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  • Writer's pictureTeam Pinto

The Ultimate Checklist for Cleaning Your Home Before Selling It

A thorough cleaning of a Waterloo Region home before listing it for sale prepares it for high-quality photography and efficient staging, which help potential buyers envision it as their future home. A spotless home also prepares your listing buyer for successful showings.

Buyers will be more willing to overlook missing wishlist items such as a fireplace if they perceive your home to be immaculate and flawless from top to bottom.

However, the thought of deep cleaning a whole house by yourself may be exhausting to say the least. To help you, we've created a house cleaning checklist to help you manage the chore so you don't feel overwhelmed and can work at your own pace.

Cleaning your Waterloo Region Home to Sell: A Comprehensive Checklist

Deep cleaning and decluttering can raise the value of a home by 3-5 percent. According to studies, an average price increase of $1,728 can be added to a home's overall value. A professional cleaner will normally charge between $600 and $1000 to clean a 1,500 square foot home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. If you intend to complete the process on your own, decluttering is the best place to start.

Declutter and Depersonalize

Stacks of papers on the kitchen table, family photos on all the walls. Toiletries left on the bathroom sink. Knick knacks on shelves and bookcases. Personal belongings dissuade buyers from imagining themselves living in your home.

When your home is heavily decorated and piled with your personal stuff, potential buyers see someone else’s house instead of their future home.

Closets, drawers, shelves, and counters are the areas in a house that are most prone to clutter. In these spaces, sort your clutter by making three piles: one pile to throw away, one to donate and sell, and another to box up or put in storage.

Closets are the place where people toss their stuff when they can’t find an immediate place for it. Pick everything up off the floors: Having a clean closet floor not only makes your closet look tidier, it gives the illusion of a more spacious closet.

Clear off your closet shelves: Remove piled-up shoes, blankets, and other items off the shelves.

Remove excess clothing from hangers: Having a closet packed with clothes presents a messy appearance.

Stage your closet: Staging isn’t just for furniture. You can also stage your closet by showcasing your handbags, pillows, apparel, and decorative boxes on a shelf of its own.

Pare down your closet: Keep a minimal amount of items on hangers. Coordinated tops, jackets, and slacks by color. Display handbags, pillows and decorative boxes on a shelf of its own to make a designer-approved presentation.

Drawers are often the home for piled-up receipts, recipes, paper, coins, menus, brushes filled with hair, and miscellaneous items. While buyers might not comb through your dresser drawers, don’t be surprised if they open up your kitchen drawers and the drawers in your bathroom vanity. Additionally:

  • Throw items in the trash you no longer need like old menus.

  • Organize batteries or like items in small boxes.

  • Put hair brushes and combs supplies in a basket beneath the sink.

  • Buy dividers and drawer organizers to make your drawers look neat

  • Fold clothing and linens so they look neat

  • Shelves can pile up with everything from books to collectibles and can get messy when the shelf is the closest space in reach.

  • Give away books you’ve already read or donate them to a library.

  • Keep plants on shelves to a minimum. Place a few around the home strategically, one in the bathroom, one on a kitchen or living room shelf.

  • Remove personal photos and knick-knacks from shelves by packing them in a box hidden out of sight.

  • Like closets, you can stage bookcases into a stylish display. Lay some books on their spines and others upright. Make sure to leave plenty of space in between. A plant and a candle also creates a nice touch.

  • Organize your pantry shelves with organizing systems to keep things tidy.

Gather Your Cleaning Supplies

Surfaces in your home can include granite, stone, wood, glass, leather, and laminate. Because some cleaning products are abrasive and can damage surfaces, make sure you have the proper cleaning supplies on hand to protect the surface finishes. Conduct a walkthrough to determine what products you will require.

  • Kitchen: countertops, appliances, cabinets, hardware, tile, fixtures, floors, walls, windows, doors

  • Bathroom: toilet, countertops, walls, floors, tile, bathtub, glass, fixtures, windows, doors, vanity, hardware, mirrors

  • Living room: leather, upholstery, wood, glass, carpet, floors, walls, windows

  • Bedrooms: carpets, flooring, furniture, TV, floor, walls, windows, mirrors, fixtures

  • Garage: shelving, storage cabinets, workbench, walls, floors, windows

Here’s a basic list of some of the deep cleaning supplies you’ll need:

  • Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

  • Heavy Duty All Purpose Scrub Brush

  • Reusable Rubber Cleaning Gloves

  • Paper Towels

  • Non-Scratch Scrub Sponge

  • Murphy Oil Soap Wood Cleaner for Floors and Furniture

  • Multi-Surface Furniture Polish Spray

  • Glass Cleaner

  • Specialist cleaners for granite, marble, travertine, quartz or natural Stone

  • Stove Top Cleaner Kit

Room-by-room House Cleaning Checklist

Kitchen cleaning steps

Step 1: Countertops. Dust off the top of countertops and apply the appropriate cleaner according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For granite, marble, quartz, and natural stone use a product like Granite Gold Clean and Shine Spray for cleaning and polishing.

Step 2: Refrigerator. Remove magnets and kid’s drawings from the front of your refrigerator. If your fridge is stainless steel, spray it with a stainless steel specific cleaner and wipe it with a clean cloth. Other surfaces can be wiped down with soap and water.

Make sure to remove all the shelves. For tough stains, use a non-scratch scouring pad. Then finish the job with a disinfectant.

Step 3: Oven and stove. Most ranges come with self-cleaning ovens that deep clean with 900-degree heat. Once the oven cools, wipe down dirt with a non-abrasive sponge. If you have an older range, pick up a can of oven cleaner spray and follow the instructions on the label.

Step 4: Dishwasher. To deep clean your dishwasher, remove the racks and clean with soap and water. For odors and heavy cleaning, add a cup of vinegar and a cup of baking soda or fresh lemon peels, which also removes odors in garbage disposals.

Bathroom cleaning checklist

Step 1: Toilet. Pour a toilet bowl cleaner such as Lysol Power Toilet Bowl Cleaner inside the toilet and let it soak for about 15 minutes to dissolve stubborn stains. Scrub with a toilet brush and flush the toilet when done. Freshen things up with a deodorizer in the tank.

Step 2: Sink, bathtub, and shower. Clean out hair from the sink and drain. Utilize a drain cleaner for clogs. Polish the fixtures with a vinegar and water mixture or a product formulated for the finish. Dry with a paper towel and throw away.

You can also use glass cleaner on some sink fixture finishes such as chrome. For showers with glass doors, use a tile and shower cleaner for the inside, and a glass cleaner on shower doors.

If your bathroom grout has mold, you can usually remove it with a bleach cleaner spray. Cracking caulk makes an easy DIY project. Just dig out the caulk and reapply new caulk. This may even be an opportunity to spruce up your bathroom's decor, as you could opt for a great neutral colored caulk to create a new look.

Step 3: Mirrors. Mirrors make great accent pieces and can give the appearance of more light and a larger space, so they should be as clean as possible so they can do just that most effectively. Glass cleaners are a great way to clean mirrors for a streak-free shine. Just spray glass cleaner and wipe with a paper towel.

Bedrooms, living rooms, and the rest of the house

For the bedrooms, living rooms, and the rest of the house, work from the ceiling to the floor since dust and dirt falls down. When cleaning floors, work strategically from the back to front so you don’t have to backtrack over an area you just cleaned.

Step 1: Dust and clean the walls.

Remove any artwork, decorations, or nails from the walls. Consider patching the nail holes in the drywall if your wall has a lot of holes. You are now ready to dust. Use a mop with a towel wrapped around the mophead or a duster designed for cleaning ceiling fans.

Dust the walls and baseboards and remove any cobwebs from the ceiling. Don't forget about the frames for doors and windows between the walls, as well as ceiling fans and lighting fixtures. Window treatments should be dusted or removed for cleaning. To avoid damaging them, always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

When you've finished dusting, fill a bucket with soapy water and a large sponge, and wipe the walls down. Working in small areas, gently clean the walls with a dry, clean towel. Scuff marks can be removed with a magic eraser-type product. Always use a clean bucket. Refill with soap and water if it becomes dirty. Glass cleaner should be used to clean the windows both inside and out.

Step 2: Dust and polish furniture

You're now ready to tackle the furniture. Use a feather duster or a microfiber cloth to clean. If the furniture is dirty, use a wood cleaner such as Murphy's Oil Soap to clean it. Plastic, sealed wood, laminates, and electronics are all safe to use with Pledge Multi-surface II Antibacterial Cleaner. Clean television screens as directed by the manufacturer.

Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when it comes to laptop and LCD screens. Use a compressed air dust cleaner on keyboards.

Begin with ceiling fans, then move on to bookshelves, shelving units, and media cabinets.

Step 3: Clean upholstery and drapery

When cleaning an upholstered couch, lift the cushions and vacuum using the upholstery attachment. For leather furniture, you can use leather wipes or a specialist leather cleaner. Always spray the product on a soft, clean cloth rather than directly on furniture.

Dust window treatments. If they’re dirty, throw them in the laundry if they’re machine washable or have them dry cleaned.

Step 4: Sweep, vacuum, and wash the floors

Move furniture out of the way and clean floors and carpets with a broom or vacuum. Use the brush attachment to get tough dirt on the baseboards, in crevices. Shampoo carpets. If they’re dirty or dated, have your carpets professionally cleaned which typically costs from $270 to $540 for a 1,500-square-foot home. If they’re in bad shape, and it’s in the budget, replace your carpets.

Mop floors with a mop, bucket, and the recommended floor cleaning solution. When washing hardwood and laminate, your mop shouldn’t be too damp. Make sure your mop is cleaned and sanitized after cleaning the bathrooms.

Tips for preparing for showings

If you’re living in the home you’re selling, things can get out of place fast. Follow these tips, for a successful showing:

  • Make all the beds.

  • Place the coffee pot and small appliances on counters under the sink.

  • Straighten throw pillows in the living room, porch, and on beds.

  • Put away toiletries and fold towels neatly in the bathroom.

  • Place an air freshener dispenser in all main rooms.

  • Stage your home for sale even if it's eecuted in just a few key rooms like the ki

  • Place a plant in every room.

  • Wipe down countertops and shine faucets in the kitchen and bathrooms.

  • Check mirrors for streaking.

  • Wipe smudges from stainless steel appliances.

  • Sweep or vacuum up any dirt or dust balls from floors.

  • Make the entryway inviting with flowers in a planter.

Special tips for pet owners

Pets leave traces of their scent all over the house. While many of us adore animals, you may want to broaden your buyer base by appealing to non-pet owners. If you have pets, keep the following additional cleaning tips in mind:

  • For the open house, leave pets with a friend or family member.

  • Put away their beds, food and water dishes, and litter boxes.

  • Wash pet beds with an enzymatic cleaner

  • Vacuum up pet hair; for shedding use a product like Animal 2 from Dyson.

  • Sprinkle baking soda on carpets and your pet’s favorite furniture; vacuum in 30 minutes.

  • For strong odors, use a product like Angry Orange Pet Odor Eliminator, which is safe for pets.

You're now ready to impress buyers with a spotless home interior. But don't forget about the outside. Power wash the driveway, walkway, and exterior walls to give them a deep clean. If you have a pool, make sure to clean it regularly or keep the cover on. Clean up the landscape by weeding and mulching flower beds, pruning shrubs, and sweeping driveways.


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