Know the law
First and foremost, know the law. The California Department of Consumer Affairs makes the process of returning a security deposit very clear (click here for link).
When newer is cheaper
Light switch and electrical outlet covers attract grease simply from the fact that they are meant to be touched every day. And cleaning them can not only be time consuming, in other words costly, but dangerous. A single-toggle light switch cover at your local hardware store is 30 cents and will always be cheaper and turn out better than degreasing an old one.
Shower heads, depending on the hardness of your home's water supply, can build up calcium deposits that are not only an eyesore but can be very difficult to clean. And difficult things to clean always cost more. A standard shower head at your local hardware store is $5 and will always be cheaper and turn out better than demineralizing an old one.
Toilets are, not surprisingly, a touchy subject for many people, especially neglected ones which are often permanently stained. Toilets can be expensive, however, but in light of California's water conservation efforts local water districts will rebate the full cost of many toilets back to customer if they buy water-saving toilets called "WaterSense" toilets which use 20% less water than the current federal standards mandate. These toilets can be purchased at your local hardware store for less than $150, free after rebate.
Walls, when scuffed or stained, can make any clean home look dirty. Walls, however, are one of the most inefficient and costly things to clean in a home because more often than not the paint comes off and the extra care that is needed to properly clean them, if they even can be cleaned, can be costly. Color matching paint to existing walls is free so take advantage of it at your local hardware store and touch up the areas yourself. Take a paint roller to an entire wall if the stains are large enough to avoid issues with blending.
Self clean before we clean
Ovens can be very difficult to clean simply because of the nature of their use. They are also an intimate and often-used part of a home which makes cleaning them properly doubly important. Because ovens can be so difficult to clean, newer ovens are self-cleaning. The self-cleaning feature locks the oven door shut for a period of up to 6 hours and raises the internal temperature up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit incinerating everything inside leaving nothing but a pile of dust to sweep out. Be sure to remove anything from inside the oven that may melt but leaving certain metal pots, pans and baking sheets inside during the self-clean will clean them also. Refer to your oven's instruction manual before commencing.
Timing is critical
Landlords too often order multiple services on the same day like home cleaning, carpet cleaning and window cleaning thinking it will save time. One landlord even ordered these services and painting in the same morning! This almost always leads to disaster and is a very inefficient way to prepare your home for new renters.
If you need reconstructive work done in your home like painting, plumbing or electrical, order them first. And always, always leave at least one day buffer (preferably three) because contractors almost always go over their scheduled estimate. We have more postponements of cleaning due to lagging contractors than any other reason.
After reconstructive work is complete order the most delicate cleaning, like carpet cleaning, last. Start with window washing, then home cleaning and finish with carpet cleaning and your home will be sure to impress.
Prevention really is the best medicine
Preventing a dirty home is the best way to clean any home. Landlords must walk a fine line between keeping an eye on their property and not being invasive. Renters must also balance their expenses with maintaining the integrity of their landlord's home. Landlords and renters should consider splitting the cost of a routine cleaning service if even for just once or twice a year. Professionally maintaining the cleanliness and care of wooden floors, carpeting, porcelain bathrooms, stainless steel appliances and other delicate areas of the home will help ensure maximum return of the security deposit and maximum rent from future renters.