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How to Clean a House Before Moving Out

Martha Lott

Written by Reviewed by Henry Paterson

17th Jan 2020 (Last updated on 8th Feb 2024) 17 minute read

Anyone who has moved house knows just how stressful and chaotic the whole experience can be. It’s important that you prepare for your move in good time to ensure that the process is as pain-free as possible. Cleaning your property is a time-consuming but essential part of the move, so make sure that you’re not leaving all the work until the very last minute.

Logistically, the best time to clean your house is when the furniture you’re moving has already been dismantled and packed. However, as some companies offer cleaning services as additional services, you can also hire a removal company to help you.

At Compare My Move, we’d always recommend that you tackle a clean on a room-by-room basis, to ensure no stone is left unturned. To help you prepare for the task of cleaning before a house move, we’re sharing our top tips and tricks to make the job that little bit easier.

  1. Gather Your Cleaning Supplies
  2. How Clean Should a House Be When Moving Out?
  3. Cleaning Your Kitchen
  4. Cleaning Your Living Room
  5. Cleaning Your Bedroom
  6. Cleaning Your Furniture
  7. Cleaning Your Bathroom
  8. How to Clean Your Walls
  9. How to Clean Your Windows
  10. Cleaning the Outside of Your Property
  11. End of Tenancy Cleaning Explained
  12. What Increases the Risk of Losing Your Deposit When Renting?
  13. Cleaning Your House When You Sell It
  14. What if the Seller Hasn't Cleaned the House?
  15. Hiring Professional Cleaners
  16. Decluttering Using a Self-Storage Unit
  17. Saving Money on Your House Move

Gather Your Cleaning Supplies

Before starting, you’re going to need an assortment of cleaning supplies to ensure your property is left sparkling. Whether you’re selling the property or looking to impress your landlord, gathering the right equipment for the job is your first task.

Here are the essentials you’ll need for cleaning before a house move:

  • Multi-surface cleaning spray
  • Glass cleaner
  • Feather duster
  • Limescale remover
  • Cleaning cloths (we always recommend microfibre cloths)
  • Brushes
  • Furniture polish
  • A clean mop & bucket
  • A vacuum cleaner
  • Dustpan and broom
  • Rubber gloves
  • An oven cleaning product

It’s worth bearing in mind that removal companies will have a non-allowable removal items policy. This means cleaning chemicals such as bleach might not be allowed in transit.

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How Clean Should a House Be When Moving Out?

Before moving house, you should clean the property to a level that you would personally find acceptable if you were to move in.

When researching how to clean your house you’ll find the phrase ‘deep clean’ often used - but it’s not always clear what exactly this means. In the context of moving house, it means leaving the property in perfect condition for the next occupants.

Although cleaning is often seen as a chore, it’s a necessity, especially when moving out. The key to deep cleaning your house is to plan early, break it down room by room and give yourself enough time to finish the job.

Marie Kondo is a popular choice for those looking for motivation as she explores the idea of how "tidying orders and relaxes the mind", allowing you to prepare for the move. To help you get started, we’ve created a list of things to clean when moving out for each specific area of the property.

How to Clean Your Kitchen

First, you’ll want to empty your kitchen of food before cleaning it. Removal companies generally won’t transport perishables and won’t move a defrosting fridge/freezer, so make sure this is done a couple of days in advance.

When it comes to moving heavy kitchen appliances, it might take some time to prepare. Make sure you clean before moving day to reduce delays and make the process easier. If you follow our free moving house checklist, you’ll have a good idea of where to start.

Here’s how we recommend you start in the kitchen:

  • Empty your shelves and cupboards as much as possible to lower food waste.
  • Once the fridge is emptied, give the interior a deep clean and don’t forget to move it to get those hard-to-reach places. Hot, soapy water and a microfibre cloth will do the trick.
  • Pack away any kitchen appliances, cutlery and dishes and clearly label the boxes. Clean the areas they were once placed to get every part of the room.
  • Get rid of crumbs by wiping out cupboards with a dry microfibre cloth, before spraying lightly with a multisurface spray and a damp microfibre. You may need to use elbow grease for any stains or long-left food residue.
  • Clean all appliances thoroughly, including the insides, such as the dishwasher filter.
  • De-crumb the toaster on top, and empty the tray.
  • Don’t forget to wipe out the inside of the microwave too. You should only need a damp microfibre for this, but you can also steam the inside by microwaving a bowl of water, to help loosen any stubborn marks. Wash up the microwave turntable as you would a dinner plate.
  • Clean and disinfect all the counter-tops, with a multisurface spray and a damp microfibre.
  • Give the taps and faucets a good wipe down, and remove any limescale deposits that may have gathered. You can do this by applying an over-the-counter limescale product such as Viakal, leaving for a couple of minutes, and washing away. Buff with a dry cloth afterwards for a sparkling finish, and be careful you don’t apply the limescale remover onto any sensitive surfaces.
  • Give the oven a good clean. Remember to wipe down the hob, switches, racks and air extractor too. You’ll want to use an oven cleaning product to help with the inside too (something like Oven Pride is relatively inexpensive and works a treat). Make sure to place some newspaper below the oven during the clean, as a dripping product can damage the floor beneath. Prepare this task in advance, as you can often apply the product in advance, and allow it to soak overnight, for the best effect.

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How to Clean Your Living Room

Living rooms tend to be some of the most used areas of any house. You’ll be surprised by the amount of grime that builds up over time, especially in upholstery and carpet. As you pack your living room away, wipe everything down to remove any dust and cobwebs. Once you’ve fully decluttered and packed, you’ll have cleared the space enough for a serious cleaning session.

Some of the ways to clean your living room are to:

  • Shift all bookcases and cupboards and thoroughly wipe them down with a damp cloth. Make sure you’ve done a dry dust first.
  • Move your TV cabinet and give it a good wipe all around.
  • Use a steam cleaner (designed for carpets) to kill any germs in your carpet, floors and upholstery.
  • Wipe down the skirting boards and dust those hard-to-reach places using a long-handled duster.
  • Vacuum and dust your curtains and blinds as they often gather a lot of dust and grime. Get a damp cloth and run it along each section of the blind from bottom to top.
  • Vacuum the room once you’ve finished, collecting any fallen particles.

Cleaning Your Bedroom

Bedrooms generally have a lot of furniture and personal items to work around. Again, make the effort to start packing and decluttering your bedroom ahead of cleaning, to make everything easier to reach. You can use our handy guide to making wardrobe boxes to safely store and move your clothes out of the way during this step.

Things to clean in the bedroom when moving out include:

  • Wash all of your bedding before packing it away.
  • Thoroughly wipe down cupboards and bookcases, first with a dry cloth, and then with a damp cloth and multisurface spray.
  • Use a steam cleaner on carpets and curtains, mop any hardwood floors.
  • Vacuum around every piece of furniture, especially behind and under things like wardrobes, beds and tables.

Once you’ve cleaned the floors around the bed, remember to shift it so you can easily clean underneath too. Check out our guide on how to move your bed when you're ready to begin dismantling.

Cleaning Your Furniture

When it comes to cleaning furniture, vacuum and wash everything with a dry-wash product to get rid of any possible smells and hair. If you have any pets, are a smoker or have small children, you'll likely want to get a steam cleaner to help wash any upholstery and carpets to remove more stubborn stains and odours.

Cleaning furniture tips:

  • Wooden surfaces and furniture will need to be wiped down and checked for scuffs and scratches.
  • For wooden furniture, we recommend that you apply furniture polish too, as this will give a new lease of life.
  • Remember to shift furniture so you can clean behind them.
  • A steam cleaner is the best option for revitalising carpets. They can be quite cheap to hire and come with different attachments for windows, furnishings and walls, so could be worth the money.
  • Give your items a thorough vacuum to remove any dust and hair.

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Cleaning Tips for Your Bathroom

Bathrooms often carry a large number of germs, so make sure all surfaces and fixtures are thoroughly scrubbed with disinfectant. Remember to ensure your bathroom is well ventilated when using cleaning products.

Cleaning your bathroom tips:

  • If there is any mould around your shower and bath, consider calling in an expert who can help with mould removal, as this is a specialist cleaning task
  • Clear the plugs and drains of debris.
  • Apply a limescale remover to all parts of the shower, including the hose and showerhead, as well as your taps, sinks and shower screen. Leave the product to soak for 2-5 mins (depending on the severity) and then wash away, before buffing with a dry cloth.
  • Spend a decent amount of time cleaning your toilet, including the tiles below and behind it. For inside the toilet, use a product such as Harpic (we actually recommend against using bleach), and leave this to soak for at least half an hour. Once soaked, scrub all around the bowl, and into the U-bend with a toilet brush. You can place a new cistern block inside the toilet once cleaned, to ensure it stays fresh. For the exterior of the toilet, use a dedicated microfibre cloth and a multisurface spray, ensuring the cistern, seat, flush, lid and base are all thoroughly cleaned.
  • If it’s a little weathered, you may want to consider replacing the toilet seat and the toilet brush.
  • Clean any mirrors or reflective surfaces in the room, by spraying a light mist of glass cleaner, and buffing with a dry microfibre cloth.
  • Clean out any drawers and make sure you don’t leave anything inside (you can use a vacuum on low power, with a soft brush attachment, to help with this).

How to Clean Your Walls

Firstly, level the playing field by removing any nails, hooks and screws. Clean around any remaining holes, then use filler to fill them and any cracks to make it smoother. Make sure there aren’t any stains on the surfaces and then wipe the walls, doors and door handles with a damp cloth - you will need to be careful here though as some paint and wallpaper can be stripped by moisture. If this is the case, consider repainting the rooms, as opposed to cleaning them. The best way to check if damage could be caused is to simply try on an inconspicuous area.

A few points on cleaning walls:

  • Start with a mild solution of washing up liquid and warm water, to remove stains without damaging paint or wallpaper.
  • Scrub in circular motions to reduce the risk of watermarks and further damage.
  • Dry the walls once you’re finished and before moving onto the next task.
  • For more stubborn issues or seriously damaged walls, consider repainting or matching the current paint to go over the obvious problems.

When cleaning your walls, it’s important to check the paint type used so that you’re not damaging them, making the condition worse. Gloss paint is often the easiest type to clean as the shine makes it a perfect, smooth surface to wipe down. Be aware of any satin paint used as this is often the most difficult to clean. Unfortunately, it’s also the paint that is least forgiving, as it does tend to pick up discolouration and stains.

If there’s any mould, don't paint over or hide it, and make sure to immediately tell your landlord about the issue. If you’re selling your property, then the mould or damp would most likely have been noted during the buyer’s property survey. That being said, it is still worth mentioning it.

Don’t forget to use dry towels or cloths when wiping down the walls to catch any dripping water and reduce the risk of water damage.

How to Clean Your Windows

It's important to remember to clean your windows, too. Don't forget the inside is just as important as the outside.

Tips for cleaning windows:

  1. Use a glass/window cleaning product to wash the windows, mirrors and glass doors from inside. Wipe down the windowsills and frames with a light spray of multi-surface cleaner and a damp cloth.
  2. Don’t risk any danger to yourself trying to clean the outside windows, and remember that there is always the option of calling a professional window cleaner to help with this task.
  3. Replace broken panes and make sure the windows are sparkling; dirty windows are very noticeable and can take the shine off an otherwise impressive clean.

Cleaning the Outside of Your Property

In addition to cleaning the inside of your property, you’ll also need to clean your shed or garage, declutter your garden and sweep away any leaves. You may want to rent a pressure washer to clean your decking and patio, before scrubbing it with a wood-friendly cleaning agent.

Fix and oil any stiff or squeaking gates and remember that you may be held responsible for any breakages not listed in the inventory. Honesty is always the best policy, so if you find something you can’t fix, make notes.

If you have any plants you would like to move with you (whether household or external), you can check our guide to moving your plants from house to house.

When cleaning your garden, you should:

  1. Mow the lawn.
  2. Remove any weeds.
  3. Scrub any items or flooring that have grass stains, or similar.
  4. Remove any decorative items or remaining rubbish from the area.

End of Tenancy Cleaning Explained

There are different rules when it comes to rental properties as you’re contractually obliged to clean them pretty much perfectly. Leaving a rental home unclean or in a depleted condition will likely end up with you losing your deposit. It’s also important to keep in mind that if something was broken during your stay, it needs to be repaired or replaced before you leave.

Generally, your contract will state that you have a duty to leave the property in the same state that you took it over. This means doing a deep clean and taking many photos to help with any end of tenancy disputes. You should reference your inventory to gauge the condition you found the home in, and ensure you’re not mistakenly blamed for any imperfections from past tenants. You can invite your estate agent over ahead of moving day to assess any troubled areas, as it’ll most likely be cheaper to sort out any stains or marks yourself than for it to be taken out of your deposit.

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What Increases the Risk of Losing Your Deposit When Renting?

When moving out, cleaning should be a top priority. A messy, damaged or unclean property can increase the risk of losing your deposit and is one of the biggest reasons for tenants losing out. Before you leave, your landlord will inspect the condition of the property and compare it to how it was originally. If you encounter any deductions from your deposit, you are within your rights to dispute it and come to an agreement with your landlord.

Other reasons for losing your deposit may include decorating costs, damaged furniture and the state of the garden. Always keep the condition of the property in mind when getting ready to move out and give each room a thorough inspection. If you know that your tenancy agreement is coming to a close, you should make sure you’re thinking about this in advance; that way, you can spread out the costs over the months, rather than weeks, before the move.

Don’t forget to consult the property’s inventory while cleaning as it’s the best indicator of how the home was originally maintained. If anything has been lost or broken, you should consider replacing it, or at least mentioning it to your landlord before leaving. Although the cost of replacing the item may be deducted from your deposit, it’s important to remain honest.

Tips to help you keep your tenancy deposit:

  1. Taking photos of the property before and after moving out as evidence of its condition.
  2. Constantly reviewing the inventory.
  3. Giving the property a deep clean before leaving, or hiring a professional team to clean.
  4. Being upfront and honest with your landlord or estate agent, reporting any damage or changes to the property’s condition.
  5. Being present for the inspection.
  6. Keeping on good terms, and in regular contact, with your landlord and/or estate agent.

Cleaning Your House When You Sell It

If you're selling a property, there’s usually an agreement to leave the property in a fairly clean state. For more information on this, Compare My Move covers this in-depth in their moving house etiquette guide. It’s not rocket science though, and the general rule is that you should leave your home in a state that you would find acceptable, were the roles reversed.

Although it won’t stop you from requiring a full clean ahead of the move, it’s important to keep the home in a generally clean and well-maintained state from the moment it’s on the market, as this will improve your chances of securing a sale. Spruce up the garden, get the windows professionally cleaned, steam clean the carpets and floors and add fresh paint throughout the house. These cleaning and maintenance tips are small, easy ways to add value to your home. A clean and freshly painted house is always more attractive to prospective buyers.

What if the Seller Hasn't Cleaned the House?

If you move into your new house and find that the seller did not clean it beforehand, unfortunately, there’s not much you can do. There’s a chance that you may not find the new house to be as clean as you’d like it to be, so it’s a good idea to take some products with you to freshen up each room before your removal company unloads your items.

If the house is in terrible condition, you can contact your estate agent and let them know the situation. Supply thorough photographs as evidence, so that they’re aware of the issue and will be more inclined to send in professional cleaners.

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Hiring Professional Cleaners

If you're short on time, you can always hire professional cleaners to come in and ensure your property is left spotless. It will cost a little, but it’s better than potentially losing your deposit or potential buyer because of a messy house. Arrange the cleaners to come in the day a couple of days before the moving date when your home is fully cleared and ready for a good clean – you’ll want the place as empty as possible, but it’s never a good idea to leave it to move-out day, in case anything on the cleaner’s side falls through.

Decluttering Using a Self-Storage Unit

When cleaning your property, you might find it's difficult manoeuvring around all your furniture, meaning you cannot do a thorough house clean. Using a self-storage unit before the move can help clear out the property, providing you with enough space to easily access every room and clean every hidden spot.

If you discover you have excess furniture or items that will make the moving process longer or more complicated, renting a self-storage unit might be the best solution to ensure the property is organised before the moving date. This can be an especially helpful solution should you be downsizing to a smaller property that cannot hold your current items. Once the stress and chaos of the moving house process is over, you will then have a safe space to slowly go through your excess items and declutter.

Saving Money on Your House Move

With some planning and preparation, cleaning the house you’re moving out of won’t be too much effort. With the right supplies and our guide to help, the house will be left spotless. When the time comes, use Compare My Move to get connected with a network of reputable removal companies and to save up to 70% on your removal costs. Just fill out our quick and easy form and get moving with Compare My Move today.

Martha Lott

Written by Martha Lott

Having guest authored for many property websites, Martha now researches and writes articles for everything moving house related, from remortgages to conveyancing costs.

Henry Paterson

Reviewed by Henry Paterson

With more than 5 years of experience in the home services industry, Henry regularly writes for the online marketplace, Housekeep, providing users with professional cleaning tips and advice on tradespeople services.

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