The Ultimate List Of Dos and Don’ts For an End Of Tenancy Cleaning

updated: 29/01/2024


Kid Mopping the Floor

One of the biggest jobs involved in moving house is doing the big final clean-up. This is important any time that you move out, but it’s doubly important when you move out of a rental property. In most cases, it is a legal requirement, part of any Assured Shorthold Tenancy in London (and the whole of the UK, for that matter), that the tenants must employ the services of a professional end of tenancy cleaning company or carry out a deep clean to a similar standard themselves. 

You want that deposit money back, don’t you? Bad cleaning is the number one reasons why tenants don’ get their deposit (or all of their deposit) back again. Argh, the dreaded deposit deductions at the end of the tenancy… Why did I have to drink red wine on the couch (lol)?

Regardless of the type of rental property you are vacating (ok, I agree some properties have different cleaning needs than others), landlords across London have similar standards and inspection criteria. We’ll assume that you’re a reasonable person rather than a slob who allowed dogs to poop on the carpet and teenagers to graffiti or smash the walls – that’s the other reason why landlords don’t give the deposit back to former tenants, but we won’t go into that here.

You’ve already got a lot to think about when moving house – packing up all your bits and pieces, contacting all the utility providers about disconnecting the power and internet at one house and getting it put on at the other, sorting out schools and bus routes in the new neighbourhood, etc. End of tenancy cleaning is certainly a hassle, but it can be done with the right attitude and the right plan (and the right tools, of course). All the same, nobody’s going to blame you if you call in the experts to do the job for you (see below).

DIY vs Professional End of Tenancy Cleaning Firm

Cleaning Stainless Steel Sink with Pink Rubber Gloves

In this article I am providing helping points to assist you with the clean if you are doing it yourself. Even though employing a professional cleaning company guarantees you a “pass” come inventory checking time (most companies market themselves online, just a quick Google search, and you will find plenty), having a crack at a DIY clean is also doable. It’s definitely worth going down that route if your budget has been severely constrained by good times, lol.

Professional cleaners will generally do a better job than you (no offence), and it will take them less time. Their services come at a premium cost, but most of the reputable end of tenancy cleaning companies in London will guarantee their work and will resolve any issues with their service if the landlord or their appointed inventory clerk raises any concerns.

If you are time-poor (many people value their time, which is perfectly fine) and can afford professional deep cleaning help – definitely go for that option. In all other cases, DIY, even though riskier, more difficult, and more labour and time-intensive, is your way to go.

To help you get organised, we’ve put together a list of the most important dos and don’ts relating to end of tenancy cleaning that you need to bear in mind.

End of Tenancy Cleaning Dos

Let’s get started on a positive note – it always pays to be positive, especially when you have such a big job to tackle.

Do Get Help

Two Females Cleaning and Tidying a Bedroom

Doing the moving out cleaning is a huge job. There is no way that you can do it alone and get it completely right and stay sane. You will need help of some kind. You could hire a team of professional cleaners to come and do your end of tenancy cleaning. This is certainly very easy and straightforward and is often well worth the cost – which might not be as high as you think. Alternatively, you can get friends and relatives to help you with the moving out cleaning (some are likely to volunteer to help – accept their offer even if you are hiring professional end of tenancy cleaners, as they’ll be able to help you shift your household goods). Don’t overlook your children – getting them to help with the cleaning work may help bring closure and help them process the emotional upheaval (I won’t quite call it trauma).

Do Take Photos

One of the most useful things you can have when it comes to cleaning well enough to keep the landlord happy and get your deposit money back is a set of photos showing what the place looked like when you moved in. Of course, if you neglected this simple step right at the start of your tenancy, you’ve got a bit of a problem, as time machines are hard to come by. You now know for next time!

However, having those photos handy is very useful. When you move into a new rental, take photos of exactly how you found the place. Pay particular attention to anything that isn’t quite up to scratch – spots of paint on the lino in the kitchen, mould in the bathroom, grubby carpets, etc. Make sure you photograph these – and let the landlord know straight away. If you’re lucky, he or she will get it cleaned up for you. Even if you have to clean it yourself, you have a record of what it looked like when you moved in. This is the standard of cleaning you have to meet at a minimum to get your deposit back. However, you might want to go beyond this.

Do Use A Checklist

One of the secrets to why professional end of tenancy cleaning companies are able to work so efficiently is that they know exactly what needs to be done to get a place up to standard. This isn’t just because they do this sort of thing every day for a living. It’s also because they use a checklist.

You can apply the same principle if you’re doing your own moving out cleaning. With a checklist, each member of the team knows what needs to be done. Once the task has been done, it gets ticked off. You don’t run the risk of two people independently trying to clean the same thing twice (“Well, it looks pretty clean, but I’d better wipe down the inside of the bath just in case.”) or the much worse situation when everybody on the team thinks that somebody else has decreased the range hood, meaning that nobody has done it.

Do Prepare the Correct Cleaning Equipment and Supplies

A Mop, Broom and a Dust Pan

Very, very important step. Do not skimp on good-quality tools and cleaning materials. If you can, buy professional cleaning supplies from a commercial supplier. Don’t rely on Mr. Muscle to get rid of years of grime. You need something stronger and more effective. Professional cleaning tools are also a good idea (most likely available from the same supplier you are getting your cleaning products from). They are designed to tackle stains, dirt and grime on a daily basis, so definitely better than supermarket-sold stuff. 

Once you are done with your end of tenancy clean, you get to keep your tools for use in your next rental property instead of buying a new set.

Do Be Systematic

It’s best to have a plan when you clean rather than just doing odd cleaning jobs randomly when they occur to you (this won’t happen quite so often with a checklist, which is another reason why you should use one). You can work room by room or category by category (all the ceilings, all the windows, all the carpets, etc.). All the same, plan which rooms you can do first and which you can do last. The ones to do first are the ones that won’t be used during the process of moving out and doing the moving out cleaning: bedrooms, spare bedrooms, offices and the like. The ones to do last are the ones that you will need to use during the big day, such as the toilet and the kitchen. Do these last to avoid the problem of someone using the loo just after you’ve cleaned it.

Do Get Creative With The Vacuum Cleaner

Yellow Vacuum Cleaner On Rug

Your vacuum cleaner is useful for more jobs than just getting the dust out of the carpet. If you have the sort that has a hose and a nozzle, you can clean in all sorts of ways, especially if your vacuum has a crevice tool or what my mum always referred to as a “nosey parker” attachment. Vacuum cleaners can be used to remove debris from under the sofa cushions (great if you rented a furnished flat), dust from ceiling fans and ventilators, balls of fluff and mouse turds from obscure cupboards, etc.

Do Be Kind To Yourself (And Your Helpers)

If the job really is too much for you, it’s no shame to you if you opt to hire a team of professionals, even if you’ve done part of the cleaning work yourself. It’s a stressful time, so be kind to yourself. If you do plunge on and do your own end of tenancy cleaning with help from friends and relatives, plan a treat for everybody once the job has been done. A classy pizza and a bottle of plonk usually do the trick – just remember to dispose of the boxes properly.

End of Tenancy Cleaning Don’ts

There are also some things that you have to remember not to do if you attempt to do your own end of tenancy cleaning.

Don’t Panic

Knowing that someone is going to come in and judge how well you’ve cleaned somewhere, with a fair sum of money riding on that judgment, is scary. This is why quite a lot of people opt to get a professional team in to do it – they know what needs to be done, and most landlords are satisfied with what reputable companies do. However, a landlord cannot insist that you call in professional cleaners to do the end of tenancy cleaning – that’s the law in the UK. You can opt to do it yourself, so don’t panic about whether your budget will stretch (and if you do want to get a professional, don’t panic about that either – we’re not that expensive, all things considered).

If you do it yourself, the requirement is that you get the place up to the standard of cleaning that you found it in. You do not have to get the place looking brand new and show the home perfect. If you’ve lived in the house for a few years, the carpets will get a bit more worn, the wallpaper will fade, and the paint will crack. It’s not your job to take care of fixing ordinary wear and tear, so don’t panic if the house looks a bit older and worn than it did when you moved in. As long as you clean up what you can and you haven’t damaged anything, all should be well.

Don’t Pack Your Cleaning Tools

Woman Vacuuming Carpet

This one kind of goes without saying, but it does happen from time to time. You’ve been so keen to pack up all your goods and send them to the new house that you didn’t stop to think that you’ve still got the cleaning to go. Your team of helpers has turned up, and it’s only now that you discover that the broom with the really long handle and all the buckets are on the back of Uncle Jason’s trailer halfway to Croydon. Don’t be that person. When you plan your end of tenancy cleaning checklist, make a note (mental, on paper or digital) about the equipment and products you’ll need to do the job. This includes things like old towels and rags – don’t use all of yours to pad the best china but save some for cleaning.

Don’t Try To Declutter Or Pack At The Same Time

Packing is packing. Decluttering is decluttering. Cleaning is cleaning. These are separate jobs, and you really won’t work all that efficiently if you try to clean and pack at the same time – or, even worse, try to clean, pack and declutter all at once. Sure, it seems like a great idea to clean out that wardrobe straight after you’ve taken all your clothes and shoes out of it, but it never works in practice. Save all the cleaning for one big hit once all the bits and pieces are out of the way, and do it all in one day.

Don’t Forget The Odd Spots

During regular domestic cleaning, we tend to skimp on some spots and not clean them. Range hood and ceiling fans, we’re looking at you, plus some other spots. However, they have to be cleaned as part of end of tenancy cleaning. Here are some of the other most commonly overlooked spots:

  • Insides of white goods such as washing machines and dishwashers: these need cleaning too, especially if they are included in the chattels or fixtures
  • door handles, light switches and stair rails
  • weird marks on walls, such as fly spots, sticky tape marks and the like (these often come off with a gentle microfibre cloth plus some detergent
  • underneath where the big heavy furniture and white goods go
  • backs of white goods – these can collect a lot of dust
  • behind radiators
  • curtains
  • under sofa cushions.

Don’t Think It Doesn’t Matter

As a sequel to the tip about the odd spots, don’t think that you can get away with not cleaning those odd spots on the grounds that nobody will notice them. Nobody ever looks at the top of the ceiling fans or minds about fly spots on the walls, right? However, you can bet your last pound (in fact, you are betting your deposit, sort of) that the landlord will notice during the final inspection (see below for more on this one). When there’s nothing in the house, and you haven’t seen it before (in the case of a new tenant) or for a long time (in the case of a landlord), then these little things stand out like a lily on a pile of charcoal. So no cutting corners – do them! If you really don’t want to, then get a professional end of tenancy cleaning company to do the job for you.

Don’t Neglect The Ceiling

Ceilings are easy to forget, as are all the things that are attached to the ceiling, such as light bulbs and fans. However, these still collect dust and fly spots, cobwebs, etc., so they’ll need to be cleaned before you move out. It’s wise to clean these parts of the room first, gravity being what it is, so that any dust you dislodge while dusting the ceiling fans falls down onto something you haven’t cleaned yet, rather than all over a nicely cleaned floor.

Be safe when you clean the ceiling. Use a proper stepladder or stool rather than messing around with stacks of chairs. Stand on the table if you have to, if it’s sturdy enough. But no amount of deposit money is worth a stay in hospital with a broken arm or worse. Use proper techniques when you’re up the ladder, and don’t reach out further than you can balance safely. Also, make sure that the lights are switched off when you work around them. If liquid is involved, switch the power off at the mains if you can.

Don’t Balk At The Oven

Deep Cleaning Oven Door Glass with a Yellow Sponge and Oven Cleaning Product

The oven is probably the most dreaded part of moving out cleaning. Oven cleaning is tough, and it’s no surprise that this is one job that a lot of people often don’t even bother with the end of tenancy cleaning time. Whether you prefer the method involving harsh chemicals or the natural cleaning method involving baking soda, it’s going to involve a lot of elbow grease. You can cheat a little bit by turning the oven on full for about 15 minutes so all the muck stuck to the sides can burn off (this is how self-cleaning ovens work). Do this before applying cleaning chemicals, make sure the kitchen is well-ventilated (there will be a small amount of smoke) and wait until it’s cooled down completely before trying any further steps. Tackle this job when you’ve got plenty of energy, and keep yourself going by listening to an interesting podcast or two. It’s possible to get a professional cleaning service in just to clean the oven if you really can’t or don’t want to go to all the effort of scrubbing out all that baked-on crud.

Don’t Underestimate The Final Property Inspection

Because end of tenancy is scary and stressful for a lot of people, it could be tempting to just send the keys to the landlord and walk away, crossing your fingers that all goes well at the final property inspection. However, it’s wise to be there for that inspection (also called “inventory check”) if you possibly can (at times, this isn’t possible if you have to start a new job at the other end of the country as soon as possible or if the landlord is away or ill when you need to move out). This way, if the landlord notices anything that isn’t quite up to standard or that you’ve forgotten to clean (you should have used a checklist!), then you should have a chance to get busy and take care of the problem as soon as possible. 

Eight or nine times out of ten, the landlord will be fine about giving your deposit back if you take care of these things you have overlooked – the tenth won’t, but he or she still won’t be able to hold back all of your deposit just to clean a few tiny things.

About the author 

Nick Vassilev

Nick blogs about cleaning and digital marketing. He is a cleaning SEO expert. He is also an NCCA-certified carpet cleaner. Founder of Anyclean and Vaza Marketing.