Ultimate Pre-Listing Deep Clean Checklist for Homesellers

cleaning checklist
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It’s advice you will hear from any good real estate agent. Even if you choose not to formally stage your home for sale it has to be sparkling clean. That’s great advice, even if your home is primarily being shown virtually. But what do we, as agents, really think a deep pre-listing clean should involve? That is what we are going to discuss here today.

Why is Cleaning a Home For Sale Such a Big Deal?

For many buyers who suspect maintenance issues lurking under the grime, a dirty house is a red flag. The unspoken signal sent by a spotless home is that yours is a well-maintained house.

One choice for getting the job done is to employ a cleaning crew. You could be looking at a full day job with a multi-person team depending on the square-footage and cleanliness of your house. The average hourly charged by a professional cleaner is around $64 to $116, which can add up to the hundreds to get the job done. So often you are better off rolling up your sleeves and doing most of the work yourself.

To help you ensure that all your bases are covered as you undertake a prelisting clean up, we’ve created this big list of tips.

Pre-clean prep: Gather cleaning supplies

Before you get started, take another look around your home to assess any special materials or surfaces, like leather, brass or granite that might be damaged by traditional cleaning solutions.

Also make note of any areas that might need extra help, such as grimy grout or carpet or upholstery stains as the chances are that you’ll need specialty tools or solutions to tackle them.

Once you know what you’ll need, ensure that you have all the right cleaning supplies so that nothing stops you once your cleaning mode momentum kicks in and your deep clean operation is underway.

Here’s a list of all the deep cleaning supplies you need for the job:
Your deep clean essentials supply checklist:

  • Microfiber Cleaning Cloths
  • Tub Scrubber
  • Reusable Rubber Cleaning Gloves
  • All Purpose Cleaner
  • Multi-Surface Floor Cleaner
  • Magic Eraser type tool
  • Glass Cleaner
  • Dusters: Duster cloths, extendable wand duster, electronics duster spray
  • Antibacterial Cleaner
  • Oven Cleaner
  • Scrub Sponges
  • Paper Towels
  • Vacuum
  • Mop/Bucket
  • Angle Broom With Dust Pan

Optional Supplies for Serious Cleaners:

  • Swiffer Wet Jet
  • Linseed Oil
    This is the recommended cleaning treatment for unsealed wood floors, furnishings, and cabinetry.
  • Carpet and Upholstery Stain Remover
  • Stone Sealant
    This is great for cleaning some high end tile and counter tops, like granite or quartzite, but not all. Check out the needs of your specific counter top material before you buy/use a product though.
  • Guardsman Water Mark Remover
    If you’ve got water spots or rings on your sealed woods, Guardsman can take care of them.

Diving into the Deep Clean

Tempting as it may be to tackle one room at a time from top to bottom, this isn’t the best way to use your time most efficiently. There are some tasks that are best to complete in one shot throughout the entire house, such as dusting, vacuuming and mopping.

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That way you’re only carrying the supplies for one task throughout the house at a time, rather than hauling all of your cleaning tools to each room at once.

Don’t try to knock out the big whole-house jobs first though!

As you take on the smaller cleaning jobs in each room, chances are you’ll kick up dust and dislodge dirt as you clean. If you vacuum and dust the whole house first, you’ll have to do it again once you’ve thoroughly cleaned each room.

Six Steps to a Sparkling Kitchen

Step 1: Countertops

Remove everything from the countertops and anything hanging on the cabinets or appliances.

Step 2: Appliances

Scrub down the appliances, cabinets, and counters, including the cabinet pulls, by spraying them with the multi-surface antibacterial spray designed for glass and metals, not the dusting multi-surface spray.

Spraying directly on the surfaces softens hardened or sticky stains, making them easier to wipe away with the paper towels, microfiber clothes, or non-scratch sponges.

Note: if you have a specialty countertop material like marble or granite, you’ll want to skip the antibacterial spray on your counters and follow proper stone care procedures.

Step 3: Declutter

Next, restock the countertops, making them look as neat as possible. This includes tucking smaller appliances, like blenders and coffee pots, into cabinets in order to maximize your counter space.

You should also consider arranging countertop items in small, attractive groups using the interior design rule of threes.

Step 4: Fridge

Empty out your refrigerator so you can wipe down the interior and exterior with soap, water and a sponge. Bring in the non-scratch scouring pad for any stuck-on stains, then finish up with the disinfectant cleaner.

Restock your fridge after tossing any old or seldom-used products.

Step 5: Stovetop and Oven

For baked-on messes in the oven, one option is to run the automatic oven cleaner which heats the interior up to 900 degrees to burn off any spills, leaving only ashes to be wiped out with a non-scratch sponge and water once it’s done and cooled.

However, this option can be hard on the appliance itself and cause excessive smoke. If you do opt for this method, make sure you remove the oven racks before running the cycle or risk them discoloring or becoming hard to slide.

When in doubt, leave the racks out. Also leave out the oven cleaner if you’re using the automatic setting, as the heat can release toxic fumes from the cleaner or cause cleaner residue to bake onto your oven.

As an alternative to your oven’s auto-clean setting, consider using an oven cleaning solution and a non-scratch sponge. Let the cleaner set on stubborn drips and stains for several minutes to soften up set, baked-on spills before wiping them away.

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Step 6: Dishwasher

Scrub out the dishwasher just as thoroughly as you cleaned the refrigerator and oven, taking the time to remove and clean the racks as well.

If you’ve got an issue with dishwasher odor, running an empty cycle with a natural deodorizer, such as a cup of baking soda, a cup of vinegar or several lemon peels should help solve the problem.

3 Simple Steps a Beautifully Clean Bathroom

Step 1: Toilet

First, coat the interior of the toilet bowl with the toilet bowl cleaner, letting it sit for several minutes while you’re at other tasks so it can dissolve any tough stains. Then scrub the bowl with a toilet brush and flush the remaining cleaner.

Step 2: Sink and bathtub

Spray the multi-surface antibacterial disinfectant spray directly onto the sink and the exterior of the tub and toilet. Wipe them down, moving from the sink to the tub exterior to the toilet, to ensure that you don’t transfer any harmful bacteria from the toilet to the sink where you brush your teeth. Disposable paper towels are advisable over microfiber cloths for this task for the same sanitary reasons.

Step 3: Mirrors, glass, and faucets

Use glass cleaner on shower doors and the mirrors for the best streak-free results. Wipe the surfaces down with paper towels, then polish the sleek surfaces with a microfiber cloth.

Glass cleaner is a great way to give faucets an extra shine once they’ve been disinfected.

Whole House Cleaning Time

When you’re performing one cleaning task throughout the house, it’s best to take them on in a logical order. You don’t want to clean something and then mess it up as you make your way through the house. The ideal order of operations in a home’s deep clean is:

  • Scrub the Walls
  • Dust All the Things!
  • Sweep the Floors
  • Vacuum the Carpets
  • Mop

Here’s how to get it done

Step 1: Scrub the walls

Start out with a bucket of soapy water and a large sponge to wipe down all the baseboards, door and window frames. As you work, check the walls from floor to ceiling so you can wipe out any noticeable dirt. Bring along the Magic Eraser too and take out scuffs as you find them.

Step 2: Dust all the things!

Next, you’re ready to dust the whole house with the multi-surface dusting cleaner and microfiber cloths. Unlike cleaning in the hard surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom, for this job you need to spray your cleaner onto your cleaning cloths, not directly onto surfaces.

The excessive dampness caused by direct spraying can leave stains on wood and leak into vents, causing damage to electronics.

Work high to low, starting with ceiling fans and the tops of bookshelves on down, so that any falling dust bunnies won’t land on anything you’ve already cleaned.

Pro-tip: You can use an electronics duster on more than just electronics. Bring it in to blow dirt out of small crevices everywhere, from electronic fan vents to the dirt trapped in sliding door tracks.

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Step 3: Sweep the floors

Sweep hard surface floors first, then vacuum after to catch any dirt kicked into carpeted spaces after sweeping. Utilize the vacuum’s hose and attachments to go after any hard to reach areas.

Use an extendable wand duster on ceiling cobwebs, to grab dirt under heavy furniture and to pull crumbs out of furniture cushions.

Use the upholstery attachment to pull dust out of furniture and to freshen dusty drapery. Wrap up by mopping all floors with the mop, bucket, and the cleaning liquid for floors as per the directions on the packaging. Note that this is only for tile and linoleum floors as wet-mopping is too damp for hardwood and laminate floors.

Move from living spaces to the kitchen and wrap up in the bathroom for optimum sanitation. Remember, if you’re not using a disposable mop head, sanitize the mop once the bathroom floors are finished.

Final Touches

In the hours before any prospective buyers and their agents show up, spot check the entire house and tuck away any clutter that’s made its way back out of hiding.
Before you do anything else, make sure to:

  • Make all beds
  • Straighten the throw pillows in the living room
  • Put away your shoes, jackets, papers, toiletries, and other sundries

Got that stuff all straightened up? Good.

Now, give all kitchen and bathroom surfaces a quick wipe down with a microfiber cloth, and check mirrored surfaces to eliminate last-minute streaks.

Spot vacuum all carpets and rugs, and sweep up any visible dirt on hard surface floors. In your final walkthrough, check that you’ve hidden away any fragile or valuable items so they aren’t broken or lost during the open house.

Extra Tips for Pet Parents

  • Clear out the most obvious signs of your non-human friends! This will expand your pool of potential buyers to include non-pet owners.
  • For the open house, remove your pets and their paraphernalia, such as beds, food dishes, beds, cages and litter boxes from the main areas of the home. Wash pet beds with an enzymatic cleaner.
  • For pets that shed, remove as much hair as you can with your vacuum
  • To remove lingering pet smells, sprinkle baking soda on trouble spots on your carpet and furniture, let it sit for 30-60 minutes, and then vacuum it up.

Deep cleaning might seem like a massive undertaking to tackle on your own but with the right supplies and a strategic plan you’ll have your agent asking which cleaning crew you hired to get your home so sparkling clean. And you’ll be able to do is smile (and spend some of that money you saved on a treat for yourself for all that hard work.)