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10 Tips on Proper Apartment Cleaning

New to apartment living? How about cleaning? Not to worry, we've got you covered! These expert tips and techniques will have you cleaning like a pro.

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man cleaning in apartmentMILAN2099/GETTY IMAGES

Apartment Cleaning: Tools and Products

Moving into your first apartment is a major milestone. You’re paying bills, managing your own time and settling into routines that will last a lifetime. But have you thought about how to keep your place clean?

That’s imperative, according to Dan Deonarain, owner of Galaxy Maids, a residential and commercial cleaning company servicing the New York City and Boston areas. Deonarain sees a lot of apartments and sometimes they don’t pass muster, especially with new renters.

“We strongly advise renters to be diligent about cleaning,” Deonarain says. After all, it’s where you spend most of your rest and relaxation time.

If you’re new to cleaning or you’re a little nervous about doing things the “right way,” don’t fret. We asked Deonarain and other experts to weigh in with their tips for keeping an apartment looking its best.

First, you need to invest in some basic cleaning tools and supplies. “When it comes to cleaning tools,” Deonarain says, “a quick inventory of the surfaces that need to be cleaned will be a great guide.”

Do you have a mixture of carpeting and hard-surface flooring? Lots of wooden surfaces? Ceiling fans? Different surfaces require different cleaning tools, so look around and take an inventory.

Start with these basics:

Then, buy some cleaning supplies:

Andrii Gurskyi, co-founder of HomeClean, a residential maid service based in New York City, says cleaning can seem overwhelming for first-time apartment dwellers. But with these tips and a little effort, you’ll have a clean and comfortable space in no time.

Safety note: Always be aware of the ingredients in your cleaners. Read all labels and never mix cleaners together. Bleach and ammonia combine to make chlorine gas, which can be fatal if inhaled. And that’s not the only dangerous combo. Don’t mess around with your safety.

One last thing before we start: Turn on some music! Deonarain says music can put you in a great mood and take your mind off cleaning.

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apartment bedroom with clutter on night table, bed, and floorJustin Paget/Getty Images

Pick Up Clutter

Don’t pick up a mop or a rag until you’ve picked up your stuff and put things away.

“Before you start deep cleaning, you should make sure all rooms are tidy and free of any clutter so you can thoroughly clean the space,” says Alicia Sokolowski, president and co-CEO of AspenClean, a natural cleaning products company based in Canada.

Look for clutter buildup in high-traffic areas. That’s probably the entrance, where you drop keys and junk mail, and kitchen surfaces. Nightstands and bathroom countertop tend to collect clutter, too.

Once you’ve decluttered, gather your cleaning supplies. Some things, like dish soap and toilet bowl cleaner, can stay in the room where they’re needed. Others you’ll need to carry with you. Consider a cleaning caddy to carry multipurpose cleaners from room to room. In time, you’ll figure out the routines that work for you.

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bed with sheets and pillow cases stripped in a pile on the bedPhotographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman/Getty Images

Strip the Beds

You don’t have to do this every time, but the American Cleaning Institute says you should change your bed linens every two weeks. If you’re due, Gurskyi says to strip the beds before you start cleaning. Throw your sheets, pillowcases and mattress protector in the wash if you have one in your unit. (Comforters, duvets and blankets don’t need to be washed as often.)

Sheets and mattress protectors serve as a physical barrier between you and your mattress. These linens collect dead skin cells, dust mites, pet dander and body oils. If you tend to sweat at night or your animals sleep in bed with you, more frequent washing may be necessary. Use your judgment, but don’t go longer than a couple of weeks.

“Putting laundry to wash while cleaning other areas not only saves time,” Deonarain says, “but gives you a much-needed break in the middle of your cleaning routine to switch the washing load to drying.”

Load the washing machine and add detergent, but not too much. You only need about two tablespoons for a full load. Set the temperature: Hot or warm is standard, but cold saves money and resources. Start the washer and clean while it runs.

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hands in rubber protective gloves adding toilet bowl cleaner to toilet in apartment bathroomSuzi Media Production/Getty Images

Prep the Bathroom

Bathrooms should generally be cleaned at the end of your routine. Deonarain offers this tip: Apply cleaners to the surfaces in your bathroom now to give them a head start dissolving soap scum and grime.

Spray tile, countertops, toilet tank and seat (including underneath), as well as the tub or shower with a disinfecting bathroom cleaner. Squirt toilet bowl cleaner under the rim of the toilet.

Deonarain says applying cleaners now and coming back later to wipe, scrub and rinse makes all the difference in the world. You’ll save time and effort and get a cleaner room to boot.

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Cropped shot of a young woman cleaning the surface of a dresser with cleaning spray and cloth at home during the dayOscar Wong/Getty Images

Clean the Bedroom

Once you’ve started the washer and applied your bathroom cleaners, it’s time to go room by room. Deonarain says prioritize rooms that get the most use — generally bedrooms, the kitchen and bathrooms — followed by other living areas. Because we spend nearly one-third of our lives in bed, you might as well start there.

While it may be tempting to segment your cleaning by task, Gurskyi says to always tackle one room at a time instead. Going back and forth between rooms wastes time, and you’re likely to track dirt into clean areas. Finish one room and then move on.

Sokolowski says no matter the room, start high and work your way down. That means using your telescoping duster to grab cobwebs in ceiling corners and dusting your ceiling fan, if you have one, with this dusting hack.

Next, tackle the surfaces in your bedroom: dresser, TV stand, nightstand and lamps. Finally, vacuum if you have carpeting, or sweep and mop hardwood floors and laminate.

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Close-up of man washing dishes in the sinkF.J. Jimenez/Getty Images

Clean the Kitchen

Let’s face it, kitchens get dirty. We microwave tomato sauce. Pots boil over. We pile cheese on lasagna and forget to put a cookie sheet underneath.

Deonarain says the best time to clean your kitchen is right when the mess happens. But even if you keep on top of things, your kitchen will likely be one of your main weekly cleaning tasks.

If your sink is full of dirty dishes, knock those out, then clean your sink. Wipe down your countertops with a cleaner and microfiber cloth or sponge. Next, wipe down appliances, Gurskyi says, and clean the inside of the microwave. Use a disinfecting spray on high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and light switches.

When surfaces and appliances are gleaming, sweep the floor and scoop the dirt into the trash with the dustpan. Now’s a good time to take the trash bag and recycling out and set them by the door; you can take them to the trash and recycling chutes later. Mop the floor last, Gurskyi says, and let the floor dry undisturbed while you move on to other rooms.

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anonymous woman taking sheets out of a washing machineMoyo Studio/Getty Images

Switch Out Laundry

It’s probably time to transfer your bed linens from the washer to the dryer, so take a break and get a glass of water. Oh, and put the bed linens in the dryer.

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Rear view of woman vacuuming in apartment living roomdusanpetkovic/Getty Images

Clean the Living Room

Your living room is where you spend time entertaining, lounging, gaming and possibly eating. As you did in your bedroom, start cleaning there by getting up high first. Dust your walls, light fixtures and ceiling fans. Clean surfaces next. Wipe down wood furniture with furniture polish, and clean glass-topped coffee tables with glass cleaner.

Use the vacuum cleaner and brush attachment to clean your upholstered couches and chairs. (For leather, make your own leather cleaner with simple ingredients.) Make sure to lift up the cushions to vacuum up crumbs that made their way into the crevices.

Vacuum the floor if you have carpeting, or clean wood or laminate floors with a mop and the appropriate cleaner.

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woman cleaning round mirror in small apartment bathroompabst_ell/Getty Images

Clean the Bathroom

Now that the bathroom cleaners have had time to do their thing, cleaning that area should be a breeze.

Wipe down countertops, tile, sinks and your tub with a sponge or microfiber cloth. Use a scrub brush as needed for grout stains or stubborn grime. Apply extra disinfecting cleaner if necessary.

Clean your mirrors and shower doors with glass cleaner, or make a DIY version with vinegar and water. Vinegar also works great on lime scale deposits on shower heads and faucets.

To clean your toilet, wipe the outside with a damp microfiber cloth. Clean the tank and the base first, and save the dirtier bowl and under the seat for last. Swish the toilet brush under the rim of the toilet, then scrub the bowl, including under the water and into the drain.

Flush the toilet. Let the water rise and flush again, holding the brush in the water to rinse it. (We’ve got more toilet cleaning tips.)

Place your dirty bathroom microfiber cloths in a separate pile for laundry. Never re-use any cloth that touched the toilet or bathroom anywhere else in the apartment.

Finally, sweep and mop the floors and allow to air dry.

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man making the bed in apartment bedroomYakobchukOlena/Getty Images

Make the Bed

Almost done. Your sheets are probably dry by now, so pull them out and re-make the bed. (Bonus: No folding!) If you don’t have a washer and dryer in your apartment, you can skip this step and just put fresh sheets on when you clean your bedroom.

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Cropped shot of woman tidying up the living room and wiping the coffee table surface with a cloth in apartment living roomAsiaVision/Getty Images

Maintain the Clean

Now that you’re a whiz at cleaning your apartment, who wants to spend hours every week scrubbing old stains? Maintain your clean home by cleaning up spills and stains immediately, before they set in. After you cook, wipe down counters and do the dishes rather than let things pile up for a couple of days.

“Kitchen cleaning becomes a whole lot easier when you clean right after meal preparation,” Deonarain says.

As for the rest of the apartment? Pick up throughout the week and declutter your spaces regularly. Make your cleaning schedule your own, too. If you prefer doing one room a day, go for it. Or tackle everything on your day off. Whatever schedule you choose, stick to it.

Every once in a while, give your apartment a deep clean. Spring is the traditional time of year to tackle these tasks, but any time of year works. Windows, baseboards, cleaning out your freezer — anything that doesn’t make it on the weekly task list is fair game. Happy cleaning!

Ally Childress
Ally Childress is a licensed electrician and freelance writer living in Dallas, Texas.