In 2014, 53% of disputes over deposit were due to cleaning, according to the Tenancy Deposit Service.
Most tenancy agreements state that you must return the property to the state you found it in, which can be difficult to remember if you’ve lived there for a long time.
Aside from preparing thoroughly when you move in, the best course of action is usually just to make sure the place is spotless, and to take lots of photos as you go.
While the below tips may seem lengthy, they’re very simple to follow and should help you save time, and money, in the long run.
Oven, hob and cooker hood
This is probably the worst and messiest job of the lot – but also one of the most important so do it first and get it out of the way.
When it comes to cleaning ovens, you really have three options. Firstly, you could buy a ‘does it all’ oven cleaning kit, which you can sometimes find in pound shops. Make sure the room is well ventilated, you’ve got sturdy gloves and you follow the instructions to the letter. Try and find one with bags included, such as Oven Pride – this makes it much easier to clean the oven racks.
Secondly, you could use a more natural, and cheaper, solution of baking soda, vinegar and washing up liquid – but you may need a little more elbow grease than you would if you used chemicals.
Either of the first two solutions will need to be applied and then left to sit for a few hours, sometimes overnight, so be prepared for a wait. When it comes to removing the product and resulting ‘gunk’, have plenty of tubs of hot water and sponges to hand – which you’ll want to throw away afterwards.
Depending on the state of the oven, you may also want to put newspaper or old towels on the floor to prevent further mess being made.
Finally, you could pay a professional to do it for you – but remember; this is about keeping your deposit as intact as possible, so it wouldn’t make much sense to pay for someone else to do it.
Your cooker hood is one of the areas that can be easily overlooked and forgotten about. ‘Sticky dust’ accumulates over time and can be hard to shift. Use a product that’s formulated for the surface you’re cleaning, most commonly stainless steel, and buff with a lint-free cloth afterwards.
Same goes for your hob – make sure your product suits the surface you’re working on (or use the natural substitute above) – and give it a good scrub, making sure not to use an abrasive scourer on easy to mark surfaces. If there are removable parts (such as on gas hobs), give them a soak in some soapy water.
Any stubborn stains can be easily removed with a magic eraser, which you can also get from a pound shop. Give it all a dry and a buff afterwards to avoid watermarks, as these can give the impression it’s still dirty.
Sinks and taps
As you’ll be using the sink for the rest of your cleaning, it’s best left until last. When you get round to it, fill it up with bleach and hot water and let it sit for a while – get on with some vacuuming or painting in the meantime. Drain the water out (use gloves!) and give it a really good rinse.
Now use a gentle cleaner (such as bicarbonate of soda or stainless steel spray) and give it a scrub with a sponge (be careful of using scourers as these could scratch the sink), making sure to get right in round the plughole and any edges. Use a toothbrush at the end, to be really thorough, and grab your magic eraser to get rid of any stains.
When it comes to the taps, look for limescale first. Rather than splashing out on specialist remover, try using lemon juice or vinegar.
Soak some cotton wool or kitchen roll in your preferred solution and wrap it round the tap, leaving it for around an hour. Remove the paper, rinse and buff to a shine. This works on showers and other metal appliances too. Use some dental floss or a toothbrush around the base of the handles, if you want a really thorough clean.
Cupboards and drawers
Double check that you’ve not left anything behind, unless it belongs to the landlord, as you could face a per-item charge for removing it.
Now give them all a thorough wipe out with some cleaning spray or soapy water, making sure you dry as you go. If your cupboards are really filthy, a quick vacuum first will do the trick – but make sure you still wipe them afterwards.
Wipe down the cupboard doors and the inside edges of the doors, not forgetting to clean around the hinges and inside corners.
Walls, radiators and skirting
Wipe down any sticky fingerprints from walls and food splashes or dust from the radiators and skirting boards. Use a mild washing up liquid and water solution and a soft cloth. Your magic eraser or a cream cleaner such as Cif will remove any stubborn stains. Now check the condition of the paintwork – does it need patching up or do you think any chips will pass the inspection?
If in doubt, take a couple of pictures and send them to your landlord or letting agent for their opinion on whether you should paint or not. They may just see it as fair wear and tear and let you leave things as they are.
If you do decide to paint - make sure you get the colour and finish exactly right, you can just as easily be penalised for a bad paint job as not having painted at all.
Ask your landlord which paint they used in the first place and buy a tester pot of the same brand and colour. They may even have the leftover paint handy for you to use.
Fridge, freezer and washing machine
Even if the white goods don’t belong to your landlord, it’s a good idea to give them a scrub before moving.
You may need to borrow a friend’s fridge or freezer to store your food in for a while or just make sure you run the food down over the preceding couple of weeks.
Once the fridge is empty, take out all of the shelves and pop them in the bath, on top of an old towel, filled with hot, soapy water.
Turn the fridge off at the wall and unplug it - make sure to put down plenty of towels and newspapers to catch the water or you may have a mini-flood on your hands! It will take a few hours to defrost the freezer, but you can clean the fridge in the meantime.
Grab a couple of soft cloths and some soapy water (or a white vinegar/water solution) and give it a thorough wipe, inside and out. Make sure you get into all the folds of the seal on the door and check in and around the handle.
Fetch the shelves from the bath and give them a rinse. Dry everything off and put the shelves back in. Once the freezer is frost free, it should be easy to give it a wipe out in the same way.
Put the washing machine on – a hot cycle is best – without any clothes or detergent in it. Once you’ve done this, clean out the drawer thoroughly and check inside the seal. Finally, clean the lint filter, give everything a wipe down and leave the door open to dry it out.
Tiles and grout
Wash the tiles down with soapy water and give them a dry. Rather than splashing out on expensive grout cleaner, try applying some bleach or cream cleaner first – making sure the room is well ventilated.
Give the tiles another wipe after about an hour and use a toothbrush or hard-bristled brush to scrub the grout and rinse thoroughly. See if it’s looking clean enough - if it hasn’t shifted the dirt, try using the magic eraser to get rid of any stubborn stains. If you’re lucky enough to own a steam cleaner – this will work wonders on the tiles, and the floor, too!
By now, your kitchen should be pretty much gleaming. There are just a last few bits to do, before you move on to another room:
- Change any light bulbs that need it
- Wipe down worktops
- Hoover and mop the floor
- Wipe down and clean out the bin with bleach and check the walls around it for stains
- Unplug all appliances
- Check under the sink and on top of the fridge/cupboards to make sure you’ve not left anything behind
- Check under the oven (if there’s a gap between the bottom of the oven and the floor) to see if you need to vacuum there too
- Make sure all of the landlord’s cutlery, crockery and appliances are accounted for (if applicable) – use your inventory to be clear on what was left for you in the first place