9 Kitchen Dirt-Traps That May Cost You Some of Your Security Deposit

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Along with the costs of hiring movers, renting a truck, and purchasing packing supplies, there's another big expense that often comes along with moving. Security deposits, which generally add up to between one and three months' worth of rent, can put a serious dent in renters' savings, which is why getting every single dollar back upon move out is imperative for so many.


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Fortunately, RentCheck, a digital property management system that allows tenants to engage in remote inspections and walkthroughs, dug through its data and discovered nine distinct kitchen zones that landlords like to zero-in on to withhold a larger portion of deposits. From the inside of your cabinets to the garbage disposal and more, here's what kitchen dirt-traps to pay extra close attention to while cleaning before a move out.


1. Inside your kitchen cabinets.

Like it or not, Lydia Winkler, Co-Founder and COO of RentCheck says any items or food debris left behind in your kitchen cabinets is grounds for a cleaning charge from your landlord. "When moving out remember to empty everything from all cabinets to avoid being charged for leaving trash behind," she advises. "Follow up with a 50/50 vinegar and water solution to thoroughly clean the inside of the cabinet doors and shelves."


2. The kitchen floor.

If you aren't protecting your kitchen floors with rugs or sealant, broker Bill Kowalczuk of Warburg Realty says it could cost you a big chunk of your security deposit in the future. "Keep a rug on the floors to avoid large or deep scratches that require repair," he says. "A 50/50 combo of olive oil and organic apple cider vinegar can also help lessen the appearance of the scratches on wood surfaces."


3. The walls and ceiling of your kitchen.

Landlords love to charge tenants with the price of a new paint job upon move out, which is why Winkler recommends giving the walls and ceilings of your kitchen a good wipe down before you bounce. "Gently remove stains and smudges with a damp cloth," she advises. "However, don't scrub too hard or else you run the risk of removing the paint."


4. The drain inside your dishwasher.

If you thought the inside of your dishwasher was exempt from a move-out inspection, then Winkler says you're mistaken. "Food and gunk can get caught in the dishwasher drain and be grounds for a cleaning charge," she explains. "So always remove the bottom dish rack to double check the drain for buildup."


5. Kitchen countertops.

Countertop repairs can be costly, which is why Winkler says it's crucial to be proactive about cleaning and preserving your kitchen surfaces before they show signs of damage. "Avoid using scrub pads because they may scratch the surface," she advises. Additionally, broker Becki Danchik of Warburg Realty recommends always using a cutting board when preparing food. "This is a foolproof way to prevent both scratches ​and​ stains on your countertops," she says.


6. Inside the refrigerator and freezer.

As with your kitchen cabinets, Winkler says any food or debris left behind in the fridge or freezer can wind up costing you some of your security deposit. "Empty your refrigerator and freezer of all their contents, and wipe down with a 50/50 vinegar and water solution," she advises. "Also, storing an opened box of baking soda in both your refrigerator and freezer can help eliminate lingering odors."


7. Garbage disposal.

Garbage disposals are breeding grounds for smelly bacteria, mold, and germs, providing landlords with an easy excuse to charge tenants with an exorbitant cleaning fee. "Flush your garbage disposal with citrus, a natural deodorizer, to ensure it's free of odors when you move out."

8. Inside the microwave.

Make no mistake about it: A dirty microwave can be grounds for your landlord to hire a cleaner. To avoid having to forfeit some of your security deposit over an unkempt microwave, Winkler says to give it a thorough wipe down before moving out. "This is a good reminder to cover your food when reheating it in the microwave," she adds.

9. Inside the oven.

We often forget to clean the inside of our ovens, which is why Winkler says landlords like to hone in on them to withhold portions of the security deposit. "If you have a self-cleaning oven, run it every couple of months, and before you move out, to ensure it stays clean," she advises. No self-cleaning feature on your oven? No problem. Wiping the inside of your oven down with a mixture of dish soap, baking soda and vinegar will also do the trick.