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The stack of papers has been signed, the checks exchanged for a set of keys, and there’s a short festival of congratulations and handshakes. A day or so later, you open the door to an empty house that’s now yours. There’s probably a thin layer of grime on the floorboards in the kitchen, some dust on the tops of the door jambs and some discoloration on the walls where old pictures were hung on the wall. Overall, there’s a stale smell throughout the house.

According to Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin of The Washington Post, many sellers are required to leave a home in “broom clean” condition, meaning floors are swept, closets emptied and cabinets emptied. But even if the previous owners cleaned it top to bottom after they’d moved out or a thorough cleaning was specified in the closing, you’ll probably still need to clean your new residence even more before you move in and apply a coat of paint on the walls. This will definitely be the case if you’ve purchased a bank foreclosure or the property was a short sale, and the previous owners could not clean the house before leaving.

But while you are excited to move in and make the new place completely yours, you will probably want to clean it anyway. There might be hidden allergens somewhere – especially in the ductwork – or pockets of musty smells. The previous owners might have had a pet, so there might be animal dander left behind. You could minimize the stress you’re already under by using an online search tool to hire a professional cleaner in your area to help with some or all of the cleaning projects. While it would settle your nerves, it still might be more expensive than doing it yourself, especially if you’ve taking over a foreclosed or short-sale property that needs extensive cleaning.

If you’re going to tackle the cleaning yourself, here are some of the first things to do to get started.

  1. Get Some Fresh Air In

Open all windows to get some fresh air flowing throughout the house, even if it’s in the middle of winter. Use box fans for cross ventilation. The fresh air will chase out any old odors. This would also be a great time to clean the window channels, the part of the window that the lower sash fits into. Over time, some dirt and outside dust might have accumulated there. Once the air is freshened, close the windows and clean them, wiping the entire window frame as well to clean off any accumulated dust.

  1. Clean the HVAC Registers and Vent Covers

With the HVAC system off, and maybe even during the time you have the windows open, remove all vent covers and registers and clean them thoroughly, wiping the blades free of dust. Also clean both sides of the return air register. Then with the covers off, clean around the duct to remove dust and places where allergens can hide. If you want to clean the air ducts themselves, you’ll probably have to consult a professional. Home renovation expert Bob Vila explains that professionals have the correct tools to clean ducts completely without damaging them. However, if the previous owners changed or cleaned their HVAC filter regularly, the ducts should already be clean. You might also consider investing in an air purifier to keep your new home’s air fresh.

  1. Clean All The Carpets

Many allergens, especially pet dander, get trapped in carpets and rugs and hang on until released. To clean them, you can either hire a carpet cleaning service, or save some money and either rent or buy your own carpet cleaner. This will remove the dander and any other allergens and give your new home a fresher, cleaner smell, especially if you have wall-to-wall carpet.

There’s not much that can be both exciting and stressful as getting a new home. So, the sooner you can get it clean, the sooner you can move in and start enjoying it.

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