If you’ve forked over hard-earned cash for an apartment security deposit, you’ll certainly want all of it back as you move into your new pad. Landlords often have different plans—and can overcharge for “fixing” areas of your apartment at a premium cost. Don’t give them the pleasure of charging you for going beyond the often opaque definition of “normal wear and tear”. With a few simple hacks, you can recoup most, if not all, of your security deposit, and probably even leave the place better than you found it.
Before you clean a thing, though, read your lease. See how specific the security deposit language is, and if there is any guidance about specific areas of the apartment you’re expected to keep clean. Also, note if they’ll take a percentage of the deposit, no matter your sweat and elbow grease, for normal wear and tear. Use this as a guide for deciding how much time and effort to put into cleanup efforts.
We know, you’ve probably already planned to scrub the entire place, or better yet, have a professional do it for you. But, security deposit devils are always in the details. Think like a landlord and imagine the key places in the apartment that future tenants will likely consider as they decide to fork over their money to live in your former pad. There are four key areas: kitchen, bathroom, windows & walls, and floors (carpet, linoleum, hardwoods). A few basic hacks in these areas can help you get as much money as possible back from your apartment security deposit as you move on to your next chapter. And, if you’re looking to save even more cash (and buy yourself a little extra time to focus on your cleaning hacks), book a Dolly. We make moving suck less by offering guaranteed, instant estimates—and local apartment moves, or just a bit of strong labor to get you in and out of your truck.
As you steel yourself to tackle the final cleaning, you’ll need a few things you may not already have:
- White Vinegar
- Baking Soda
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Dish Soap (Dawn)
- Lemon Oil & Lemon Juice
Whether or not you’re a budding chef, you’ve probably spent a lot of time storing, cleaning, and throwing away food and beverages in your kitchen. It’s messy business, and over time can lead to standard build up even a weekly clean can’t fix.
Cleaning Glass & Other Cooktops
Use a razor blade for cleaning glass cooktops. With protective work gloves (or a thick sock turned inside out), lightly scrape any caked or baked-on food and liquid off the glass. Then, spray with vinegar, let sit five minutes and wipe clean. For those metal pans under electric coils, cover them with an ample dusting of baking soda and a heavy spray of white vinegar. Let sit five minutes and then wipe clean. And, if they’re just too dirty (or annoying) to clean, you can pick up new ones for a fraction of the cost your landlord will likely charge. For gas stoves, the ole’ vinegar and baking soda mixture works too. But add a touch of lemon oil to give the surface a nice smell and a nice sheen.
Clean Your Cabinets
Cabinets can get grimy over time due to cooking oil in the air—and it’s tough to get that kind of grime off with soap and water. So, make a paste with two parts baking soda and one part coconut oil and scrub in circles with a toothbrush. This will both clean your cabinets and give them a fresh-gloss. Rinse off the concoction with a mixture of warm water and a drop or two of dish soap.
Microwave Cleaning Hacks
Splatters and smells can make your microwave a scary place, and a pretty easy place to lose your money. So, fill a small bowl half with water and half with vinegar. Squeeze half a lemon into the bowl and throw in the rind. Microwave for three minutes and then leave the door closed for another five. The steam will do wonders. Then, simply open it up and wipe down the interior with a cloth.
A Tidy Refrigerator
It’s likely you didn’t inherit a brand new fridge, which means it’s all that much older now that you’re done with it. Nothing worse than the small of a stale refrigerator. To clean surfaces and diminish any smells, add a dusting of baking soda to shelves and other flat surfaces, and then spray a misting of vinegar over the top. You’ll see it fizz a bit. Once it settles, wipe clean with a cloth. If you have an extra box of baking soda, consider leaving it in the fridge door until you move out.
Getting a Stain-Free Oven
Using the oven’s “clean” feature can make your place hot and smelly. And while it makes a nice little ash of all the baked on grime you can just scoop out, there’s actually a better way to clean your oven before moving out. Simply make a paste of baking soda and water and spread over the surface of the oven. Let it sit overnight and then wipe clean the next day. For any problem areas on day two, use baking soda and spray with vinegar. Let it sit while it fizzes up, and then wipe clean. Repeat until you have all the tough spots done!
Scum-Free Shower Doors
If you have hard water stains that Windex can’t crack, fill a spray bottle with white vinegar, a squeeze of lemon (from the other half of your cut lemon), and a tablespoon of Dawn dish soap. Spray on the door, let sit a minute, and wipe clean. This also works wonders on bathroom sink faucets and handles
Easy Way to Unclog Your Drain
Have a troublesome clogged drain you’ve been meaning to fix and cringe at the thought of buying caustic drain cleaner? Time to turn again to your handy mixture of baking soda and vinegar! Mix a half cup of each before pouring down your drain. Put a pot of hot water on the stove and when it hits a boil (after 5 minutes or so), pour it on down the drain. Voila, no clog!
A Squeaky Clean Bathtub
If you have a tub, and actually used it, you’ll want to clean any bathtub rings that formed during your tenure. If you’ve exhausted all the scrubbing concoctions under the sun and they just haven’t worked, try this: Cut a lemon in half and dip the cut side into a plate of salt. Apply to the bath ring and scrub in circles until the ring disappears.
Get Rid of Tile Grout Stains
Tile grout collects a lot of water and soap scum and can feel impossible to clean. The answer: Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Bleach. Just add a line of the cleaner to each line of stained or discolored grout and scrub with a hard brush. You’ll never use anything else to clean grout again. Seriously, it’s a miracle.
Windows & Walls
Personalizing your pad to make it homey, you probably decorated the walls. And, while glass is often dirty through no fault of your own, they take up a lot of space and can clearly show dirt and grime you leave behind as you move out.
Paper towels and even nice kitchen towels always leave behind fibers and fuzzies, no matter how hard you scrub. So, grab a newspaper and use it with Windex as you normally would, spraying on a mist, and wiping down the glass until there are no smears or smudges (and before the annoying blue drip reaches the window frame, where newsprint might actually leave an ink stain on anything white).
Hacks for Wall Hangings
You probably put a lot of effort into getting those picture hangers into studs, right? Problem is, they’re not so easy to get out. Instead of damaging the walls, wrap a rubber band around a hammer, which will prevent any scuffing when you’re using the nail remover.
Patch Holes In Your Wall
And for those remaining nail holes, use a bit of white toothpaste (not the blue gel!) and wipe it with a paper towel. It has the same effect as the nail-hole filler you buy at the hardware store and will save you some cash. Toothpaste also works wonders any any pen marks or other colored smudges on painted walls.
You walk on them, dance on them, and sometimes probably even sleep on them. So, they’re dirty. And a vacuum and broom often aren’t enough for getting the true grit and grime that landlords look for when dipping into your deposit.
Get Rid of Carpet Dents
If you had a heavy piece of furniture on your carpet (ahem, anything from Restoration Hardware), it likely left dents. While it’s not technically damage, it doesn’t look good and could dip into your deposit. To remove dents, place ice cubes atop each one, let them melt, and then use a large metal spoon to straighten the fibers. And, bonus, you can use the cubes from your freezer clean out!
Get Stains Out of the Carpet
Hydrogen peroxide is a miracle stain cleaner and can work wonders for removing stains from carpets and other upholstery. For any troublesome and obvious carpet stains, try diluting one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water and a drop or two of lemon oil. Add to a spray bottle and test an out-of-the-way area of carpet to be sure it doesn’t bleach the fibers. If you’re good to go, spray down the stains, let sit for a few minutes and then hit it with a scrub brush. Repeat until the stains are out! Also—it works really well with removing red wine stains. So, ya know, remember that for future parties.
Removing Scuff Marks from Hardwood
If you had lovely hardwoods in your place and weren’t totally vigilant about removing your shoes, you’ll likely have some scuff marks to attend to. Fixing them is easy. Buy a tennis ball, cut a hole in one end and push a broom handle down into it. Then, pretend you’re Fred Astaire armed with an umbrella in Singing in the Rain, and spin around the kitchen removing scuffs with the ball.
Images source: ConsistentClean