clean dorm room with guitar on the wall, string lights, and wall art that says "good vibes only"

Clean Your College Dorm Room With This Easy Checklist

Last Updated: August 11, 2022

College keeps you busy and it can be difficult to keep your dorm looking so fresh and so clean. This guide will help you with tips and tricks you can use to keep your dorm spotless from move-in day through the whole school year.

Dorm rooms are small. The average college dorm room is between 125-250 square feet, and if you’re sharing it with a roommate, that doesn't leave much room for personal space.

Now, you might think it sounds easy to keep such a small space clean, but if you don’t stay on top of it, grime, germs, and clutter can get out of control — and before you know it, you’ve got a biology experiment growing in your coffee cup.

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 and other germs. This guide covers it all and will help you keep your college crib ship-shape all semester long.

Things to remember when cleaning small spaces

Improve air quality

Avoid standard cleaners that release toxic chemicals into the air, and opt for natural cleaners, which are just as effective and smell pretty sweet too.

Create enough storage

To keep clutter to a minimum, come to college armed with storage solutions, such as file boxes for papers, storage cubes, and caddies for toiletries and cleaning supplies.

Stick with a cleaning strategy

Make sure your roommate and you agree on a cleaning 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.

Sustainability Tip

Reduce paper waste

Learn more about reusable paper towels, which are just as efficient as the paper variety at cleaning up spills and messes.

Bonus: They’re much stronger than regular paper towels since they’re made of bamboo viscose — just rinse ‘em out, let ‘em dry, and reuse them for a week.

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

woman in dorm room doing checklist while sitting on bed

It’s expected that before students move into their residence halls, 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 with this quick checklist.

1. Disinfect frequently touched surfaces like door handles and light bulbs with a wipe.

2. Wipe down the surfaces and walls with an all-purpose disinfecting cleaner and a damp microfiber cleaning cloth.

3. Sweep or vacuum, getting in the corners and along the walls.

4. Spritz some natural air freshening spray to make it smell like home.

5. Wipe down devices — according to The Cleaning Institute Org. "dirt, oil, or germs from hands can mark up cell phones and laptop or tablet screens. Students should wipe them at least daily with and wash their hands before using to minimize the grime.”

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 keep a clean environment.

Calendar illustration with every day checked off

Daily cleaning tasks

  • Make your bed.
  • Tidy up.
  • Do your dishes.
  • Disinfect doorknobs, light switches, and other frequently touched surfaces.
Calendar illustration with one day per week checked off

Weekly cleaning tasks

  • Vacuum/sweep and mop.
  • Do your laundry.
  • Clean out the fridge.
  • Take out the trash.
Calendar illustration with one day checked off

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 checklist

Before you head home for any breaks, make sure to clean the following:

  • Scrub 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.

Download your 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. Use just 15 minutes of that time to do your daily chores and take care of other important personal tasks. That way, you can put it completely out of your mind for the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day.


Expert tips for big dorm-room messes

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 and put them in your hamper.
  2. Grab a garbage bag, and toss in all of the trash in the room. Empty the bin under your desk. Empty the fridge in case your guests are bringing snacks. Take the bag to the trash outside.
  3. Collect all of your dirty dishes, and put them in your dish tub. Put the dish tub somewhere people can't see it.
  4. Make your bed.
  5. Tidy up your desk. Stack up loose papers and notebooks, put away your pens, and straighten your devices.
  6. Sweep or vacuum, whichever is fastest.
duster illustration

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 dirt ... gross.

But don’t worry — you can control dust with a few easy steps:

  1. Keep clutter to a minimum. The less you have piled up on surfaces, the less dust will be generated, and the easier it will be to clean.
  2. Dust weekly. Use a damp cloth, electrostatic duster, or microfiber duster to trap dust rather than just move it around.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Invest in an air purifier. An air purifier removes dust and allergens from the air before they land on your stuff.
Skull and crossbones illustration

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 stop 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:

  1. Open a window. Exchanging old indoor air for new, outside air will help keep your dorm room smelling fresh.
  2. Absorb odors. Place a container of charcoal or baking soda in places that tend to become smelly — the closet, the fridge, where you hang your towels.
  3. Mask the odor. Avoid synthetic air fresheners, which are full of toxic chemicals. Instead, use a natural air freshener or essential oil diffuser to change your stinky room into a relaxing, fragrant haven 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's super messy and never cleans up, but dealing with a filthy dorm mate is good practice for working through conflicts later on. The first step is to talk to your roommate with these tips:

  • Talk when you aren’t feeling frustrated.
  • Don’t accuse your roommate of being a slob, even if it’s true.
  • Make it about you: “You’ve probably noticed that I like things clean ...”
  • 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 group cleaning session a few times a week, put on a rockin’ playlist, follow a checklist so you each have tasks, and see how much cleaning you can get done together in 15 minutes.

If your roommate is totally not into that, 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.

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