Real Estate

Renters: What to Clean Before Move-In Day

Kick off your new living situation with a healthy, clean environment before you start hauling in boxes and furniture.
Deirdre Mundorf Avatar
new tenants moving into rental property - what to clean before you move in

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Welcome to The State of Rentals with Bob Vila, a series dedicated to showing both landlords and tenants the crucial steps in finding the right property, potential challenges with renting, precautions to protect your interests, and ideas for making the most of your next move. We’ve included current market trends mixed with Bob’s tried-and-true advice, our vetted shopping guides, and the behind-the-scenes tips you need to make your rental a home.

You’ve signed your lease, you have all of your moving essentials ready for the first week in your new place, and your belongings are packed and ready to go. All that’s left is to move your things into your new apartment, right? Wrong. Before you move into your new home, you’ll want to take some time to make sure that it is clean and ready.

While your landlord may have given your new place a maintenance update and a light cleaning, it is unlikely that everything was scrubbed and polished to the high standard that you’ll want before you start actually living there. You could hire house cleaners, but to make sure everything gets cleaned to your satisfaction, you may be better off saving some money, gathering up a few supplies, and tackling the job yourself. Don’t overlook the most essential areas of your new apartment to clean before you officially move in and start unpacking.

RELATED: 15 Ways to Clean Your House Like a Pro

1. Walls and Ceilings


When you’re cleaning your new apartment, it’s best to start at the top and work your way down to the floor. The last thing you want to do is push dust down onto your already cleaned floor or countertop. For that reason, start by cleaning the ceilings (and any light fixtures or ceiling fans) first. These upper reaches are often neglected, and there may be a lot of dust lurking up there. After cleaning the ceilings with a duster on an extension pole, wipe down the walls and baseboards too.

RELATED: Just Moved In? 11 Things to Do Right Away

2. Closets

woman with pink rubber glove dusting shelves of closet

Cleaning the closets is another important task to take care of before you move into your new place. Closets are often overlooked and likely to be dusty and dirty, particularly in the corners. After wiping down the shelves, consider adding shelf liners to keep everything cleaner. You can even get shelf liners for a wire shelving system to make storage easier. Be sure you clean the closets before you move in. After you’ve hung up your clothes and stowed everything neatly on shelves, you won’t want to clear everything out again for a deep cleaning.

RELATED: 15 Cleaning Mistakes Everyone Makes

3. Kitchen Cabinets

asian woman cleaning kitchen cabinets

Before filling your kitchen cabinets with food, plates, pots and pans, and other kitchen essentials, you’ll want to give them a good cleaning as well. Wipe them down thoroughly, inside and out, to remove any grease or grime and to ensure that anything that will come into contact with food will stay clean. The cleaner you use on your countertops might not do the trick, so try a degreaser like Krud Kutter cleaner and degreaser at Amazon, a top pick in our list of best all-purpose leaners. Adding shelf liners can help keep the cabinets tidy and hide any old stains left by previous tenants.

RELATED: The Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning Kitchen Cabinets

4. Bathrooms


Cleaning the bathroom before you move into a new apartment requires going beyond routine cleaning, or even the type of cleaning you might undertake to get your bathroom guest-ready. Before you and your family start using your new bathroom, you want to make sure it’s truly disinfected. Wipe down the sink, countertops, and bathtub or shower tiles, and give the grout a scrubbing. Our testers like Soft Scrub with Bleach Cleaning Gel at Amazon for a whole-bathroom cleaner. It is a good idea to buy a new toilet seat so you won’t feel squeamish about getting up close and personal with other people’s germs. As you’re cleaning, check the caulking around the sink, bathtub, and toilet. If you notice any peeling or missing caulk, let your landlord know. If they approve, you may be able to replace it yourself. If not, they should hire someone to complete the repairs and prevent water damage.

RELATED: 13 Unusual Tips for Your Cleanest Bathroom Ever

5. Appliances

side view of woman cleaning fridge

Cleaning the appliances in your new apartment is crucial. You’ll want them all fresh and sparkling before you start using them. While the apartment is empty, you can take this opportunity to pull the fridge and stove away from the wall and clean behind them. This will give you a chance to wipe down the usually hidden sides of the appliances, clean up of old crumbs and spills, and check around the fridge so you can notify the landlord of any signs of leaks or water damage. To make the job easier in tight places, try a skinny cleaning tool like this microfiber gap duster at Amazon that helps you reach between appliances and cabinets. Then, get busy cleaning the refrigerator, wiping down the microwave, and cleaning the oven. (Don’t forget to clean any range hood filters, oven dials, and other notoriously grimy spots.) To clean the dishwasher, place 1 cup of vinegar on the top rack and run the hottest cycle available. Then, run an additional cycle after pouring a cup of baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher.

After the kitchen appliances have been cleaned, move on to the laundry room (if your unit has one). Use a laundry machine cleaner tablet and run a cleaning cycle or hot wash cycle. After the cycle has completed, wipe out the inside of the machine with a microfiber cloth. If needed, run an additional cleaning cycle. Wipe out the dryer with a damp microfiber cloth, and before you use the dryer for the first time, check the dryer filter and clean out the vent. Place a few wet towels in the machine and run a cycle to make sure the dryer is working properly.

RELATED: 7 Ways to Clean Behind and Under Every Appliance

6. Doorknobs and Handles

dusting and disinfecting doorknob

High-touch surfaces like doorknobs and handles are probably covered with germs and bacteria, so it’s smart to wipe them down with a disinfectant before you move in. Our testers like Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner for its effectiveness and eco-friendly ingredients. While you’re at it, wipe down other frequently touched items in the apartment, such as faucet handles, light switches, and fan or television remotes.

RELATED: The 14 Surfaces You Should Be Sanitizing More Often

7. Garbage Disposal

woman cleaning garbage disposal with cleaning product on the counter

This task is a quick one, but it is one you won’t want to skip. Take a few minutes to clean the garbage disposal. Any food left in it by the previous tenant could cause a foul odor in the kitchen. Start by filling the sink with hot water, then run the garbage disposal to flush any food particles away. You can also purchase garbage disposal cleaning tablets that foam up to eliminate odors and food residue.

RELATED: 10 Corners of Your Kitchen You’re Forgetting to Clean

8. Floors


Save the floors for last so you don’t get them dirty again with crumbs or dust from other surfaces. Start by sweeping or vacuuming, then go over hard surfaces using a steam mop or hard floor cleaner. Always confirm that the cleaning method and product you choose is appropriate for the flooring material. If the landlord didn’t have the carpets professionally cleaned before you moved in, consider buying an affordable carpet cleaner, like the Hoover PowerDash GO Pet+ Portable Spot Cleaner at Amazon, to keep on hand for future spills, or rent a carpet cleaner from a hardware of grocery store.