Forget the Chore Chart — Here’s Your Ultimate Dorm Cleaning Checklist

published Oct 2, 2023
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forward shot of bedroom where the bed has orange and cream checkered pillow and orange blanket, a gallery wall above the headboard - a rolling cart next to bed and a desk
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Prop Styling: Thomas Hoerup & Vicky Wasik

What they say is true: A clean space is a clear mind (and a messy space can have the opposite effect). Personally, when my space isn’t clean, I feel stressed and unfocused — two emotions I really don’t want to deal with as I’m navigating classes, extracurriculars, career opportunities, and a social life.

But while busy college students benefit greatly from having a clean space, it’s often difficult — daunting, even — to create and actually stick to a cleaning schedule that works. Not only is it hard to find time to do all the chores required to maintain your space, but if you have a roommate (or roommates), you also have to figure out how to split up the chore load and ensure everyone fulfills their responsibilities. This can get dicey, as fights about chores are among the most common roommate conflicts.

Don’t worry, though. Keeping your space clean doesn’t have to be as stressful as your parents made it seem — no one needs to get grounded for forgetting to take the trash out again. It all comes down to finding a cleaning routine that works in your household.

But let’s get one thing straight: I’m not talking about those outdated chore charts that have been on the internet since, well, probably forever. Those kinds of charts are over-complicated; it takes so much time just to figure out who’s supposed to do what! Plus, they remind me of something that belongs in a kindergarten classroom. When I was a kid, I hated cleaning my room using those chore charts because it felt like, you know, a chore

A dorm cleaning checklist, on the other hand? It sounds elevated. It sounds productive. It sounds like something I’d actually want to use. And guess what? It is!

Enter: Dorm Therapy’s Ultimate Dorm Cleaning Checklist, separated into categories based on how often you should complete each task. And even better — we put it all in a Google Doc so you can copy it, customize it based on your unique needs and schedules, and check chores off as you complete each task. If you have roommates, you can work together to decide who will do what, and then each of you can check off the tasks as you complete them.

Click here to access the full Dorm Therapy Ultimate Dorm Cleaning Checklist Google Doc, then click “make a copy” so you have one all to yourself.

And if you’re not sure how to do some of these tasks (no shade) or just want more info, read on for detailed descriptions of each daily, weekly, monthly, semesterly, and yearly task.

Credit: Getty Images / svetikd

Daily Cleaning Tasks

At first, cleaning every day might sound daunting. But don’t worry — these tasks won’t have you spending hours and hours cleaning your room every day. You can check them off your list first thing in the morning or in between classes. 

1. Make your bed: In a small space like a dorm room, your bed can totally change up the appearance of your room, so making your bed each morning will help your space look better. If your bed is on bed risers and you have a hard time reaching the far corners, a step stool can help. 

2. Do your dishes: Although it can be an annoying task, especially if your building doesn’t have a communal kitchen with a dishwasher (or even a big sink), try to wash your dishes as soon as you finish using them to prevent them from piling up throughout the week — even if that means scrubbing your same coffee mug and the one spoon you own in a communal bathroom sink every day.

3. Take out the trash: No matter how dreadful it might be for you to go anywhere near a dumpster or garbage chute, you’ve got to do it in order to keep your space sanitary and smelling fresh. Depending on how big your dorm room’s trash can is, and how much trash you generate, you may be able to do this task every few days instead of every other day.

Credit: Maskot / Getty Images

Weekly Cleaning Tasks

Weekly tasks are a bit more thorough than your daily cleaning chores, but can still be done pretty quickly. This is the time to take out your brooms, wash rags, bleach, and other cleaning supplies you might stash under your bed.

1. Sweep and vacuum: Regularly sweeping and vacuuming your living space is crucial for removing dirt, debris, and dust from your floors and rugs. It also helps eliminate allergens from your space, which can help you stay healthy. That said, if you want to reduce the amount of times you have to clean your floors each month, try taking off your shoes when you go into your dorm room — and regularly cleaning them as well.

2. Do your laundry: Whether you do your laundry all at once or tackle a few loads each day, here’s what you should be washing on a weekly basis.

Although this is my least favorite chore because it’s so tedious, I’ve found ways to make laundry fun. For starters, I play my favorite music or podcast while I separate my items into white, light, and dark colors, then wash them according to the instructions on each garment’s label. If you have a communal laundry facility and need to stay in the area, you can work on school assignments, read a book, or (my personal favorite) watch or make TikToks. Then, once you’re back in your room, you can throw on a TV show or movie to make the time feel like it’s going by faster as you fold and put things away.

3. Declutter: Through the week, your space can get pretty messy (especially if you and your roommate are constantly changing outfits, hosting get-togethers, or experimenting with dorm-friendly snack recipes). That’s why you should schedule a few minutes each week to do a sweep of your space to reorganize your desk, bathroom counter (if you have one in your room or suite), cabinets, and any other surfaces you frequently use. 

4. Wipe down surfaces: The surfaces you use every day (like doorknobs or your bathroom counter) can acquire a ton of germs, so keep antibacterial wipes in your room to quickly wipe down as you declutter. Considering dorms are very close quarters, with visitors often coming in and out, if you can do this one a few times a week, even better!

5. Clean your bathroom sink, toilet, and mirror: If you have your own bathroom or share one with your suitemates, cleaning your sink and scrubbing your toilet every week can help prevent them from getting too germ-y. While you’re in the bathroom, you can also wipe down your mirror so it’s free of smudges and toothpaste splatters.

Credit: Getty Images / Maskot

Monthly Cleaning Tasks

Now we’re getting into some deeper cleaning. Try to schedule time during the first or last day of the month to ensure your space feels fresh. 

1. Mop: Mopping was never fun for me because it’s pretty time-consuming. However, with the dirt and grime that might still be caked onto the floor (yes, even after sweeping and vacuuming every week), it’s important to mop at least once a month — or more often if you can swing it. If you don’t have easy access to a mop and bucket, use a space-saving Swiffer as an easy alternative. For added efficiency, be sure to schedule your weekly sweep/vacuum before the monthly mop to clear away a lot of surface dirt and debris first — you know, so the mop doesn’t just spread it around.

2. Wipe down shelves, blinds, and baseboards: This sounds like a lot, but these tasks actually don’t take a lot of time, and they’ll help you get rid of a ton of dust and make your space look extra-clean.

3. Clean your shower: If you have a shower in your dorm room or suite, a monthly shower cleaning session will help keep it fresh and germ-free, which is extra important if you share the shower with others. This is another task many experts say you should do a little more often (once every one to three weeks is the most commonly recommended frequency) but for busy college students, once a month is fine — as long as you don’t go much longer than that between cleanings.

4. Wipe down the inside of your windows: For this task, all you need is some store-bought glass cleaner like Windex (or DIY your own with dish soap, warm water, and vinegar) and two clean rags — one for washing, one for drying. Start by wiping down the window seal and any corners where you see dust; then move onto wiping down the windows themselves. Once you’re done, use your other rag to dry the surfaces and remove any remaining streaks or smudges.

5. Wash your comforter and blankets: There’s nothing better than the smell of fresh linens, so washing your comforter and blankets at least every month is a must (see also: germs). You can do this step more often if you’d like — especially if you have a lot of visitors sitting on your bed — but experts say once a month is perfectly fine. Be sure to follow the washing instructions on the label of your comforter for best results. (Note: If you use a duvet with a cover and insert, you just need to wash the cover every month; see below for when to wash your insert.)

6. Declutter your food: Start by getting rid of the expired items in your refrigerator and on your shelves. If you have items that are still good but you don’t want them, donate them or see if anyone on your dorm floor wants free food.

Credit: Maskot / Getty Images

Semesterly Cleaning Tasks

Complete these tasks to give your space a well-deserved, twice-yearly refresh. 

1. Clean your mattress: You sleep on your mattress every night; it deserves to get cleaned at least every six months. Use a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment (which you likely can rent or borrow from your dorm’s facilities management team) to clean your mattress and remove any dirt or debris that you may have from months of eating snacks under the covers (guilty!) or letting visitors sit on your bed. If you want your mattress to smell fresh, sprinkle a bit of baking soda and herbs or essential oils onto your mattress before you vacuum it.

2. Clean your air conditioning unit: If you have a window air conditioning unit, be sure to clean it at least twice during the school year to ensure it’s working properly and not collecting — and therefore spreading — a bunch of dust and other allergens. First, you should check in with your RA to get any specific instructions for cleaning your unit safely (so you don’t break it and get fined). 

3. Wipe down your walls and light fixtures: This task is best to do before you settle into your dorm at the start of each semester. All you need is warm water, dish soap, and a sponge or microfiber towel. I use the damp, soapy towel to wipe down my walls and light fixtures (be sure to turn the lights off first!), taking much-needed breaks throughout because it’s an arm workout! Be sure to cover your bed, desk, and other surfaces with a drop cloth to protect them from dust and debris (sheets and towels can get the job done, too), and plan to vacuum the floor once you’re done.

4. Wash your window curtains: I have to admit, I don’t always remember my curtains when I’m cleaning, but they’re actually an essential item to keep clean. Curtains gather a lot of dust and debris during the school year, so washing them in the middle of each semester can solve this pesky issue. 

5. Wash your shower curtain: Look, most experts say to wash your shower curtain once a month, but if we’re being realistic, that’s probably not going to happen. If you can do it at least once a semester, you can count it as a win. Be sure to follow the care instructions on the label. 

6. Deep-clean your refrigerator: Just as with your monthly fridge declutter, get rid of expired or unwanted items, then clean your shelves with warm water and soap and dry them with a microfiber cloth. Wipe down the outside of your fridge for good measure.

Credit: bojanstory / Getty Images

Yearly Cleaning Tasks

Whether you’re prepping your space for you to live in for another year, or you just want to ensure it’s clean enough that you’ll get your security deposit back (because paying fines for a damaged room is never fun), these annual tasks will get the job done. Plus, if you’ve been following the daily, weekly, monthly, and semesterly schedules, your room will be looking pretty much spotless after tackling this small list of tasks.

1. Get rid of old clothes: At the end of the year, go through your closet and get rid of any clothes you no longer wear. If your dorm has donation bins or if you have a local thrift store, you can offload the majority of your old clothes there. If you want to make some extra cash, you can try selling your clothes at secondhand stores or on platforms like Poshmark (although you’ll have to hold onto your items until someone buys them) or ThreadUp (which you can send your clothes to all at once and get paid if or when someone buys them). For damaged items, consider repurposing them into rags for cleaning, or see if you can give them to an organization that recycles textiles. Decluttering your wardrobe will keep your closet organized and your luggage lighter, and it will free up space for any new clothes you may buy over the summer.

2. Clean behind large furniture: This can involve moving your bed, desk, and dresser to sweep and mop behind them, and to find objects that may have fallen behind them — you never know what forgotten treasures you might discover. (Turns out, your roommate didn’t steal your favorite bracelet after all — oops.)

3. Wash your duvet insert: At least once a year, be sure to take your duvet insert out of its cover and wash it according to the instructions on the tag.

4. Wash your pillows: Washing your pillows at least once a year helps get rid of any oils, dirt, and debris they pick up over time. Trust me — your skin will thank you for this. Be sure to follow the care instructions on your pillows’ tags.

Makenna Underwood


Makenna Underwood is a senior journalism major, English minor attending Howard University. Originally from Hot Springs, Arkansas, Underwood has always been interested in media and has a deep appreciation for the power of storytelling. She is passionate about exploring the intersection of culture, style, and wellness as they pertain to her community. Makenna is an active member of her school’s newspaper, where she reports on various events and issues affecting the student body. Additionally, she dedicates her free time to writing on her blog, Makenna’s Meditation, which focuses on college lifestyle and wellness. Through her writing, Makenna hopes to inspire others to prioritize their well-being and to live their best lives.

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