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Renter’s Guide on How to Clean Your Apartment Before Moving In

While your new apartment may look perfectly clean, giving it a good deep clean yourself before moving in your possessions can ensure everything is disinfected and give you a clean slate. It will allow you to remove all hard-to-reach spots before getting your furniture in, and you will make sure your apartment smells nice and everything can have its place.

Here’s how to make sure your new home is clean and ready for you.

Start from the Top

man cleaning shelf in apartment

Whenever you start cleaning, always start from the top and work your way down. And we’re talking all the way at the top! Things such as ceilings, ceiling fans, and high cabinets are likely to generate dust. When you clean that dust, there’s great potential for it to dirty your already-cleaned countertops or floors. So, start with these “high” priorities before anything else.

While you’re working on the ceilings, check for any evidence of leaks from the roof, that may signal a larger problem than simply a dirty space.


cleaning appliances in kitchen

Your kitchen is likely one of your most heavily used areas of your home. Your kitchen houses lots of stuff and by cleaning it first, it will be ready when you need to take a quick break from unpacking for lunch or dinner.

It’s especially important to deep clean your kitchen upon move-in, as it may be the only time you’ll have a completely empty fridge or blank cupboards. Take advantage by cleaning and disinfecting the space — paying close attention to appliances like microwaves, ovens and sinks.


Another room that holds a lot of your belongings and gets a lot of use is your bathroom. While your landlord hopefully already did a deep clean in this area, it’s best to give it another good run-down. After all, you want to be double sure that all the grime and gunk from the old tenant is gone. You’ll feel much better knowing that you’ve gone over this space on your own and everything is sparkling clean and sanitized.

Buy a new toilet seat on the cheap and sanitize the toilet paper holder, light switches, faucets and door handles. Make sure to also hit any spaces you may not focus on during a regular clean. The goal is to start fresh with a clean and sanitized space.


vacuum sofa scared cat

While moving day may seem like an eternity, at some point you’ll want your head to hit the pillow for a nice, long snooze. After attacking the kitchen and bathroom, focus on cleaning and setting up your bedroom. This room is likely to be much easier, as there shouldn’t be much existing furniture or appliances. Do a quick wipe of the walls and windows and start settling into your space.


While you’re working on walls, continue from the bedroom to all other areas of your apartment. Walls are often neglected during cleaning but can be a hotbed for fingerprints, pet slobber, dust and stains. A simple wipe down with a moist rag can do them wonders.


No matter how many times a sink has been cleaned, it can always use another scrub. Sinks are notoriously gunky and filled with germs. Use a disinfectant, and give it a good rundown, scrubbing the walls and the faucets. You can DIY your own cleaner or use some lemon wedges to give sinks a pleasant, natural fragrance.


cleaning apartment preparation

Floors should be the last thing you clean since all the dust you kick up cleaning the rest of your apartment will ultimately land here. Hardwood or linoleum floors — like in bathrooms or kitchens — can be easily swept and then mopped with a floor cleaning solution. Tiles are also very easy to clean.

Ideally, your landlord will have stain-resistant and durable carpet, but that’s not always the case. Carpets tend to be more difficult, especially if there’s evidence the previous tenant smoked in the apartment. Vacuum first and then use a carpet cleaner to shampoo the carpet. If the smoke smell still linger, try sprinkling a carpet deodorizing powder or baking soda on the carpet, letting it sit for an hour and then vacuuming again.

Getting Rid of Smoke Smell

vacuum carpet in apartment

On the subject of smoke, if your new apartment reeks of it upon move-in, there are several things you can do in addition to treating the carpet as mentioned above. Start by airing out your unit — open all the doors and windows and run fans to route clean, fresh air in and old, stale air out. Ideally, you could let your apartment sit empty for some time prior to moving in.

Then, clean all walls, ceilings and windows with a one part vinegar and one part water solution. If the smell still lingers, consider repainting the walls or consulting with the landlord about what the best set of actions would be.

Cleaning Makes your new Apartment a Home

Any good landlord should have thoroughly cleaned your new apartment, but some areas may be unintentionally overlooked. You may have also only seen the unit via a virtual tour and didn’t know there was still a lingering smoke smell. But, by giving it your own deep cleaning you’ll feel more comfortable in your new space and set the tone for being cozy in your new rental.

Mihaela Buzec
Mihaela Buzec
Mihaela Buzec is a senior writer and online content developer for RentCafe. She covers topics about everything related to the renting lifestyle, from decorating and interior design to finding the right apartment, frugal living, money saving advice, and more. She dives deep into topics of interest, writing well-researched comprehensive guides on subjects such as renting with pets, saving on utilities, or avoiding rental scams to help renters stay informed and live smart. Mihaela holds a BA in English and German Language and Literature, an MA in Current Linguistics, and she is currently pursuing a PhD in neurolinguistics.

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