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How to do a deep clean of a rental property

Femal landlord cleaning a shower with a squeegy

Whether you’re a tenant looking to get back their full deposit, or a landlord wanting to ensure their property is thoroughly clean before new tenants move in, this is a guide to help you do a proper job of deep cleaning a rental property.

If you’re a tenant, you need to leave the property in the same state of cleanliness as you found it, otherwise the landlord will be permitted to deduct the cost of a professional clean from your deposit. Unlike the decoration of the property, there is no concept of “fair wear and tear” when it comes to cleanliness. If carpets have worn during the tenancy, they should still be clean at the end of the tenancy.

For landlords, providing a clean home for tenants to live in is a fundamental part of being a good landlord. It doesn’t matter how the previous tenants left the property. Each new tenancy is a fresh slate, and landlords should strive to ensure the property is clean before the new tenants move in.

I’m a landlord who does their own deep cleans at the start of each tenancy, even if the tenant has left it clean enough to get their deposit back, or I’ve used a cleaning company where the tenant has not left it sufficiently clean. There’s always something that they’ll have missed.

Whether you’re a tenant who’s looking to do a professional standard clean, or a landlord who wants to make the property “sparkling clean” after a “good enough” clean from the tenant or cleaning company, doing a deep clean yourself can save you a lot of money. If you’re willing to put in the effort and have the time, of course. This practical blog post tells you how.

I share the benefit of my experience, starting with general tips, before moving onto discuss two problem areas: the bathroom and kitchen. I also include links to the products I use to save time and money.

This practical blog post is balanced and is suitable for landlords and tenants alike.

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How much does a professional deep clean cost?

Professional end of tenancy cleans are expensive. They start at around £25 an hour, although Foxtons quotes £285 for a one bedroom flat and £395 including carpets for a 3 bedroomed house, with an oven clean as an extra.

My Job Quote gives a more modest amount of £220-240 for a 3 bedroomed house.

Members of The Independent Landlord Community Facebook Group have reported £25 an hour in the North East, £200 for a deep clean including oven of a one bedroom flat in Brighton, and £295 for a deep clean, including oven, of a 4 bedroomed house after building work.

When I last used contract cleaners during the pandemic in 2021 in Kent, booked through my (then) letting agents, I paid £275 for a 3 bedroom house, plus £42 for an oven clean. Using the Bank of England Inflation calculator, that’s £330.15 and £50.42 respectively in today’s money.

Must tenants use a professional cleaner at the end of a tenancy?

No. Landlords cannot legally insert a clause into a Tenancy Agreement that requites tenants to use professional cleaners and/or professional carpet cleaners at the end of the tenancy. The reason for this is that the Tenant Fees Act 2019 prevents landlords from making it a contractual obligation for tenants to meet any conditions that could only be met by paying a fee for a third-party service.

However, it is legally possible for landlords to require cleaning to a “professional standard”. (See page 21 of the Guidance for Landlords on the Tenant Fees Act 2019 which states: ‘You may request that a property is cleaned to a professional standard”.)

What counts is whether the property is of the same standard from a cleanliness perspective, not the means for achieving the same level of cleanliness. Tenants can clean the property themselves at the end of the tenancy, and not use a cleaning company, so long as it’s cleaned to a professional standard.

>> Related Post: What deductions can landlords take from tenants’ deposits?

Why landlords should do a deep clean before a new tenancy

Providing a clean property at the start of a tenancy is part of being a good landlord.

Ensuring the property is thoroughly keen before the tenants move in will set the tenancy off on a good footing, helping to ensure the tenants are happy. Happy tenants stay longer and tend to look after the property better.

It also makes it easier to require a new tenant to leave the property clean at the end of their tenancy, assuming there is a detailed check-in inventory with photos that records that the property was cleaned to a professional standard at the start of a tenancy.

It’s a no brainer.

>> Related Post: How to attract good tenants and keep them happy

General tips for a successful deep clean of a rental property

cleaner wearing rubber gloves wiping down a top in the kitchen of an HMO

Here are tips to help landlords and tenants ensure the property is properly clean. The blog posts assumes for the most part that the property is unfurnished. If the property is furnished, all furniture and soft furnishings supplied by the landlord will need to be cleaned.

It’s far easier to clean everything properly if the rooms are empty, so if you’re a tenant, try to do the cleaning when you have pretty much everything packed. If the property is furnished, you will need to move furniture to clean behind it.

This is what you need to do for every room in the property, including the bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen, as appropriate:

1. Clean the walls and skirting boards

Walls often have grubby marks, and holes left from pictures or other fixings.

Take out all of the picture hooks or other fixings that are not for the next tenant, fill the holes, sand down, and repaint with the same paint. You might need more than one coat of paint.

Clean the walls, skirting boards and hand rails, and cover up any remaining scuffs with the correct paint. For small scuffs, a “wall eraser” such as this Mr Siga Melamine Sponge on Amazon, is great.

2. Windows and window coverings

Clean the windows inside and out, including the window ledge, sill and frame on both sides.

Any blinds or curtain poles/tracks supplied by the landlord may be dusty, and should be dusted with a small, clean brush or a damp cloth. Check the window coverings are working properly.

3. Cupboards, wardrobes, mantle pieces

Clean inside every cupboard and wardrobe, including on the top. Sometimes things are left on the top of cupboards or at the back of the bottom cupboards, out of sight. Make sure nothing is left behind.

Do clean all the mantle pieces and shelves.

4. Light fittings, plug sockets and light switches

Wipe or dust all light fittings, and make sure the plug sockets and light switches aren’t grubby.

I sometimes replace the pull cord for bathroom light switches if it’s a bit grubby. They are very inexpensive and you can upgrade the look by buying one with a smart pull handle, like this chrome one on Amazon

5. Make sure the carpets are clean

According to My Job Quote, a professional carpet clean for a two-bedroom terraced property would cost around £128 to £160, and £192 to £240 in a 3-bedroom semi-detached house. However, it is possible to do it yourself by hiring a carpet cleaner or buying one yourself (if you’re a landlord).

As a landlord, I always clean the carpets in between tenants. I stopped paying for expensive contractors in 2020 when I realised it’s relatively inexpensive to buy a carpet cleaner. I invested in this “Amazon’s choice” Vax carpet cleaner, which is now around £125. I use it to refresh the carpets myself in between tenants.

It’s paid for itself many times over, and is certainly a lot less hassle than having to organise for contractors to clean the carpet during the handover period, especially if I want to get the carpet clean before viewings.

A landlord cannot require a tenant to employ professional carpet cleaners, as that would infringe the Tenant Fees Act 2019. However, if the carpets were new or if they had been cleaned before the tenants moved in, they should clean the carpets to a “professional standard”.

Tenants may find it cheaper to hire a carpet cleaner than to pay a contractor (assuming they don’t want to buy a carpet cleaner.

Here are some tips to get that professional carpet clean finish yourself:

  • The carpets (and other flooring) should be the last thing you clean as they will be wet, and need time to dry.
  • Start on the top floor, if it’s a house with more than one floor, and the furthest room if it’s flat or a bungalow, and hoover the room.
  • For each room, start with the carpet cleaner in the furthest point, and gradually work towards the door. That way you don’t need to walk over wet carpet.
  • You will need to empty the “waste” cylinder regularly as it will soon fill up with dirty water. Youl’ll also need to top up the carpet cleaning solution (Amazon link to the one I use) and the clean water.
  • Leave the carpet to dry properly before walking on it, and make sure you work towards the front door!

6. Clean other flooring

Hoover and/or sweep laminate, wood, lino and tiling floors, before mopping the floor with an appropriate cleaner for the type of floor.

If there are wooden floor boards or laminate flooring, you can treat any scratches with various products such as this wood repair kit from Amazon.

As with carpet, be sure to clean towards your exit, so you don’t have to walk over the wet floor.

There are lots of “power mops” available for hard floors from an inexpensive but effective Flash Power Mop to a Vax Steam mop or an electric Vileda Steam Mop (Amazon links), which are good investments for landlords.

7. Ceilings

Make sure you look up! On the lower floors, check for water marks from leaks under the bathroom. (You can cover up with several coats of stain blocker and then normal ceiling paint).

An extendable duster with a long handle like this from Amazon is fab to remove any cobwebs from corners, and clean light fittings.

An easy hack for landlords to freshen up the ceiling is to replace lamp shades with something more contemporary.

How to clean a kitchen throughly

Clean grill pan in a rental property
A grill pan cleaned by my own fair hands, elbow grease, a scourer and Mr Muscle!

Kitchens are notorious for being left in a dreadful state, especially ovens, grill pans and the filters in extractor hoods.

Start with the worktops and counter tops, taps (check if they’re dripping), clearing the gunk out of u-bends, wiping out all the cupboards and shelves. Leave the cleaning of the flooring to last.

Here’s a checklist that explains how to clean the more challenging parts of a kitchen:

  • Oven, grill pan, shelves, hob and cooker.
    • A professional oven clean costs ranges from £55 in the North West to £87 in Greater London and £92 in the East of England, according to Checkatrade. A member of The Independent Landlord Community Facebook Group pays £60 in Maidstone.
    • They will almost certainly need cleaning, unless the tenants haven’t used them or have had a professional clean.
    • It takes a long time, so I always head straight to the oven and spray the oven, shelves and grill pan with something like Oven Pride or good old Mr Muscle. These are links to Amazon, but you can pick up oven cleaners at any supermarket.
    • If the oven really bad, this number 1 best selling non-scratch cleaning tool on Amazon is great for ovens, hobs and stoves.
    • The hob usually needs cleaning, especially if it’s a gas hob, with gas rings.
  • Extractor hood.
    • The filters are often filthy, clogged up with grease. Make sure you take them down and give them a thorough clean.
    • It’s easy to do this with washing up liquid, hot water and a stiff brush. You shouldn’t be able to see any yellow or brown grime by the end. It can take some time and elebow grease.
  • Fridge and freezer (if supplied by landlord)
    • If supplied by the landlord, check to see if they need defrosting. If they do, it will take some time, which is why it’s the second thing I check.
    • Turn off the power socket (do a PAT safety check of it while you’re at it).
    • For really iced up ones, I have been known to use a hairdryer to break up the ice…
    • Take out the drawers and give them a thorough clean (wash with washing up liquid in the sink), and put towels and or trays to catch the water.
    • Clean all the shelves and sides of the fridge and freezer. Clear out the drain at the back for “self-defrosting” fridges.
    • Switch off the appliances and leave them open once clean to prevent mould and smells.
  • Dishwasher (if supplied by landlord)
    • This dishwasher cleaner from Amazon or supermarkets is an easy solution to get it clean. (It’s a good idea to use something like this regularly).
    • Make sure you clean out the filter, and around the door of the dishwasher.
    • Check the plug (PAT test)
  • Washing machine and tumble dryer (if supplied by landlord)
    • Clean the doors, including the rubber rim, soap dispenser draw, drawer for condensing tumble dryerf, ri and clear the filters. Give them a good wipe.
    • please
    • ensure soap dispenser
    • drawer is free of powder and
    • loose mould, and rim of
    • washer door is clean
    • (hardened mold is acceptable
    • as this is a natural
    • occurrence with washing
    • machines).
    • Check the plug.
  • Small appliances (if supplied by landlord)
    • Make sure they are clean.
    • For instance, descale the kettle and remove marks from the outside, clean the microwave, empty the toaster of crumbs.
  • Rubbish bins.
    • Empty, clean and disinfect bins, and put it a new bin liner.

Tips to clean a bathroom

Bathrooms often take a lot of work to get back them to “sparkling clean”.

Here’s how to do a deep clean of a bathroom:

  • Basin taps, bath (mixer) taps and shower sprays, and shower heads and valve.
    • Descale and polish.
    • If landlord, check they are not dripping. If so, arrange for a plumber to fix or replace.
  • Waste – basin, shower trap and bath trap.
    • Clean out the shower trap to remove hair and debris.
    • If the pipe is slow running the landlord can clear out the drain trap (u-bend or p-trap) by removing the trap, by using a chemical drain unblocker, or manually with pipe cleaning brush tools to avoid chemicals (Amazon link).
    • Check the plug is working if it’s a push up / pop up plug.
  • Tiling, grouting and sealant.
    • The tiling will usually be a bit grubby, with discoloured grouting, mould, limescale and general dirt. Give it a very good clean.
    • There are lots of grouting revivers to make the grouting look cleaner, if you’re not going to hack it out and replace it. For instance, this Grout Reviver and Groutin – Tile Grout Paint.
  • Bath, bath screen or bath curtain.
    • I personally hate bath curtains, and always replace them with a bath screen when I buy a rental property. They are horrible to clean, so it’s usually simpler for the landlord to simply replace a bath or shower curtain.
    • Baths and showers will normally need thorough cleaning to get rid of the soap scum, limescale, skin and general debris.
    • A squidgy like this from Amazon is indispensable in cleaning bath or shower screens. I tend to buff them afterwards with a old clean towel to remove any streaks. There’s often a lot of limescale, so you might have to treat that with a strong limescale remover.
  • Toilet
    • One of the grimmer jobs…
    • The bowl is bound to have limescale. I swear by Harpic tablets, which you pop in the bowl and leave for as long as possible, before cleaning with a toilet brush. You can find them on that Amazon link or in the larger supermarkets.
    • Clean the whole thing thoroughly, including the waste pipes. It may take several goes.
    • If you’re a landlord, check the loo seat is not only clean, but it isn’t wobbly. If it’s been a long tenancy, it might be worth changing the loo seat.
    • I leave toilet brushes and loo roll holders for tenants, and replace the toilet brushes with each new tenancy.
  • Cabinet and mirrors
    • Clean thoroughly, inside and out. Sometimes I repaint them if they’re wooden as it refreshes them.
  • Extractor fan.
    • These get very grubby, and clogged with dust and grime. You can use the brush attachment from your hoover to remove it.

Don’t forget the hidden spaces

Make sure the loft, cellar and shed are clear of the tenants’ items and that they are left in a clean state.

Final thoughts

Cleaning is one of the least glamorous part of landlording and renting, but it’s crucial. No-one likes moving into a dirty home, and it is the responsibility of the landlord to make sure the property is clean. When I’ve used professional cleaners, I always go and do more, as they will miss things.

The one time I left it to the cleaners recommended by the agents to do (during the pandemic) was the time I got a whole host of photos from the new tenant who said the house was dirty. Cleaners also don’t keep an eye out for repairs.

Hopefully this blog post will give you an idea of what a proper job looks like!

PS Although not strictly related to cleaning, it’s a good idea for the landlord to test the carbon monoxide and smoke alarms when cleaning the property so they can replace them if they don’t work for any reason. Make sure the check-in inventory records that they have been tested.

How to do a deep clean of a rental property with image of woman cleaning a shower

6 thoughts on “How to do a deep clean of a rental property”

  1. Deep cleans cost north of £360 for London, 3 bed apartment.
    I find everyone forgets to clean the hob extractor fan but good professional companies will go back and do things that have been missed.
    I think it’s always good to start a tenancy with a professional standard clean before new tenants are in. Makes everything feel nicer for the tenants and starts off in the right footing. First couple of weeks there are always a few snagging points by new tenants.
    I would also add to your list to ensure all alarms are working.

  2. What a fantastic list with tips on products too. I send my outgoing tenants a cleaning checklist which they tick and I counter-tick when the property is ‘handed over’. Thanks to your list above, I will modify with the tips on the cleaning items you mentioned.

  3. At home, when I put a cleaner through the dishwasher (roughly once a month), I put the filters from the cooker hood in the machine. Also the trivets from the (gas) hob and the little covers from each burner (in the cutlery basket). If you have a dishwasher in your rental, it’s probably worthwhile running a good quality cleaner through it anyway – and putting the filters in at the same time.
    I also put the cooker racks in the dishwasher.

  4. I find Soda Crystals are fantastic at dissolving the grease on cooker hood filters. You can get them for about £1.50 a 1kg pack, available from pound shops and supermarkets.

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