If you’ve never owned a house before, then it’s entirely possible that you’ve never deep-cleaned a house. (Hey, no shame in that game.) But when the house is yours, the desire to see it as clean and sparkling as it can possibly be is strong — and you might have no idea where to start or how to go about getting your clean on.

Don’t panic! Take a deep breath and remind yourself that nobody knows how to do everything. Then follow these tips for new homeowners that will outline exactly how to go about deep-cleaning any home … and how to maintain it so that next time you don’t feel so overwhelmed.

Make a list, then divide and conquer

The most overwhelming part of deep-cleaning is undeniably the moment when you start to realize just how much there is to do. Before you even let yourself go there, stop and make a list of everything you need to do.

Begin by listing all the rooms in your house. Include a space for your garage, the basement or the attic (if you have one) and for outdoor living spaces like porches, balconies or decks. You might even add a general “outdoor” category for tackling additional projects.

When you have your house more or less divided by space, start listing what needs to be done in each of those spaces. Before you know it, you’ll have a comprehensive list of absolutely everything that you need to do to get your house as clean as it’s ever been.

After you’ve got your master list, start dividing it up. You can assign different rooms to other household members who are helping with the massive clean, or divide it by day of the week so that you’re spacing out your deep cleaning in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you. 

Start at the top

Gravity can be your friend or your enemy when you’re cleaning a house. You can avoid a lot of heartache by understanding this truth and beginning your work at the top of each room, moving your way down. That way any dust you’re knocking loose from high shelves or light fixtures will land on a floor that you haven’t yet cleaned instead of a floor you just finished mopping.

It might help to organize your list from literal top to bottom before you even walk into the room. That way you can easily run down the list in order without messing up an area you just cleaned.

Declutter, declutter, declutter

When you have a lot of stuff — books, clothes, sports equipment, pots and pans, whatever — then cleaning around all of it becomes a challenge. The first step in any room should be a sweep to assess what you use and what you haven’t touched in a year or more. Anything that falls into the latter category should be considered for disposal — give it to a friend or donate it if you like, but if you haven’t used it or worn it in that long, then maybe you don’t really need it.

It may feel painful in the moment to part from your things, but keeping your house looking neat and clean will be so much easier if you can power through the hard part and let go. Get serious about decluttering now so that your home will look cleaner and more presentable forever.

Clean your screens and windows

Let’s be honest: Cleaning screens and windows can be a real pain, which is probably why it doesn’t get done very often. But it makes a huge difference in the quality of light that pours through those windows, and it’s well worth addressing at least once a year.

Remove screens and wipe them down and dry them, and make sure you’re washing both the inside and outside of the window. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe the windows to minimize streaks — it also helps to wash windows on an overcast day, as bright sunlight can cause the cleaner to dry too quickly, leaving streaks.

While you’re washing the windows, make sure you’re paying some attention to the windowsills both inside and outside the house. These areas can be a magnet for dead flies, dirt or pollen, or other gross or gritty unwanted guests, and you’ll thank yourself for seeing and eliminating them in the moment.

Don’t forget the light fixtures

Windows aren’t the only factors influencing the quality of light in your house. Your light fixtures might be dusty or dirty and you wouldn’t even notice because they’re so far above your head. Make sure that you’re removing and cleaning light fixtures in each room, drying them thoroughly before you replace them.

Clean out your dryer vent

Despite the best effort of lint traps in dryers everywhere, quite a bit of lint still gets into many dryer vents. It’s not only a potential allergen, but also a possible fire hazard, so add “clean out the dryer vents” to any seasonal cleaning lists and make sure you’re paying attention to it at least semi-regularly.

You can find fixtures for your vacuum cleaner online that are supposed to help with this task, and make sure you give the outside vent a good look and clean-out while you’re tackling this job.

Love on your floors

Different types of flooring are going to require different methods of care, and you may have more than one in your house. Steam-clean your carpeting and your tile floors, and also consider re-sealing tile floors — they’ve probably been through a lot, and it never hurts to give them a little sprucing up. Likewise, wood floors can usually use a decent waxing. Whatever your floors need, consider providing it to them on at least an annual basis; after all, they see wear and tear every day but usually don’t get any tender loving care.

Organize, organize, organize

If you just moved in, then the odds are good that you’ve still got a box or two packed up and stashed away in a closet. Deep cleaning means deep organization, so if the stray-box theory sounds a lot like you, then it’s time to finally finish the job.

Even if you’ve already unpacked absolutely everything, this is still a good time for you to figure out how you’re going to establish a place for everything and everything in its place. Once you have an organizational system that works, be it for your bookshelves or your toolshed, then all you have to do to keep everything spiffy is follow that system.

Don’t forget the garage, basement or attic

Out of sight can sometimes be out of mind, and it’s easy to dismiss areas like garages, basements and attics when you’re deep-cleaning … but don’t make that mistake. Messes have a tendency spread and multiply, so if your house is pristine but your garage is a mess, don’t be surprised when items from the garage disaster start manifesting suddenly in your perfectly clean home.

If you didn’t add the garage, basement or attic to your list of rooms to tackle, do it, and give yourself the same systems and tools in those areas that you’re using in the main house. It’ll keep everything under better control — promise.

Vinegar-steam your microwave

Microwaves can be beasts to clean well, but as long as you don’t mind the smell of vinegar lingering for a few minutes, there’s an easy way to get your microwave spotless. Put a cup of white vinegar and a cup of water in a microwave-safe container, crank up the power and nuke it for five to ten minutes. Then wipe it down and marvel at how easily all that crusted-on gunk comes off with a little help from chemistry.

Tackle the kitchen appliances

If your microwave is crusty, then odds are good that your other kitchen appliances could also use some attention. The oven, the stove and the refrigerator are usually the dirtiest appliances in the house, so make sure you’re putting them on your rotating “to clean” list — and stick to it.

Some newer refrigerators include easy-to-remove shelves and door inserts that you can clean in the dishwasher. If you’re due for a fridge upgrade soon, then look for a model that has some of those cleaning-friendly features.

Plant perennials

Now that the inside of the house is spanking clean, it’s time to consider the outside. Apart from basics like mowing the lawn and weeding, you might also consider planting some perennials — plants that come back year after year, so you don’t need to keep replacing them.

Ask the experts at your local nursery about the perennials that grow well in your area and how much care they need. A couple of well-placed rose bushes or a lavender hedge can make your curb appeal pop like never before.

Power wash

While you’re sprucing up the outside, rent or borrow (or buy) a power washer and tackle the house itself. You will be amazed how much dust and dirt accrues on the outside of your house, the deck and porch, and other areas — washing it off can make your house look like it’s got a brand-new paint job, plus you’ll be eliminating any cobwebs in the bargain.

Make it a habit

If you only do all of these things to your house once a year, then it’s not going to stay clean for very long. Keep your list of rooms and think about your daily and weekly schedule, then try to squeeze in some deep-cleaning work every now and again. You’ll find that your entire house stays cleaner for longer, and any special-event deep cleaning that you might have to do will be much easier when you have a plan for upkeep.

This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.