Apartment Cleaning Tips: Get Your Deposit Back

A Marine unloads boxes.
A U.S. Marine with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa 19.2, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, unloads boxes. (U.S. Marine Corps/Mark Morrow Jr.)

As an active duty service member, there's a good chance you've lived in a series of apartments all over the United States -- depending on where you've been stationed. Buying a home was never an option -- until now. Making this decision is just the first step in an exciting new journey for you and your family. The next step is figuring out how to get 100% of your deposit back when you leave your apartment.

Ideally, you'd have all of your belongings moved into your new place before you start cleaning the apartment. However, the luxury of moving out while still having the time to come back and clean isn't one that's often afforded in military life. If you get PCS orders, you could be moving in a couple of months or a couple of weeks.

So in order to help maximize your time while ensuring you get as much of your security deposit back as possible, we've compiled a list of tips and tricks to help you get your apartment into top shape.

Kitchen cleaning tips

Working from the top of the kitchen down, start by wiping off the cabinets. If your apartment has wood cabinets, make sure to use a wood-safe cleaner. Take out the items in the cabinets and, either using a hand vacuum or brush and dustpan, sweep out the inside of the cabinets.

Next, start cleaning the appliances. Clean out the fridge and microwave with a natural, safe cleaner -- taking each part out and washing it off. Don't forget to also wipe down the outsides, too. Then use a foam oven cleaner, and scrub out the burnt pizza bits from the oven. Don't forget to scrub the sides and front of the oven.

Finally, sweep and mop the floors. Move out the appliances and clean behind them. Stuck-on food and dust probably collected over time, and if you haven't cleaned behind there before, prepare yourself for some potentially gross stuff.

Living room and bedroom cleaning tips

Unlike the kitchen, which contains a lot of additional hardware, bedrooms and living rooms are mostly just empty spaces with carpet or hardwood floors. However, there are still a few things to do in these rooms.

Using a dust-cleaning solution, make sure to wipe down any floorboards and ceiling fans. These areas collect a lot of dust, and generally we don't think about cleaning them because they're out of site. Also, make sure to check the corners for cobwebs.

To remove any stains from the carpet while avoiding the large expense of hiring professional floor cleaners, most hardware stores rent carpet steam cleaners. They're pretty inexpensive, easy to operate and get the job done well.

Bathroom cleaning tips

Start by scrubbing out the tub and sink with an abrasive cleaner to try and remove dirt, stains and any mildew that's grown in the corners or grout crevices. Then, wipe down the mirrors and faucets with a basic cleaner to bring back the shine. Finally, clean the countertops and area around the tub or shower.

Next move on to the toilet. If the bowl is a dingy yellow, consider purchasing an abrasive cleaner that'll scrub away the stain. Be cautious and be sure to avoid mixing any sort of ammonia cleaner with bleach. This is caustic and can actually cause burns to your nasal cavities, eyes and more.

Lastly, sweep and mop the floors, and you're done!

Don't forget the windows

As you go through each room, make sure to clean the inside and outside of the windows. If your landlord provided you with blinds or drapes for the windows, you might want to clean those, too, and replace them if they're broken. It's cheaper to replace them yourself. My first apartment complex took nearly $60 out of our deposit to replace two sets of broken vinyl window blinds that cost less than $10 at a mega store.

The idea is to try to make your apartment look as clean as it did the day you moved in. Taking the time to spruce it up before you leave can help you get most, if not all, of your deposit back.

If cleaning out your apartment seems like a daunting task, try to devote some time everyday to each room, instead of doing it all last minute.

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