How to clean an apartment in 8 easy steps before moving in

Time for a fresh start

An empty apartment with white walls and a wooden floor
(Image credit: Getty)

Let me start this piece by saying: congrats on your new apartment! You must be so excited to go in and make the place your own. Don’t worry, you can totally do all of that in due course. But first, you’ve got to get your cleaning supplies ready.

Unless you’re super fortunate, chances are the apartment you’ve hunted down has been lived in by other people. This means that there’s likely dirt and grime that has built up over the years. Ew.

This guide will show you how to clean areas that may have been missed by prior tenants, areas you want to make sure are clean, and areas you might not clean so often when you’ve moved in due to furniture being in the way. As long as you've avoided all these rental red flags, you're in the clear!

Your new apartment is going to look even more beaut after you've completed this step-by-step guide...

Good to know

Time: 2 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Helpful hints: Make sure to follow these steps in order, as they go from top to bottom. This way, you won’t get dust and debris on areas that you’ve already cleaned. 

Here's what you'll need

How to clean your apartment before moving in

Step 1: Dust the ceiling 

This is an area your real estate agent or the previous tenants may have missed, because it isn’t eye level. But spider webs and dust just aren't cute (unless you’re going for a Wednesday vibe, in which case, you do you). Grab your extendable duster (I rate this one from Amazon), make sure it has a fluffy duster head on it, then push it up to the length you need. Work it around the apartment ceiling in all the different rooms, gathering all the debris until all the cobwebs and dust particles are gone. 

Step 2: Clean the windows

Let all that good sunshine into your apartment by making sure your windows are dirt free and streak free. That being said, deffo try and choose a cloudy day to clean your windows, as the sun can make the solution dry faster, leaving marks. First, grab your window cleaner — I personally use vinegar to clean mine, but Windex (from Amazon) is also great for easy, effortless results.

Spritz the solution onto your window and use a damp microfiber cloth to work it around. Then, wipe down with a squeegee, and then finish with a polishing cloth (we seriously rate E-Cloths here at Real Homes, and you can buy them from Amazon). Repeat the process on all your windows until you’re done.

Step 3: Disinfect the surfaces

It’s important to use a disinfectant, as they’ll target bacteria and viruses specifically as well as making your surfaces sparkle. This way, you won’t be catching any previous tenant’s nasty colds (because that’s gross). Wipe down kitchen counters, bathroom sinks, bathtubs, radiators, and any other surfaces that are dotted around the apartment with a disinfectant spray (Amazon shoppers love Lysol) and microfiber cloth. Make sure to scrub the spray around the whole surface with the cloth, and get right into any corners. 

Step 4: Remove any mold and mildew

Mold and mildew can build up on areas that get wet, such as windowsills and bathtubs, as well as on carpets and tiles. It can be a pain to clean, which is why the person before you may not have cleaned it properly. It's worth doing before moving into your apartment, and you don’t want to leave it, as this could be harmful to your health and your living space. Use a strong mold spray, such as RMR-86’s which is available on Amazon, and spray it on areas where mold has grown. Leave it for a few minutes, then wipe off with a microfiber cloth.

Step 5: Wipe down cabinets and drawers

Kitchen cupboards and drawers and under-sink cabinets will all come with the apartment, and may have been overlooked or ignored by the person before you. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong. You don’t want to be putting all your items onto into dirty spaces. One of the best moving hacks is to do this prior to moving in, as you won’t be cleaning these very often once you’re settled.

Open up the cupboard or drawers, wipe down the shelves and surface with an all-purpose cleaner (hey Mrs. Meyer’s from Amazon) and microfiber cloth, before closing and then wiping down the outside. I recommend wiping down the outside once you’re done with the inside, so you don’t leave any fingerprints.  

Step 6: Target the toilet

One area where you really don’t want to be sharing germs with past tenants is deffo the toilet. Pour a toilet cleaner around the bowl, making sure to get right in the rims, and leave it there until its next usage. Then, wipe down the seat, lid, and sides with a disinfectant spray and microfiber cloth. Make sure you put this cloth aside to wash, as you don’t want to be scrubbing other surfaces with it. BTW, if you have a toilet ring that really won’t budge, check out our guide on removing it

Step 7: Spray with room spray

Before you finish, give your apartment a good spritz of room spray (Puressentiel’s spray from Amazon is seriously gorgeous). This will eliminate any cleaning chemical odors, as well as remove any lingering scents from the previous tenant. Spray a couple of times in each room, before moving onto the next room. FYI: by each room, I mean the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room. 

Step 8: Mop the floor

Whether the floor looks clean or if it does genuinely need a good scrub, this is an important step as this is probs the only opportunity you’ll have to clean the entire floor of your apartment at once. This is because after you’ve moved in, you’ll have all that furniture taking up the floor space. Working from the end of the apartment to the front door of the apartment, move your mop (this lightweight Swiffer from Amazon will make this so easy) all around the floor. By doing this, you won’t leave any footprint marks that you’ll then have to go over. Extra work? NTY.

Once that door is shut, you know that your apartment is squeaky clean and ready to move into. Want to keep your home lookin’ fine once you’re living there? Here’s how to organize your small apartment to perfection.


What to clean before moving into a new apartment?

The areas you should be cleaning before moving in are the ceiling, windows, cupboards, the toilet, and the floor. Make sure to focus on areas that easily gather dirt, that are frequently used and that you won’t be able to clean fully when you’re moved in. 

What order should I clean my apartment in?

I recommend cleaning your apartment from top to bottom, working from the ceiling, moving onto any surfaces and furniture, before finishing with the floor. This way, you won’t move dirt onto areas you’ve already cleaned. 

Eve Smallman
Staff Writer

Hi there! I’m a staff writer at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses.