Written by Grove Collaborative

Your dorm room cleaning guide: Tips & tricks for dirtless digs.

Last Updated: October 22, 2020

College keeps you busy, but there’s always time for a little cleaning to keep your dorm room presentable. This comprehensive guide will help you make it happen.

Dorm rooms are small. The average college dorm room is just 228 square feet, and if you’re sharing it with a roommate, that adds up to about 114 square foot of personal space each. Now, you might think it sounds easy to keep such a small space clean and tidy, but if you don’t stay on top of it, grime and clutter can get out of control — and before you know it, you’ve got a biology experiment growing in your coffee cup, and your dust bunnies are almost big enough to name.

This year especially, it’s important to keep things clean in your dorm room, including disinfecting daily and minimizing clutter, to reduce the risk of covid. This guide covers it all and will help you keep your college crib ship-shape all semester long.

Considerations for cleaning small spaces

Air quality

Dorm rooms are as big as some folks’ closets, which means that it doesn’t take much to reduce the air quality in such a small area. Avoid standard cleaners that off-gas toxic chemicals, and instead opt for natural cleaners, which are just as effective and smell divine rather than antiseptic.


Dorm rooms come with minimal furniture — usually a bed, dresser, desk, and shelves. To keep clutter to a minimum, come to college armed with storage solutions, such as file boxes for papers, storage cubes for miscellaneous things, and caddies for toiletries and cleaning supplies.


Just a couple of things out of place can make a small room appear messy. Put into practice a strategy that will keep you organized and your room tidy. Start with the Golden Rule of clutter control: Have a place for everything, and always put things back in their place.

Must-have dorm-cleaning supplies

Sustainability Tip

Reduce paper waste

Reusable paper towels are just as efficient as the paper variety at cleaning up spills and messes. But they’re much stronger — they’re made of bamboo viscose — so you can rinse ‘em out, let ‘em dry, and reuse them for a week.

How should I clean my dorm room before move-in?

It’s expected that before students move into their dorms, each room will be given a deep, thorough cleaning by the building maintenance staff. But that could have been weeks ago, so before you move your stuff in, take advantage of the emptiness, and do a quick once-over.

  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs and light bulbs.
  • Wipe down the surfaces and walls with the all-purpose disinfecting cleaner and a damp microfiber cleaning cloth.
  • Sweep or vacuum, getting in the corners and along the walls.
  • Spritz some natural air freshening spray to make it smell like home as you move in.

How often should I clean my dorm room?

How often you should break out your cleaning supplies depends on a few things — how much time you have, how messy you are, the nature of the messes, and how sensitive you are to clutter. A better question might be, “How can I keep my dorm room clean?” That way, you’re focused on maintenance, so it’ll never get out of hand. Breaking maintenance down into daily, weekly, and monthly tasks makes it quick ’n’ easy to stay on top of keeping your dorm room clean.

Daily cleaning tasks

  • Make your bed.
  • Tidy up.
  • Do your dishes.
  • Disinfect doorknobs, light switches, and other frequently touched surfaces.

Weekly cleaning tasks

  • Vacuum/sweep and mop.
  • Do your laundry.
  • Clean out the fridge.
  • Take out the trash.

Monthly cleaning tasks

  • Dust.
  • Clean the windows and mirrors.
  • Wipe down appliances, inside and out.
  • Organize your desk and papers.

Grove Tip

End-of-semester dorm cleaning: Hit those often-overlooked spots

  • Clean underneath and inside of the fridge, microwave, and coffee pot.
  • Wash out the trash cans.
  • Wipe down the wall and door around light switches and door knobs.
  • Vacuum the curtains, the closet, and under the furniture.

College cleaning help line: Your common dorm dilemmas, solved

Help! I have an unexpected visitor stopping by, and my room is a wreck.

Life happens, especially in college, and there may be a couple of times (okay, probably lots of them) when cleaning your dorm room is the very last thing on your mind. Things may get a little out of hand, and you can be sure that as soon as that happens, your parents (or worse, your crush) will surprise you with a visit. The worst thing you can do is panic-clean, which is basically just throwing things in random places. So take a deep breath, center yourself, and then leap into focused action, completing each of the following tasks in this order:

  1. Gather up all the clothes that are strewn about. Put them in your hamper.
  2. Grab a garbage bag, and toss all of the trash in the room. Empty the bin under your desk. Empty the fridge in case your parents are bringing snacks. Run the full bag out to the heap, or hide it in your roommate’s closet.
  3. Collect all of your dirty dishes, and put them in your dish tub. Put the dish tub somewhere inconspicuous.
  4. Make your bed. Don’t worry about hospital corners.
  5. Tidy up your desk. Stack up loose papers and notebooks, corral your pens, straighten your devices.
  6. Sweep or vacuum—whichever is fastest.
  7. Flop down on your bed with a magazine, and act nonchalant when they come in and compliment you on how tidy your room is.

Achoo! My dorm room gets really dusty. What can I do to keep it dust-free?

Dust doesn’t just come in from outside. It’s a collection of dead skin cells, food particles, textile fibers, pollen, hair, insect parts, and other unpleasant artifacts of daily existence. Dust is constantly being generated, settling on surfaces long before it’s visible to the naked eye. But don’t worry — you can control it with a few easy tasks:

Keep clutter to a minimum.The less flotsam and jetsam you have piled up on surfaces, the less dust will be generated, and the easier it will be to remove it.

Dust weekly. Use a damp cloth, electrostatic duster, or microfiber duster, which trap dust rather than just move it around.

Vacuum weekly. A broom can leave a lot of dust behind, but a vacuum will remove the majority of it. Invest in a small vacuum cleaner, or better yet, program a robotic vacuum to remove dust while you’re away.

Wash your bedding each week. You shed an alarming number of dead skin cells each night as you toss and turn. And we won’t even mention the hundreds of thousands of dust mites that feast on all that dead skin in your bed. Keeping your bedding clean will help reduce dust — and the allergies that come with it.

Invest in an air purifier. An air purifier removes dust and allergens from the air before they land on your stuff.

Peee-Yuuu! My dorm room stinks. How can I stop it from smelling?

Odors are volatile chemical compounds that emanate from a source, and in smaller spaces, they can become overpowering.

The first thing to do is figure out where the odor is coming from. Is it dirty laundry? Old food? Stale air? Mildew? Once you know what’s causing it, figure out what’s needed to mitigate it. If your room smells because you only take out the garbage every two weeks, take it out more often, and the problem should resolve itself. If you notice a moldy smell without a source, contact the maintenance department.

If there’s no single, identifiable source for the odor, you have a few options:

Open a window. Exchanging old indoor air for new, outside air will help keep your dorm room smelling fresh.

Absorb odors. Place a container of charcoal or baking soda in places that tend to become odoriferous — the closet, the fridge, where you hang your towels.

Mask the odor. Always avoid synthetic air fresheners, which are rife with toxic chemicals. Instead, use a natural air freshener or essential oil diffuser to envelop your stinky room in a fragrant mist that’s free of harmful substances.

Ugh! My roommate is a total slob. How can I get some help with the dorm chores?

It’s no fun living with someone who slimes all manner of messes in their wake, but dealing with a filthy dorm mate is good practice for working through roommate conflicts later on. The first step is to talk to your roommate:

  • Talk when you aren’t feeling frustrated.
  • Don’t accuse your roommate of being a terrible slob, even if it’s true.
  • Make it about you: “You’ve probably noticed that I like things tidy…”
  • Choose your battles. What makes you the most crazy? Is it the stacks of dishes? The clothes strewn across the floor? Bring it up: “…so I’m wondering if you’d do me a big favor and keep your clothes off the floor.”

If that doesn’t work, maybe your roommate just needs a helping hand. Suggest a short, communal tidy-up session a few times a week, wherein you put on a rockin’ playlist and see how much tidying up you can get done together in 15 minutes.

If your roommate is totally not into that, but yet refuses to change those slovenly ways, you may have to abandon trying to make it their problem, and just take care of your own business. Make it clear and easy: Divide the room in half — use tape if you have to — and ask your roommate to limit messes to their own side of the room. Whenever their stuff encroaches on your space, gently place it back over on their side. Maybe they’ll learn, maybe they won’t, but try not to let it ruin your life—or your relationship.

Dorm cleaning checklist

Make it easy to keep your room clean with our handy at-a-glance dorm cleaning checklist, which you can hang on your bulletin board or door. One final tip: Think of a time during your day when you’re free but still in get-it-done mode. Resolve to use just 15 minutes of that time doing your daily chores and taking care of other important personal business. That way, you can put it completely out of your mind for the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day, freeing up mental bandwidth for learning and livin’ the life.


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Looking for more cleaning how-tos and other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered with our buying and cleaning guides. And let us know how if you have any cleaning questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to take on your hidden grime, shop Grove Collaborative's cleaning essentials for the natural products that make the job easy.

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