How to deep clean an apartment and keep it looking fresh

For squeaky clean digs

Clean, bright, and airy kitchen with plant
(Image credit: Andrea Davis / Unsplash)

One major benefit to apartment living is that you don’t have a huge, lofty space to keep clean. Still, it’s crucial that you keep your rental sparkling whether you frequently play the role of entertainer or not. Apartments might have less square footage to upkeep, but they also seem to accumulate more dust and grime than a house — perhaps because the smaller quarters make a mess more noticeable. 

A tried and true method to keeping your space spotless from week to week is to create a schedule for doing the basics, like wiping down countertops, vacuuming, and doing laundry. However, it’s also important to slate time each month to properly deep clean.

If you’re going to clean, whether it’s a spacious home or a tiny studio, you might as well do a thorough job. “Overall, the key to cleaning an apartment or rental effectively is to be organized, pay attention to detail, and take the necessary steps to make the property look and feel like new,” says Val Oliveira, CEO of Val’s Services, a Chicago-based cleaning company.

There are some nuances that make cleaning a rental unique from a traditional home — you don’t own the space, you might share it with a roommate, and it might have a challenging floor plan. To help you keep things fresh and tidy, we created this guide that walks you step by step on how to deep clean an apartment. Now you can say goodbye to the days of unimpactful surface-level cleaning.

Don't neglect these spots in your rental

When it comes to cleaning an apartment (or any home, really), it's common to overlook certain areas. So, what does it really take to have a fresh and clean environment? Here’s exactly what to deep clean.

Baseboards and moldings
Ever heard the joke that you should always compliment a hostess on their immaculate baseboards? Well as it turns out, baseboards and moldings are one of the most common areas renters forget to clean. Dust, dirt, and cobwebs can accumulate, making them look dingy and unattractive.

Oliveira adds that even if you routinely mop or vacuum your floors, the baseboards will remain dusty. “Make sure you give them a good wipe down whenever you clean,” Oliveira says. 

Start by using a duster to remove the dust and then go over your baseboards or moldings with a clean and damp microfiber cloth. For final touches on brown wooden baseboards, Oliveira recommends using wood polish to fine-tune the details and leave them looking shiny. 

Light fixtures, light switches, and ceiling fans
You never want to turn on a ceiling fan and be greeted by falling dust. Not only is it gross, but it’s also something that can end up being dispersed throughout your entire house, triggering allergies along the way. 

One spot where dust loves to settle is on the blades of ceiling fans, as well as on light fixtures themselves. Cleaning these areas regularly can improve the look of your apartment and help keep the air clean. Simply use a duster or damp microfiber cloth to sweep away the particles.

Window sills and tracks
Dirt, dust, and cobwebs can rack up in the tracks of sliding windows and on windowsills, which can make them look unappealing and worn out. Dust and wipe these areas down regularly with your go-to all-purpose cleaner.

Kitchen cabinets and drawers
Do you take the time to look at the bottom of your furniture or do you pay attention to the cleanliness inside your drawers? Oliveira notes that over time, grease and grime can build up kitchen cabinet handles, the inside of drawers, and on the outside of the cabinets themselves. Wipe them down with a damp cloth and degreaser to keep them looking tidy.

Bathroom tiles and grout
Your bathroom tile is probably the last place you want to clean. Is it really worth cleaning if I shower in it every day? We hate to break it to you, but the answer is yes. Bathroom tile and grout can become discolored and stained over time, but regular cleaning can help prevent this from happening in the first place. Scrub them and rinse thoroughly.

How to deal with a sloppy roommate

Depending on your specific situation, having a roommate can feel similar to a love/hate relationship. You might enjoy their company but dread the way they leave the kitchen after cooking. Or maybe you get frustrated that they never pitch in with cleaning and you’re left to do all the grunt work. If you're struggling to keep your apartment clean with joint effort, here are some strategies that may help.

Communicate openly
Have a conversation with your roommate about your concerns and expectations for keeping the shared spaces tidy. Make sure you listen to their perspective as well and try to find a solution that works for both of you. Sure, this conversation might feel awkward at first, but it’s better to be upfront than to hold resentment while trying to deal with a messy space on your own.

Establish a cleaning schedule
Oliveira recommends deciding on a cleaning schedule and sticking to it. “This will ensure that both roommates are taking responsibility for maintaining a clean living environment,” she says. “Sit together and come up with a plan that will benefit you both.” You can divide cleaning tasks so each roommate knows what they’re responsible for.

Be proactive
Life gets busy and it’s always going to be more tempting to Netflix and chill rather than steam mop your floors. However, it’s best to keep your apartment in tip-top shape so your cleaning tasks don’t feel so overwhelming. “Don't wait for things to get messy before you start cleaning,” Oliveira says. “Regular cleaning and maintenance will help keep the apartment looking its best at all times.” Bonus: It will ensure that your space is always ready for guests!

Cleaning products to always have on hand
One of the best ways to keep up with regular cleaning is to always have the right supplies on hand. Since apartments often lack storage space (and you don’t want clutter) consolidating your supplies is always a good idea. Instead of buying separate countertop, stovetop, and bathroom-specific sprays, purchase one all-purpose product that can tackle multiple messes. It’s also important to have these items in stock:

1. Paper towels: These are essential for cleaning up spills and wiping down surfaces. There are eco-friendly options available, too.

2. Microfiber cloths: A superstar for cleaning without leaving lint or streaks — they can also be washed and reused.

3. Vacuum cleaner: An essential for keeping carpets and upholstery clean.

4. Glass cleaner: Necessary for leaving windows, mirrors, and other glass surfaces sparkly.

5. Sponge or scrub brush: Other than for dishes, these can be used for tough cleaning tasks, like removing stubborn stains or grime.

6. Toilet bowl cleaner: A non-negotiable for a fresh, germ-free bathroom. 

Move-in cleaning checklist

We know that moving into a new apartment is stressful and deep cleaning your new digs is probably the last thing on your mind. However, as a renter, it’s important to clean up even if the previous tenants left the space in seemingly good condition. Oliveira recommends following this checklist when deep cleaning a new apartment.

  • Dust surfaces, including furniture, shelves, light fixtures, ceiling fans, vents, and baseboards.
  • Clean floors, including vacuuming the carpets and mopping hard surfaces.
  • Clean the kitchen, including the refrigerator, microwave, stove, oven, sink, and cabinets/drawers.
  • Clean the bathroom, including the mirrors, toilet, shower, bathtub, sink, and mirrors.
  • Wipe down windows and blinds.
  • Dust and clean any ceiling fans.
  • Clean and disinfect doorknobs, light switches, and other high-touch areas.
  • Sweep or vacuum the patio or balcony (if you’re lucky enough to have one!)
  • Check the air filters and vents, replacing them if needed.

It might seem intimidating (or just generally unappealing) to deep clean your apartment, but the reward is always worth it. We spend so much time in our homes, so it’s crucial we keep them orderly and clean for both our mental and physical well-being. Dedicating time each month for deep cleaning will eliminate germs, improve your indoor air quality, and leave your home looking and feeling fresh.

Kara Thompson

About me: 

Kara Thompson is a Denver-based journalist with over five years of experience writing lifestyle content. She has written for a variety of publications, including,,, and Parents, where she covered all things home, food, fashion, travel, and holidays. During her time on staff at Parents, Kara launched her own home decor and organization column named Save My Space. In 2022, she left her full-time job as an editor and started her own writing, editing, and social media firm, Kara Thompson and Co.

Tennis, New York City, bourbon cocktails, and her sister's German Shepherd are a few of her favorite things.