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RentCafe's Cleaning Checklists for Renters: Preparing for Move-In and Move-Out

As a renter, whenever it’s time to move, you need to prepare and clean two apartments, both the one you’re leaving and the one you’re moving to. This will provide you with the clean slate that a new rental apartment is, and it is a way to ensure you increase your chances of receiving your security deposit back from your old place. So, if you’re planning for a move, we’ve got you covered with this cleaning checklist with tasks for both moving in and moving out. 

A comprehensive cleaning checklist provides an organized transition that helps relieve potential stress and challenges. By employing this checklist, you make sure no critical aspect is overlooked, guaranteeing each corner of your rental apartment (both the old one and the new one) gets the attention it requires. Whether you’re at the start or end of a lease, adhering to a specific and meticulous cleaning plan enables a seamless and dispute-free moving experience.

Part 1: Move-In Cleaning Checklist

Moving into a new place means a fresh start and cultivating a clean, healthy living environment from day one is essential. A robust move-in cleaning checklist ensures that every nook and cranny is inspected and cleaned before you settle in, and your new space will be sanitized and hygienic. Here’s what you should focus on before you bring your belongings into the new apartment. 

A. General Cleaning

  • Walls and Ceilings: Wipe them down to remove dust, cobwebs, and any marks.

  • Windows: Clean windows, windowsills, and tracks.

  • Lights and fixtures: Dust and wipe all light fixtures and replace any burnt-out bulbs.

B. Kitchen

  • Appliances: Ensure that the refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, and other appliances are spotless inside and out.

  • Cabinets: Wipe down inside and out, and make sure to remove all food or random leftovers from previous tenants.

  • Countertops and sink: Scrub and disinfect all surfaces to allow for all of your new stuff.

C. Bathroom

  • Toilet, sink, and bathtub: Deep clean and disinfect all surfaces, and allow plenty of air circulation to refresh the space.

  • Tiles: Scrub tiles and grout, checking for any mold or mildew.

  • Mirrors: Wipe down mirrors, ensuring they are streak-free.

D. Bedrooms and Living Areas

  • Floors: Vacuum or mop all flooring, ensuring thorough dust removal.

  • Closets: Wipe down shelves and rods, to make sure they are dust-free.

  • Air vents: Check and clean to make way for efficient airflow and prevent buildup that could lead to damage.

Part 2: Move-Out Cleaning Checklist

Exiting a rental property means leaving it in a condition that's at least as good as when you first moved in. A meticulous move-out cleaning not only helps in the retrieval of your security deposit, but it also paves the way for a good reference from your landlord in the future. Here’s what you should do after taking your things out of your old rental.

A. General Cleaning

  • Walls and baseboards: Address scuffs or marks on walls, and clean baseboards thoroughly.

  • Carpets: Consider professional carpet cleaning, especially if stained.

  • Doors: Wipe down doors and doorknobs, to make sure they’re free from smudges.

B. Kitchen

  • Appliances: Deep clean, defrost (if necessary), and wipe down all appliances.

  • Drawers: Remove any remaining items and wipe down thoroughly.

  • Garbage disposal: Makre sure the garbage disposal is clean and functioning properly and use an odor remover or lemons and baking soda to remove all unpleasant smells.

C. Bathroom

  • Drains: Check that all drains (sink/bathtub) are clear and functioning.

  • Cabinets: Makre sure they are empty and that all the surfaces are wiped down.

  • Fixtures: Polish fixtures to enhance their appearance and remove smudges or shallow scratches.

D. Exterior (if applicable)

  • Patio or balcony: Remove any belongings and sweep the place thoroughly.

  • Gardens: Ensure any personal plants or decorations are removed.

Part 3: Considerations for Both Checklists

Beyond the specific tasks involved in preparing a space for moving in or out, numerous considerations should govern the overall approach to the cleaning process. Ensuring both the aesthetic and functional qualities of the home are maintained necessitates a thoughtful, comprehensive strategy. You need to understand the difference between general wear and actual damage, decide between personal and professional cleaning, manage an inventory, and know when to embrace environmentally friendly cleaning practices.

A. Wear and Tear vs. Damage

Identifying the difference between normal wear and tear and actual damage is crucial during both move-in and move-out. Makre sure you document the state of the property with photos and detailed notes for a comparative baseline, which will offer you protection against unfair claims.

B. Professional Cleaning

In many cases, employing a professional cleaning service can be a prudent investment, saving time and ensuring a thorough job, which can be particularly important when trying to recover a security deposit.

C. Inventory Checklist

Maintaining an inventory checklist that details the condition of included appliances, fixtures, and other items in the property is just as important as the cleaning checklist. Make sure everything is in the agreed-upon condition upon moving in and that you leave items as found when moving out.

D. Green Cleaning

Consider utilizing eco-friendly cleaning products. Not only are they often just as effective as traditional cleaners, but they also minimize exposure to harsh chemicals and contribute to a healthier environment.


A meticulous approach to cleaning during both move-in and move-out phases is key to a hassle-free renting experience. By adhering to a detailed checklist and being mindful of the property’s condition, renters can ensure a seamless transition between residences, fostering positive relationships with landlords and improving the chances of receiving their security deposits back. Ultimately, a cleaning checklist serves as a roadmap, guiding the way toward maintaining the integrity and aesthetic of a rental property, and establishing a home that is welcoming from the onset.

Check out RentCafe to find your next home rental!

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