Vacate clean – End of Lease
Warning: This page is written with less frivolity than the rest of the site. The following is exactly what we do when we do a Vacate Clean for our clients. If by any chance you can’t be bothered reading this, let alone doing this work yourself, go to our Cost page to get yourself an idea of how much it will cost to have the professionals do this work for you. NOTE: we do this work all of the time. We have all of the equipment, chemicals and materials at commercial and industrial grades to do it more quickly and efficiently – and still, it takes us 10 plus hours to do a Vacate Clean in a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment or house. It might take you twice as long – but not if you get a crew of willing friends around to help! Bribery with pizza and beer never goes amiss in this instance! We also estimate that it would cost you around $100 – $150 to buy all of the chemicals and materials that you will need (not including a ladder, or the hire of a carpet steam cleaner). Ask your friends if anyone else wants to clean their carpets on the same day, and perhaps go halves in the hireage fees?
There is no reason that you cannot do all of your Vacate Clean yourself. In fact, the following is going to give you a step-by-step guide to save you money, and ensure you get all of your bond back, without paying a company like us to do the cleaning for you. You will see links from this page to various blogs and other pages, which will also give you valuable information. There is an “art” to successfully satisfying your property management company, completing your Vacate Clean, and having your deposit promptly refunded!
First tip: Having your stuff still in the house when you do this is going to double the time that you take – and you’re probably going to have to go back and redo a lot of things once your possessions are gone. Plan to take at least a couple of days (if it is just you) to do this work, before having to give your keys back.
List of tasks for the complete Vacate Clean
Windows (accessible internal and external)
You will need: a ladder, brush, glass cleaning cloths (you can buy them cheaply from Kmart), microfibre cloths, a non-scratch scraper, commercial-grade glass cleaner (domestic glass cleaners tend to leave streaks, and it takes a lot longer to achieve a streak-free finish).
Do outside first. Remove webs and built up dust from the glass with a brush or old cloth. Scrape off any sap or plant residue. Spray with glass cleaner, and polish with the glass cleaning cloth. When your cloths become dirty or wet, switch to fresh cloths. You’re creating more work for yourself because you’ll have to go back later to correct the streaking that occurs. Be careful to clean in the corners of the windows. It is very noticeable when your Vacate Clean is inspected!
Follow the same process to do the inside windows. While you are there with the ladder, use a spray cleaner and microfibre cloth to clean the window frames, sills, tracking (sometimes you might have to vacuum the built up dust and insect residue out) first, and especially any mould. You do not want to be accused of not having adequately ventilated your rooms! Note any water or other damage, to tell your Property Manager about.
You are likely to need 4 to 8 cloths to do this job properly.
Skirting boards, powerpoints, light switches, doors, door frames
You will need: a ladder, broom or brush, microfibre cloths and spray cleaner.
Brush or sweep the worst of the dust and build-up from the skirting boards, and around door frames and other framing (such as around cupboards for example). Spray and scrub to remove dirt, grease, food stains and marks. Be careful in corners of frames and skirts particularly, as once the rest of the boards are clean, the black corners filled with grime stand out like the proverbial.
Wipe down both sides of the doors, and make sure to remove all grime, marks, stickers, blutack and stains.
You will need: a ladder, sugar soap, a bucket, hot water, thick rubber gloves, jif, microfibre cloths and possibly “Magic Sponges”.
When you do a Vacate Clean, all walls need to be cleaned down, and all marks removed (that were not there when you took possession of the rental – and in this case, it needs to have been noted in the Condition Report for you to NOT be responsible for removing it).
Start by removing marks using a DRY microfibre cloth with a dab of Jif on it. You will have to scrub any marks and stains quite vigorously to remove them. If you’re not having any joy, use a damp Magic Sponge. Less effort, but a lot more expensive!
Once the marks are gone, you will see that your walls now have shiny and dull patches all over them. These have to go! Use the sugar soap to wash down all of the walls. You might find it quicker if you use a mop – we don’t.
Cupboards, shelves and wardrobes
You will need: a ladder, microfibre cloths, a spray cleaner.
All cupboards, wardrobes, and shelves (including doors), have to be cleaned inside and out. Get up on that ladder and start from the top and work your way down. This is so that you don’t “clean” grime down onto surfaces that you have already cleaned – and therefore don’t have to do it again. A quick wipe is not necessary good enough. Remove marks and stains. Go on, use a bit of elbow grease!
You will need: a ladder, a large basin full of hot soapy water – or a microfibre cloth and a spray cleaner.
Check the light bulb to make sure that it’s still good. Replace it if it has blown. Get up on the ladder. You might be able to get away with giving the shade a quick wipe, but more often than not you have to remove the shade fitting and either wipe it out, or give it a good scrub in a tub of hot soapy water. Replace the fitting once it it clean – and remember to be careful when you remove and replace it. They are often quite fragile and easy to damage.
You will need: a ladder, a bath full of hot soapy water, a duster, microfibre cloths.
If you are very unlucky, you will have venetian blinds. They can take HOURS to clean if you haven’t given them a regular dust to maintain them!
First off try to remove build up on the blinds with your duster. Fully close the blinds and use the duster to give it a vigorous “dust” going with the direction of the slats. Then fully open the blinds and do the same, cleaning the other side of them. If it’s not too bad, use a microfibre cloth and the spray cleaner to spot clean any obvious spots. Run your fingers over several slats at different levels and check whether you can still feel dust or oily residue. It’s bad news if you can, because your Property Manager will still be able to as well. At this point you might consider calling your Property Manager and offering her or him your first born child in exchange for letting you off cleaning the blinds. If you have to, resort to extortion.
If that doesn’t work, gird your loins, because things are going to get ugly.
Get up on the ladder and work out the hopelessly complicated connection system that your blinds use. Make sure that the blinds are fully extended (as long as possible), and take them down. Once you stop cursing, take them to the bathroom to the bath that you have already filled with warm soapy water. Put the entire blind into the bath, and use a microfibre cloth to clean both sides of every slat on the blinds.
Once clean, take the blinds out of the bath, and hang it out on the clothes line. Use a garden hose to rinse off any soap, then leave it to dry outside. Once it’s dry, get back up on the ladder and re-affix it to the connections that hold it. Perhaps take a valium beforehand. Repeat with all of the blinds.
Vents and grills
You will need: a ladder, a big basin full of hot soapy water (the laundry is often the best place).
Get up on the ladder and carefully remove any high-up vents or grills. Be careful not to damage them, so work out if you need to twist, unclip, or pull them to properly take them off. Give them a good clean in your big basin, dry them off, admire your handiwork and then put them back up.
Some air conditioner grills are quite large and won’t fit in a basin. You could hose them off if you have an outdoor tap. Or try vacuuming with a detailed head, and then spraying and wiping.
You will need: a ladder, a duster.
Depending on the reach of your duster, and the height of your ceilings, you might be able to get away without having to use your ladder. Spiders like little corners and small places usually to build their webs. So go around every ceiling edge, up and down the walls, around light fittings, doorways, window frames. Actually, once you start doing this, you might find a mad hunting gleam comes into your eyes. Look for webs EVERYWHERE. You’ve got to get rid of them all! When you are done, check your hair for webs.
You will need: A carpet steam cleaning machine, water, carpet cleaning fluid, anti-foaming fluid, various spot stain removers (we use rust removers and a general heavy duty stain remover most), a bucket, a history of body building.
Once the rooms with carpet in them have been cleaned as described above, the final thing to do is to steam clean the carpets. And it pays to do this AFTER you’ve already given them a good vacuum.
Unless you have been told otherwise by your Property Manager, you will have to steam (or dry) clean your carpets. You are expected to bring the carpets up to the same state that they were in before you took possession – excluding normal wear and tear. Normal wear and tear doesn’t include big coffee or crayon stains by the way! If you are not going to have a professional cleaning company do this for you (like US!), you can do this yourself.
There are many places that you can hire a carpet cleaning machine from. Just google it in your local area. Follow the instructions that they give you. As well as the cost of hiring the machine, you will also have to buy both a cleaning solution, and an anti-foaming solution. Expect to part with a fair swag of cash. If you have more heavily soiled carpet, you will also need to purchase special chemicals to deal with these – and you’ll have to spend more time cleaning. If you are smart, you will have a friend who will clean their carpets on the same day – which will halve your hireage costs, and perhaps reduce your chemical cost.
Be patient while you are doing this – it takes us months to train our own staff to do this properly – pay attention to how the carpets are coming up after you have been over them.
You will need: a good quality oven cleaner, heavy rubber gloves, a face mask, eye protection, a scrubber (we find the silver scourers that look like Shirley Temple’s hair the most effective), microfibre cloths, hot soapy water, endless patience.
Remove all racks, including the side pieces that hold the racks. Lay all racks on the floor of the oven and spray in the same way that you will the oven. Don your protective clothing – and we MEAN that. The stuff that cleans gunk out of your oven is toxic, and it can harm you if you get it on you! Follow the instructions on the oven cleaner that you have purchased. Some require a period of waiting once applied, others a certain temperature of oven. Apply liberally and leave for slightly longer than they recommend. Often you need to reapply, so give the chemicals every opportunity to do the best job that it can the first time. Make sure you cover the base (including the racks), the sides, the back and the door.
Once the specified time has passed, put your protective clothing back on. Clean the racks first. Put them into the basin of hot soapy water and watch in amazement as months, possibly years, worth of baked on oven crap melts into the water. Then get your muscle on, grab the silver scourer, and go over every side of every rack. You’re going to have to give them a good scrub so that they are all shiny and new looking. There is no oven scum that is considered to be “normal wear and tear” – it can all come off.
Change your hot soapy water, and start cleaning your oven door. If you’re lucky, you can remove it once you’ve done this, so that you can more easily access the inside of your oven. If not, your Vacate Clean just got slightly more inconvenient. Lean in and wipe down every surface. Thoroughly. We usually go over everything at least 3 times. If there is still noticeable oven gunk, reapply your oven cleaner and start again – at least you’ve sorted out your racks!
Once all of the chemicals have been wiped off, use your scourer to remove any small spots remaining – but make sure that you are not damaging the oven itself. Those scratches stand out.
Close the oven and turn it onto a low heat for about 5 minutes, then turn it off. Open the oven again and wipe away all of the residue that remains. If you’re still not sure, do this again to check.
Explain the trauma involved in cleaning your oven to any housemates, partners, or random strangers, and demand sympathy and commensurate compensation. Because you were just awesome and everyone needs to know it.
Here’s a short 2 minute video that shows you how it is done.
I’ve written another blog on an alternate oven cleaning method, which you might prefer to try.
You will need: microfibre cloths, an engineering degree, a heavy duty commercial degreaser, a basin full of boiling hot water, thick rubber gloves, a scourer or scrubber, small clever hands, glass cloths, glass cleaner, and sometimes toothpicks or similar.
If you have not regularly cleaned your kitchen exhaust, approach it carefully, using a low soothing voice to tell it that you mean it no harm. Remove the filters. This is different for just about every model, so calling on your engineering degree cleverness is going to come in useful in some cases. If your filters are not flimsy and liable to fall apart, pop them into the dishwasher if you have one, and give thanks to the universe for that part being easy. If you don’t have a dishwasher, put them into a basin of the hottest water you can cope with (when you are wearing your gloves), and spend the time removing all of the grease and stains from them. Give them a shake to rid them of as much water as possible, and stand them aside to continue draining.
If your exhaust has a glass shelf built into it, remove this, and clean it in the hot soapy water. Remove all of the grease and grime, dry, and then clean it with your glass cleaner and glass cloth. Set it aside until you have done some counselling and are ready to put the whole thing back together.
You can probably see yellow grease all around the outside and inside of your exhaust. Every single bit of this needs to go. Follow instructions on your degreaser, and while wearing your gloves, start to remove it all. Your microfibre cloths will come in very handy. For any small fiddly bits, use your toothpicks or similar to get it out. When you think it’s all clean, take your gloves off and run your fingers over it all. If you can feel greasy bits, so will your Property Manager. Keep on going.
When everything is clean, reinstall all filters and glass, and make sure that it still works. If it doesn’t you’ve either broken it, or put it back together incorrectly. May the force be with you. NOTE: if you have regularly cleaned this, the drama described above will not occur, and you will breeze through this exercise in just 10 or 15 minutes.
You will need: microfibre cloths, spray cleaner, hot soapy water, a silver scourer (the heavier the better for you), a stainless steel polishing chemical.
Remove the trivets, knobs, burner drip bowls, surface burners, elements (if electric stovetop), backing pieces – basically everything that can be removed.
Put them all (except anything electrical like the elements!) into the hot soapy water, and then clean with either your cloths or scourer.
In the meantime, liberally spray your surfaces with your cleaner and leave to soak. If you have a white stovetop, you can probably use jif and a scrubber around the elements safely – otherwise just gentle soaking and cloth cleaning, or you will scratch and damage the surface. DO NOT apply spray directly to where the knobs connect. Your liquid can soak down through the connection and damage the igniters. But you do have to clean every bit of gunk from around the knob connectors.
Once everything is clean, apply your stainless steel cleaner and polish until it looks lovely. Then reassemble all of the bits and pieces. Job done.
You will need: Rubber gloves, a basin full of hot soapy water, a brush scrubber, toothpick, microfibre cloths, spray cleaner, a nose peg.
I have written a more detailed blog about this here if you would like to look at some pretty pictures, and read my entertaining ramblings. If not, here is the more condensed descriptive version…
Fill your kitchen sink with hot soapy water. Open your dishwasher and pull out the bottom rack (which should be empty of dishes!), and put it on the floor so you can more easily access the bowels of it all. There is a spray arm on the bottom which usually just pulls out. Pull it out and put it into the sink of water.
Next you want to clean the trap and filter. If you’ve never done this before, this part is going to be fairly stinky. Usually there is a basket looking thing that you turn and pull out. After this it is simple to lift up the (usually) silver mesh thingy. Pop them both into your sink of soapy water and give everything a good scrub. The thing that looks like a basket is usually made up of two parts – and if so, pull them apart to be more effective with your cleaning. You might need a scrubbing brush or toothpick to get to some areas. And yes, you really do need to do this when you do your Vacate Clean…
Now go back to your dishwasher and pop your microfibre cloth into the depression from which you have just pulled everything out. It may be full of stinky water. You have to sop all of that water up, spray it thoroughly with your spray cleaner, wipe all gunk residue away, and make sure you have not left any liquid behind.
Reverse the process above and reassemble your dishwasher.
Spray, scrub and wipe around all of the dishwasher seals to remove any food bits, then go over all sides of the doors, inside the machine, around the edges, under the benchtop, and around the walls or doors that are next to your dishwasher. Over your time in your home, food has splashed around that area when you’ve been loading it, and you need to remove it all before the next tenants move in.
Cupboards and drawers (inside and out)
You will need: microfibre cloths, a spray cleaner, a vacuum cleaner.
Once the cupboards and drawers are completely empty (including any pull-out pantries etc), you will be amazed at how much food, dust and grime was in there to start with. The easiest thing to do before you start spray and wiping, is to use your vacuum cleaner (without the head) to suck out all of the bits that you can. This stops you from shoving grime into the corners, which then has to be removed with toothpicks or similar. Also, chasing little bits of fluff and grime around in a drawer with your clothe can be frustrating, as it usually stays in there!
Spray around the whole area thoroughly and wipe until clean (not just “wipe over”). If there are marks or stains, put some elbow grease into removing them. For both drawers and cupboards, wipe the “ceilings”, sides, bottoms, and along all edges. Most people forget to clean the outside edges of their drawers (where the runners are), so be sure to remember that little trick for small players.
Splash-back and tiles
You will need: Microfibre cloths, scrubbers and scourers, glass cloths, spray cleaner, glass cleaner, a heavy duty degreaser.
If you have a splash-back or tiles that is not “shiny”, you won’t need the glass cloths and glass cleaner. If it is smooth and shiny, you will – everything else will streak, unless you polish it like the Karate Kid until your arms fall off.
First get rid of the oil and food splashes that you have never noticed before. We usually go straight to our heavy duty degreaser first – just because it is quicker and less labour intensive. Use the light that you have to actually see what is on your tiles and splash-back. Change your angle of view and move your head around so that light is reflected off the surfaces. This is the most effective way to see what you need to clean. Follow the instructions carefully for the heavy duty degreaser. Always read the label carefully. After you have given it some time to work into any grease or food residue, wipe, scour or scrub to remove. Occasionally we find that a cream cleaner and scourer work more effectively on some surfaces – you might have to experiment a little. Once you know that you have removed everything that should not be there, spray with your spray cleaner and wipe over with your microfibre cloth. Finally, if it is a smooth or shiny surface, spray with your glass cleaner and buff with your glass cloth. Use the light and change your head angle several times to check that you’ve got it all sorted, and spot clean any parts that you have missed or are still streaky.
You will need: Microfibre cloths, scrubbers and scourers, spray cleaner.
Kickboards are directly beneath your lower kitchen cupboards. They are inset, and your cupboard units are actually sitting on them. They are inset, and named because if you are standing in your kitchens, this is where you might “kick”. For this part you need to get down on the floor (which is hopefully not too feral). Crawl around the whole kitchen, spraying then scrubbing the kickboards. You cannot leave any food or grease scraps on them – although given their location, they are likely to be relatively scuffed from the kicking that they might get.
You will need: Microfibre cloth, scrubber/scourer, jif or a good quality cream cleaner.
I love cleaning basins and sinks for Vacate Cleans. Often people don’t realise that they even need to be cleaned! Over time, your tea, coffee and food dregs stain your stainless steel – but it will ALL come off and magically transform into shiny loveliness. Apply a liberal amount of jif to the insides of your basin/s, your drip tray and the tap/s. Use your microfibre cloth and some muscles, and scrub ALL silver surfaces, edges, indents, corners – everywhere. As you scrub, you will notice the stains coming off. Scrub quite hard all over – there should be grimey jif over the whole thing. Take special care around the plug hole/s and water grate. Run your water gently, and rinse off your cloth and start to wash off the jif residue. This will take you a while as you need a fair bit applied in the first place to do this job properly. Check that you’ve got everything, and then dry/polish the whole thing off.
You will need: Microfibre cloths, scrubbers and scourers, glass cloths, spray cleaner, glass cleaner.
You might not need everything in this list – it depends on the material/s that your kitchen benches are made of. You should probably have a fairly good idea of the best and most effective way of cleaning them! Generally a good spray cleaner and a microfibre cloth will do the trick. Remember to do all edges of the benches and cupboard edges – these are the bits that are often missed.
Bathroom tiles and grout
You will need: Microfibre cloths, a grout brush, glass cloths, spray cleaner, glass cleaner, jif, patient pants.
If you’re fastidious about keeping your shower clean, this might not be a big job. However, if you can see discolouration on the tiles and/or grout, be prepared to put a fair bit of effort into putting this to rights for the next tenant. First off, spray all of the tiled area with a good quality spray cleaner. You will want to leave this for a while to do it’s thing, so you don’t have to use as much effort. In the meantime, get your grout brush and start scrubbing ALL of the grout. Use long sweeping movements to maximise your effectiveness, and cover the area quite methodically so that you know you have covered it all. You should see the mould moving. Start wiping down the tiled areas. Is the discolouration moving? Can you see clean tile? If so, easy job, keep on going until the whole area is finished. Be sure to push your cloth into corners and along edges. It’s the details that stand out during an inspection!
If the tiles are still dirty, try using jif. Rub it on with a damp or wet cloth, and if necessary, use a gentle (or less gentle) scourer or scrubber. Keep going until all you need to do is the finishing. When you’re there, use your spray cleaner again, spray the whole area, and then finish with your microfibre cloth. Polish anything that is shiny (like taps or shower fittings) with glass spray and a glass cloth.
Bath and surrounds
You will need: Microfibre cloths, Jif.
Baths are easy to clean. If it hasn’t been cleaned for a while, or if there is a shower head above, you might notice black or grey marks on the bath where you stand, or a ring around the bath where the water has sat while you are bathing. You’ve got to remove all of that – but Jif will easily do it. Squirt the Jif liberally around the bath, and give it a good scrub with your cloth. You shouldn’t have to use a scourer unless it’s VERY bad. Once all marks are gone, run the water and rinse it all off. If not rinsed properly, cream cleaners will leave a gritty residue, and you want to get rid of all of that. Clean surrounding tiles, the front facing of the bath, corners, taps etc, and be sure to use your “detail” eyes. Look for anything that looks grimey, in corners and along edges. Use the light to check your work.
You will need: Microfibre cloths, a grout brush, glass cloths, spray cleaner, glass cleaner, jif, patient pants.
Clean any tiled areas in the same way as described above. Then clean and polish any shiny bits – shower heads and taps etc. Make sure to clean any soap dishes! If you have glass shower doors, check to see if there is any mineral (calcium) buildup. This is a cloudy build-up over time, when shower glass hasn’t been regularly cleaned. This mineralisation can actually damage the glass, so do your absolute best to clean it if you can. Any damage that has occurred during your tenancy is your responsibility to rectify!
If there is cloudy residue, your best bet is AGAIN Jif. Use a damp cloth with Jif, and scrub all of the screens on the inside. Usually this is worse in the lower 1/3 area of the screens. Rinse off the Jif, and if necessary, repeat. Once this build-up has gone, spray both sides with glass spray, and polish with your glass cloth.
Check and clean all of the shower structure – wipe it down and remove any grimy build-up in corners and along edges.
You will need: Microfibre cloths (keep one dry for finishing), toilet cleaner, spray cleaner, toilet brush.
Squirt a liberal amount of toilet cleaner in the bowl, and leave to sit while you clean the rest of the toilet. Wipe off all surfaces on the toilet. Start at the top and work your way down. All sides, all crevices. If there are any stubborn, difficult to move stains, use your spray cleaner. Be especially careful to clean around the bottom of the bowl and remove any “wee” drip marks and residue. The toilet floor seal is another area to carefully spray and clean.
Use your toilet brush to scrub around the inside of the bowl. Scrub from right up top under the rim, and down into the bend – give any stains or marks a good going over and keep going!
You will need: Microfibre cloths, Jif.
Basins are basically the same to clean as the bath – just smaller! Follow the same process as described above. Make sure you wipe down the outside edges and sides. Modern basins come in many forms and shapes! Clean surrounding tiles, corners, taps etc, and be sure to use your “detail” eyes. Look for anything that looks grimey, in corners and along edges. Use the light to check your work.
Bathroom cabinet and mirror
You will need: Microfibre cloth, spray cleaner, glass cloth and glass spray cleaner, vacuum cleaner.
Open all cabinets and drawers. Use your vacuum cleaner (with a smaller detail nozzle) to suck out all of the bits and pieces in the drawers before you start cleaning it out. That alone will ensure a better result as it’s easier than “wiping” out those dry detritus.
Use your spray cleaner and a microfibre cloth to clean all drawers and cupboards – the tops, sides and bottome. Check facing edges, and remember to wipe down the inside cupboard doors.
Spray mirrors with glass cleaner and polish with your glass cloth.
You will need: Vacuum cleaner, mop system (including a good floor cleaning chemical), microfibre cloth and spray cleaner.
Vacuum your hard floors. Make sure you get into all of the corners and edges, and behind doors. Get your mop system ready. We use a Pulse Mop, which sprays onto the floor as we go and is quick and effective, but this is an expensive solution for most people. Most people need their mop, and a bucket, and a fair amount of time and muscle! Mop the floor, and as you go, use your cloth and spray to clean in the corners and around the edges. Near door hinge edges are another area frequently missed. Once you are finished, allow the floor to dry, and check your work. You’ll probably have to redo the kitchen area, which is prone to oil and food stains that are more difficult to remove. Use the light available in the room to change your perspective and look from different angles. Your Property Manager inspecting the Vacate Clean at the end will do exactly this!
OK. There’s some good news. You’ve finished (unless there are further tasks on your checklist – in which case, please leave a comment and I’ll add on more information!). Congratulations! There, that wasn’t as hard as you thought at all, was it?!
Let me know what you think of this. All feedback helps us to be better at our Vacate Clean work, and at helping our clients. It also helps those who want to do it themselves – which you are presumably!