9 cleaning jobs you MUST do before you put your home back on the market

With the housing market open again, which cleaning chores should you have done for photos/online views or real-life viewers? This is your to-do list when you’re selling your house

Cleaning jobs: Person cleaning in a kitchen
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Cleaning jobs aren't necessarily the first thing you think of when you're dreaming of selling up to buy that perfect new home. But first impressions count when you’re selling your home – and the impression you should be making is one of a clean house. Distract buyers with crumbs on the worktop, mouldy grout in the bathroom, and mud on the floor tiles, and there will be points against your property from the start.

Some of these cleaning jobs should only need tackling once when you’re selling your home, but others will need attention – or at least a check to ensure things haven’t reverted to their less than lovely state – each time the estate agent brings round the potential purchasers, or you welcome them through the door – or via Zoom.

Cleaning jobs checklist – when you’re selling your home

The good news? Keep up with the chores, and your home should sell quicker as it stands out from its less than pristine competitors.

1. Get rid of cobwebs and dust

Even if the latter’s on the furniture you’re going to be taking with you when you move, it’s not going to give the right signals if it’s lying around. Use a Miracle Duster to get the job done fast – they attract dust like a magnet.

2. Get rid of pet hair (and pet smells)

Your upholstered furniture is going with you, too, but make sure you vacuum up any obvious pet hair (we'd recommend a vacuum for pet hair – they'll make light work of it). Lovely as your animals are, not all potential buyers will feel the same, and evidence of shedding isn’t going to appeal. Upholstery stained or marked? Again, while it’s not staying in the house, it’s still going to say that the place isn’t as immaculate all round as buyers desire. Spot clean if you can – or cover with a throw if you can’t.

3. Vacuum everywhere else, too

Vacuum floors, or sweep and mop, depending on the surface. Look through the eyes of a viewer. This is the time to get rid of what shows, so it doesn’t need to be a deep clean, but it must get rid of anything obvious. Need a new vac, whether handheld or the Full Monty? Don't miss our guide to the best vacuum cleaner 2020.

4. Clean the windows

Yup. Clean your windows. You’ll need to tackle them inside and out. Streaks are distracting and, anyway, clean glass will maximise the light in each room. Make sure you get the sills clean, too.

5. Clean mirrors

Mirrors also need to be sparkling. Remove fingerprints and dust. Like clean windows they’ll also help boost light in your home, which is always a plus point.

6. Make sure the kitchen is sparkling

Be attentive to the kitchen. Wipe crumbs and any smears from worksurfaces. Use a cloth on cupboard fronts, too, especially around handles, and clean any smudges or marks from the handles themselves. The splashback also needs to be smear free, as do the front of appliances. Wipe down their handles and knobs as well.

If you think buyers won’t look in the oven, we’re going to disappoint you. They do, so yours needs to clean inside. The same goes for cupboards, which house viewers often open. Make sure you’ve wiped off any marks made by sticky jars or cans. And the fridge? If it’s built in (or they’ve taken the liberty of peering into your freestanding model), make sure they’ll see unsticky, debris-free shelves.

Your other kitchen chore? Keeping up with the washing up and putting away afterwards. As for the dishwasher, don’t just conceal the dirty dishes in there. Run a cycle in good time and return the cleaned load to the cupboards.

7. And the bathroom...

Lavish effort on the bathroom as well. Taps and shower fittings need to sparkle. Shower screens should be clean, dry and water mark free. Use a squeegee and buff for the best finish. Basin and bath need to be unsullied and plugs free of hair. Not got e-cloths yet? Get wise to them – they cut down on chemical products, elbow grease and plastic waste.

Mouldy grout is off-putting. Clean it with a proprietary product and then keep a check on regrowth. The same goes for any sealant in the same neglected state.

8. Wipe down paintwork

The paintwork all around your house – especially round doors and switches – may have become grubby over time. If you used washable paint when you decorated, it should be easy to clean with a damp e-cloth. If not, try a wipe using a washing-up solution applied with a very slightly damp sponge. Go gently and patch test first somewhere out of sight. 

9. Don't forget light switches

Light switches are also a magnet for muckiness, and need attention, but clean with care. A microfibre cloth may do the job, but if more’s required, bear in mind that you should never spray cleaning products directly on to a switch. Instead, apply a little to an e-cloth and wipe. Dry with a second cloth.

Sarah Warwick
Freelance Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart, decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper. For Realhomes.com, Sarah reviews coffee machines and vacuum cleaners, taking them through their paces at home to give us an honest, real life review and comparison of every model.