How to Clean Your New Home

No matter how clean the previous occupants left it, you should give your new home a thorough cleaning. Here's how to go about it.

Whether you’re doing it for the first time or the fifth time, moving into a new house or apartment is an exciting, stressful and emotional process. But before you can fling open the front door and start unpacking boxes, there’s an important task that almost every home requires — a thorough cleaning.

Even if the previous owners or tenants left the home in good shape, most new homeowners or renters feel better giving their home their own deep cleaning — one that includes places the former occupants might have overlooked. If you’re taking possession of a new home, you’ll still want to do some basic cleaning first.

“It’s best to clean your new home before you move anything in,” says Molly Maid president Vera Peterson. “The cleaning will come much easier without all your belongings filling the space or you having to spend time moving furniture around.”

Although moving schedules can be tight, try to schedule your cleaning at least one full day after you have keys in hand but before the movers arrive. Come over in the morning with a bucket of cleaning supplies, including sprays for windows and surfaces, dish soap, floor cleaner, tub, toilet and tile cleaner, plus a toilet brush, cleaning gloves, microfiber cloths, sponges and paper towels. Bring along a stepladder, a broom, a vacuum and a mop.

Molly Maid offers a list of basic supplies and tools you’ll need for that first deep cleaning. Don’t forget to bring water, snacks and toilet paper — three essentials for a long day of cleaning! Then follow our plan for how to clean your new home.

Start with High-Contact Areas

Start with the two most high-touch areas of your new home, the kitchen and bathrooms. Then move on to everything else.

In the kitchen

  • Throw out any food that was left behind.
  • Clean the refrigerator and freezer first because you’ll want to unpack your perishable foods first thing. A 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water works as a cleaning agent and also sanitizes the freezer and fridge. Make sure you take out all the drawers and shelves and wash them in hot soapy water. Put it all back together once everything is completely dry.
  • Clean any other appliances, including the oven, dishwasher and built-in microwave. (Note: Cleaning an oven doesn’t have to involve harsh chemicals.) Where possible, pull appliances away from the wall and clean under and behind them.
  • Before tackling the cook-top, clean the exhaust fan, including removing and cleaning the filter.
  • Start high and work your way down. If there’s a space between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling, climb the stepladder, vacuum and wipe down the cabinet tops. While you’re up there, clean the top of the fridge, plus ceiling fan blades and light fixtures.
  • Working down, clean cupboard interiors with a spray cleaner or a vinegar and water solution. Wipe down the inside and outside of cabinet doors and clean cabinet handles or knobs. Repeat the process for drawers and lower cabinets.
  • Clean and sanitize the countertop, sink and faucet.

In the bathrooms

  • Work from the top down, starting with cleaning ventilation fans, light fixtures and the tops of any mirrors and cabinetry.
  • Clean and disinfect the shower and/or tub. Follow our tips for tough bathtub stains, cleaning shower doors and choosing the best bathroom cleaning products. If the shower or tub has a curtain, replace it with a new one.
  • Clean out and wipe down the inside and outside of upper and lower cabinets and drawers. Vinegar and water works well here, too.
  • Clean and sanitize the counter and sink. Pay special attention to the little nooks and crannies of sink fixtures.
  • Now it’s on to cleaning and disinfecting the toilet. (Note that many new homeowners prefer to replace toilet seats rather than clean the old ones.) Pay special attention to under the rim, the hardware where the toilet seat is attached, the small space at the back of the toilet seat, and the back and underside of the exterior toilet bowl.
  • Sweep or vacuum, then mop the bathroom floors.

The Rest of the House

“Once the kitchen and bathrooms are done, move on to the remaining rooms in the new home,” says Peterson. “Work from top to bottom and left to right.”

If the home has two or more floors, it makes sense to start with the top floor and work down from there. “Try doing each task in all the rooms, then move on to the next task to save you time,” adds Peterson.

  • Remove and replace air conditioner filters, and vacuum or dust cooling and heating duct grilles.
  • Clean light fixtures and ceiling fans.
  • Clean built-in shelving, including inside closets.
  • Look for marks and stains on walls and clean these. You may want to take this time to wipe down all the walls, because it’s much harder to do so after the furniture has been moved in and artwork is hung. Again, a solution of white vinegar and water does the trick here.
  • Don’t forget to clean and sanitize doorknobs and light switches.
  • Clean windows, including frames, tracks and window glass interiors. This is a time-consuming task, so you may want to save exterior windows for another day.
  • If your new home has sliding glass doors, clean these, including vacuuming out the tracks.
  • Clean the baseboards.

Save the Floors for Last

Once all the rooms are clean, it’s time to attack the floors, the last step of your new home cleaning. Sweep or vacuum first, then mop. “If you’re able, deep clean the carpets,” says Peterson. “This is especially easy when the home is free of furniture.”

Peterson says it’s best to make cosmetic improvements when the house is still empty, like interior painting and small repairs, or adjusting a squeaky door or wobbly faucet. “This may not always be possible,” she says, “but it is considerably easier to accomplish these tasks before you move in all of your belongings.”

Cleaning a Brand New Home

If you’re moving into a newly constructed home, you should have a lot less heavy-duty cleaning to do because the builder will have the home cleaned before you take possession. It’s still a good idea to do a top-to-bottom cleaning.

  • Take any plastic, styrofoam or other packaging materials out of all kitchen appliances. Wipe down the insides of the appliances with a cloth dampened with vinegar-water.
  • A lot of construction dust may settle after the builder’s cleaning, so figure on vacuuming and dusting high to low, including ceiling fans, duct grilles, closet shelves, walls, windowsills and baseboards.
  • Give bathrooms, including toilets, a good surface cleaning and sanitizing.
  • Vacuum or sweep, then mop hard surfaces.

For all the excitement it offers, moving is also hectic and time-consuming. A professional deep-cleaning before you move in will certainly take a lot of stress out of the process. “For especially dirty or difficult tasks, always hire a professional to ensure it’s done right, and safely,” Peterson says.

Once your new house is all clean, it’s time to toast this new chapter of your life. Enjoy!

Elizabeth Heath
Elizabeth Heath is a travel, lifestyle and home improvement writer based in rural Umbria, Italy. Her work appears in The Washington Post, Travel + Leisure, Reader's Digest, TripSavvy and many other publications, and she is the author of several guidebooks. Liz's husband is a stonemason and together, they are passionate about the great outdoors, endless home improvement projects, their tween daughter and their dogs. She covers a variety of topics for Family Handyman and is always ready to test out a new pizza oven or fire pit.