Rental Move Out Checklist for Cleaning

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I’ve moved into 25 homes and that means that I’ve moved out of 24 homes, so I’ve learned a bit about rental move out cleaning checklists.  I’ve moved into and out of apartments, dorms, houses and rentals. I’ve moved into and out of homes in other countries and military quarters. Over the years, I’ve learned how to clean the home we’re leaving so that we clear the military quarters inspection for on-base housing and so that we get all of our deposit back for rental housing.

It definitely helps that while I was in the military I assisted in conducting several barracks (dorm) inspections. You can’t hide anything in a military room inspection. (I’ve also gone through inspections of my own barracks room. And nothing says “you better do a good job cleaning” more than an upcoming room inspection!) The good news is that with all this experience, moving out of homes is a simple matter of running through my rental move out checklist for cleaning now and I know we’ll have no problems at all. 

suitcase on top of package of paper towels,, box  with floor mop and stacked moving boxes

I begin cleaning for moving out of a home a couple of months before the actual move-out date. I begin with cleaning areas that will probably not get dirty again. Anything that can be cleaned ahead of time will make the final cleaning that much easier. You can download my Move Out Cleaning Checklist to use as your own rental move out cleaning checklist. There’s space to add notes or check off each item when you’ve completed it. 

Rental Move Out Checklist for Cleaning

red and blue checklist

Rental Move Out Cleaning Checklist Tips

One of the items that you can tackle a couple of weeks ahead of your move-out date is cleaning under your appliances with a long-handled duster or a sock on the end of a yardstick. You can also clean the refrigerator gasket ahead of time. This is one of the gotcha inspection areas. Use a strong paper towel and vinegar to clean the debris and dust out of the gasket on top of the doors. Use a fresh paper towel and vinegar to clean any mold and mildew off the gasket along the door edge and bottom of the door.

hands with paper towel cleaning refrigerator gasket

Using a strong paper towel like Bounty® Select-a-Size gives you the flexibility of using the exact size of paper towel you need without waste (and you know how I hate to waste anything). Because it’s strong and more absorbent, you can use less for each cleaning task, which saves you money and saves the landfill. You can find Bounty® Select-a-Size Mega Roll Paper Towels in the 12 pack at Walmart. 

roll of paper towels, container of baking soda and door track

I also clean all windows and doors a couple of months before my move. If they get dirty, it will just be a small spot that I can easily touch up  just before the move out inspection. Part of passing a rental move out or military inspection is showcasing how clean the home is. Make sure the inspector is wowed from the very beginning. I always clean all the door thresholds. The minute the inspector steps into the house, that shinning threshold screams, “I’m super clean. You don’t need to worry here.” I’ve found that using a strong paper towel or rag and my favorite natural way to clean cleanser, baking soda, works like magic. I usually start by laying damp paper towels over the metal threshold to soften the dirt and gunk. I come back after about 5 minutes and clean everything off with baking soda and a little elbow grease. This is a great chore to have your children tackle while you do other cleaning chores

I’m a big believer in finding age-appropriate chores that  your children can help with as you’re moving. It teaches responsibility, life skills and that they’re an important part of the family.  

Clean all light fixtures to remove bugs and debris. Change out light bulbs as needed. You can do this task early, as well. Just keep one or two light bulbs available until the final walk-through inspections (Murphy’s Move Out Inspection Law, you know). 

paper towels next to floor vent with cobwebs

Vacuum and clean all air vents and registers. Pet hair and cobwebs get caught in floor registers. Simply remove the register, vacuum up the debris and then wipe the register with a damp cloth or paper towel. This is another great chore for children to do. 

Wipe down smudges on walls and light switch plates. You may be surprised how grimy the switch plates are in your home. Taking the time to clean up marks, shows that you made a real effort in your move out cleaning. 

On the move out day, my final cleaning task is to clean the floors well. I sweep the garage and front porch (Hello, children. I have a task for you.). I take time to clean the floors inside the home well. Check your rental agreement to see if you can clean the carpets yourself of have to have them professionally cleaned. Having a sparkling clean floor wows the inspector. I clean my way out of the house by starting at the point farthest from the door and cleaning towards the door. I don’t want to leave a single foot print to mar my you-don’t-have-to-worry-here-give-me-back-my-entire-deposit floors. 

small green suitcase next to moving box and purple floor mop

The Swiffer® WetJet Mop is perfect for this final cleaning because it’s an all-in-one mopping system and only one thing to keep track of in the chaos of moving out. It’s designed to break up and dissolve tough messes so it will give me the clean and shining floors I want and that will make the inspector happy. Luckily, it’s also available at Walmart, since you can find a Walmart everywhere. Really. Even when we lived in the middle of the desert, the closest store was Walmart. 

blue and white striped purse on stairs with 2 garage door openers, keys and bottle of air freshener

I make sure to arrive about 15 minutes prior to the move out inspection. I use that time to lay out any keys, garage door openers or other items that I need to return. I also lightly spray each room and closet with air freshener. I want the inspector to immediately notice how fresh the home smells because that is a subconscious cue that the house is clean (which it is, but I want to drive that fact home).  Unstopables™ Air Freshener Fresh Scent infuses a fragrance that lasts up to 6 hours and is boutique-worthy (unlike many of our military quarters, but let’s encourage the inspector to have happy thoughts).  Don’t go too heavy with the air freshener or the inspector will be suspicious. You’re going for a light fresh scent, like in Unstopables™ Air Freshener Fresh Scent, which can be found at Walmart. 

In preparation for moving into our new home, I pack an Open First box and have this be the last box packed on the truck, so it will be the first one off. I fill the box with items I will need right away. I don’t always have time to shop before movers come to the new house. I pack things that we’ll need while we’re moving in that first day. Including Charmin® Ultra Strong toilet paper is critical since you’re lucky if you have a half of a roll left by the previous occupants. Charmin® Ultra Strong is available at Walmart and allows you to use up to 4 times less toilet paper than the leading bargain brand. 

moving boxes with package of toilet paper and laundry detergent pods

I also include laundry detergent since I’ll want to start right away doing laundry from our travels. Tide® PODS® laundry detergent is also  available at Walmart and easy to pack since it won’t leak or spill (always check with your moving company on any restrictions). It is a 3-in-1 laundry solution and can be used in all types of washing machines, so I only have to pack one product in my Open First box. Plus, I’m already brainstorming repurposed crafts for the strong plastic container. 

suitcase on top of package of paper towels,, box  with floor mop and stacked moving boxes

I do everything in my power to make sure I always get 100% of my security deposit back. I almost always have (minus the time that a red marker stained the carpet and ended up looking like a crime scene when we tried to remove it. Sigh.). Did I miss any of your favorite tips on the rental move out cleaning checklist?

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6 Comments

  1. Moving is such a crazy time and there is so much going on it’s easy to forget important details. I wish I had thought of a checklist for a few of my moves.

  2. I don’t think I have ever counted the times I have moved, but I think it would be right up there with your number. These are such great tips. It is super important to stay organized when moving. It makes things so much calmer and easier. Great printable list.

  3. Move out cleaning is such a difficult activity as there are so many things that we have to clear in our mind and unfortunately these things get skipped. Thanks a lot for sharing this. I would really like to use this in future.

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