If You Just Moved Into a New House or Apartment, Make Sure You Clean Everything First

We'll show you how to do a proper deep clean of your new home.

Peter Butler Senior Editor
Peter is a writer and editor for the CNET How-To team. He has been covering technology, software, finance, sports and video games since working for @Home Network and Excite in the 1990s. Peter managed reviews and listings for Download.com during the 2000s, and is passionate about software and no-nonsense advice for creators, consumers and investors.
Expertise 18 years of editorial experience with a current focus on personal finance and moving
Peter Butler
9 min read
MihailDechev/Getty Images

You've done it: you've moved into your new home, and everything is perfect. Except it isn't. It's dusty everywhere, and you're pretty sure you saw some black mold spots in the shower. Don't worry, we'll show you how to get your new house or apartment sparkling in no time.

CNET Moving Tips logo

No matter how clean the former tenants left your new place, undoubtedly you'll find areas you'll want to give another scrub because this will be the only chance you'll ever get to clean your apartment or house when it is empty. It's also a fantastic way to quickly learn about all of the nooks and crannies of your new home.

Read on to learn the best way to deep clean a new apartment or house so that you can move in with confidence and enjoy your healthy, fresh-smelling home. 

To start cleaning, remove any debris from floors, walls and closets

Make sure your new home is completely cleared out before you start cleaning. Take a few minutes to walk through every room with a garbage bag or can, tossing out any trash or items left behind.

Check the walls for nails, screws or other forgotten hardware, particularly anything sharp, jagged or otherwise dangerous. You could fill the holes now when it's easier to clean up, but properly patching nail holes isn't simple. If the holes are small I'd recommend waiting until you're ready to paint or refinish the wall.

Also check your refrigerator, oven, washing machine and other inherited appliances to make sure they are empty. Throw out anything that's been left behind, or donate items and recycle e-waste as necessary.

Next, gather your cleaning supplies

You may encounter a lot of different things you'll want to clean, requiring different methods of cleaning. These are the basic tools I have on hand:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Bucket with handle (2 to 3 gallon)
  • Spray bottle
  • Cleaning scrubbers
  • A toothbrush or other small scrub brush
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Fresh lemon
  • Diluted multipurpose commercial cleaner (I like Simple Green)
  • Rags or cloths for dusting, drying and wiping
  • Dust wand
  • Vacuum
  • Hot water source

There's no need to spend a lot of money on special cleaning products. A combination of vinegar and hot water makes a great cleaner and dish soap can fill the gaps for those items that shouldn't be cleaned with vinegar

Clean any appliances in your new home

If your new home has existing appliances like a refrigerator, dishwasher or microwave, they're a great place to start your deep clean. First, you want to be able to use these appliances as soon as possible. Second, many of these appliances deal with food and dirt, with potential bacteria or mold that can cause illness.

Before you clean the oven or the refrigerator, if possible, move them both out from the wall to wipe down the sides, back and floor of the units (as well as the floor underneath) with a combination of two parts hot water and one part white vinegar or your favorite commercial cleaner.

If the area isn't too bad, you can use the spray bottle and a cloth scrubber or sponge. For more serious cleaning work, fill up the bucket, mop down the area manually with a scrubber, and then dry well with a clean rag.

Most ovens have self-cleaning modes. After making sure the oven is empty and cleaning behind it, push it back against the wall and run the cleaning cycle while you tackle the rest of the appliances and kitchen. 

If you don't have a self-cleaning oven, don't worry. It's not that hard to clean your oven manually with items you already have in the kitchen, and you don't have to use toxic cleaners.

Remove the oven racks and wash them in the sink with hot water and soap. Then create a paste of three parts baking soda and one part water, and spread it around the oven, avoiding the heating elements. A bit of fresh lemon in the paste will help remove odors. For tough stains, work the paste in with a toothbrush. Let the paste sit for 12 or more hours while you clean the rest of the house, and then wipe the oven out with a damp cloth.

While you're waiting, clean the stovetop. For a gas cooktop, remove the grates and wash them with hot soapy water. Use a bucket with hot water and soap to scrub the rest of the cooktop surface. For an electric cooktop, a combination of baking soda and vinegar should get most of the surface clean. Tough, burned-on stains can be removed with a razor-edge scraper. For induction cooktops, you can use the same vinegar and baking soda combination, but use a soft cleaning cloth instead of a scrubber. 

Next, clean your refrigerator: Remove shelves or drawers and wash them with hot water and soap in your sink. Using the hot water and vinegar in a spray bottle and a scrubber, wipe down all of the interior surfaces and shelves. Dry it all with a clean towel.

Use a fresh lemon for pesky food stains. Once the inside of the fridge is clean, replace the dried shelves and drawers, and repeat the process with your freezer. Make sure the water in the spray bottle is hot to keep it from sticking in the freezer.

You can use the same water-vinegar solution in your spray bottle to clean out your microwave, washing machine, dryer and other appliances.

Be sure to check your washing machine for mold, especially front-loading machines with rubber gaskets. If you do find mold in your washer, you can scrub it out with the same hot water-vinegar solution, or try a combination of bleach and water for tougher jobs.

After appliances, clean the rest of the kitchen

Get the hardest cleaning job out of the way first while preparing your new home for meals. Kitchens can be challenging to clean because they often have stains and grease that come with cooking food. They also have many "high-touch" surfaces.

A general rule for cleaning any room is "start high, finish low," since dust and dirt will fall to the floor as you clean. Use a dust wand or vacuum extension to clean the ceiling, particularly the corners, ceiling fans, and above and under any cabinets. Then dust the cabinets themselves, countertops, tables and any other furniture.

Because cabinets can trap food grease and grime, you'll probably need to wipe them all down with more of the same water-vinegar solution you used for your fridge. Get the toothbrush out to scrub small grooves or hard-to-clean spots.
Be careful if your cabinets are waxed, as vinegar can make the surface cloudy. In that case, you'll need a special furniture cleaner for waxed surfaces. If you're not sure, clean a small section of the wood in a nonvisible area as a test.

For persistent grease stains on cabinets, try a fresh lemon or a paste of one part baking soda and two parts water.

For countertops, your cleaning materials will depend upon your surface. For stone countertops like granite, quartz or marble, vinegar can etch the surface because of its acidity. You'll also want to skip vinegar for wood or stainless steel. Instead, use a combination of dish soap and hot water. Countertops made of laminate or soapstone can be cleaned with the usual water-vinegar mixture or a multipurpose cleaner.

To clean your kitchen sink, sprinkle a bit of baking soda all over the basin, spray dish soap on top of it, and wipe it down with a scrubber, starting from the top and working your way down to the drain.

Pro Tip: The worst grease stains can be countered with a combination of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and dish soap. The mixture also makes a fantastic grout cleaner (see bathrooms next). You'll need to only make a small amount at a time. Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda release carbon dioxide, making long-term storage a bad idea.

Get your bathrooms sparkling clean

Bathrooms -- another room with high-touch surfaces and plenty of germs -- are the next areas in need of the deep-clean treatment after your kitchen.

Clean dry before you clean wet. Dust the bathroom from top to bottom, taking care to get the areas above light fixtures and medicine cabinets.

Next, scrub down the shower and tub, using our standard spray bottle with warm water and vinegar and a scrubbing cloth. A fresh lemon with a little salt works well at removing hard water stains on shower heads and faucets. For tough soap scum, add dish soap to your water and vinegar.

You can use a commercial cleaning product for the toilet bowl, or try a combination of water, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and essential oils for fragrance. Use a scrubbing brush on the bowl, starting with the area under the rim and moving down toward the drain. (Again, don't store any combination of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda long-term due to carbon dioxide off-gassing.)

Pro Tip: For tough mineral stains in your toilet, shut off the water supply, flush the toilet to empty the bowl, and then fill it up with two liters of Coca-Cola, or however much you need to cover the stains. The phosphoric and citric acid in the soda work wonders for removing limescale or rust stains, but you'll need to let it sit for at least a few hours.

For mirrors, grab the spray bottle with water and vinegar again, but be judicious with the amount. Spray a small bit of the solution onto a cleaning cloth and wipe very top to bottom, taking care not to rewipe the same area to avoid streaks. Use a fresh spot on your cloth for each downward stroke.

If you have oils, grease or toothpaste smears on the mirror that don't disappear after wiping, use a bit of rubbing alcohol on a cotton pad to address the problem spots, then wipe again with a clean cloth using water and vinegar.

For dirty bathroom tile grout, our super-potent combination of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and dish soap also works well. Brush the paste onto the grout with a toothbrush and let it sit for an hour before cleaning off. 

Move on to the bedrooms, living room, dining room, family room and the rest

After you've taken on the kitchen and bathrooms, the rest of the house won't feel nearly as tough. In each room, start with the dust wand or vacuum extension again to clear cobwebs and dust from the ceiling corners or molding.

A vacuum attachment is super useful for windows. Suck up as much dirt and debris as you can from the window frame, and then use our water-vinegar combination with a cleaning cloth to get the rest. Tight corners and grooves provide another opportunity for the toothbrush.

To clean windows, first remove any screens and brush or vacuum them. If they're dirty you can wash them with soap and water and leave them to dry. For the glass, use a combination of warm water, vinegar and dish soap, spraying on a cleaning cloth and wiping from top to bottom, much like cleaning your bathroom mirror. Again, rubbing alcohol can help with grease or oil smudges.

Finish with your floors

After you've cleaned your entire home from top to bottom, you can probably guess what comes last -- the floors. Start by sweeping and vacuuming the entire house, then mopping your kitchen, bathroom and any other tile or laminate flooring.

For wood floors, you want to use a cleaner with a balanced pH level, which means you'll want to dilute your standard mixture: one part vinegar to 10 parts water. A diluted vinegar solution should be fine for a polyurethane finish, but avoid using vinegar completely if you have a wax finish; use a commercial wood floor cleaner instead.

In general, you'll want to wash your wood floors as little as possible. Instead, sweep regularly and use a dry microfiber cloth or mop to remove standard dust and dirt. 

If your wood floors have been scratched heavily or otherwise damaged, contact professional floor refinishing companies for estimates on fixing them. A bit of money can make a huge difference for wood floors.

For tile and laminate, be sure to check the cleaning instructions for your specific floor material, though a combination of hot water and dish soap should be safe for such flooring.

If you have any carpeting in your new home, consider renting a commercial carpet cleaner. The most common devices use hot water extraction (commonly called "steam cleaning") to clean deep down into the carpet, where bacteria, bugs and who knows what else could be hiding. You'll need to let the carpet dry for at least a day after deep cleaning it.

For more home cleaning tips, learn how a clean space can improve your mental health and how to remove the trickiest stains.