8 Tips for Cleaning Your Rental Kitchen Between Tenants

by | BiggerPockets.com

Landlords know better than anyone just how rough tenants can be on a property – especially when they rent it for long periods of time. And while it’s possible for any room to get trashed, few undergo as much wear and tear as the kitchen.

Knowing how to quickly conduct a deep clean between tenants can make a huge difference. Here are a few tips to help you make the process faster and more efficient.

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1. Require Tenants to Clean Before Vacating

If you want to get a head start on your cleaning, make sure the lease agreement requires tenants to clean the property before moving out. They won’t do a perfect job, but they’ll usually make the property look decent. You can then go in and clean up what they’ve left behind.

Related: Cleaning Your Rental: A Checklist

2. Start With Repairs & Maintenance

The last thing you want is to clean the property and then make a huge mess by cutting into drywall to fix a hole in the wall. So, before cleaning, address any repairs and maintenance issues that exist.

3. Choose the Right Cleaning Supplies

The right supplies make all the difference when cleaning – especially when it comes to kitchen cabinets. According to Kitchen Cabinet Kings, it’s best to stay away from harsh chemicals and instead use everyday household items like dish soap, baking soda, and vinegar. You’ll also find that it’s helpful to have a variety of sponges, cloths, rags, scrubbers, and Magic Erasers on hand to take care of all the nooks and crannies.

4. Be Sure to Dust

Before getting too far into the cleaning process, be sure to dust the high surfaces: The top of the refrigerator, cabinets, and trim work are known for collecting filth. If you wait until the end to do this, you’ll send dust all over the countertops and floor.

5. Hit the Appliances

Even if your previous tenant attempted to clean the kitchen appliances, you’ll find that they’re most likely still pretty filthy. Spend some time on the refrigerator, oven, microwave, stovetop, dishwasher, and coffee maker. Your next tenant will notice and appreciate how well cared for the appliances are.

Related: The Landlord’s Itemized List of Common Tenant Deposit Deductions

6. Mop the Floor

Sweeping is one thing. You’ll get all the loose dirt, dust, and debris that’s been tracked inside. However, sweeping doesn’t actually do much to clean the hardwood, tile, or linoleum flooring. If you were to run a wet paper towel over a floor after sweeping, it would probably come up pretty dirty. That’s not something you want your tenants to discover upon moving in. So grab a mop and bucket and give the floor a true clean

7. Hire a Professional

Even after getting your hands dirty and cleaning your property from top to bottom, there is probably some dirt left behind. While you may not have the money to hire a professional crew to come through and spend half a day making the rental spotless, you certainly have the cash to hire a local cleaner to come through and spend one hour vacuuming and cleaning up anything you may have left behind. At the end of the day, that’s money well spent.

8. Give Your Tenants What They Deserve

If you expect your tenants to keep your property clean and turn it over to you in good condition upon leaving, you need to hold up your end of the bargain and give them a clean property to start with. While it may cost you some time and money on the front end, handing over a clean property will get the relationship started on the right foot. It’s as simple as that.

What are your tips for turning over a clean rental?

Share them below!

About Author

Larry Alton

Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer and researcher who contributes to online media outlets and news sources. A graduate of Des Moines University, he still lives in Iowa as a full-time freelance writer and avid news hound. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing.

16 Comments

  1. Larry,
    Have you ever had the opportunity to actually clean after a move out?
    Almost everything you said is misleading.
    – Hiring a professional cleaner is not the same as hiring a “turn-over”/“move-out” cleaner.
    – A regular house cleaner would probably use a mop. However, all turn-over cleaners know that a mop will not clean off the black grime stuck inside the textures of wood or linoleum floors. You haveto scrub the floors with a medium bristle brush. And although a handheld brush would suffice, you can cut your time in half by staying off your knees and using a medium to stiff bristle brush attached to a broom/mop stick (these brushes are actually hard to find, but a good turn-over cleaner would have one in her repertoire). And then wipe the floor with a clean rag, do not use a mop!
    – Dusting is also a no-no! You are right by staring from the top and work your way down, but dusting only releases the dust particles into the air and they can stay airborne for several hours until your done moving around the place and the dust has time to settle down by the next day. What would happen is that as you go in the next day to inspect your unit with your new tenant, you may find a blanket of newly fresh dust on all of your surfaces. It is more noticeable when your unit has stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and polished wood floors. Instead use a vacuum with the handheld brush or ideally: wipe it with a microfiber rag so the dust gets trapped in the rag.
    – You are right about performing repairs first. But also go around and turn everything on to make sure it works properly. turn on all of the light, appliances and even all of the water faucets, check under neath to make sure there aren’t any leaks, blockages or if anything is missing.
    – And the right cleaning detergents would make the difference between a two hour job or a six hour job.
    * A secret tip that I will share with all of you of over 18 years of apartment maintenance is: don’t do the work that your cleaning detergent should be doing for you. For example: spray your oven degreaser and allow it to work on its own for a few hours, then come back after you’ve already cleaned something else and simply wipe the grease away. If a second spray is needed, resist spending the effort to scrub it, instead simply spray it again, go clean something else, then come back and wipe it again to a clean shine. Then determine if “some” scrubbing is necessary. Same advise goes for tile cleaner, floor cleaner, degreasers. But also a warning, do not use any type of harsh cleaners such as degreasers on stainless steel, because ironically, they will stain! Instead, lightly use sos pads and for the that white, impossible to remove soap scum. And when absolutely necessary, carefully use a razor blade at a really low angle to scrape off that thick layer of white soap scum off of stainless steel fixtures. It cuts your scrubbing time if used properly, which will then open more cleaning possibilities in other areas that you didn’t think possible before.
    – My other experience is that it doesn’t matter how clean you leave the unit, the new tenant will only point out what is still dirty because that’s what will stand out the most. So if they don’t comment or complain to begin with, then no compliments are actually good compliments!
    – Anyways, that’s just my 18+ years of experience advice. Hopes this helps you Larry with your quest in finding relative advice.
    – Henry Salians

  2. Dave Rav

    Some good pointers here. Hopefully, most of it folks already do.

    I also recommend reaching out to your tenant AHEAD of move out. Even if cleaning is in the lease, they forget. So touch base with them a week or two prior. Maybe even mention a financial incentive for leaving it spotless. You’d be surprised how far $50-100 goes. In contrast, you can also mention the penalty if a good cleaning isn’t done (would recommend up to $200 or more).

  3. Michael DeYoung

    I second everything that Henry said. Don’t be afraid to use professional level cleaners, just read the directions first and follow them. And when it says “not safe to use on painted surfaces,” guess what, don’t use it on the trim.

    My fridge clean tip: Remove everything that is possible from the inside of the fridge. Drawers, shelves, shelf rails, the fruit containers at the bottom, anything that comes out. Put all of this in the bathtub and fill it up with hot water and soap. While all of that soaks, wipe down the entire inside of your now empty fridge. All of the soaking things usually just need a quick wipe down and rinse. Put everything back in place and you now have the cleanest fridge you’ve ever seen not on a showroom floor.

    • Henry Salinas

      Thanks Jerry, But I’m just a humble maintenance man for somebody’s else apartment building. My advise here was merely to point out that Larry may have made some misleading or premature advise based on his research in turn over procedures.
      I just watch and read advise from pro’s like you and many others here in bigger pocket.
      But thanks Jerry W. for yoir vote of confidence!
      – Henry Salinas

  4. Kathleen J.

    What do you find more effective, taking a cleaning fee up front, or waiting to see how clean they keep/make it at move out and adjusting the security deposit accordingly. I’ve found a wide range in what tenants view as “clean.”

    • Henry Salinas

      The way you get moveout fees is have a few vendors already vetted and have their price lists up to date. The three main charges for a move out cost are:
      – cleaning fees
      – painting fees
      – and carpet cleaning fees, if it has it.
      Add those three fees together and ideally that should be your deposit fee upon move in. A
      small studio should be a small fee, a large house should be a larger fee. Fees that your vetted vendors charge, not fees that you make up. If you end up doing the work yourself, then that’s what you get paid. But trust me, just let the pros handle it and you worry about getting your next tenant.
      Other unforeseen costs such as , flooring/carpet damaged, fixtures or appliances damaged should be pointed out during your “pre-inspection” (an inspection a week pefore the actual move out). Those fees are collected with an invoice at the final move-out inspection day (proof of actual replacement costs are required by law), so don’t just estimate or make up the cost of replacement.
      But as Dave Rav pointed out, the best move out experience is when you are in touch with your tenants during the move out planning phase and make sure that the tenants leave the place already clean. It’s actually a good feeling and leaves a good report with the tenant when you actually give them some thier deposit money back. Hopes this help you in determining in what your fees should be.
      – Henry Salinas

    • You can check with your state law. Normally, a tenant only has to leave the unit “broom clean” to receive their entire deposit back (assuming only normal wear and tear). The tenant does not have to pay a cleaning fee. Landlords get away with charging naive tenant fees they should not be charging.

  5. Daniel Borrero,Jr.

    Great advise !

    With the thirty years of experience in renting and managing my own rental properties I have found that when the property is extra clean the the unit rents sooner at a higher price point. I would also recommend the following.

    ~ Clean all the ceiling fans and light fixtures
    ~ Take apart the windows and clean the frames, inside and outside of the Glass
    ~ Clean all the Blinds
    ~ Clean all the common areas in the building ( Hallways , Stairs, Entrance )

  6. Bernie Neyer

    When we receive notification by a tenant they are going to vacate the premises, we mail them a letter with a cleaning checklist on the back. In the letter we explain that we want to give the full deposit back to them and explain how to clean the premises. We even tell them to scrub the walls. That’s correct, scrub the walls. We challenge them to do just one room and see how dirty it was. If it has carpet we tell them they must clean the carpet a full day before they vacate the premises and to have the HVAC fan running the whole time.

    Usually we get a good clean place, but sometimes additional work needs to be done, damages, user items (mini blinds) and sometimes painting. Its amazing how scrubbing the walls and trim avoids having to repaint. It also gets rid of smells left by the tenant the impregnate the walls.

    I’ve attached a Lock Box link to our cleaning check list.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/qlqtepp2kb38mck/Deposit%20cleaning%20check%20list.doc?dl=0

  7. E Cols

    With the extortionate rents charged these days; you expect the tenant to be an unpaid cleaner too!!!? And then fine them if they don’t do a “good clean”. No wonder landlords have such a bad name..

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