A new house or apartment presents so many possibilities. Bare walls, an uncluttered space, and a bare canvas upon which to make yourself a home. But before you get started on the fun parts of moving to a new place, you have to take care of the basics. Namely, the new home deep clean.
Whether you’re renting or buying, move-in cleaning (or pre-move in cleaning, if you’ve got some lee-way with your timing) is a big necessity. The person or people who lived there before you, no matter how well-intentioned, inevitably left behind some dirt, grime, and dust that you’ll want to take care of before you really settle in. Unless you’ve just moved in to brand new construction, that blank slate isn’t quite as blank as it looks.
Cleaning a house before you move in is the ideal way to go since you won’t have the added difficulty of needing to work around a bunch of furniture and boxes. But if you have to wait until after you move that’s fine – just don’t skip the clean entirely. The same goes for if a cleaning crew came through prior to you getting the keys. This is one corner you just don’t want to cut.
There are quite a few steps to move in cleaning, but you should be able to get your place looking as shiny and new as possible in just a day or two with some elbow grease and maybe another pair of helping hands (thanks, mom!). Here’s are some tips to get you going.
Clean high before you clean low
Dust isn’t relegated to floors and countertops. Ceiling fans, overhead lighting fixtures, shelving, and other features close to the ceiling are just as prone to getting grimy, but they (a) don’t get cleaned as often, and (b) tend to sprinkle dirt and dust onto the space below them when they finally do get a scrub down. Since cleaning these high up features will inevitably lead to the area below them getting a little bit filthy too, start at the top in each room and then work your way down.
Pro tip: Ceiling fan blades are notorious for raining down dust. To minimize the collateral damage, slip an old pillowcase over each blade and wipe away from the center of the fixture using the inside of the pillow case’s top layer. Most of the escaping dust will get collected in the case, which you can just clean or toss once you’re done.
If you’re cleaning post-move, do the fridge first
There are some things you can put off while you get everything cleaned, but storing your perishable food isn’t one of them. Before you get to everything else, start by sanitizing your new fridge. Because it’s clear of any food, it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes. Remove the shelves and drawers if you can and clean those individually with soap and warm water. For the inside of the fridge, make a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar, and use a clean rag to scrub down all the surfaces. If there’s any stuck-on gunk to remove, let the water/vinegar solution sit and soak in for a bit. Make sure shelves are completely dry, and then return them to the fridge. Repeat these steps with the freezer.
Pro tip: If you’re dealing with some sticky fridge grime that just won’t budge, boil some water and pour it on. Once the water is cool enough to touch, put your muscles to work and give it a deep scrub. The gunk should come off.
Do the rest of the kitchen
Once the fridge is clean you can get to work on the rest of the kitchen. Follow step one and start with the lighting fixtures, corners of the ceiling, and the tops of the cabinets. Next do the appliances: stovetop, oven, microwave, dishwasher, and sink, followed by the countertops. Do the cabinets next, making sure to clean them on both the inside and the outside and paying special attention to their handles. Hold off on doing the floor for now.
Pro tip: Baking soda and hydrogen peroxide make a powerhouse solution for getting rid of stubborn stovetop stains. Pour baking soda in a small bowl and add just enough hydrogen peroxide to make a paste. Spread it over the stove and let it sit for 15 minutes, then scrub.
Onto the bathrooms
Bathroom cleaning is as much about disinfecting as it is about spotless surfaces. Blue Dawn dish soap and a sponge are pretty much all you need for the initial scrub down, but follow up with an antibacterial spray to get rid of any lingering germs. For toilet seats, just go ahead and replace them. It’s a small expense, and the most efficient way to ensure they’re really clean.
While cleaning, don’t forget the unexpected areas that you might skip over during a normal bathroom cleaning day. In addition to the usual suspects, also be sure to clean and sanitize the toilet paper holder, light switches, faucets, and door handles.
Pro tip: Hard water stains on metal hardware like faucets and showerheads can be difficult to remove. To make it easier, rub them down with juice from a fresh lemon. The acid is great at breaking down hard water stains and making metal surfaces shine like new.
Tackle the rest of the space
For the rest of the cleaning process, go item by item instead of room by room. Per step one, you’ll want to do this top-down, so start with the ceiling. Don’t forget the easily overlooked surfaces, such as the tops of doors, windows and window treatments, light switches, and closet interiors. For most of these areas, a good vacuum attachment will help you suck up the dirt and dust, which you can then follow up with clean damp rags.
Pro tip: Don’t wash the windows when the sun is at its height, as it will make it difficult to see grime and streaks. Wait until evening, or at least start with windows that are in the shade.
Finish with the floors
You started at the top, so end at the bottom. For wood, tile, and linoleum floors, start by using a vacuum attachment to clean corners and edges, and then sweep up all remaining debris. Don’t vacuum the entire surface unless your vacuum is specifically designed to do so. Finish up by mopping, making sure to use a product that’s safe for the surface you’re using it on.
For a really efficient carpet clean, you’ll want to use a steam cleaner. If you don’t own one, call in a professional to do the job or rent one from a local hardware store. Vacuuming alone may make the carpet look cleaner, but it won’t do much toward removing allergens or improving air quality. And what’s the use of cleaning something if you’re only going to do it halfway?
Pro tip: To clean stained or grimy grout, combine equal parts water and bleach in a bowl, and then use a toothbrush to scrub. Let the solution sit for an hour or so, and then scrub clean.
And you’re done! That wasn’t so bad, right?