How to deep clean a dorm room

Gross, but let's get it done

Clean dorm room with made up bed
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Cleaning a dorm room can be challenging. After all, small spaces tend to pick up dirt, dust, and grime far more easily than larger ones. As a college student, life also gets super busy and it takes a surprisingly long time to fully clean a small bedroom — no matter how tiny.

However, if roommates can make a plan to clean their space together and divide the labor, it can make the whole chore so much easier, according to Rochelle Wilkinson, owner of Dirt Detective Cleaning (opens in new tab) in Phoenix, Maryland. “Between long days in class and nights and weekends socializing, make a plan with your roommate to carve out a day every two months to deep clean your dorm room,” she says.

Plan in place with your roomies but unsure where to start? Here’s her advice on how to deep clean a dorm room. 

Tackle the bathroom first

If you have a communal bathroom in your hall, you're in luck, but if bathroom cleaning is part of your responsibility, start here. Bathrooms, especially in dorms, can become incredibly dirty and germy. So cleaning these spaces is crucial. “When tackling the bathroom you will want to do a top-to-bottom clean,” Wilkinson explains. "This will mean removing all items from the shower — shampoo bottles, body wash, poofs, razors, and anything else."

Then she recommends spraying the entire shower down with a solution of 90% water and 10% Dawn Platinum Dish Soap (opens in new tab). “Dawn is a great grease fighter and is effective at breaking down body oil, as well as soap scum, and has very little smell.”

Use a sponge with a little bit of The Pink Stuff (opens in new tab) to bring it back to a like-new state. “Get the sponge wet and work in a circular motion breaking up the dirt and grime. Move onto the floor of the shower and do the same.”

Spray the sink and toilet down with the Dawn solution. “Then squirt toilet bowl cleaner on the inside and give a good scrub with your toilet brush," she says.

The Pink Stuff should also be used on ceramic seats and toilets. “Be sure to wipe the wall behind and on the sides of the toilet. Also, wipe down the wall and area around the mirror and sink as it has probably been subject to a lot of hair products, face wash, makeup, and toothpaste.”

Move on to your kitchen or appliance area

Whether your dorm room has a full kitchen within the space or you just have a small area in your room where a kettle and mini fridge live, Wilkinson says the first step is to edit the fridge and get rid of old or expired foods. Then wipe the shelves down and organize them.

After that, it’s time to clean the microwave. After all, between frequent use and food splatters, dorm microwaves can get really dirty. “Remove the glass tray and use the Dawn solution and microfiber cloth," says Wilkinson. "Then clean the glass tray that spins in the microwave.” Alternatively, you can wash the glass tray in a dishwasher if one is available to you.

“Using the same cloth that is sprayed with detergent and hot water (wring it out so it is not too wet) wipe the inside of the microwave down, and then turn on the microwave for one minute," notes Wilkinson. "This will loosen any burnt-on food,” she says. “Now go back and give the inside a little scrub with your sponge and remove all the splattered food and grease. Use a microfiber cloth with hot water to rinse.”

Don't forget to clean your small appliances

After the microwave, clean other small kitchen appliances (opens in new tab), including toasters, coffee makers, and air fryers. “Clean these top to bottom removing crumbs, and splatters… move these and get behind them before putting them back into place.”

After cleaning the appliances, Wilkinson says to wipe down the cabinets and then sweep and mop the floors. Don’t forget to take out the trash, too!

Tidy up the smaller corners

Shared spaces in dorms (like living rooms) can be really dirty. “Be sure to remove couch cushions and vacuum up crumbs from late-night snacks as these can become a problem with bugs," says Wilkinson. She also adds that a good wipe-down of the table in that area is essential. No more cup rings and sticky spots!

Get your personal area sparkling clean

Where you sleep, hang out, and study is the most important place in your dorm. If it's not clean, you'll start to feel blah. If you don’t already have a mattress protector, it’s a smart idea to invest in one. “Since mattresses are used year after year by a revolving door of students, most people cover their mattress with a fully zipped encapsulating mattress cover," notes Wilkinson. If you do have one, check and see if it's washable.

Wilkinson says it should be cleaned midway through the year. “They are made for trapping dirt and dust mites so be sure to remove it and run it through a hot cycle to clean and disinfect.”

Dust under the bed

Using the space under your bed to store extra shoes, clothing, and other things? You smart cookie, you. Don't forget to clean it though. “After a few months of living in the space be sure to pull all of your storage containers out from under your bed so you can use a floor duster to get under the bed and remove dust and debris,” says Wilkinson. “Before putting all of your containers back, use this time to go through and pull out anything you have used or realized you aren’t using. Wipe the storage containers off before returning to the space under your bed.”

Wash your sheets

Although the basement washing machine area feels a little bit like a dungeon, you'll sleep better on fresh sheets. Washing linens is crucial to a clean dorm. “Take your big items like comforters and blankets to the laundry mat and wash them," says Wilkinson. If your sheets are looking pretty tattered, it might be time to invest in new bedding. There is only so much a good wash cycle can do.

Amanda Lauren

Hi, I’m Amanda Lauren. I’m a design expert and interior stylist who writes for Real Homes, Forbes, Real Simple among other publications. I live in Los Angeles in the historic neighborhood of Hancock Park with my husband, and two dogs, Lulu and Milo. We also have a baby coming in spring 2023. I’m a big believer in finding beautiful things at all price points. There are so many places to find affordable things, you just have to look for them. If you don't find it at first, look harder!