Dorm room germs. The first year, especially, germs are an issue that cause a lot of parental anxiety! Please read this guide for a hands-on approach to tackling this universal college dormitory problem so you – and your student – can rest easy.
The array of germs in the average college dormitory could make a parent panicky…unless you know what to do about it. Low-quality ventilation, outdated heating systems, and busy students in close quarters… It’s a recipe for disaster: continuous bacteria and germ build-up.
After all, it’s easy for students to put cleaning on the back burner since they’re focusing on school – and making new friends. But this doesn’t mean germs just disappear. In fact, they can increase, and they cause sickness!
So, we’ve put together this guide to give you expert-backed tips for you and your student to follow for a germ-free environment in the dormitory all year long.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- The Dorm Room Areas with The Most Germs
- Your Dorm Room Cleaning and Disinfecting Checklist
- 12 Ways to Clean and Detoxify the Dorm Room
- All Your Cleaning Needs with Park Avenue Cleaning
The Dorm Room Areas With the Most Germs
Not all parts of a college dorm are made the same — some can get a lot dirtier than others. In fact, even male dorms and female dorms differ.
Germs are measured by “colony-forming units” (CFU). It’s simply a measure of a clump of germs. It’s reported that women’s dorms have 1.5 million CFU/sq and men’s rooms have about 6 million CFU/sq on average.
(I’m with you, that’s a lot!)
Here are some dorm room areas that pack the most germs:
Table surfaces tend to have items placed on them year-round, and the number of bacteria that can build up can be staggering.
Swabs of Dorm Room Surfaces, a study by CollegeStats.org, found that male dorms house 3,537 CFU on a desk and 1,500,005 CFU on dresser surfaces, on average.
Female dorms are a far cry from this as they only house about 15 CFU on desks and 8,500 CFU on dressers on average.
Let’s face it — we touch doorknobs every day.
It’s easy to forget how many germs they can carry.
From the same study above, the main doorknobs in male dorms can carry up to 1,500,050 CFU of bacteria, and female bathroom doorknobs in dormitories can carry up to 1,500,020 CFU.
Ensure your student gets to school with a generous supply of disinfecting wipes, and refresh their cache each time you visit. (We recommend you avoid so-called “flushable” wipes, as it turns out they aren’t really…well, flushable. They cause many toilet disasters.)
As a student, you might want to pump some Purell before reaching for your midnight snack.
After all, fridge handles are notorious for carrying dozens of germs – even though they hold the least amount mentioned on this list (5-30 CFU on average).
Light switches are another standard part of a dorm that can pile on bacteria. They’re found to have as low as 40 CFU to 25,500 CFU for bathroom light switches.
Your Dorm Room Cleaning/Disinfectant Checklist
Here’s a list of items to help your student fight germs and allergens. It’s a good rule to use this checklist when shopping for dorm items.
- Hand Sanitizer
- All-Purpose Cleaner
- Disinfectant Wipes
- Disinfectant Spray
- Paper Towels
- Dishwashing Soap
- Vacuum Cleaner or Portable Spray Mop
- Glass Cleaner
- Microfiber Cloth(s) or Dusters
- Broom and Dustpan
- Portable Air Purifier
- Trash Bags and Sponges – Lots!
12 Ways to Eliminate Dorm Room Germs
Vacuuming 1-2x per week helps remove dirt and dust that lie dormant within your carpets.
To take vacuuming to a whole new level, invest in a HEPA vacuum to help prevent allergens from staying in the air. This can be especially important for springtime when allergens from pollen and dust mites can pile up.
Have your student set a designated day or two to vacuum their floors. Since dorms aren’t too big, vacuuming won’t take long, but the outcome will be very valuable in the long run.
Disinfect & Sanitize High-Touch Surfaces
Earlier, we listed some not-so-clean surfaces where germs build up because they are constantly being touched by human hands.
According to the CDC, to keep a space germ free, three distinct steps are required:
So first, clean these surfaces throughout the week with a disinfectant spray like Lysol or an excellent all-purpose cleaner. Spray the surface and use a microfiber cloth to clean it. Then rinse the cloth and wipe down the surface thoroughly. Next, you must disinfect the surface. Lastly, you sanitize it.
It’s important to understand that disinfection and sanitization are different processes – and that both are necessary. Disinfecting means killing germs at the source using chemicals (after the surface is cleaned). To disinfect, spray it on an item or surface and let it air dry for 3 minutes.
On the other hand, sanitizing reduces the number of bacteria present on a surface but can miss viruses. To sanitize, spray and let it dry for 10 seconds.
For highly effective sanitizing, use a disinfectant spray like Lysol to kill both bacteria and viruses.
Sanitizing and disinfecting regularly can play a significant role in removing harmful agents throughout the school year. Share this knowledge with your student to help them stay healthy at school.
Use a Duster to Clear Dust
Dust build-up isn’t attractive.
But if dust build-up is not managed, a dorm room can quickly start to look ancient!
Have a duster handy to take care of dust build-up, preserve item quality, and even prevent breathing problems! Lots of people are actually allergic to dust.
Use a soft cloth or a store-bought tool like Swiffer to wipe dust and dirt off tabletops, electronics, walls, pictures, air vents, and windowsills.
Also, don’t forget about the different corners of the dorm. There could be cobwebs left behind by a not-so-welcome spider!
Students should take an inventory of what areas tend to collect dust the most and try to keep them in tip-top shape.
Adopt a Portable Air Purifier to Breathe Easier
Some dormitories have AC units that are connected from room to room without sufficient air filtration.
There is a higher chance for airborne particles and bacteria to go from room to room.
A great way to combat this problem is by investing in a portable air purifier with a HEPA air filter. This helps trap unwanted particles and viruses in the air.
Have Trash Bags Handy
Trash bags are a must-have commodity for college life. They can aid in decluttering and reducing the likelihood of clutter even building up in the first place. Make sure your student has a healthy supply at the start.
More than just a trash can, though, having a recycling bin ensures different materials are being disposed of properly.
Trash and recycling bins should be disposed of immediately after they’re full — or at least weekly — to prevent the spread of germs and odors.
Clutter is something most of us struggle with. It can pile up fast if it’s not managed correctly. Clutter is more than just shoe boxes lying around or bags and clothing on the floor.
What’s worse for your health, clutter collects dust. (Clutter also makes it harder to find essential items, and there are research findings that too much clutter reduces focus.
- Start the decluttering process by throwing away unused clothing, old containers, food, boxes, and other things “taking up space.”
- Don’t forget to recycle the appropriate items like glass, paper, and plastics.
- There may also be no longer needed items (e.g., clothing). These can be donated.
- Next, for the items that still have value: put them away carefully in places you know where to find them. Have an assigned place for everything and keep everything in its place. That’s really the key to a clutter-free dorm room (or any other kind of room, for that matter).
Keep Dishes Clean
The last thing you want is 3-day-old dishes lying around. Dirty dishes build up unwanted smells and spread bacteria around.
And disease-causing microorganisms like Salmonella and Listeria can show up on your utensils if they haven’t been cleaned for a while.
On top of that, dirty dishes and food that lay around attract unwanted critters like ants, cockroaches, and even mice!
A simple dish soap, dishwashing sponge, and some determined hands can keep dishes clean for their subsequent use. (Change your sponge regularly – like, every couple of weeks. Sponges are bacteria-magnets!)
Wipe Down Appliances
Kitchen appliances should be thoroughly sanitized and disinfected. Using a stainless steel cleaner or an antibacterial appliances spray can help reduce the spread of germs from the many hands that are typically laid on appliances each day.
Use a microfiber cloth or paper towels to wipe them clean after spray.
For appliances that directly touch food and that don’t plugin, simply clean them with dish soap and water.
Sweep, Vacuum, And Mop Hard Surfaces
Many dorm rooms have cheap industrial carpet on the floors, but some may have tile or hardwood floors.
Mop tile or hardware floors once a week, after vacuuming or sweeping. For dorm room germs, we suggest a lightweight, portable spray mop that will be easy to use and store.
Mopping helps sanitize floors, which beats lingering allergens and maintains the look of the floor.
Baking Soda for Bad Odors
Every college student has had that “What’s that smell?” moment. Luckily, baking soda exists, a powder that absorbs odors in the air.
You can open a container and place it in the dorm to help reduce annoying odors.
In addition, there are MANY ways to use baking soda for odor control. It’s a great, inexpensive asset in your student’s cleaning toolkit – easy to buy and keep around.
Opened baking soda boxes can be effective for up to about 6 months.
Beat Mold the Right Way
Mold can grow in:
- Shower curtains
- Damp areas
- Bathroom fans
- Leaking window sills
To combat everyday mold, apply a mold removal spray like CLR or Mold Armor to remove the mold at the source. Wear disposable latex gloves to protect your hands and a mask to help prevent you from breathing it in.
Since mold tends to thrive in humidity, use a dehumidifier to help manage future mold from growing in the same areas.
Cleaning & Disinfecting Windows
Windows can look clean to the naked eye, but we don’t see the countless bacteria colonies that can grow on them.
Microbes that multiply on your windows can give way to airborne pathogens that could affect the health of those living in the quarters.
In most instances, though, the build-up of dust will become obvious first. The longer that dust sits on the surface, the harder it becomes to clean.
Therefore, try to convince your student to regularly use a glass cleaner and disinfectant on their windows. This is not only to leave the windows sparkling but also to beat bacteria.
Either paper towels (disposable) or non-lint cloths (sustainable) will get the job done.
Handle All Your Cleaning Needs With Park Avenue Cleaning
College dorms should be the perfect environment for students to keep up with their studies and live in comfort.
Applying these helpful dorm cleaning tips can help anyone accomplish just that!
And we’ve served the Greater Baltimore area for more than 20 years, so we’ve practically seen it all!
We would love to get started on whatever you need done first!