How Clean Should Your House Be When You Move Out?

Moving out of a house can be an exciting yet daunting process, and one of the important aspects to consider is the cleanliness of the property. Whether you are a tenant preparing to hand over the keys or a homeowner selling your house, the concept of “end of tenancy cleaning” comes into play. The level of cleanliness expected when you move out can vary depending on various factors, including your lease agreement and local regulations. In this guide, we will explore the standards and expectations for how clean your house should be when you move out. Understanding these requirements will help ensure a smooth transition and leave a positive impression on the next occupants or potential buyers.

Understanding Your Lease Agreement and Cleaning Requirements

Reviewing the lease agreement for specific cleaning obligations

When it comes to understanding your lease agreement and the cleaning requirements associated with it, the first step is to carefully review the lease agreement itself. The lease agreement is a legally binding document that outlines the terms and conditions of your tenancy, including any cleaning obligations you are expected to fulfill as a tenant. Pay close attention to the sections or clauses that pertain to cleaning, maintenance, and the condition of the property.

Identifying any cleaning clauses or expectations

  1. Cleaning clauses: Lease agreements often include specific clauses that outline the cleaning obligations of tenants. These clauses may detail the specific areas of the property that need to be cleaned, the frequency of cleaning, and any specific cleaning methods or products that should be used. Look for phrases such as “tenant shall,” “tenant agrees to,” or “tenant is responsible for” followed by descriptions of cleaning tasks.
  2. Move-in/move-out inspections: Some lease agreements include provisions for move-in and move-out inspections. These inspections typically involve documenting the condition of the property at the beginning and end of the tenancy. Understanding the expectations for cleanliness during these inspections will help you ensure that you meet the required standards when you move in and avoid any disputes when you move out.
  3. Maintenance responsibilities: While not explicitly about cleaning, lease agreements may also outline general maintenance responsibilities, which can indirectly impact cleanliness. This may include tasks like changing air filters, cleaning gutters, or keeping outdoor areas tidy. Make note of these requirements to ensure you maintain a clean living environment throughout your tenancy.
  4. Deposit and cleaning fees: Your lease agreement may also specify any deposit or cleaning fees associated with the tenancy. This section will outline the conditions under which the landlord can deduct cleaning costs from your security deposit or charge you additional fees for cleaning services. Understanding these provisions will help you avoid unnecessary charges and ensure you leave the property in the required condition.
  5. Additional rules or guidelines: Some lease agreements may include additional rules or guidelines related to cleanliness and maintenance. These could cover specific rules for trash disposal, pest control, or restrictions on certain cleaning products. Familiarise yourself with these provisions to ensure compliance and maintain a positive relationship with your landlord.

In summary, understanding your lease agreement and the cleaning requirements it contains is crucial for fulfilling your responsibilities as a tenant. By carefully reviewing the lease agreement, identifying any cleaning clauses or expectations, and noting any additional guidelines, you can ensure that you meet the required standards and maintain a clean living environment throughout your tenancy.

Differentiating Between Normal Wear and Tear and Tenant-Caused Damage

Defining normal wear and tear

Normal wear and tear refers to the natural deterioration or depreciation of a property that occurs over time with normal usage, even when the tenant has taken reasonable care of the premises. It includes minor damages or changes that are expected to occur due to regular use and aging. Understanding what constitutes normal wear and tear is crucial for tenants and landlords to determine the tenant’s responsibility for repairs or replacements.

Examples of normal wear and tear may include:

  1. Faded or worn-out paint or wallpaper.
  2. Small scuffs or scratches on floors or countertops.
  3. Minor carpet wear in high-traffic areas.
  4. Faded or slightly torn curtains or blinds.
  5. Loose door handles or hinges due to regular use.
  6. Gradual deterioration of appliances or fixtures due to age.

It’s important to note that the definition of normal wear and tear can vary depending on local laws and individual lease agreements. It is generally accepted that tenants are not responsible for normal wear and tear and should not be charged for such repairs or replacements.

Recognising the tenant’s responsibility for excessive dirtiness or damage

While tenants are not responsible for normal wear and tear, they are typically held accountable for excessive dirtiness or damage caused by their actions, negligence, or misuse of the property. It’s important for tenants to understand the distinction between normal wear and tear and tenant-caused damage to avoid disputes and potential financial liabilities.

Examples of tenant-caused damage may include:

  1. Broken windows or doors.
  2. Large holes or significant damage to walls.
  3. Stains, burns, or rips in carpets beyond normal wear.
  4. Water damage caused by negligence (e.g., leaving taps running).
  5. Pet-related damage (e.g., scratches on doors or chewing on furniture).
  6. Excessive mold or mildew due to lack of proper cleaning and ventilation.

To determine whether damage is the tenant’s responsibility, landlords may conduct move-in and move-out inspections, documenting the condition of the property at the beginning and end of the tenancy. It is advisable for tenants to participate in these inspections and keep records or photographs of the property’s condition during their occupancy.

If the tenant has caused excessive dirtiness or damage beyond normal wear and tear, the landlord may have the right to deduct the cost of repairs or replacements from the tenant’s security deposit or seek additional compensation. However, it’s essential for landlords to follow local laws and regulations regarding security deposits and provide an itemised list of deductions, if applicable.

In conclusion, understanding the difference between normal wear and tear and tenant-caused damage is crucial for both tenants and landlords. By recognising what constitutes normal wear and tear and being aware of their responsibility for excessive dirtiness or damage, tenants can maintain a good relationship with their landlords and avoid unnecessary financial burdens.

General Cleaning Guidelines for Moving Out

When moving out of a rental property, it’s important to leave the premises in a clean and tidy condition. Here are some general cleaning tasks that apply to various areas of the house:

  1. Living areas:
    • Dust and wipe down all surfaces, including furniture, shelves, and window sills.
    • Vacuum or sweep and mop the floors.
    • Clean any mirrors or glass surfaces.
    • Remove any cobwebs from corners or ceilings.
    • Clean light fixtures and ceiling fans.
  2. Kitchen:
    • Clean and disinfect countertops, backsplash, and sink.
    • Clean inside and outside of cabinets and drawers.
    • Degrease and clean the oven, stovetop, and range hood.
    • Clean the refrigerator (including shelves, drawers, and exterior) and defrost/freezer if necessary.
    • Clean the dishwasher and remove any debris from the filter.
    • Sweep and mop the floors.
  3. Bathroom:
    • Clean and disinfect the toilet, sink, and bathtub or shower.
    • Remove any soap scum or grime from tiles or glass doors.
    • Clean mirrors and wipe down any surfaces or cabinets.
    • Wash or replace shower curtains if necessary.
    • Sweep and mop the floors.
  4. Bedrooms:
    • Vacuum or sweep and mop the floors.
    • Dust and wipe down all surfaces, including furniture, shelves, and window sills.
    • Clean mirrors and wipe down any glass surfaces.
    • Wash or change bed linens.
    • Empty and clean out any closets or storage areas.

When preparing to move out, it’s essential to pay special attention to high-traffic areas and commonly overlooked spots that may require extra cleaning. Here are some areas to focus on:

  1. Walls and baseboards:
    • Remove any scuff marks or stains from walls.
    • Wipe down baseboards to remove dust and dirt.
  2. Windows and window tracks:
    • Clean windows from both the inside and outside.
    • Remove any dirt or debris from window tracks.
  3. Light switches, doorknobs, and handles:
    • Disinfect and wipe down these frequently touched surfaces.
  4. Vents and air filters:
    • Dust and clean air vents.
    • Replace or clean air filters if necessary.
  5. Light fixtures and ceiling fans:
    • Remove dust and clean light fixtures and ceiling fans.
  6. Appliances:
    • Clean the inside and outside of appliances such as the microwave, dishwasher, and washing machine.
    • Ensure all appliances are free of any food debris or stains.
  7. Floors and carpets:
    • Vacuum or sweep all floors and carpets thoroughly.
    • Consider steam cleaning carpets if necessary.
  8. Outdoor areas:
    • Sweep or hose down any outdoor spaces, such as patios, balconies, or entryways.
    • Remove any trash or debris from the yard.

By following these general cleaning guidelines and paying attention to high-traffic areas and commonly overlooked spots, you can ensure that the rental property is left in a clean and presentable condition when you move out. Remember to refer to your lease agreement for any specific cleaning obligations or requirements outlined by your landlord.

Room-Specific Cleaning Requirements

A. Kitchen cleaning checklist:

Cleaning the kitchen thoroughly is essential, as it is an area that can accumulate grease, food residue, and stains. Here is a checklist to guide you through the kitchen cleaning process:

  1. Clear out and declutter: Remove all items from cabinets, drawers, and countertops.
  2. Cabinets and countertops:
    • Wipe down the exteriors and interiors of cabinets and drawers.
    • Clean and disinfect countertops, paying special attention to areas near the stove and sink.
    • Remove any stains or sticky residue.
  3. Appliances:
    • Clean the inside and outside of the refrigerator, including shelves, drawers, and door seals.
    • Clean the oven, stovetop, and range hood thoroughly, removing grease and food debris.
    • Clean the microwave inside and out, including the turntable.
    • Clean the dishwasher, removing any food debris or stains.
  4. Sink and fixtures:
    • Clean and disinfect the sink and faucet.
    • Remove mineral deposits or stains using appropriate cleaning products.
    • Shine the fixtures.
  5. Backsplash and walls:
    • Remove any splatters or grease from the backsplash.
    • Wipe down walls, paying attention to areas behind the stove or countertops.
  6. Floors:
    • Sweep or vacuum the floors to remove loose dirt and debris.
    • Mop the floors using a suitable cleaner, paying attention to any stains or spills.

B. Bathroom cleaning checklist:

Cleaning the bathroom thoroughly is crucial for maintaining hygiene and leaving a favorable impression. Use the following checklist to ensure you cover all necessary tasks:

  1. Toilet:
    • Clean and disinfect the toilet bowl, seat, lid, and surrounding areas.
    • Remove any stains or mineral deposits.
    • Polish the fixtures.
  2. Sink and countertops:
    • Clean and disinfect the sink, faucet, and countertops.
    • Remove any stains or soap scum.
    • Shine the fixtures.
  3. Shower and bathtub:
    • Clean and disinfect the shower walls, bathtub, and fixtures.
    • Remove any soap scum, stains, or mildew.
    • Clean the showerhead and remove any mineral deposits.
  4. Mirrors and glass surfaces:
    • Clean mirrors and any glass surfaces using appropriate glass cleaners.
    • Ensure there are no streaks or smudges.
  5. Floors and baseboards:
    • Sweep or vacuum the floors to remove loose dirt and debris.
    • Mop the floors using a suitable cleaner, paying attention to any stains or spills.
    • Wipe down baseboards to remove dust and dirt.

C. Living room, bedrooms, and other areas:

  1. Dusting and wiping surfaces:
    • Dust and wipe down all surfaces, including furniture, shelves, window sills, and decorative items.
    • Pay attention to electronics, such as TVs and computer screens, and clean them with appropriate materials.
  2. Vacuuming or sweeping floors:
    • Vacuum or sweep all floors, including carpets, rugs, and hard floors.
    • Use attachments to reach corners, under furniture, and along baseboards.
  3. Upholstery and curtains:
    • Vacuum upholstered furniture to remove any dirt or debris.
    • Spot clean any stains on upholstery using appropriate methods.
    • Clean or wash curtains according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Windows and blinds:
    • Clean windows from the inside, removing any dirt or smudges.
    • Dust or wipe down blinds using a microfiber cloth or appropriate cleaning tools.
  5. Emptying and cleaning storage areas:
    • Empty and clean out closets, wardrobes, and other storage areas.
    • Remove any dust or debris and ensure they are in an organized state.
  6. Removing trash:
    • Empty all trash cans and dispose of the garbage properly.

Remember to refer to your specific lease agreement or any additional cleaning guidelines provided by your landlord to ensure compliance with any room-specific cleaning requirements.

Deep Cleaning vs. Standard Cleaning

Deep cleaning and standard cleaning are two different levels of cleaning that serve different purposes. Understanding the distinctions between them will help you determine the appropriate level of cleaning required for your house.

  1. Standard cleaning: Standard cleaning refers to routine cleaning tasks performed on a regular basis to maintain cleanliness and tidiness. It typically includes activities such as dusting, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, wiping down surfaces, and basic bathroom and kitchen cleaning. Standard cleaning focuses on surface-level dirt and aims to keep the house in a generally clean condition.
  2. Deep cleaning: Deep cleaning, on the other hand, involves a more thorough and comprehensive approach to cleaning. It targets areas that may not be regularly cleaned during standard cleaning routines. Deep cleaning aims to remove built-up dirt, grime, and hidden debris, resulting in a more sanitized and refreshed living space. It involves cleaning tasks beyond routine maintenance and may require more time, effort, and specialized cleaning techniques.

Deep cleaning tasks may include:

  • Cleaning behind and underneath furniture and appliances.
  • Scrubbing grout lines in bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Removing accumulated dust and dirt from hard-to-reach areas.
  • Cleaning inside cabinets, closets, and storage spaces.
  • Washing windows and blinds.
  • Cleaning light fixtures and ceiling fans.
  • Carpet deep cleaning or steam cleaning.
  • Polishing or refinishing hardwood floors.
  • Removing stains or marks from walls.

When deciding whether deep cleaning is necessary for your house, consider the following factors:

  1. Length of time since the last deep cleaning: If your house has not undergone a deep cleaning in a significant amount of time or if you have recently moved into a new property, a deep cleaning might be required to address accumulated dirt, grime, and neglected areas.
  2. Level of cleanliness and maintenance: Assess the current cleanliness of your house. If there are noticeable stains, heavy dust buildup, or neglected areas that regular cleaning has not adequately addressed, a deep cleaning may be necessary to restore the overall cleanliness and freshness of the space.
  3. Specific circumstances or events: Certain situations might call for a deep cleaning, such as after a renovation or construction work, before or after hosting a large gathering, or if there have been pets or smokers in the house. These circumstances can introduce extra dirt, debris, or odors that require thorough cleaning.
  4. Landlord requirements or move-out expectations: If you are moving out of a rental property, refer to your lease agreement or discuss with your landlord to understand any specific deep cleaning expectations or requirements. Some landlords may require tenants to perform a deep clean before moving out to ensure the property is left in a satisfactory condition.

By assessing the condition of your house and considering these factors, you can determine whether a deep cleaning is necessary. If deep cleaning is needed, you may choose to perform it yourself or hire professional cleaners who specialise in deep cleaning services.

Inspecting and Documenting the Cleanliness

Conducting a thorough inspection before moving out

Before moving out of a rental property, it is essential to conduct a thorough inspection to assess the cleanliness and condition of the premises. This inspection serves as a reference point and allows you to identify any areas that may require additional cleaning or maintenance. Here are some steps to follow during the inspection:

  1. Plan the inspection: Schedule a time when you can carefully inspect each room and area of the property without feeling rushed.
  2. Bring cleaning supplies: It can be helpful to have cleaning supplies on hand during the inspection to address any minor cleaning tasks that may arise.
  3. Start with a systematic approach: Begin inspecting one room at a time, moving from one area to another in a logical order (e.g., starting with the entrance and moving through each room).
  4. Pay attention to details: Look for any signs of dirt, dust, stains, or damage that may require cleaning or repair. Inspect commonly overlooked areas such as corners, baseboards, window sills, and light fixtures.
  5. Check appliances and fixtures: Ensure that appliances, fixtures, and equipment are clean and in proper working condition. This includes items like stoves, refrigerators, sinks, toilets, showers, and light switches.
  6. Note any damages: Take note of any damages that are beyond normal wear and tear. This includes scratches on walls, broken fixtures, or damaged flooring. It’s essential to differentiate between tenant-caused damage and pre-existing issues.
  7. Take your time: Allow sufficient time for the inspection to be thorough. Rushing through the process may result in overlooking important areas or potential cleaning needs.

Documenting the cleanliness for reference and dispute resolution:

Documenting the cleanliness of the property before moving out is crucial for reference and potential dispute resolution. Having clear evidence of the property’s condition can help protect your security deposit or defend against any unwarranted claims. Here are some ways to document the cleanliness:

  1. Take photographs or videos: Capture detailed photographs or videos of each room, including all areas and fixtures. Focus on areas that may require additional cleaning or areas that show the overall cleanliness of the property.
  2. Create a checklist: Use a cleaning checklist or create your own to note down the condition of each room, including specific areas or items that may need attention. This can serve as a written record of the cleanliness.
  3. Include timestamps: Date all photographs, videos, and written documentation to establish when the inspection was conducted and to provide a clear timeline.
  4. Keep copies of relevant documents: Maintain copies of the move-in inspection report, lease agreement, and any cleaning-related correspondence or receipts. These documents can serve as additional evidence if needed.
  5. Communicate with your landlord: If you identify any issues during the inspection, notify your landlord promptly and provide them with a detailed report. This helps establish clear communication and allows for resolution discussions.

By conducting a thorough inspection and documenting the cleanliness of the property, you can have a clear record of its condition before moving out. This documentation can be invaluable in addressing any disputes that may arise regarding the cleanliness or maintenance of the premises.


In conclusion, understanding your lease agreement, distinguishing between normal wear and tear and tenant-caused damage, following general cleaning guidelines, and conducting a thorough inspection are essential steps in maintaining a clean and presentable rental property. By taking pride in leaving the house in a clean condition, you not only fulfill your obligations as a tenant but also cultivate a positive rental history. Leaving a property in good condition not only benefits you but also shows respect for your landlord and consideration for the next occupants. By following these tips and taking the necessary steps, you can ensure a smooth transition and leave a positive impression as a responsible tenant.

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