of other nooks and crannies you must watch out for during the move out cleaning process. You can make it easier on yourself by making sure to focus on these 16 tasks.

  1. Wipe interior and exterior of appliances (fridge, oven, stovetop, microwave, range hood, dishwasher, etc.)
  1. Wipe small appliances (microwave, toaster, coffee maker, etc.)
  1. Wipe down countertops
A Moving Help provider wipes a stovetop clean for a customer after helping them load their belongings out of their apartment.
  1. Clean interior and exterior of cabinets
  1. Scrub and wipe down sinks
  1. Clean backsplash
  1. Clean marks on walls
  1. Clean light switches and outlets
  1. Clean baseboards, trim, and molding
  1. Dust all surfaces
  1. Vacuum all surfaces (carpet, wood, laminate floors, etc.)
  1. Mop all floors (if applicable)
  1. Wipe doors, door frames, and doorknobs (if applicable)
  1. Clean and wipe out pantry
  1. Clean windows, window stills, and blinds
  1. Remove garbage

Living Room

A living room usually has an open floor concept, so you won’t have to worry about as many shelves or cabinets compared to other rooms. When you spotlight these 10 tasks, your living room will look spotless.

  1. Dust all surfaces
  1. Vacuum all surfaces (carpet, wood, laminate floors, etc.)
  1. Mop all floors (if applicable)
  1. Clean marks on walls
  1. Clean light switches and outlets
  1. Clean baseboards, trim, and molding
  1. Clean windows, window stills, and blinds
  1. Clean doors, door frames, and doorknobs
  1. Clean lights and ceiling fan
  1. Remove any garbage

Patio (If Applicable)

Some apartments and houses might have a patio area. If you don’t have one, you can skip this section. If you have one, follow these four tasks to ensure a clean area.

  1. Sweep and remove all debris
  1. Wash windows
  1. Clean patio door, sliding door, door frame, and doorknobs
  1. Remove any garbage

Garage (If Applicable)

A house is more likely to have a garage than an apartment, but depending on your apartment complex, you might get your own garage. If you don’t have a garage, you can skip this section. If you have a garage, look at these three tasks:

  1. Sweep garage floors
  1. Remove any debris
  1. Remove any garbage


This miscellaneous category is for anything that we didn’t cover in the previous sections or is in multiple rooms. You can follow these six tasks for a successful, clean home and to earn your security deposit. 

  1. Clean the front door and back door of your home
  1. Wipe the exterior of the washing machine and dryer
  1. Clean fireplace (if applicable)
  1. Clean all closets (bedrooms, hallways, etc.)
A moving labor provider sprays cleaning product onto the countertop before wiping it away with a rag for a customer after helping them move out of their home.
  1. Clean the balcony area
  1. Mow and trim the lawn

Cleaning Tips and Recommendations

Now that you know how to clean your home and what to clean in your home, it’s time to give you some tips and recommendations for the cleaning process.

  • Use the right cleaning products: Floors, surfaces, and walls aren’t all equal. Not every cleaning product will work on every surface so make sure you are following the directions carefully. You also want to make sure you’re not accidentally mixing cleaning chemicals.
  • Essential cleaning tools: You’ll want a vacuum, a duster, or wipes to clean your home. If you’re cleaning on your own, you’ll need to know whether you have the tools already. If you don’t have the right tools, you’ll need to decide whether to buy or rent those cleaning tools.
  • Eco-friendly cleaning solutions: Are you conscious about the environment and the carbon footprint you leave behind? By carefully selecting your cleaning products, you can leave a better footprint behind.
  • Asking for help: If you need help cleaning your home, consider hiring your Service Providers from the Moving Help Marketplace to clean your home. If they’re already helping you move, they can help you clean your home afterward. You should make sure you have clear communications on the expectations of cleaning your apartment or house with your local moving labor providers.

Moving Organization Tips

The move out cleaning process will be one the last steps to complete whether you move across town or across the country. To make the cleaning process easier for you, you should make sure your packing is completed before moving day. This will make cleaning on moving day or after moving day easier.

For some more tips and guidelines on packing, check out our “Packing Help: Hire Moving Help® to Simplify Moves” article.

If you need some help unpacking, read our “Stress-Free Unpacking: A Guide After Moving” article. You also can hire Moving Help providers for your packing and unpacking needs.

A moving labor team member starts wiping the window blinds for a customer as a part of the move out cleaning process.

Maintenance and Repairs

Depending on your lease, it may be in your best interest to fix small repairs in your apartment or home. Some apartments might want you to fix nail holes whereas some other homes might prefer they fix the nail holes themselves. You might want to consider these six tips.

  1. Patch nails
  1. Fix holes or walls
  1. Check smoke detector
  1. Inspect your fire extinguisher
  1. Make sure your tub isn’t peeling from its glaze
  1. Paint rooms back to their original color

By completing all or some of these tasks, you’re more likely to receive your entire security deposit back.

Additional Resources

Do you need some more moving guidelines? Check out our studio apartment guideline, one-bedroom apartment guideline, two-bedroom apartment guideline, or our moving house checklist guideline.

Moving Help has plenty of resources to help you with every aspect of your move.

Use Moving out Cleaning Checklist Today

A cleaning checklist for moving out is important for you to receive either your cleaning deposit or security deposit or both. By using this cleaning checklist, you’ll be able to move out of your current home and into your new home with ease.

Moving Help has moving labor teams who offer cleaning services to help you with your move.

Don’t forget to download our printable move out cleaning checklist now.

A Moving Helper wipes down the stairs’ railings for the customer. A Service Provider can assist you in loading your items and then help clean your old home after moving you out.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What goes into a move-out clean?

A: A move out clean requires a deep clean of your entire living space to ensure the standards required to receive your cleaning or security deposit back. By using the top-bottom routine, you’ll be able to clean in an efficient and quicker manner. Your cleaning will include the floors, walls, appliances, fixtures, and other surfaces.

Q: How do you clean walls when moving out?

A: To clean walls when moving out, start working from top to bottom. Use gentle, non-abrasive cleaning products suitable for your wall type to avoid damage. Clean walls are crucial for a successful move out cleaning plan.

Q: How do you declutter when moving out?

A: Decluttering before moving out involves a systematic approach. You start by tackling each room one at a time. Evaluate each item and ask yourself if you’ve used that item in the past year and whether you’d use it in your new space. Sort the items into these categories: Keep, sell, donate, or throw away. Setting aside dedicated and decluttering time can help you save time down the road and speed up your packing process.

Q: Do I need to clean my oven before moving out?

A: Yes, you need to clean your oven before moving out. Some ovens have a self-clean function, which you should use to clean them properly. If your oven needs some additional cleaning, you should make sure to use appropriate oven cleaning products to clean the inside and outside of your oven. Oven racks can be cleaned via the sink.

Q: How do you deep clean an empty room?

A: You can deep clean an empty room by using the top-down cleaning method. This will ensure everything is cleaned once. You also should emphasize cleaning every nook and cranny. A deep clean will take longer so don’t worry if you take more time than usual to clean your space.

Q: What is the best thing to wash walls?

A: You should use mild, gentle, non-abrasive cleaning products that are suitable for your specific wall type. If you’re unsure about a product, test a small area in an inconspicuous area first. You should gently wipe down the walls using a soft cloth or sponge while working your way from the top to the bottom.

Q: How do you clean baseboards?

A: You’ll want to clean baseboards by dusting them or using a vacuum to remove loose dirt and debris from the area. Next you can use warm water and mild dish soap to gently wipe down the baseboards with a soft cloth or sponge. If you’re having trouble removing tough stains, you can use a magic eraser or a mixture of baking soda and water to scrub away the stubborn stains.